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Garner, Delta St. seek baseball title in Montgomery, Al.

It’s becoming a habit and no one with green blood iscomplaining. The Delta State University Statesmen are headed forthe NCAA Division II National Championship tournament for a secondstraight year. On the mound, they are led by southpaw Jay Garner, aplayer with Brookhaven roots. Garner, a redshirt senior, was namedthe South Central Region’s Pitcher of the Year.

Garner (11-1) has fashioned an outstanding record. He callsNoxapater home. His father, John Garner, is Superintendent ofEducation for the Louisville Public Schools. His mom, Dianne, ismighty proud of Jay, too.

In 16 appearances this season, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Garnerhas compiled a stingy 3.62 ERA. Also a standout in the classroom,he is an Academic All-Gulf South Conference selection and a VerizonAcademic All-American District VI First-Team member. He is majoringin biology with a minor in chemistry.

A 1997 BHS grad, Garner was a 4-year starter for former Pantherbaseball coach Matt Brown. He also lettered in tennis, basketballand football while attending BHS. He was class valedictorian.

Delta State head coach Mike Kinnison is enjoying dynasty statusin the Magnolia State and the Gulf South Conference. His Statesmenare 50-6, winners of a ninth straight GSC West Division title and asecond straight South Central Region crown with a 3-2 victory overAbilene Christian last Sunday. Kinnison is in his sixth season atthe helm. He has a dazzling 264-73 worksheet at DSU.

Kinnison is a 1973 graduate of Benton Academy. He was a 2-yearstarter at shortstop for Delta State. From 1982-92 he was headcoach at Jackson Prep, winning three state championships. He servedas a DSU assistant coach to Bill Marchant from 1994-96. Last yearhe coached the Statesmen to a third place finish in the NCAADivision II Championships.

Delta State third baseman Andy Dillard was named South CentralRegion Player of the Year. Dillard, a junior college transfer fromItawamba, is a Saltillo resident. A junior, he is leading DSU witha .433 average and is tied with teammate Steven Tomaszewski forhome runs with 13.

Tomaszewski, from Ocean Springs, was a second team all-regionselection. He is batting .380 with 20 doubles.

The Statesmen tackle Ashland (Ohio) University Sunday at 1 p.m.in the second round of the national championships in Montgomery,Ala. Hopefully, the Fighting Okra will bring home a championshipafter losing in last year’s semifinals. Officials would proudlyproclaim a holiday in the Delta.

Oak Grove, promoted to Class 5A for the 2001-02 school year,almost won a state championship in baseball after dominating Class4A for several years. However, the Madison Central Jaguars rose tothe occasion and shut out the Warriors 7-0 in the decisive thirdgame of the best-of-three series. The Jags (32-8) won their firststate baseball title since the school was formed in 1992. Oak Grove(28-7) was seeking a seventh state title.

In case you missed it, nationally-ranked Picayune recovered tobeat New Hope 5-3 in decisive Game 3 and the Maroon Tide claimedthe Class 4A championship. Picayune finished 35-3. New Hopefinished 33-7.

In Class 2A, Mooreville marched past Lumberton 6-4 in the thirdand decisive game. It was the seventh state title for the Troopers(36-6). Lumberton (30-14) was denied a state title after reachingthe state finals for the second time in three years. Lots ofPanther tears were shed by the all-senior starting lineup.

In Class 3A, Senatobia (26-11) swept Purvis (29-9) for thetitle, beating the Tornadoes 5-2 in the second game. In Class 1A,Myrtle (27-8) swept St. Aloysius (23-6) for the state title.

In case you missed it, St. Al and Cathedral battled for theSouth State title two weeks ago. Both parochial schools are out ofDivision 7-1A where Bogue Chitto, West Lincoln and Enterprise dreamof making the state baseball playoffs. Dream on. The Flashes andGreen Wave take their baseball seriously.

In the Mississippi Private School Association, Jackson Academy(20-9) captured the AAAA title, beating Starkville Academy (20-13)9-3 in the title game. In Class AAA, Silliman Institute of Clinton,La. beat Indianola Academy for the title. In Class AA. MagnoliaHeights knocked off defending state champion Simpson County. InClass A, Deer Creek of Arcola swept Amite School Center of Libertyas the Warriors (26-4) beat the Rebels (18-8) 3-2.