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Lawrence Co. trio join Co-Lin

MONTICELLO — Lawrence County senior baseball standoutsJohnathan Stephens, Marty Ballard and Jake Russell have signedbaseball scholarships with the Copiah-Lincoln Community CollegeWolves.

Stephens, Ballard and Russell are entering their final seasonfor Coach Cory Keyes’ LCHS Cougars and are looking at anothersuccessful year.

Lawrence County finished last season 26-7, won the Division 6-4Achampionship and advanced to the second round of the state playoffsThe Cougars set a school record for home runs, games won, and set anew batting average mark of .352.

“All three of these guys are responsible for their success lastyear,” said Co-Lin head baseball coach Keith Case of the LawrenceCounty players. “I am happy to have them.”

Keyes was named the DAILY LEADER’S All-Area Baseball Coach ofthe Year for the 2005 season.

“It’s (Co-Lin) real close to home,” said Stephens who stands 6foot and weighs 185 pounds. “They have a good athleticprogram.”

Stephens was the DAILY LEADER’S 2005 All-Area Offensive Playerof the Year. He is undecided on a major at this time.

“Johnathan has been a starter for us since the 9th grade,”explained Keyes. “He is a very good outfielder and pitcher (No. 4).He leads by example. He never complains. “

Last season, Stephens held a .437 batting average with 5 homersand 38 RBI. He finished with a 3-0 pitching record and 2.47ERA.

“Stephens has been a hitter for them since 9th grade,” saidCase. “He finds a way to get on the baseball. He loves the game. Hecan hit:”

Russell, who stands 5-11 and weighs 180 pounds, said he washappy to sign with Co-Lin. “They have a good baseball program. Wehave three seniors signing with Co-Lin.”

During his junior year, Russell held a .347 batting average with3 home runs and 24 RBI. On the mound, he finished 7-2 with a 2.20ERA.

“Jake’s a fierce competitor,” stated Keyes. “He does a good job.He finds a way to get it done.”

Russell is undecided on a major.

Case said he likes Russell’s tenaciousness. “Jake is a bulldog.He was really impressive last year. He pushes himself to the limit.He’s tremendous on the hill and he has a nice slider. I like theway he bulldogs and goes at it.”

Case said Russell has good speed on his fastball. “Last year, hewas an 85-86 (mph) guy. He locates the fastball and a tight slider.Offspeed pitches are big in our league.”

Ballard said he was happy to be joining his teammates at Co-Lin,where the Wolves won the NJCAA Region and Super Regional lastseason, advancing to the Division II World Series and placingfourth.

“They have a great program,” said Ballard. “It’s also close tohome.”

Ballard (6-0, 160) plans to major in the medical field.

“Marty is a very good outfielder,” said Keyes. “He is veryaggressive. He’s our left-handed pitcher. He’s tremendous. Heshowed up every day and worked to get better. He has been a greatleader.”

His junior year, Ballard batted .361 with 4 homers and 20RBI.

“Marty, hasn’t pitched a lot,” stated Case. “I watched him throwand practice last year. He has good mechanics. He’s a left-handerwho throw 80-90 . He has a lot potential. He has worked extremelyhard. He tries to try to make himself better.”

Keys said he has never had to worry about the threesome givingtheir best on the field. “All three guys do what you expect them todo.”

Case said he is happy to have signed a talented trio from arespected baseball program. “We are excited about signing allthree.”