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Lawrence Co.’s Russell named Mr. Baseball

Lawrence County’s Jake Russell and Taebyus Smith and ParklaneAcademy’s Brantley Ray provided important senior leadership ontheir respective teams, helping them to winning seasons and stateplayoff appearances during the 2006 baseball campaign.

Russell was the No. 1 pitcher for the Lawrence County Cougarteam. He helped Lawrence to a 30-6 record and the South State Class4A baseball finale against Petal. He has signed a scholarship withCopiah-Lincoln Community College.

For his accomplishments, Russell has been named Mr. Baseball andthe Most Valuable Player on The DAILY LEADER’s 2006 All-AreaBaseball Team.

Smith is the Offensive Player of the Year and Ray is theDefensive Player of the Year. Smith has also signed with Co-Linwhile Ray has signed with Southeast Louisiana University.

Joining Russell and Ray on the mound are Corey Puckett of Wessonand Trent Hartzog of Lawrence County. Puckett was last year’s MVPon Defense.

Behind the plate at catcher are Cable McMinn of Franklin County,Bubba Boggs of Parklane and Jed Stevens of Copiah.

Infielders include Nick Jackson and Joseph Evans of LawrenceCounty, Mitchell Young of North Pike, Daniel Watson and Micah Davisof Wesson.

Joining Smith in the outfield are Johnathan Stephens and MartyBallard of Lawrence and Landon Morgan of North Pike. Stephens alsosigned a baseball scholarship with Co-Lin.

The designated hitter is Warren Smith of Parklane. Dane Hodgesof Franklin and Dann Griffin are the utility players.

The dream team is composed of players outside of Lincoln County.The players were selected by members of the Daily Leaderstaff with input provided by high school and college coaches.

Jake Russell (5-11,180) finished his senioryear at Lawrence with an 11-1 record. The right-hander had a .91ERA with 4 saves. He recorded 126 strikeouts, 17 walks in 76.7inning pitched.

“Jake is a real smart pitcher,” said Lawrence County head coachCory Keyes, the 2006 All-Area Coach of the Year for the secondstraight year. “He communicates real well. His curveball is whatmakes him. His breaking ball was his best pitch this year.

“He’s a hard worker,” added Keyes.

Russell, who joined the varsity team as an eighth grader, saidhis best pitch is his curveball. “I have always had a pretty goodcurveball.” The rest of his pitching arsenal includes a fastball(83-85 mph), a changeup and a slider.

“Pressure doesn’t bother me,” stated Russell. “I hit my spotsgood. I can read the batters.”

At the plate, Russell held a .260 batting average including 5home runs, 3 doubles. 4 triples for 24 RBI. He also stole 9bases.

Other honors Russell received was selection to the No. 1 team inClass 4A All-Stars and participation in the Cross Roads DiamondClub All-Star game.

“Coach Keyes taught us to keep the others up,” stated Russell.His greates effort this season was a 14-inning playoff win overPetal.

Taebyus Smith (6-0, 210) played right field forLawrence County and finished the season with a .328 battingaverage. Smith led at the plate with 11 homers and 10 doubles for48 RBI. He also stole 10 stolen bases.

“Taebyus has been a blessing to coach,” praised Keyes. “He hasgood leadership skills.

Smith said he enjoyed playing for Coach Keyes. “He is a realhands on coach. He is more into it with his players.”

Brantley Ray (6-0, 210), a right-hander pitcherfor Coach Ken Jackson’s Parklane Pioneers (19-10), overcamereconstructive knee surgery. Ray, 6-2, finished the season with a3.58 ERA in 60 innings with 60 strikeouts and 25 walks. He gave up52 hits.

“Brantley came off of major reconstructive knee surgery on Oct.4,” explained Jackson. “He fought his way back and was able topitch for us this year. You have to give a lot credit to the kidfor his determination.”

Ray talked about yhow he sets up his batters. “It depends onwhat they like. I jam them early. Inside and outside. I try to getthem to chase the pitch.”

His pitches included the fastball, curveball, change up andslider.

Ray originally was going to Meridian Community College. Hechanged his mind. “I really like Meridian coach J.L. Kees.” Keesleft Meridian for the Southeast Louisiana job.

Corey Puckett, a senior, finished with a 7-4record for Coach Hugh Knight’s Wesson Cobras. At the plate, Puckettbatted .359 with 6 triples and 17 RBI. He stole 14 bases for the19-9 Cobras.

Trent Hartzog, a junior, was 7-2 on the moundat Lawrence County. Hartzog had a 2.63 ERA with 60 strikeouts and23 walks in 26 innings. At the plate, he finished with a .299batting average, including 8 doubles and 15 RBIs with 12 stolenbases.

Cable McMinn, a junior from Franklin County,worked behind the plate for the 10-15 Bulldogs. McMinn finishedwith a .333 batting average, including 6 home runs, 12 doubles and28 RBI.

Bubba Boggs, a junior, anchored Parklane behindthe plate and held a .295 batting average. Boggs ripped 5 doublesand 3 homers for17 RBI.

Jed Stevens, a senior at Copiah Academy,started as catcher for Coach Scotty Cline’s 9-6 Colonels. Stevensheld a .340 batting average.

Nick Jackson, a junior, batted batted .394,including 5 doubles, a triple and 38 RBI for Lawrence County .Jackson hit 10 home runs and maintained a .750 sluggingpercentage.

Joseph Evans, a junior from Lawrence County,held a .304 batting average including 2 home runs and 11 doubleswith 17 RBI. He stole 30 bases. On the mound, Evans was 6-2 with a4.20 ERA incuding 70 strikeouts and 20 walks in 61 innings.

Mitchell Young, a junior at North Pike, batted.389 with one homer for the Jaguars who are coached by George LottIII’s.

Daniel Watson, a junior at Wesson, held a .418batting average with 5 doubles, a triple, a home run and 28 RBI.Watson collected 14 stolen bases.

Micah Davis, a junior, held a .386 battingaverage at Wesson. Davis hit 6 doubles and 1 home run and had 14RBI. He also stole 25 bases.

Johnathan Stephens, a senior at Lawrence,batted .379. Stephens had 4 homers, 12 doubles. 3 triples and 42RBI. He also stole 10 bases.

Stephens played in the Cross Roads Diamond Club All-Stargame.

Marty Ballard, a senior, finished with a .376batting average at Lawrence County. At the plate, Ballard, ripped 5homers and had 40 RBI. He stole 15 bases.

Ballard, who was 3-0 on the mound, had a 4.20 ERA with 35strikeouts in 21.7 innings.

Warren Smith, a senior, served as designatedhitter his final year at Parklane. Smith held a .400 battingaverage.

Landon Morgan, a senior at North Pike, batted.479.

Morgan drilled 5 home runs and 4 doubles. He signed to play forSouthwest Community College.

Dane Hodges, a junior at Franklin County, helda .373 batting average.

Dann Griffin, a senior, went 4-3 on the moundwith 70 strikeouts and two wins for Franklin County. Griffin signedwith the Mississippi College Choctaws.