Spring praises senior leaders

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 11, 2007

Randy Spring doesn’t hesitate to heap praise on his six seniorswhen he reviews the 2007 baseball season. They were instrumental inleading the Panthers to a 20-13 record, a runners-up finish in theDivision 6-4A Tournament and a berth in the state playoffs.

Spring’s accomplishments have earned him The DAILY LEADER’sCoach of The Year honor on the All-Lincoln County Baseball Team. Hejust completed his eighth year as BHS head coach.

“Our six seniors played a significant role for us,” said Spring,37, a Pike County native. The recently graduated group includedcatcher Mitch Pappas, designated hitter Taylor Newman, shortstopElliott Warren, outfielder R.J. Jenkins and pitcher/infielders JoshCoone and Cole Newell.

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After losing to Class 4A state runner-up Terry in the divisionchampionship, Spring’s Panthers drew the D’Iberville Warriors inthe opening round of the state playoffs. They lost a pair of 1-rundecisions to D’Iberville, falling 1-0 and 5-4.

Last summer, Spring had confidently planned on making a strong runat the state title, a crown his Panthers won for the first time in2004.

“This was the team that finished strong as sophomores,” Springpointed out. “I felt this team could really make a run. To theircredit, they still had a good season.”

Three of those sophomores weren’t available for their senior yearat BHS. Coone sustained a broken bone in his hand, just 10 gamesinto the season, and was severely limited. He had signed ascholarship with Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Rising senior second baseman Zach Watson left BHS and returned toBrookhaven Academy for his final campaign, earning Most ValuablePlayer honors for the Cougars.

Another would-be senior, Jacob Dunn, was killed in an auto accidentafter his sophomore year. “We lost three quality players over aperiod of time,” said Spring.

Looking to the future, Spring is optimistic. Five starters returnin second baseman/pitcher Bud Britt, outfielder Brandon Foster,first baseman Cody Ratcliff, pitcher/outfielder Nick Helmstetterand pitcher/fielder Paxton King, the DL’s 2007 Mr. Baseball andPlayer of the Year in Lincoln County.

Spring has a solid group of assistant coaches whom he credits withmuch of the team’s success. They are Eric Stokes, pitching coach;Dustin Lott, infield/junior varsity coach; and long-time veteranand volunteer Dwayne Oberschmidt, JV/summer league coach.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have good coaches working with me,”said Spring. “They mean a lot to our program.”

Four of the last five years have been 20-win seasons for thePanthers. “Twenty wins is what you shoot for,” said Spring.

He said the Brookhaven Diamond Club has provided great financialsupport to the program. Fundraisers and donations allowed Spring totake his team on a tournament trip to Waco, Texas.

At Moyer Field, the Panthers enjoy a covered practice area whichallows the team to pitch, bat and throw during inclement weather.”No matter what the weather, we can throw and hit.”

As a youngster, Spring grew up a Walter Payton fan and began usinghis jersey No. 34 number when he made the Dixie Youth BaseballLeague All-Star Team as a 12-year-old.

Spring is a 1988 graduate of McComb Parklane Academy. He attendedSouthwest Mississippi Community College and served as a bullpencatcher at Southern Miss when Hill Denson was coaching the GoldenEagles. The 1990-91 USM teams advanced to the NCAA regionals.

There’s never a dull moment at the Spring household. He and hiswife, Amy, have two energetic sons, Brett, age 11; and Brady, age5. Both of them play summer league baseball, plus being engaged inother sports activities.