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Grace bags All-Area MVP

WESSON — Being the only senior on the Wesson Cobra baseballteam this year meant pitcher/infielder Jonathan Grace had a lot ofpressure placed on him. Grace delivered.

Grace, a Co-Lin signee, helped lead Coach Hugh Knight’s Cobrasto the District 6-2A title and the semifinals of the South Stateplayoffs. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander finished with an 8-6record. He had a 2.47 ERA and 3 saves. His fastball has beenclocked at 85 mph.

At the plate, Grace batted .446 with 14 home runs, 7 doubles, 33hits, 41 RBIs and 27 runs. He was selected to play in theMississippi High School All Star game.

For his accomplishments, Grace has been selected The DAILYLEADER’S Most Valuable Player and Mr. Baseball on the 2008 All-AreaBaseball Team. The Cobras finished the season with a 17-9record.

Also receiving special recognition on the DL’s All-Area Team arepitcher Ben McDowell of Franklin County, selected as the MostValuable Defensive Player; pitcher/shortstop Eric Boyd of Parklane,voted the Most Valuable Offensive Player; andpitcher/infielder/outfielder Scott Votaw of Lawrence County, theMost Valuable All-Purpose Player.

Also selected as pitcher was Conner Oakes of Lawrence County.The catchers are Ben Staten of McComb, Robert Wilson of FranklinCounty and Willie Buckley of Lawrence County

Infielders include Matt P. Smith of Wesson , Ben Boone of CopiahAcademy, Caleb Broome of Wesson and Blaine Abernathy of FranklinCounty.

In the outfield are Josh Smith of Parklane, Bryce Guess ofCopiah, Ryne Tudor of Franklin County and Ford Johnson of LawrenceCounty.

Joining Boyd as a designated hitter is Casey Paulk of NorthPike.

The utility players include Alex Badon of Amite School Centerand Josh Armstreet of Parklane.

The All-Area Team, featuring players outside of Lincoln County,was selected by the DL Sports Department members, with inputprovided by area college coaches.

“It feels really good,” said Grace about being the MVP on theAll-Area Team. “I give credit to the team. They put me in positionto be selected. You have to stand up and be the team leader theyneed. I really like the pressure.

“I’d like to thank God. And thank Coach (Hugh) Knight and Coach(Ron) Kessler,” Grace continued.

Knight, Wesson’s head coach, is Co-Coach of the Year withFranklin County’s Jeremy Loy.

“Jonathan helped us tremendously on the field,” stated Knight.”He did a great job. He is talented. He was good inspiration. Hedid a really good job.”

Ben McDowell , a senior, helped Franklin Countyto a 24-7 record and a trip to the finals of South State. McDowell,a 6-2, 165-pound left-hander, finished with an 8-2 record. He hadan 0.89 ERA, including 5 shutouts (2 in the playoffs). He had 64strikeouts in 63 innings and allowed 8 earned runs all year.

At the plate, McDowell had a .305 batting average with 2 homeruns and 31 RBIs. He also played first base.

McDowell, a Co-Lin signee, was named to the First Team All-State3A Team.

Eric Boyd, a senior, has signed a baseballscholarship with the Southwest Mississippi Community College Bears.At Parklane, the 6-1, 170-pound pitcher/third baseman, helped the24-11 Pioneers to the MPSA Class AAA State Championship series.

Boyd (7-4) had an ERA of 2.38. At the plate, he batted .438 with11 home runs, 15 doubles and 19 RBIs.

“It’s an honor to be selected in this area,” said Boyd. “It wasa great year. We had a great run. It was a lot of fun. As long asyou’re having fun, that’s what it is all about.”

Former Parklane head coach Ken Jackson complimented Boyd on histalent.

“Eric is a special player,” stated Jackson. “He is a hardworker, a real competitor.”

Boyd will be united with Jackson the next two years at Southwestwhere the former Parklane boss is an assistant on new head coachLee Kuyrkendall’s staff.

“Coach Ken Jackson is a great coach,” said Boyd. “It’s been aprivilege playing for him the last four years. He puts it all outthere for his kids.”

Scott Votaw (6-4, 185), madean impact on the mound for Coach Cory Keyes and the Lawrence CountyCougars this year. LCHS finished the season 23-8. On the mound,Votaw was 9-1 with a 2.22 ERA, including 80 strikeouts, 17 walksand 1 save. His fastball has been clocked at 87 mph.

“It’s an honor to be up there with the best players in thearea,” smiled Votaw. “I hope to do that the next three yeas. Thereis no way I could have had a year like this without our greatdefense.”

At the plate, Votaw held a .412 batting average with 2 triples,9 doubles and 14 RBIs.

Coach Keyes thinks Votaw has room to grow and get better.

“Scott has had a fantastic year,” stated Keyes. “I neverexpected a freshman to come in and do what he did. He’s ahard-working kid. He’ll continue to get better. He threw a lot ofstuff and didn’t walk people.

Conner Oakes, a junior pitcher, compiled an 8-2record at Lawrence County. Oakes worked 47 innings, struck out 35batters and walked 14. He finished with a 2.96 ERA.

Ben Staton, a senior, started as catcher forthe McComb Tigers. Staton held a .403 batting average with 2 homeruns, 10 doubles and 20 RBIs.

Robert Wilson, a senior, held a .321 battingaverage for Franklin County, including 1 home run and 3 doubles.Wilson started as catcher.

Willie Buckley, a sophomore, improved behindthe plate for Lawrence County. At the plate, Buckley held a .362batting average with 3 home runs, 2 doubles, 19 RBIs and 9 stolenbases.

Matt P. Smith, a freshman, improved as apitcher and a hitter for Wesson. On the mound, Smith had a 4-0record with a 3.34 ERA in 23 innings pitched, with 18 strikeoutsand 14 walks. He batted .342 with 3 home runs, 6 doubles, 18 RBIsand 13 runs. Smith struck out 10 times and was walked 12 times.

Ben Boone, a sophomore, worked as a pitcher,shortstop and third baseman for the Copiah Academy Colonels and hada 4-2 mound record. At the plate, Boone finished with a .437batting average, including 61 hits. He homered twice, doubled 8times, had 23 RBIs and stole 21 bases.

Caleb Broome, a junior, played shortstop andpitcher for Wesson. Broome finished 5-3 on the mound with an ERA of3.34. Broome pitched 23 innings with 18 strikeouts and 14 walks. Atthe plate, Broome had a .282 batting average including 6 doubles,24 hits, 10 RBIs and 20 runs scored. He struck out 9 times and waswalked 20 times.

Blaine Abernathy, a senior, pitched and playedoutfield for Franklin. Abernathy (8-1) had a 3.15 ERA. He batted.385 with 1 home run and 7 doubles for 27 RBIs.

Josh Smith, a senior, played for Parklane as acenterfielder. Smith finished with a .389 batting average, had 4home runs, 5 triples and 9 doubles and 21 RBI.

Bryce Guess, a sophomore, played center fieldfor Copiah. He held a .440 batting average with 5 home runs, 6doubles for 34 RBIs and stole 16 bases.

Ryne Tudor, a senior, played shortstop, secondbase and outfield for Franklin County. Tudor held a .356 battingaverage with 2 home runs and 9 doubles for 24 RBIs. Tudor was namedto the Class 3A All-State Second Team as an infielder.

Ford Johnson, a junior, played center field forLawrence County and committed just one error. Johnson batted .337with 3 home runs, 8 doubles, 1 triple, 20 RBIs and 11 stolenbases.

Casey Paulk, a senior, started as a pitcher forNorth Pike. Paulk signed a baseball scholarship with MeridianCommunity College. He finished with a .429 batting averageincluding 3 home runs. Paulk maintained a .400 or better battingaverage since his freshman year.

Alex Badon, a senior, played shortstop, thirdbase and pitcher for Amite School Center. Badon batted .413 with 2home runs, a triple and 7 doubles. He held a .827 fieldingpercentage.

Josh Armstreet, a standout sophomore, playedleft field for McComb Parklane. Armstreet, who also excelled on thefootball field, batted .411 with 6 home runs, 14 doubles and 36RBIs.