Byrd catches MVP

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 1, 2009

Brookhaven Academy catcher Kolby Byrd was a feared batter whenhe came to the plate. That resulted in opposing pitchers walkingByrd 26 times in 21 games, several of them intentional free passesto first base.

Byrd still managed to bat .448 and hit 6 home runs as aleft-handed batter for the Cougars. Behind the plate, he wasregarded as one of the best catchers in the Magnolia State, signingearly with Mississippi State University.

Byrd’s performance has earned him Most Valuable Playerrecognition and the title of Mr. Baseball on The DAILY LEADER’S2009 All-Lincoln County Baseball Team.

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He has a strong supporting cast on the Dream Team. Brookhavensenior Nick Helmstetter is the Most Valuable Offensive Player andLoyd Star senior Drew Weaver is the Most Valuable DefensivePlayer.

Joining Weaver on the pitching staff are Ryan Kennedy ofEnterprise and Brandon Foster of Brookhaven. The other catchers areZach Williams of West Lincoln and Travis Keene of Loyd Star.

Infielders include Brett Rushing of West Lincoln, Will Gatlin ofBrookhaven Academy, Korey Allen of Loyd Star and Chris Seals andGabe Wilson of Brookhaven.

The outfielders are Matt Magee of West Lincoln, Jarvis Wilbertand Elliott McKee of Brookhaven and Colton McClendon of BogueChitto.

Designated hitters are Helmstetter and Bud Britt ofBrookhaven.

Utility players are Zach Halliwell of Brookhaven, Michael Martinof Bogue Chitto and Tyler Case of West Lincoln.

The all-purpose player is Seth Avants of Bogue Chitto. The DreamTeam was selected by the DL’s sports department, with inputprovided by area high school and college coaches.

Byrd, standing 6-feet tall and weighing 225 pounds, was an MVPon defense as a linebacker last football season, helping theCougars win the District 4-AA championship. His future is inbaseball. His Pop Time, on throws to second base, is an impressive1.8 seconds. His bat speed impressed MPSA South All-Star coachLarry Wesson.

“Byrd’s power is off the charts,” said Wesson. “The ball comesoff his bat differently than other players.”

Byrd continues to work on his batting skills. He takes privatelessons and plays for the Jackson 96ers during the summer. Herecently participated in a Cincinnati Reds Showcase in Birmingham,Ala.

“I’ve worked at improving my framing for pitch location,” saidByrd. “I’ve also worked on my opposite field hitting.”

In last weekend’s All-Star Game, Byrd ripped an opposite field,RBI double and a single.

Short on pitching depth this season, the BA Cougars finished12-10 under sixth-year head coach Stephen Cooksey who resignedunder pressure last month. Byrd said he is confident he will havean opportunity to play as a true freshman on the MSU squad.

“I think I have a good shot,” said Byrd. “I’m looking forward tothe opportunity.”

His favorite Major League Baseball player is Atlanta Bravescatcher Brian McCann.

Nick Helmstetter (6-0, 190), a right-hander, has signed withMeridian Community College. He anchored the Panthers in aninjury-plagued 20-8 campaign. He overcame an early-season ankleinjury to post an impressive .508 batting average that included 22RBIs and 1 home run.

On the mound, Helmstetter compiled a 5-3 record. Among hisstatistics was a stingy 0.71 ERA. He struck out 82 batters andwalked 21.

“Nick became a lot more patient at the plate,” said Ole Brookcoach Randy Spring. “He cut down on his strikeouts and got morewalks. He was more consistent.”

Helmstetter said he uses an Easton SV12 bat that is 33 incheslong and weighs 30 ounces. He will play in the June 6 All-Star Gameat Trustmark Park in Pearl.

“I’ve been a more patient batter this year,” said Helmstetter.”I try to keep the ball in play.”

He is working as a pitcher and centerfielder for the Jackson96ers this summer. He said he was pleased with his performance inthe Cincinnati Showcase.

“It was a real good experience,” said Helmstetter. “There wereonly five or six high school players. The rest of the 40 were incollege.”

His dream is to play professional baseball. His favorite playeris Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. His favorite team is theBoston Red Sox.

“My dream is to play pro ball,” said Helmstetter. “Whatever Godhas planned for me. I’m thankful for the opportunities He has givenme.”

Drew Weaver (6-0, 170), a right-hander, compiled a 10-3 recordthis season. He posted a 1.76 ERA and struck out 72 batters,leading the Hornets to the third round of the Class 2A stateplayoffs and a 20-10 record.

“Drew worked hard on his spots,” explained Loyd Star coachJonathan Breakfield. “That helped him in the long run. He usuallydidn’t walk more than two a game.”

Weaver has signed a scholarship with Copiah-Lincoln CommunityCollege. He throws a fastball, curve and changeup.

Asked about his season, Weaver said, “Mainly I worked onspotting up. That helped me a lot.”

He said his best performance this season was a 9-inning, 5-4victory over St. Andrew’s.

“Our team fought hard at the end of the season,” said Weaver.”We became close, like a family.”

Weaver said his favorite Major League player is pitcher JohnSmoltz. “He can throw smoke with gas on it. He never gives up.”

At the plate, Weaver batted .315 and helped his cause with 30RBIs.

Seth Avants, a versatile senior athlete who starred in footballand basketball, finished the baseball season on a high note,signing with Co-Lin. The right-hander batted .490, hitting acounty-best 12 home runs. He stole 19 of 23 bases and posted a 6-3pitching record for Coach Curt Crain’s Bobcats who posted an 11-10worksheet, their first winning record in 9 years.

Brandon Foster, a junior southpaw, fashioned a 7-3 record forthe BHS Panthers. He had a 2.37 ERA, striking out 56 batters andwalking 30 in 47 innings.

Ryan Kennedy, a senior southpaw, has signed with Co-Lin. Heposted a 5-2 record. He struck out 76 batters and had a 1.30 ERA asCoach Cass Brister’s Yellow Jackets (9-8) advanced to the Class 2Astate playoffs.

Zach Williams, a senior catcher, has signed with Co-Lin. Hebatted .419 this season for the Bears.

Travis Keene, a sophomore catcher, hit 5 homers and batted .345for the Hornets.

Brett Rushing, a senior infielder, pitcher and catcher, batted.431, hit 6 homers and collected 25 RBIs as Coach SteveBarrington’s Bears (13-8) advanced to the Class 1A stateplayoffs.

Will Gatlin, a junior, batted .440 for the Cougars.

Chris Seals, a sophomore, batted .451 for the Panthers.

Gabe Wilson, a sophomore, batted .372 for the Panthers. He had a.924 fielding percentage at shortstop.

Korey Allen, a sophomore, batted .293 for Loyd Star. He also hit5 homers and drove in 27 runs.

Matt Magee, a sophomore, batted .456 for the West Lincoln Bears,collecting 26 RBIs.

Jarvis Wilbert, a senior, batted .438 for the Panthers and had23 RBIs.

Elliott McKee, a junior, batted .314 for the Panthers.

Colton McClendon, a freshman, batted .351 for the Bogue ChittoBobcats.

Bud Britt, a senior, was slowed by an early-season injury to his(right) pitching arm but was able to provide the Panthers with abig bat. He had a .461 batting average and hit 3 homers, collecting29 RBIs.

Britt postponed his Tommy John arm surgery until after theseason was completed. He has signed with Co-Lin.

Zach Halliwell, a junior, batted .351 for the Panthers and hit 4homers.

Michael Martin, a junior, batted .324 for the Bobcats. He alsohad a 5-3 record on the mound.

Tyler Case, a junior, batted .324 for the Bears and posted a 2-0pitching record.


Bogue Chitto: Garrett Wallace, Max Adams.

Brookhaven: Nick Peavey, Patrick Valentine, E.J. Henderson,Isaac Jones, J.D. Britt.

Brookhaven Academy: Jeremy Foster, Tripp Jolly, Gage Posey,Scottie Peavey.

Enterprise: Travis Leggett, Tanner Delcambre, Ky Burke, JarrettTodd.

Loyd Star: J.J. Jones, Marquis Hayes, T.J. Floyd, LeeboBairfield, Cody Smith.

West Lincoln: Nathaniel Pruski, Micah Bivens, James Magee.