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Keene crowned MVP

Christian “Bubba” Keene’s reputation for smashing baseballs with his bat has steadily grown during his high school career. The Brookhaven Academy senior earned plenty of respect from opposing teams, especially the pitchers.

     Keene often received an intentional walk when the pitcher fell behind in the count. He still managed to lead Lincoln County in home runs with six as players across the nation adjusted to the new bats that compared more favorably to wood. He posted a .374 batting average and drove in 23 runs, helping lead the Cougars to a 20-13 record and the MAIS South State Class AA finals.

     On the mound, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Keene posted a 4-0 worksheet. He struck out 41 batters and fashioned a 2.21 ERA.

     Overall, Keene’s performance has earned him The DAILY LEADER’s Most Valuable Player recognition on the 2012 All-Lincoln County Baseball Team.

     Other special awards went to a pair of Brookhaven seniors. Pitcher Dillon Newell is recognized as the DL’s Defensive Player of the Year. Outfielder Drew Jones is the Offensive Player of the Year.

     Pitchers selected to the Dream Team are Gage Posey and Austin Travis of Brookhaven Academy and Andrew Culver of Brookhaven.

     Catchers are Landon Nettles of Brookhaven Academy, Hunter Ginn of Bogue Chitto and Jeremy Laird of West Lincoln.

     Infielders include Houston Case and J.B. Perkins of Brookhaven, Will Lucas and Hunter Franklin of Brookhaven Academy, Corey Funk of Loyd Star and Konner Burke of Enterprise.

     Outfielders are Jones, Keene, Cori Crowe of Loyd Star and Dylan Smith of Enterprise.

     Designated hitters are Logan Smith of Loyd Star and Logan Killingsworth of Enterprise.

     Utility and all-purpose players are Jackson Cole of Enterprise, Brock Roberts of Bogue Chitto and Jared Case of West Lincoln.

     “With the old bats, you could hit the ball anywhere on the barrel,” said Keene, comparing them to the new model. Keene’s speed in center field, plus his batting skills, have impressed Major League scouts.

     Keene signed scholarships to play football and baseball at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. His future hinges on how high he goes in next month’s Major League Baseball Draft.

     “Bubba  reads the ball better off the bat better than anybody I’ve ever seen,” said Brookhaven Academy coach Casey Edwards. “When he takes batting practice, the ball sounds different coming off his bat.”

     Keene has been timed in the 60-yard dash, posting a swift time of 6.5 and 6.6. He stole 12 bases this season.

     “I think I saw about 17 fastballs this year,” said Keene, when quizzed about how opponents pitch to him.

     Dillon Newell (6-3, 180), a hard-throwing right-hander, posted a 7-2 record this season as the Ole Brook Panthers won the Region 5-5A championship. He had a 2.36 ERA, striking out 65 batters and walking 16 in 50 innings.

     “I like throwing my curveball best because I can locate it,” said Newell. He also has a fastball and a changeup.

     At the plate, Newell batted .346 and had 18 RBIs.

     Newell has signed a baseball scholarship with Southwest Mississippi Community College, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Cole, who pitched for the Bears and LSU-Shreveport. Dillon plans a career in coaching.

     Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers is his favorite professional player. “I read his book. It’s amazing what he went through and then what he accomplished.”

     Asked about his favorite game, Newell recalled his team’s 4-3 region win over Pearl. “It was a very emotional and hard-nosed game. I threw 12 pitches to Kirby Wixson in the sixth inning and struck him out.”

     BHS head coach Randy Spring has watched Newell develop into an outstanding player. “Dillon is an intense competitor. You never had to worry about getting a great effort from him. Whether he was playing great or playing bad, you always got a great effort. He’s the type of guy you want to go to war with.”

     Spring said Newell’s breaking ball improved this season and “that helped get him to a higher level. It helped him finish off a lot of games this year.”

     Drew Jones (6-2, 150) enjoyed a banner campaign for the Panthers. His lofty .551 batting average produced 43 RBIs, 19 doubles and 4 home runs. He also stole 17 bases.

     An exceptional student, Jones had received $40,000 worth of scholarships to attend Mississippi State University after scoring a 30 on the ACT. Instead, he opted for a baseball scholarship at Southwest.

     Why?

     “I love baseball,” answered Jones. “When the season was over, I realized how much I loved it. You can’t walk away from it.

     “It was a real tough decision. I talked to my family and prayed about it. You can’t look back.”

     Jones uses a Marucci CAT 5 bat. It weighs 32 ounces and measures 29 inches in length.

     “I like (bat) better because it feels good in my hands,” said Jones.  “It cost $130 with the team discount.”

     Jones said his favorite game was in the state playoffs against Pearl River Central. “I was 0-for-3 and I  told Coach Spring I was feeling bad. He told me to go up there and make like I was hitting a tennis ball in the yard. It was one of the best feelings I  ever had when I hit that home run.”

     Jones said he plans to attend Mississippi State after Southwest and pursue a career in chemical engineering. He wants to play baseball for the Bulldogs, too.

     “Drew is a great hitter,” said Spring. “He’s a line drive hitter. He’s a student of hitting. He doesn’t swing and miss a lot.”

     Gage Posey, a junior southpaw, posted a 4-1 pitching record for the Cougars. He struck out 47 batters and had a 2.21 ERA.  At the plate, Posey batted .380, hit 2 homers and collected 25 RBIs.

     Andrew Culver, a junior southpaw, had a 7-1 record for the Panthers.  He amassed 53 strikeouts, 9 walks and a 4.06 ERA.

     Austin Travis, a senior right-hander, had a 6-2 record for the Cougars. He had 60 strikeouts, 2 saves and a 1.98 ERA. He has signed a scholarship with Mississippi Delta Community College.

     Landon Nettles, a sophomore, batted .348 for the Cougars. He had 22 RBIs.

     Hunter Ginn, a senior, batted .400 for BC’s Bobcats.

     Jeremy Laird, a senior, batted .385 for the West Lincoln Bears. He hit 5 homers and collected 19 RBIs.

     Hunter Franklin, a senior, batted .318 for the Cougars and had 21 RBIs. He has signed with Co-Lin.

     Houston Case, batted .307 for the Panthers and had 16 RBIs.

     Corey Funk, a senior, batted .462 for the Loyd Star Hornets. He had 32 RBIs and hit 10 doubles. He has signed with Co-Lin.

     Konner Burke, a senior, batted .422 for the Enterprise Yellow Jackets. He had 10 doubles and 29 RBIs.

     Will Lucas, a senior, batted .386 for the Cougars and had 12 RBIs.

     J.B. Perkins, a senior, batted .343 for the Panthers and drove in 19  runs.

     Cori Crowe, a junior, batted .426 for the Hornets, with 16 RBIs.

     Dylan Smith, a junior, batted .338 for the Yellow Jackets and had 12 RBIs.

     Logan Killingsworth, a junior, batted .292 for the Jackets and hit 5 homers. He had 24 RBIs.

     Logan Smith, a junior, batted .424 for the Hornets. He had 3 homers and 23 RBIs.

     Jackson Cole, a sophomore, batted .250 for the Jackets. He had an 8-2 pitching record and a 2.43 ERA.

     Brock Roberts, a sophomore, batted .361 for the Bobcats.

Jared Case, a junior, batted .414 for the Bears. The southpaw had a 1-3 pitching record.