No. 3 Pearl River earns MACCC awards ‘triple crown’
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The No. 3 Pearl River baseball team brought in an impressive haul of awards, earning the “triple crown” of yearly awards in addition to seven All-MACCC selections.
Head coach Michael Avalon was named Coach of the Year, right-hander Landon Gartman (Bogue Chitto; Enterprise) is the Pitcher of the Year and centerfielder Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison) is the Player of the Year. Gartman, Parker, designated hitter Kasey Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison) and catcher Graham Crawford (Sumrall) were named First Team All-MACCC. Third baseman Dalton Cummins (Seminary) and right-hander Dakota Lee (Purvis) earned spots on All-MACCC Second Team. Right-hander Sam Hill (Soso; West Jones) was an honorable mention selection.
The MACCC announced the honors Monday following the conclusion of the Region 23 Tournament, which was hosted by PRCC at Dub Herring Park.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Avalon led his Wildcats to a 36-9 record and a 23-5 finish in conference play. Pearl River finished the regular season with just one home loss.
“Coach of the Year is a humbling award,” Avalon said. “More so because you know that your players are who made that possible. I’m fortunate to be the head coach at Pearl River, but I am blessed to coach the guys that I get to coach with the talent that they have, the type of people they are and the type of families that they come from. It’s just very humbling. Without the players, none of this would be possible.”
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Gartman was a dominant force at the top of the rotation for the Wildcats this season, leading Pearl River in innings (60), strikeouts (81) and wins (9). His 1.95 ERA was first among starting pitchers. He was a four-time winner of the MACCC Pitcher of the Week award. Gartman was also named First Team All-MACCC.
“His transformation from his freshman year to his sophomore year has taken his game to another level,” Avalon said. “That shows in his stats, but if you look a little bit deeper every time he is out there, he is a marked man. He won pitcher of the week four times this year so four of his nine starts he was going out there after winning player of the week and was able to handle the pressure and bullseye of that. That just tells you where his mindset is and his toughness. He’s just a very simple person who loves to throw the baseball.”
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Parker was the leader of one of the top offensive attacks in the country and hit his way to being named the MACCC Player of the year and First Team All-MACCC. Parker led the Wildcats in average (.381), hits (59), slugging percentage (.826), home runs (18), RBIs (65) and doubles (13).
“He always finds a way to get the job done even when a lot of people say not to let him beat you,” Avalon said. “His approach to prepare is pretty special. He’s a hardnosed worker and a very humble person. He doesn’t walk around with a big ego and just loves to play the game of baseball. He wants to help his team win in any way possible.”
FIRST TEAM SELECTIONS
Donaldson finished a stellar sophomore season with a .322 batting average, 14 home runs and a .664 slugging percentage. He was second on the team in hits with 47.
“You talk about a guy whose passion and love for Pearl River is strong, that’s Kasey,” Avalon said. “Seeing him decide to come back for a third year and then be honored as an All-MACCC player, that’s just fitting for his end at Pearl River. I’m thankful for it. He deserves it and he’s done it for three years. This recognition after his third year is pretty special for him and his family.”
Crawford finished his season as a reliable offensive and defensive weapon for the Wildcats. The switch-hitting catcher led the team in on-base percentage (.494) and walks (34). He finished second on the team in homers (15), RBIs (49), and batting average (.333). Crawford caught 17 runners stealing.
“He’s taken over the role as the captain, and you love that from the catching position,” Avalon said. “One of the things that has helped him achieve First Team All-MACCC is because of his leadership what he has done off the field. We preach in this program that you win off the field long before you win on the field. Graham just embodies what we want our players to be. If I need something done off the field, I call Graham and he takes care of it.
“I think his success on the field has come from his work ethic, his belief in the program, and also his willingness to make adjustments. That’s something that takes a special player to do. It’s been fun watching him and I am thankful that he has been recognized in this way.”
SECOND TEAM SELECTIONS
Cummins was used in a variety of roles for the Wildcats, starting at three different positions during the season while being a force in the lineup. He finished the season with a .302 batting average, .452 on-base percentage, 31 walks and six home runs.
“I compared him to Wiley Cleland in being a swiss army knife for us. Whatever we need from him he will do it,” Avalon said. “He’s a tremendous leader. Like Graham, off the field and on the field he’s one of the first two guys that I would call. We’ve asked him to fill a lot of roles and help us in some tough situations. It’s not easy to go from third base to second base on the infield and he’s done it without the slightest question. It’s been great to see him mature offensively.
“He’s had big hits for us and made big plays for us throughout the lead. This honor for him to be Second Team All-MACCC is special for him and his family, also.”
Lee was a lights-out bullpen arm for Pearl River, performing well when the Wildcats needed it most. His 1.93 ERA and 13.22 strikeouts-per-nine innings were tops on the team. He finished fourth on the team in innings pitched with 32 2/3.
“If you look at how his year started, coming out of the pen here and there. There were times early in the year where we didn’t get to use him like we wanted to because the game didn’t present itself. He had to sit and wait. As he waited, he kept working and he kept wanting the baseball. You look at how this year progressed with him getting the ball against Jones and pitching seven innings for us in his first start. Anything we’ve asked him to do, he’s been willing to do it. His stuff has been really good. I’m sure he will be very proud, and we are very proud that he was chosen as All-MACCC.”
Hill was another bright spot in the Pearl River rotation finishing third on the team in innings pitched (36 1/3), strikeouts (42) and ERA (2.48). Hill ended his freshman campaign on a high note, allowing just one hit over six innings while striking out 10 against No. 2 LSU Eunice.
“Sam had a very solid freshman season,” Avalon said. “He made improvements throughout the year and continued to get better and better. His last outing during the regional was tremendous and we look forward to him picking up there next season.”
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