Keller’s 4 homers pace Bulldogs to huge opening day
Published 3:58 pm Saturday, February 4, 2023
PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast celebrated its new playing surface at Ken “Curly” Farris Field in the most fun way possible Friday, dominating Nunez 9-1 and 17-1 in a season-opening doubleheader.
From the ceremonial first pitch from MGCCC President Dr. Mary S. Graham to the offense, the defense and the pitching, it was all Bulldogs. And on a historic day that saw Charlie Keller hit four home runs in his collegiate debut, there were plenty more baseball flying around and out of the park.
“It was a good day for the whole program, the school,” Gulf Coast coach Bob Keller said. “The first pitch with Dr. Graham was a strike, and there was a lot of energy. We’re trying to build that culture of energy.”
Keller (Fr., Mobile, Ala./Mobile Christian) clubbed a two-run homer in the second inning and a solo homer in the sixth. In the second, he drove in Marc Stephens (Fr., Orange Beach, Ala./Gulf Shores), who started a two-out hitting clinic with a two-run double to open the scoring.
The Bulldogs would score their first eight runs with two outs.
“Stephens comes up with a two-out hit, and then it became contagious,” Bob Keller said. “Jayden Mark had a two-out hit the next inning. A bunch of guys started hitting, and we kept running.”
Keller hit solo homers in the first and third innings of the second game. Three were yanked to right field, and the other was an opposite-field rainmaker to left.
“Every at-bat, I felt like I had to do something for the team and add to the score,” he said. “It just happened. I had no intent on any of those homers on any at-bat. It just happened.”
The 16-run margin of victory was the largest by a Gulf Coast team since a 17-0 win over Coahoma on March 25, 2016, at MGM Park in Biloxi.
The Bulldogs had 12 hits in the first game, with Stephens, Charlie Olsen (Fr., Gulfport/Gulfport), DJ Walker (So., Brandon/Brandon) and Nick Thornton (Fr., Pearl/Brandon) picking up two hits. Thornton also homered, and Stephens had a double and triple.
Dylan Fontan (So., Biloxi/St Patrick) started and allowed three hits in three innings, and JC Stogner (So., Sumrall/Sumrall) followed with 3.1 scoreless frames with three strikeouts. Sam Mansell (So., Laurel/Northeast Jones) three one pitch in the seventh to induce a game-ending double play.
Mansell played at second in the nightcap and added two hits with a double and two RBI. Olsen had two more hits, including a double, and Hollingsworth doubled in two runs. Ten Bulldogs had hits, with Keller adding an RBI single. Ty Mancha (Fr., Albuquerque, N.M./Mobile Christian) and Thornton also had two hits.
Brody Swindle (Fr., Fairhope, Ala./Bayside Academy) pitched three innings of one-run ball, and Noah Nicholson (So., Vancleave/Vancleave), Adam May (So., Magee/Magee), Adrian Byrd (Fr., Wiggins/Stone) and Cade Mattison (So., Hattiesburg/Lamar Christian) each threw scoreless frames.
“What I liked was we took our walks to create our offense started and took our hits,” Bob Keller said. “We’ve been preaching pitch selection, and you’re only as good as the pitches you swing at. To see some of the newcomers go out there and get it done on the mound, that was really good.”
Gulf Coast is back at Farris Field next Friday when Coastal Alabama-South visits. The doubleheader starts at 2 p.m., and the games will be streamed at https://mgcccbulldogs.com/watch.
For more information on MGCCC’s 11 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.