All sophomore baseball Bobcats headed for senior college

Written By: Shawn Wansley
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Date Submitted: 2011-07-29 13:45:11

 By Shawn Wansley

JCJC Sports Information Director

ELLISVILLE – Jones County Junior College is developing a reputation for producing baseball players who can play at the senior college level.

The record-setting, 2011 baseball Bobcats are a prime example

“Something that I am extremely proud of is that every one of our sophomores, even the backup guys, had an offer to go play at the next level,” said head coach Christian Ostrander recently. “That means a lot. That tells you a little something right there.”

This marks the second straight year for every JCJC sophomore to have an offer to play at a senior college.

Five Bobcats are headed to NCAA Division I schools.

Pitcher Andrew Pierce signed with Southern Miss, centerfielder Ladd Rhodes inked with Southeastern Louisiana, shortstop Graham Odom signed with South Alabama, first baseman Nick Ray inked with Campbell University in North Carolina and catcher Ryan Roberts signed with Arkansas State University.

Rightfielder Darion Hamilton is headed to William Carey University, while pitcher Blake McIlwain is going to Mississippi College. Pitchers Ryan Waters and Josh Palmer, along with infielder Jay Bell, signed with LSU-Alexandria. Third baseman Chase Headrick, a West Jones graduate, received several offers, but has elected to attend Mississippi State University, concentrate on academics and pursue a degree in engineering.

The Bobcats posted a 46-17 record this past year and finished second in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla. The Bobcats won the MACJC state championship, the Region 23 Tournament and captured the MACJC South Division for the second straight season.

By being on the national stage at the World Series, the team brought attention not only to JCJC, but to themselves as well. Senior college scouts from across the country were there and Ostrander said that benefitted his players when it came time to sign scholarships.

Pierce and Rhodes signed before the start of the 2011 season.

Pierce, a 6-foot-2, 165-pound, right-handed pitcher from Stringer, was named an NJCAA All-American for two consecutive years. This past season, he was 11-3 with a 1.99 ERA and three saves. He had 126 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings with just 19 walks. He was 21-5 in his two years at JCJC and was named All-MACJC and All-Region 23 this year.

Rhodes, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound, left-handed hitting outfielder from Gulfport, hit .345 with 31 RBIs and 19 steals this season. He hit a dramatic, two-run, walkoff home run to lift the Bobcats to a 6-5 victory over defending national champion LSU-Eunice in the Region 23 Tournament at Holmes. Rhodes was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Division II World Series and was a second-team All-MACJC choice.

Odom, a 6-foot-2, 165-pound, infielder from Pascagoula, developed into one of the top defensive shortstops in the MACJC. Odom ended the year with a .269 batting average with one home run, 27 RBIs and a team-leading 13 sacrifices.

Ray, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound, left-handed hitting first baseman from Gulfport, had an excellent postseason and was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Division II World Series. He had a .306 batting average with three home runs, 42 RBIs and 11 doubles this season. He will be playing for Campbell, a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference in Buies, N.C. Former JCJC men’s basketball coach Robbie Laing is the head basketball coach at Campbell.

Roberts, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound, left-handed hitting catcher, was a stalwart behind the plate and offensively for JCJC. Roberts, a second-team All-MACJC selection from Pelham High School in Birmingham, Ala., hit .306 with six home runs, 41 RBIs and a team-leading 13 doubles this season.

Hamilton, a 6-foot-2, 186-pound, right-handed hitting outfielder from Taylorsville, was consistent in his two seasons at JCJC. This season, he hit .327 with one home run and 46 RBIs. He led the team in triples with five and stolen bases with 23.

McIlwain, a 6-foot, 175-pound, right-handed pitcher from Wayne County, shined for the Bobcats, especially in postseason play. McIlwain was 5-4 on the year with a 3.10 ERA. He pitched 61 innings, allowed 63 hits and struck out 41.

Waters, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound right-hander pitcher from Hahnville High School in Luling, La., was used extensively as a reliever. He was 4-2 with two saves and a 4.66 ERA this year. He had 35 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 36 2/3 innings. He made 25 appearances – all out of the bullpen.

Palmer, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound, right-handed pitcher from Wayne County, was 2-1 this season. He appeared in 13 games, 12 as a reliever.

Bell, a 5-foot-8, 160-pound middle infielder from Gulfport, appeared in 13 games and had 21 at-bats for the Bobcats.



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