Sumrall pitcher Jared Miller is considered one of Mississippi’s best baseball players and what he did at the plate and in the field helped solidify that observation.
Mississippi Coach of the Year Larry Knight, who coached Miller and the Bobcats to a 36-0 season, a Class 3A state championship and a No. 1 national ranking by MaxPreps.com's Kevin Askeland, can’t stop lauding praise on the senior.
After a quiet season as a junior, Miller’s senior campaign was nothing short of spectacular. When not pitching, Miller was hitting .412 as Sumrall’s starting first baseman. In addition to that, he hit a Sumrall school record 14 homers and had 50 RBI.
On the mound, he was 11-0 with a 1.67 earned run average and 106 strikeouts, following a junior season where he was 7-0.
As a junior, Miller hit .221 with just four homers and 27 RBI. His coaching staff says Miller bought into a hitting philosophy that involved using wood bats during practice to help find the barrel of the bat.
The 6-foot-4 Miller drew college attention fairly late, but just recently signed to play at Mississippi State next year.
Baseball: Pair get names called in MLB Draft
Mississippi was represented in the Major League Baseball entry draft by two of its better players. Billy Hamilton of Taylorsville and David Renfroe of South Panola were drafted by teams in the early rounds of the draft.
Hamilton was chosen by Cincinnati in the second round, the 57th overall choice. He started as an infielder Taylorsville this season.
Hamilton is a multi-sport star, earning all-state selections in baseball, football and basketball. He’s signed to play football at Mississippi State, but indications are he may forego a football scholarship to play baseball in the Reds’ organization.
With Taylorsville last spring, he hit four homers, had 28 RBI and stole 26 bases, while tallying a .448 batting average.
Renfroe was picked by the Boston Red Sox in the third round. At the plate for South Panola, he hit at a .460 clip with six round trippers and 34 runs batted in. Many project him to pitch. The Mississippi signee was 3-2 on the mound this spring with a 2.41 ERA.
Baseball: New coach sought at New Hope
Considered one of the most successful coaches in Lowndes County baseball circles, New Hope’s Stacey Hester’s season this spring was apparently his last.
County School Superintendent Mike Halford has recommended and the school board approved a motion to dismiss Hester from his position. Little was said about the reason for the dismissal, other than it was in the “best interests of the children in Lowndes County.”
However, an episode involving a player in the playoffs and another incident with a parent of a player may have been used to start the action against the longtime coach. Hester reportedly grabbed a player away from a possible altercation during a playoff game with Hernando, saying he was preventing the player from being disqualified for the entire playoffs. Another incident involved an argument with a parent after a game against Houston.
During Hester’s 18 seasons on the New Hope bench, the Trojans won three state championships, six North Half titles and were nationally ranked seven times. A national record was set by New Hope in 1996 when the Trojans were 46-0 and also set a Mississippi record for victories in a season.
The New Hope coach was not at the meeting, as he was coaching a Mississippi team in a tournament in Oklahoma.
“It would be nice if I had a reason why I am not being retained and people would not hide behind titles and let people behind the scenes (determine my fate)," Hester told the Columbus Dispatch.
Hester will remain as a drivers’ education teacher and school bus driver. He plans to remain in the county, as he also owns a landscaping business in the community.