The MC Baseball Team Hits a Wall, but Looks to the Future, Corey Rholdon, sports editor

The Mississippi College baseball team is looking to get past the “Dog Days” of the season. After starting the year 18-4, the Choctaws baseball team has hit a rough patch, going 4-5 in their past 9 games, but Mississippi College ace Chris Crosby and catcher Brandon Broussard believes the team will get back to their winning ways.

Broussard knows this team is more complete than in years past, and he hopes that will get the team out of this slump. “This year’s team gels a lot better than last year’s team. We have a lot of arms in our pitching staff this season. If someone is struggling, we have someone who can fill. Our hitters starting out in the beginning of the year were leading the conference in batting averages at .380, and we are pretty confident hitting the ball and scoring runs,” said Broussard.

A big part of the Choctaws’ success this season has been their pitching staff, especially the three starting pitchers, who have a combined era of 3.54. Crosby is one of the pitchers having an outstanding season, and he believes the pitching staff deserves more credit. “Our pitching staff has been pretty solid. I feel like a lot of guys do not get the credit that they deserve. Our hitters are good, and we have a really good lineup, but our pitching staff has been pretty good as well. We have Hunter Mullis who has been phenomenal for us this year; Zach Ingram has been doing pretty well; and our bullpen for the most part has been lights out. Every pitcher has his days, but for the most part we have been locked in and on,” Crosby said.

It helps a pitcher to know that they have a defense backing them up, and the MC team has a really good one. “Our defense is phenomenal. I am the type of guy that is going to pound the strike zone and attack the hitter, and having a defense behind you that is one of the best in the GSC makes it easier to pitch. We have the best outfield in the GSC. I have full confidence in my defense, especially behind the plate with Brandon Broussard. It is honestly a blessing to have a defense like we do,” said Crosby.

Broussard has been a quiet hero on the baseball team, as his leadership and toughness has built confidence for his pitchers. “That is our guy. Broussard has been a dawg for us all year. I can’t say enough good things about him. He has caught every single game for us, even though he has been banged up with a dislocated shoulder and all kinds of things. He is the best catcher I have ever had in my life,” said Crosby.

It is not just the starting few who are having a great year for the Choctaws, but the relievers too. “Brandon Kennedy is the first person that comes to mind as a reliever; he has come in and helped us out a lot. He throws a lot of strikes and gives us an opportunity to get outs. Austin Chastang has come in and thrown a lot of zeros for us as well. Our relievers have been really good this year,” Broussard said.

Mississippi College had a tough loss recently, when the team gave up 7 runs in the 9th inning to lose to Montevallo by the score of 12-11, but Broussard still believes in his relievers. “Ryan (Lane) is a very consistent guy for us, but he just had an off day yesterday and we still believe in him. Normally when we put him in that position he is going to perform well, and it is just baseball. So you live and forget,” Broussard said.

After a team meeting, Crosby wants the team to compete and bring it every single game. “I expect us to really bring it to people. We came out really hot. We kind of hit a wall these past couple of weeks, but we brought the team together and had some heart-to-hearts. I really feel like that is going to change our aspects and mentality for the rest of the season,” said Crosby. “We cleared the air. I felt like we did not have much closure as a team, and we needed to address some problems that we had with guys not playing up to par. We know we are a pretty good team, and we know what everyone is capable, of so we were just encouraging guys to believe in themselves,” Crosby said.

Mississippi College is currently in 6th place in the GSC with a record of 11-6, and the Choctaws can improve that record this weekend in a home series against Christian Brothers.

Mississippi College Softball: A Championship Culture By: Sadie Wise

Mississippi College’s softball team has established a winning culture over the last few years. The team won the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Championship in 2016, and brought the Gulf South Conference Championship title to Clinton in 2017. As they approach the conclusion of regular season play, the Lady Choctaws have one thing on their mind: another championship.

Head Coach Brooke O’Hair has been at Mississippi College for over a decade, so she knows what it takes to build a successful program. “You always have to set that standard. Every year, that’s your goal: you want to win a championship,” O’Hair said. “Thankfully, we’ve been able to set the bar high for the incoming girls, and then you have the seniors who want to go out on top.”

One of those seniors is Kristen Gardner. “Winning last year was absolutely amazing. It was one of the best feelings,” Gardner said. She feels that the team really proved themselves in 2017. “We’ve got a target on our backs this season. People are coming after us more than they did last year. We definitely have to be more resilient every time we play,” said Gardner.

Gardner says the team’s No. 1 goal is to win a national championship, of course, but she explained the importance of working towards that goal with a “one game at a time” mentality. Gardner says she feels the team has finally gotten into their groove for the year. “We’ve really done a lot better about coming together as a team and are executing really well in all areas,” she said.

Being a transfer, Gardner says it really meant a lot to her that the coaches trusted her abilities coming from junior college. “My experience here has been amazing. The environment of the school and my teammates – everyone is so uplifting.”

So far this season, the team is 19-11 overall, with a record of 12-8 in conference play, with a stretch of GSC match-ups in the near future. At this point in the year, the coaches have been putting more emphasis on the little things. “Keeping everything fine-tuned is key,” O’Hair said.

Assistant Coach Leigh Streetman spoke about what it’s like for her to be a part of the softball family at MC. “Coming into a program where winning championships is normal is awesome; it really gives the girls a competitive edge. They know what they’re capable of,” said Streetman.

Looking towards the future, Streetman feels that the championship culture surrounding the Lady Choctaws is what enables the program to recruit top notch athletes. “Winning championships is what’s going to continue to give us the success that we want,” she said.

“The great thing with winning championships is that you get a lot of attention,” O’Hair said. “Every kid wants to be a part of a championship program. That’s what you dream of as a little kid.”

As long as The Lady Choctaws are able to continue to bring home the championship trophies, there may be a lot of young girls with dreams of wearing blue and gold one day.

Choctaw Football Team Continues Spring Practices By Madison Brown,

The Choctaw football team began spring practices earlier this semester and is already making adjustments. Athletic Director Mike Jones announced in January that both Paul Rasmussen and Tommy Laurendine would join the Choctaw coaching staff as the new defensive line coach and offensive coordinator. Along with additions to the roster and coaching staff, the Choctaws have also incorporated new schemes to the playbook. Head Coach John Bland said the majority of their spring practices are spent learning the new plays and adjusting to different coaching styles. He said the players have accepted the new coaches well and “We’re seeing some positive things out on the field.”

Until last Friday, all spring practices were in preparation for the annual Spring Game scrimmage where the Choctaw offense battled the defense. Now, Bland said their attention will turn to staying in shape and keeping grades up, because the main focus for Choctaw athletics has always been academics.

A large portion of the team roster consists of transfers from around the country, so there are always adjustments to be made both on the field and in the classroom. “We’re gonna really focus on academics and hopefully finish this semester strong, so these guys can continue to be here and play football for us,” said Bland.

Colton Magee and Tiberias Lampkin are two seniors on the Choctaw football team this season. Both athletes transferred to Mississippi College during the 2017 spring practice season.  Filling the outside linebacker position, Magee said the Choctaws are working hard to “put the pieces together” on the team. Magee said that in his final season at Mississippi College he wants to finish strong. “The coaches have given us a new game plan, so we just want to keep getting better,” said Magee. He hopes that this season they will have a strong support system from the fans since the team has been working hard all spring. He said, “We’re gonna compete, and it’s gonna be a great time.”

For the senior running back Tiberias Lampkin, spring season practices are spent learning to adjust to the new offensive coordinator, Tommy Laurendine. Lampkin has enjoyed getting to work with Coach Laurendine this season at his new full back position. “He’s been really challenging me mentally by showing me a lot of things that I need to get better at,” said Lampkin. The senior full back believes the team is really “drawing together” this season by improving their game both physically and mentally. Looking forward to his senior year, Lampkin just wants some victories. “I can’t stress that enough because I know Clinton is tired of losing,” he said. He said a winning season for the Choctaws “would mean a lot to this community and a lot to me. I just want to win.”

The Choctaws will begin their fifth season under Head Coach John Bland this fall. With eleven total games during the 2018 season, the blue and gold will play six contests at home in Robinson-Hale Stadium. Their first game will be a non-conference matchup against the Clark Atlanta Panthers who defeated the Choctaws 32-29 last season in overtime. The Choctaws will face eight Gulf South Conference opponents and end the season in Cleveland, Miss., against longtime rival Delta State.

Player Profile: Brenna Keller, By Carlie Prescott

 

Senior women’s tennis captain Brenna Keller hopes to leave a lasting impact on Mississippi College tennis, this being her last season playing tennis for Mississippi College. Keller said it is bittersweet for such a huge chapter of her life to be coming to an end.

Before coming to Mississippi College, Keller was in the United States Military Academy. She joined the MC women’s tennis team as a freshman and has worked tirelessly for the last four years to become the best tennis player she could possibly be. She said it has been an incredible journey being able to see how this team and each individual player has been able to grow over the past few years. “It has been a wonderful transformation going from the first year to this year – from average to dominant,” she said. Not only that, but, as a senior, she has been able to see what some of the younger players are capable of doing and how they can continue to be successful and lead the team in future years.

Keller said she is proud of the way the team has really been able to come together this year and “make it happen” on the court. She is proud to witness the confidence that each player has gained with every win they have achieved. She is proud to see all of the excitement expressed over their success. She said she is most proud of the way all of the girls have bonded together and have built such a special team. According to Keller, the team went from a team that expected a few losses in the season to a team that believed they could win every single match. They have been working extremely hard since day one, and she said their hard work is certainly paying off.

This season of tennis has been stellar, according to Keller, and it has been filled with nothing but joy. At this point, the team is still undefeated and for the program’s first time in history, they are nationally ranked at number 23 as a D2 tennis team.

Keller said the success of the team is partly due to the fact that they all feed off of each other’s attitudes and motivation. “A positive and well-functioning team fosters an environment for success,” she added. It is extremely evident that their positive attitudes and emotions have helped build up the team. She said it seems as though each individual player has been able to really boost their own confidence on the court, which feeds back into the positive atmosphere of the team as a whole. She added that apart from just having a successful season, all of the good vibes have really made this season fun and enjoyable.

As her final season comes to a close, Keller said she oftentimes finds herself thinking, “Wow, that was the last time I will play on these courts,” or “That was the last time I will compete against this team or that player.” Even though four years of great talent and experience or coming to an end for Keller, her impact on the team is something that will continue on past May 5.