Major League baseball scouts and college coaches are tasked with choosing a winner of the C Spire Ferriss Trophy, which goes to the most outstanding college baseball player in Mississippi.

Already, they have voted on five finalists.

That was the easy part. Now they have to pick a winner, whose name will be called Monday at a awards luncheon at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

That is anything but easy. This will be the 15th time this award, named for the late, great David “Boo” Ferriss, has been presented. Never has there been more a more deserving group of candidates.

So, could this be the first time a Delta State player wins the award named for the father of Delta State baseball?

Zack Shannon, the senior DSU first baseman, has posted numbers that border on the absurd. Shannon has slugged a record 29 home runs – with 86 runs batted in – in just 49 games. Normally, when a guy hits with power at that rate, he strikes out often. Shannon has fanned only 27 times and hits at a .425 clip. Any other year, he would be a slam dunk Ferriss winner.

Sandlin

But Southern Miss junior Nick Sandlin has put up numbers that are every bit as crazy for a pitcher. Sandlin, USM’s closer (and an All American) the past two season, moved into the starting rotation this season His record? A perfect 7-0. His earned run average? A paltry 1.15. He has struck out 114 batters, while walking only 14, numbers that look like something out of a comic book. Opponents are hitting just .148 against him.

Olenek

And then there’s Ole Miss junior center fielder Ryan Olenek, the best player on Mississippi’s best team. Olenek leads the Southeastern Conference in hitting with a .396 average, roughly .120 points higher than he hit as a sophomore. He has struck out only 13 times in 187 at bats, also best in the SEC and leads the Rebels with 17 doubles.

Reynolds

In a normal baseball season, Southern Miss junior third baseman and hitting machine Luke Reynolds would win the Ferriss hands down. Reynolds, a transfer from Mississippi State, hits .392 with 18 doubles, 13 home runs and 54 runs batted in. He leads Conference USA with 61 runs scored in 51 games and is a perfect 7 for 7 in stolen bases.

Mangum

The fifth finalist, Mississippi State’s junior center fielder Jake Mangum, already has won the award once. He did so as a freshman. His hitting numbers – at least power-wise – won’t jump out at you like the others but watch him cover the outfield – or run the bases – just once and you’ll see why the scouts and coaches voted him a finalist. Mangum hits .342 with 19 doubles and two triples, has stolen 14 bases in 16 tries and surely leads the nation in diving, highlight-reel catches.

Go ahead. You choose.

Actually, you can vote for your favorite. Fan voting is conducted by C Spire at www.csopavoting.com and will constitute 10 percent of the final tally with the state’s head baseball coaches and pro scouts (who regularly scout the Mississippi colleges) accounting for the remaining 90 percent.

Interestingly, State’s Mangum posted on Twitter he voted for Olenek, who plays the same position he does for the Bulldog’s arch-rival.

When is the last time somebody from State voted for somebody from Ole Miss – or vice versa –for anything?

You gotta love college baseball.

•••

Tickets for Monday’s luncheon are available at www.msfame.com or by calling 601 982-8264. Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Jay Powell will be the keynote speaker at the event.


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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.