There’s much post-season baseball left to be played, but Mississippi celebrated a great deal of regular season college baseball excellence at the annual C Spire Ferriss Trophy luncheon Monday at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

The big winner was Southern Miss junior pitcher Nick Sandlin, who claimed the Ferriss Trophy as the state’s most outstanding college baseball player with a performance that surely would have had the award’s namesake, the late Boo Ferriss, gushing.

Sandlin finished the regular season with a perfect, 8-0 record and a 1.25 earned run average. He struck out 122 batters, while walking only 14. Opponents hit just .156 against him. Sandlin pitched two complete game shutouts. Those are numbers that Ferriss, one of the greatest pitchers in history of the sport, would covet.

“It’s been a great season,” Sandlin said, in accepting the award. “Now, we’re looking to do more.”

He is not alone.

Sandlin and fellow Ferriss finalist and teammate Luke Reynolds will lead Conference USA regular season champion Southern Miss into the league tournament beginning Wednesday. Ryan Olenek, who led the Southeastern Conference in hitting this season, will lead SEC West champion Ole Miss into the SEC Tournament Wednesday. Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum, the 2016 Ferriss Trophy winner, has helped the Bulldogs overcome a miserable start to the season and play its best baseball heading into the SEC tourney. The Bulldogs play Tuesday. And Delta State’s Zack Shannon, who was playing in the Division II Regional at Tampa while Monday’s luncheon was happening, enjoyed one of the greatest offensive seasons in Mississippi college baseball history. Shannon, the defending Division II National Player of the Year, slammed a Mississippi record 31 home runs as a senior.

That’s why Sandlin said he wasn’t necessarily expecting to win the award Monday.

“Everybody had amazing seasons,” Sandlin said. “All the finalists easily could have won.”

Indeed, there was much to celebrate Monday where Mississippi college baseball is concerned. Southern Miss won its second straight CUSA title. Ole Miss won the SEC West. State finished the season sweeping three straight games from SEC Champion previously No. 1 ranked Florida. Delta State won the Gulf South Conference regular season. Mississippi College won the Gulf South Tournament. William Carey is currently playing in the NAIA World Series.

As keynote speaker Jay Powell, the former Mississippi State and Major League pitching star, put it Monday, “In college baseball, we in the state of Mississippi don’t take a backseat to anyone.”

Shannon was the only senior up for the Ferriss. But Sandlin, Reynolds, Mangum and Olenek are all expected to be taken reasonably high in the upcoming Major League baseball draft. None are expeted to return for their senior seasons of college baseball.

Reynolds, the Mississippi State transfer who led USM with a .403 batting average, 15 home runs and 58 runs batted in, was asked what makes Sandlin such a special pitcher.

“His mentality on the mound is second to none,” Reynolds said. He’s the ultimate competitor, competing his tail off on every pitch. His presence is such that you can’t wait to play behind him because you always know you’re going to get his best.”

Reynolds said he faced Sandlin only twice in pre-season scrimmages.

“He struck me out the first time and then I squared up a ball but hit it right at someone,” Reynolds said. “So he got me out both times.”

In that regard, this season, Reynolds was not alone.

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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.