Eight more Pearl River standouts sign with 4-year programs
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The 2021 season has provided plenty of bright spots for the No. 3 Pearl River baseball team. Wednesday offered another memorable day as eight more Wildcats signed with four-year programs.
The latest group of next-level bound Wildcats include Tennessee Tech signee Eric Newsom (Madison; Germantown), South Alabama signee Nick Skaggs (Biloxi), Delta State signees Shelby Terrell (Foxworth; West Marion), Trace McNabb (Foxworth; West Marion) and Dalton Cummins (Seminary), Mississippi State signee Von Seibert (Mobile, Ala.; Daphne), Southeastern Louisiana signee Reid Reynolds (Heidelberg; Northeast Jones) and Southern Miss signee Landon Harper (Lauderdale; Northeast Lauderdale).
The seven newest signees join a group of next-level bound Wildcats that includes Alabama signee Graham Crawford (Sumrall), South Alabama signees Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison) and Kasey Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison), Southeastern Louisiana signee Jacob Scherer (Mandeville, La.; St. Paul’s), Charleston Southern signee Austen Izzio (Carriere; Pearl River Central) and the Memphis-bound Landon Gartman (Enterprise; Bogue Chitto).
“Our most important goal is to see our student athletes take the next step in their education and, ultimately, their careers,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “These young men are blessed with talent in the game of baseball, and this talent continues to open doors for them. Every one of our sophomores has now been given an opportunity to play the game they love at the next level.
“This is a special class that has achieved a lot already this year. I am excited about the rest of the year with this group and also look forward to following them as they continue after Pearl River.”
DALTON CUMMINS Cummins has been a versatile infielder for Avalon and the Wildcats, starting games at third base, second base and shortstop.
After redshirting due to injury in 2018-19, Cummins appeared in 15 games as a freshman in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season. Cummins hit .250 with a .451 on-base percentage, driving in five runs and walking 10 times.
This season, Cummins has been a mainstay in PRCC’s lineup. In 41 games, Cummins is hitting .319 with six homers and 27 RBIs with 29 walks and a .468 OBP.
“Dalton Cummins has had a tremendous year for us,” Avalon said. “He has been asked to play multiple positions due to injuries and has never wavered in continually getting the job done.
“He is a consummate leader that makes people around him better.”
Cummins said in some ways his recruitment by DSU and PRCC were similar.
“I took the same considerations that I took when I signed with Pearl River,” Cummins said. “It really feels like home and I feel like I am going to enjoy it there. I feel like there are the right people there. I’m looking forward to it and I’m excited.”
LANDON HARPER Harper has really proven his worth for the PRCC pitching staff. Originally used as a two-way option in ’20, Harper showed the staff he can be a shutdown arm this season. As a redshirt freshman, Harper is 3-2 with a 3.76 ERA. He has struck out 38 batters in 26 1/3 innings. He also has three saves on the season.
“Landon has showed a tremendous amount of trust in us, his coaches. Coming out of high school, he wanted to be a dual guy,” Avalon said. “He trusted the decision to become a pitcher only and his growth and maturity have been very impressive.
“He will continue to improve and excel at a high level.”
USM’s staff was a big selling point for Harper.
“Their pitching coach is well known and very good,” Harper said. “I’ve only heard good things about him. That’s one reason that I went there. I need to develop. When I was looking for somewhere to go I looked for somewhere I could develop."
TRACE MCNABB McNabb is one of three regulars from PRCC’s 2019 Region 23 Championship squad. As a true freshman in 2019, McNabb struck out 13 in 10 2/3 innings. Last year, although McNabb was 0-1, he boasted a 3.72 ERA in 9 2/3 innings with four strikeouts. Used strictly as a reliever this season, McNabb has one save and 19 strikeouts with a 5.25 ERA in 24 innings.
“Trace has been a two-year captain for our program,” Avalon said. “Every day he sets the example for our pitching staff of who we want to be. You can count on him to be a tireless worker who will want the baseball.”
McNabb said the atmosphere at DSU was a big selling point.
“Delta State was a great fit for me. It’s in a small town and that is what I came from over in Foxworth,” McNabb said. “I love the coaching staff up there. It’s a winning program and it was just a great fit as far as the small-town feel.”
ERIC NEWSOM Newsom is a true two-way standout for the Wildcats. As a freshman last season, Newsom hit .286 with one homer, three doubles and nine RBIs in 28 at-bats. He also recorded one strikeout in his lone appearance on the mound.
This season, Newsom is 2-0 in seven appearances on the mound. He has a 4.22 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings of work. At the plate, Newsom has slugged seven homers with 25 RBIs and a .313 average.
“Eric has been a two-year starter for us in right field and it has been a pleasure to watch him mature and become more consistent,” Avalon said. “He is threat not only at the plate but also can impact the game on the bump. He should have a chance to do both at the next level.”
Newsom will get the opportunity to continue his duality at Tennessee Tech.
“I went on a visit a few months back, and I knew as soon as I stepped on campus that it was the place for me. It felt like a good fit. They said I would come out of the bullpen at some points, and that I may play outfield and hit in the middle of the order,” Newsom said. “I love pitching and I love hitting. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love getting on the mound and competing and I love getting in the box and getting after another pitcher.”
REID REYNOLDS A carryover from PRCC’s run to Enid, Oklahoma, in 2019, Reynolds has been one of the Wildcats’ most reliable arms the last three seasons. As a true freshman in ’19, Reynolds appeared in 15 games, starting six. He was 5-1 with one save and turned in a complete game. He struck out 31 batters in 47 innings and posted a 2.87 ERA.
Last season, Reynolds struck out five in five innings with a 1.80 ERA; he appeared in two games before the season was cancelled. Back for a third season and another run at Enid, Reynolds is 3-0 with 21 strikeouts in 25 innings. He also has a 5.40 ERA.
“Reid has pitched in many different roles for us over his time,” Avalon said. “From a reliever to starter in the 2019 World Series, he is a competitor that always gives a chance to be successful.
“Every time we hand him the ball, he wants to succeed but, more importantly, he has always put the program and team before himself.”
When weighing his options, Reynolds said SLU had a lot to offer.
“My freshman year they were recruiting me, and I always liked their facilities. For me having turf is a good fit for me because I get a lot of groundballs,” he said. “Also, (former teammate) Matt (Taylor) and I still talk a lot. He was telling me about how much he liked it there and that it would be a good fit for me.
“They told me I would be out of the bullpen a few times a week.”
VON SEIBERT Seibert missed all but two games last season due to injury but has bounced back to have a power-charged 2020 season. In 96 at-bats, Seibert has hit 10 homers with 30 RBIs while hitting .240 with a .408 on-base percentage. He has also stolen eight bases. One of Seibert’s highlights of the season came in PRCC’s 16-6 win at Gulf Coast, where the MSU signee belted three homers. He also hit two homers in a 17-9 win over Southwest.
“Von is a young man who steps in the box and immediately has everyone’s attention,” Avalon said. “Every at-bat of his has a chance to change the game. He’s been very impressive defensively throughout the year.”
Thinking about how his power might translate to Starksville was a big reason Seibert chose MSU.
“It is one of the top programs in the country,” Seibert said. “Their field plays to left-handed hitters with it being 305 feet down the line. There is a lot of potential for a lot of home runs over that way.
“They said they needed some power hitters to come in and that they needed some big lefties.”
NICK SKAGGS In addition to being electric in the outfield, Skaggs has been a dangerous table setter atop Pearl River’s batting order. As a freshman in ’20, Skaggs hit .382 with a .500 OBP, two homers and 11 RBIs. Limited to open the season due to injury, Skaggs has made the most of his opportunities. In 27 games, Skaggs has hit two homers with 17 RBIs, seven doubles, 26 runs scored and nine walks. He’s also hitting .329 with a .475 OBP.
“Each and every day you can count on Nick to show up with energy and play hard,” Avalon said. “He has solidified our lineup by handling leadoff duties. He not only brings energy offensively, but has made some unbelievable plays defensively to change games.”
Proximity to home was only one reason Skaggs chose USA.
“They have a great environment, and they have great facilities,” he said. “I feel like it is a great fit for me. They need some outfielders, and they're getting a few good ones with Me, Tate (Parker) and Kasey (Donaldson).
“They told me they needed a good outfielder that could hit at the top of the lineup.”
SHELBY TERRELL Terrell has been a reliable option out of the bullpen for Avalon in both of his seasons at Pearl River. The right-hander was 2-0 in four appearances as a freshman, striking out seven against one walk, one hit and no runs in 7 2/3 innings. This season, Terrell has struck out 15 in 9 1/3 innings and boasts a 2.89 ERA.
“Since Day 1 as a freshman, Shelby has been our most consistent arm in his class,” Avalon said. “A quiet, get-after-it work ethic is what he brings each day.
“Always pitching in the back end of tight ball games, he is never rattled and gets the job done.”
DSU’s strong pipeline from PRCC and the Statesmen’s environment helped Terrell make his decision.
“I went on a visit there and it felt like home. It was a nice laid-back community, and I am a laid-back guy, so it felt like home to me. They said that I could be a starter or a reliever. In high school they recruited me as a starter, and I’ve came out of the bullpen here. It is kind of whatever I feel more comfortable doing when I get there,” he said. “The other guys going there helped my decision out a little bit. Those guys are some of my best friends. I think it will be fun with all of us being there together.”
NEXT LEVEL PRIORITY The Wildcats’ 14 next-level Wildcats are the latest in a tradition of four-year transfers for Avalon. Dating back to his debut as a head coach with Mississippi Delta in 2012, 107 players have signed with four-year programs. Additionally, 53 of those next-level signees have been Wildcats.