Powerhouse pipelines continue to pay off for Pearl River baseball
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The Pearl River baseball program relied heavily on its strong relationships with some of Mississippi’s powerhouses to fill out its 2020-21 signing class.
PRCC coach Michael Avalon announced Tuesday the signing of an eight-man signing class highlighted by Faith Academy (Ala.) INF Gabe Broadus, Petal RHP/OF Blake Hooks, West Harrison INF/RHP Brennan Jones, Oak Grove RHP John Patrick Lyon, Sumrall RHP Hayden Nored, St. Martin RHP/INF Landen Payne, Jackson Academy C/OF Parker Ryan and Germantown INF Preston Soper.
"We are very excited to welcome these young men into our program,” Avalon said. “One of the areas that we always want to focus on during recruiting is adding talented players, but, more importantly, we want the right people. I am a big believer that success in baseball starts and ends on the mound. As you can see in this class, we have added several quality arms that will step in and contribute immediately.
“Along with those arms, we are adding a few key position players that will help fill the void left by guys moving on to the four-year level. Moving forward, we will continue to evaluate and add others to this class. "
GABE BROADUS Broadus has a chance to stand out in PRCC’s middle infield.
In 10 games as a junior at Faith Academy in Mobile, Ala., the 5-foot-8, 170-pounder hit .375 with three extra-base hits, eight RBIs and 12 runs scored. He also stole four bases.
“During the last couple of years, we have not had to go far to find our out-of-staters,” Avalon said. “Faith Academy has produced Reece Ewing, JG Bell and now Gabe. Gabe brings a unique skill set which allows him to play multiple positions. Being very athletic and versatile, we may ask him to play middle infield or outfield.
“He should impact our lineup and bring explosiveness.”
Prep Baseball Report ranks Broadus as the No. 7 shortstop in Alabama’s 2021 class.
Broadus plays travel ball for Bay Sox Baseball Academy.
BLAKE HOOKS The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Hooks had an incredible start to his junior season before everything was halted. In four appearances, Hooks was 4-0 with an unblemished 0.00 ERA. He struck out 22 against five walks in 18 2/3 innings and only surrendered six hits. At the plate, Hooks hit .256 with eight extra-base hits and 20 RBIs over the last two seasons.
“Petal has been another school locally that has produced several Wildcats lately,” Avalon said. “Blake will be joining current Petal alums Matt Mercer and Logan Walters. Blake is a physical presence like the other two and his power will be noticed on the mound.
“Because of his athleticism, Blake will also be able to help us a dual guy and battle for time in the outfield.”
Hooks plays travel ball for the Mississippi Rays.
BRENNAN JONES Jones is expected to bring a strong arm and power bat to PRCC. Over his prep career, the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has hit .270 with four homers, 13 doubles and 43 RBIs. He also boasts a .400 OPS and .435 slugging percentage. During his sophomore year, Jones hit .301 with 30 RBIs, nine doubles and three homers. Before the 2020 season was cancelled, Jones was hitting .257 with five extra-base hits through 13 games.
On the mound, Jones is 6-6 over the last three seasons with a 3.44 ERA. In 91 2/3 innings, Jones has struck out 62. Last season, Jones had a 2.37 ERA in six appearances with 19 strikeouts.
“West Harrison continues to produce quality players, and we are thankful to have added these guys to our program,” Avalon said. “Brennan will have the tasks as being the ace for West and also will have the duty of hitting in the middle of their lineup.
“We expect him to step in and make an impact on the mound and also have a chance to add power to our lineup.”
Jones also continues a pipeline to Coast power West Harrison, joining recent Hurricanes-turned-Wildcats in Taylor Woodcock (Pass Christian; West Harrison), Kasey Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison), D.K. Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison) and recent Dallas Baptist transfer Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison).
Perfect Game graded Jones as “a potential draft pick and/or excellent college prospect.” According to the site, Jones is the eighth-best third baseman in Mississippi’s 2021 class.
Jones plays travel ball for the Mississippi Rays.
JOHN PATRICK LYON The Wildcats are particularly excited about the addition of the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Lyon.
In two seasons for OGHS, Lyon is 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA. He has struck out 28 batters in 26 1/3 innings.
“A true competitor’s mentality, JP will bring his energy and competitiveness to our staff,” Avalon said. “This year JP will be the ace for Oak Grove. Anytime you add a guy that will lead a program as successful as Oak Grove, you know you are getting a young man that can handle the expectations of competing for a championship.”
Perfect Game ranks Lyon as the No. 20 RHP in Mississippi’s 2020-21 class.
Lyon’s older brother, Luke, is a freshman at Ole Miss.
Other recent Warriors-turned-Wildcats include Kris Jones (Hattiesburg; Oak Grove) and Turner Swistak (Hattiesburg; Oak Grove).
Lyon plays travel ball for the East Coast Sox.
HAYDEN NORED Nored will bolster PRCC’s pitching depth.
In two seasons on the SHS varsity squad, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.85 ERA. He has struck out 39 against nine walks in just 23 2/3 innings.
“Hayden comes from tradition rich program at Sumrall,” Avalon said. “Over the years, he has pitched in big games and help compete for championships. Through his ability to command multiple pitches, he has the reputation as a strike thrower with a high level of pitchabilty.
“Also exciting is that Hayden has the frame to add strength and make jumps during his time with us.”
Perfect Game ranks Nored as the No. 14 right-hander in Mississippi.
Nored is the latest SHS standout to join the PRCC team, joining catcher Graham Crawford (Sumrall).
Nored plays travel ball for the Louisiana Knights.
LANDEN PAYNE In two seasons at St. Martin, the 6-foot-3, 197-pound Payne is 2-2 with a paltry 1.50 ERA. The right-hander has struck out 48 in 37 1/3 innings and limited opponents to a mere .203 batting average. In four appearances last season, Payne had a 1.17 ERA and struck out 28 in 18 innings of work.
At the plate, Payne hit .248 over the last three seasons with a .316 on-base percentage.
"Landen will step in and be a workhorse for St. Martin this year,” Avalon said. “He is a big physical presence and his stuff on the mound has continued to improve over the last couple of years.
“Landen will have a chance to help us as a starter or could help in the backend of games.”
Sophomore right-hander Leif Moore (Biloxi; St. Martin) was the last Yellow Jacket to sign with PRCC.
Payne plays travel ball for the Mississippi Rays.
PARKER RYAN PRCC believes it added a leader behind the plate with the signing of the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Ryan.
“Parker’s toughness and athleticism will immediately be noticed,” Avalon said. “After playing baseball and football for Jackson Academy, we will look for Parker to step in behind the plate and help lead our club. His quickness and athleticism should allow him to make his mark as premier defender and create offensively.”
Over the last two seasons, Ryan hit .246 with a .477 OBP.
Perfect Game rates Ryan as a “potential top 10 round pick and/or highest level college prospect.” The publication also ranks Ryan as the third-best catcher in the Magnolia State and the 21st overall prospect in Mississippi. Nationally, PG ranks Ryan as the No. 100 catcher.
In 2019, Ryan was named to the MAIS All AAAA-1 baseball team.
Ryan plays travel ball for the East Coast Sox.
PRESTON SOPER The Wildcat staff has gone back to Germantown in Madison to help with its infield depth by signing the 6-foot-2, 187-pound Soper.
Soper boasts a live bat that hit .406 over the last two seasons for Germantown. During that time, Soper also earned a .512 on-base percentage and .562 slugging percentage.
“After losing several left-handed hitters in the 2021 class to four-year schools, we expect Preston to step in and fill that void,” Avalon said. “He comes from another powerhouse program within the state of Mississippi and we expect his experiences there to help prepare him.
“He’s a young man we expect to continue to grow and mature into a high-level baseball player.”
The last two Mavericks to sign with PRCC were current Auburn Tiger Bryson Ware (Gluckstadt; Germantown) and right-handed pitcher/outfielder Eric Newsom (Madison; Germantown).
Soper plays travel ball for the Snopek Baseball Group Sox.