Where to begin when it comes to the Biloxi Shuckers? Individually, the Biloxi Shuckers could have had north of five or six entries on the Sun Herald's top 10 sports stories of 2015. The Coast's first professional baseball team since 1908 filled the headlines for much of 2015.
For starters, the Milwaukee Brewers' Double-A affiliate played through a 54-game road trip to open its inaugural season on the Coast. The unparalleled road stint didn't slow the Shuckers (78-59 overall) as they won the South Division's first-half title and came within one game of winning the Southern League championship.
The Shuckers were blessed with an immense amount of talent. Pitcher Tyler Wagner became the first Shucker to make the big leagues and teammates Jorge Lopez, Adrian Houser, Yhonathan Barrios, Michael Reed and Yadiel Rivera each got stints with Milwaukee by season's end. After posting a 78-59 overall record, Carlos Subero was named the Southern League's Manager of the Year, while Lopez (12-5, 2.26 ERA) earned SL Pitcher of the Year honors. Shortstop Orlando Arcia (.307 batting average, eight home runs, 69 RBIs and 37 doubles) was named the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year and is now considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
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The Shuckers - named Baseball America's Minor League Team of the Year - recently saw more changes as Subero was "called up" to Milwaukee as the new first base coach and general manager Buck Rogers left the organization for California. MGM Park deserves another mention as it was announced in November that it will host the Conference USA Baseball Tournament from 2017-2019.
2. Southern Miss resurgence
They're baaaack. After three years being lost in the college football wilderness, Southern Miss stormed back in 2015. In his third year at the helm of the program, the Golden Eagles claimed the Conference USA Western Division title and their first bowl berth since the 2011 Hawaii Bowl. Boasted by two 1,000-yard rushers Jalen Richard and Ito Smith, and a 4,100-yard passer in Nick Mullens, USM ranked 12th in the nation in scoring offense at 40.6 points per game. The defense was much improved as well, holding opponents to a 24.2 scoring clip.
3. Favre 4 ever
In a way, 2015 was the Year of Favre in Green Bay. The former Hancock North Central High and Southern Miss alum mended old wounds with the Green Bay Packers. In front of more than 67,000 fans at Lambeau Field in July, Favre was inducted into the team's hall of fame. On Thanksgiving, the Packers officially retired Favre's No. 4 during an emotional ceremony that included NFL legend Bart Starr.
The honors were long overdue, in part because of how Favre exited Green Bay while still playing. During his career, Favre was a three-time NFL MVP who won one of two Super Bowl appearances and made 11 Pro Bowl appearances. Favre was an iron man, starting 297 games consecutively, and ended his career with 71,838 yards and 508 touchdowns.
4. Legend Bert Jenkins dies
Mississippi lost one of its legends when Gulfport High's Bert Jenkins died Sept. 23 at age 90. A veteran of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, Jenkins made his mark in Mississippi on the hardwood as one of the state's greatest coaches regardless of sport. During his 28-year career, Jenkins posted an 866-180 overall record with seven state championships, 13 Big Eight Conference titles, 18 30-win seasons and thee 40-win seasons. Prior to his death, Gulfport added his signature to the court at Bert Jenkins Gym.
5. Keith Joseph Jr., Sr. die in car accident
Keith Joseph Jr. and Sr. were tragically killed Nov. 6 in Greene County while headed to see their former schools, Gautier and Pascagoula, square off on the gridiron. The younger Joseph was redshirting at Mississippi State, where his father had starred from 1989-92. In the days after their deaths, the Coast community and Mississippi State held several memorials to honor their lives. The Bulldogs also wore "MJ" decals on their helmets to remember the Josephs.
6. Ole Miss' sweet season
The Rebels earned themselves a second straight New Years Six bowl game. Led by Chad Kelly, Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell, the Rebels defeated Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., since 1988. Had it not been for an overtime loss to Arkansas, the Rebels may have played for their first SEC Championship game. Instead, the Rebels will play in their first Sugar Bowl since 1970.
The Rebels were also dealt plenty of blows this season as star left tackle Laremy Tunsil missed the first seven games of the season due to suspension. At the end of the year, both Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche were hospitalized for separate off-the-field incidents.
7. High School season championships
The Coast had nine state championship teams in 2015. St. Stanislaus won Class 4A championships in baseball, golf and soccer. Ocean Springs won a Class 6A girls cross country championship and a tennis title. St. Patrick's girls also won a Class 3A cross country championship. Harrison Central earned its second consecutive Class 6A fast-pitch softball title. Our Lady Academy's volleyball dynasty continued with its fourth Class I state championship. Lastly, D'Iberville's boys proved to be the strongest in the state, earning the Class 6A powerlifting championship.
8. Devin Booker stars at Kentucky, becomes lottery pick
This marks Devin Booker's second consecutive year on the Top 10 list. A year ago, Booker had his choice of schools and signed with Kentucky. As a freshman in Lexington, Ky., last season season, Booker helped lead the Wildcats to the Final Four and a 38-1 final record. Booker earned SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors after averaging 10 points on 47 percent shooting from the floor. In April, Booker was one of seven Wildcats to declare for the NBA draft and wound up being drafted 13th overall by the Phoenix Suns. Utilized mostly as a reserve, Booker has made the most of his playing time early this season and is among the league's most accurate 3-point shooters.
9. Dak Prescott, Chad Kelly, Nick Mullens all have record-breaking seasons
Mississippi's colleges has produced some of college football's finest quarterbacks throughout the years in Favre, Reggie Collier, Steve McNair, Eli and Archie Manning, and so on. But never has the Magnolia State's "big three" had three quarterbacks simultaneously do what Mullens, Kelly and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott did in 2015, each snapping school and conference records.
Prescott, the 2015 Conerly Trophy winner, finished his senior season having completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 3,413 yards and 25 touchdowns to go along with 541 yards and 10 touchdowns. After airing it out at East Mississippi the year before, Kelly did the same in Oxford. Jim Kelly's nephew completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 3,740 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also rushed for 427 yards and 10 more scores.
Mullens completed 63.4 percent of his passes for for 4,145 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also rushed for three scores.
10. High School individual records
Plenty of high school records fell in the last calendar year. Among them: Biloxi High goalkeeper set the state record for career shutouts with 62.
East Central senior A.J. Davis passed his former teammate, Nate Cohen (2,436), as the Coast's rushing king when he collected 2,893 yards in 12 games. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry to finish with the second highest rushing mark in the state this season. Davis also found pay dirt 25 times.
Long Beach linebacker Kevin Wayne Jr. passed current Mississippi State standout Richie Brown as the school's tackles leader with 213 as a senior to give him 587 during his four-year career at LBHS. As a senior, Wayne averaged 17.8 tackles per game.