Junior Colleges

A Coast college baseball team is No. 1 seed in the World Series

Kasey Donaldson had one of the hottest bats in the state of Mississippi during his senior year at West Harrison High School with a .500 average and 11 homers.

When Division I schools overlooked the left-handed hitting outfielder, it appeared that Pearl River Community College landed a steal when Donaldson signed with the Wildcats.

However, Donaldson had one significant hurdle to overcome before he could add his potent bat to the PRCC lineup.

He underwent Tommy John surgery to relieve discomfort in his left arm.

“I know coming off the surgery, I’d be a little bit behind because I wasn’t able to do stuff in the summer,” Donaldson said. “But I got here and pushed myself hard to get back to where I was coming off a strong senior season.”

When September rolled around, he was able to start swinging the bat again. He got some at-bats during fall games and was able to play the field late during fall practice.

After getting off to a somewhat slow start over the first month of the season, Donaldson is on a roll at the plate as PRCC enters the NJCAA D-II World Series in Enid, Oklahoma.

PRCC (40-12) won four consecutive games in the Region 23 tournament in Fulton last week with Donaldson sending three shots out of the park. For the season, he is hitting .311 with 13 homers and 39 RBIs.

“It’s been an up and down season,” Donaldson said. “Finally, this region tournament I broke through and had a good tournament.”

PRCC begins play in the World Series as the No. 1 seed at 1 p.m. on Sunday against the winner of Pasco-Hernando State College (31-23) and Lackawanna (32-15).

Donaldson is one of many impressive bats in a PRCC lineup that’s loaded with South Mississippi talent, including a pair from the Coast in Donaldson and former Pearl River Central star Austen Izzio.

Izzio, a third baseman, is the team’s leader in batting average at .345. He has also shown nice pop at the plate with nine homers and 44 RBIs.

Izzio, who has been hearing from Division I programs like Southern Miss, Ole Miss and Alabama, has the goal of eventually landing an offer from LSU.

“My senior summer, LSU contacted me and told me if I could bat .340 with a couple of homers, I could go play there,” Izzio said. “That’s been in my head ever since.”

The most powerful bat for PRCC is former Hattiesburg star Dexter Jordan, who has been clearing the fence with ease this season in Poplarville. He is hitting .297 and leads the team in homers (18) and RBIs (65).

“The biggest improvement for him is defensively,” PRCC coach Michael Avalon said. “I had multiple college coaches come up to me and talk about how much better he’s gotten at second base. I think he’s answered all the questions. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him (picked in the MLB Draft).”

PRCC has received solid pitching from a trio of sophomore right-handed starters – Miles Smith (8-3, 2.72), Shemar Page (7-1, 2.88) and Colin Danley (9-3, 4.80).

Danley, who is an East Central product and a South Alabama signee, was on the mound in the final game of the regional tournament to clinch the spot in the World Series.

“We had him pegged in the bullpen to start the season, but he made the move to the rotation,” Avalon said. “He started Game 2 (in the regional), but didn’t make it past the first inning. He passed out with dehydration. He look at me and said, ‘I’ll be back Saturday.’ He threw 7-plus innings and gave us the shot in the arm we needed.”

Avalon knew he was starting the season with a talented roster and it’s all coming together for the Wildcats at the right time.

“We’ve gelled as a team and everybody has accepted their roles,” Avalon said. “That’s why you see the success we’re having right now. We have a lot of talent, but we have to stay humble.”