West Harrison baseball coach David Marsland has tried to be his star player's best salesman, sending Kasey Donaldson's stats and video footage to every college coach in his phone.
“I got a lot of positive response, but the bottom line is, nobody has come here to sign him,” Marsland said.
It's been a frustrating process for the player and coach as Donaldson has yet to land his first Division I scholarship offer, but there's plenty of reason for optimism as his numbers continue to place him among the state's top high school hitters.
The left-handed outfielder is hitting .500 with 10 homers, seven doubles and 30 RBIs to lead a potent West Harrison lineup.
Those 10 homers are good enough to tie Slade Wilks of Columbia Academy (a Southern Miss commit) for No. 1 in the state of Mississippi. Donaldson is one homer ahead of Brandon's J.T. Ginn, who is a Mississippi State pledge and regarded as a top-flight Major League prospect.
Donaldson has been in left field this season, but is likely to play first base at the next level. The only thing holding him back is the fact that he's listed at 6 feet and 190 pounds.
“Kasey's issue is his height. For high school, he's good. But to be a lefty first baseman at the D1 level, they're always looking for 6-3, 6-4,” Marsland said. “Him being a smaller guy, he's got to produce like he's done this year.”
While he has yet to receive his first major offer, some of the top college programs in the region have kept an eye on Donaldson. One example is Louisiana-Lafayette, which had a staff member stop by recently to watch him play.
At the moment, it appears that Donaldson will follow through and attend Pearl River Community College after signing with the Wildcats in November.
Even though he's been overlooked by larger programs, Donaldson has thoroughly enjoyed his final season as a Hurricane.
“There's not as much pressure because I've already signed,” he said. “I know I'm going somewhere, so I don't have to do too much. I'm letting the game come to me rather than go to it.”
Donaldson has always hit for average. As a freshman, he was at .357. After hitting .396 as a sophomore, he fell back just a touch to .378 last year.
As a senior, he's become an impressive combination of power and average. He has more than tripled his home run total of three from a year ago.
“He worked really hard in the weightroom,” Marsland said. “He had a back injury last year that kind of held him back. Once he did rehab, he was able to get past that. That freed up a lot of things for him. It allowed him to get a little stronger, let his body mature overall.
“Don't get me wrong, he's always been a very good hitter. This year, he's just a totally different guy.”
Donaldson's work in the weightroom has turned line drives into home runs.
“My exit velocity last year was 85. I was hitting off the T the other day and it was 96,” Donaldson said. “I'm just staying in my lower half, staying through the ball more. Last year, I'd hit the ball and fall out of the box. This year, I'm just staying on it more.”
The next level
Marsland believes the transition to junior college will be a smooth one.
“He's going to murder junior college pitching just like Brandon Parker is doing,” Marsland said.
Parker, a former West Harrison standout, is in the middle of an impressive freshman season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He's drawn interest from pro scouts and colleges with a .462 batting average, 18 homers and 63 RBIs.
That performance on the junior college level serves as an inspiration for Donaldson, who lights up when conversation turns to Parker.
“I'm happy for him,” he said. “He's a great teammate, a great person.”
While Donaldson and Parker hail from the same high school program, there are distinct differences between the two players as hitters.
“Brandon has just dynamic power, but he is going to accumulate strikeouts as well,” Marsland said. “Whereas Kasey, (six) is the most strikeouts he's had in a high school season. He's not a swing-and-miss guy. He's a contact guy that has a lot of pop. Parker is more of an Aaron Judge guy where if he hits it, it's gone.”
Parker and Donaldson have played large roles in making West Harrison one of the best Class 5A programs in the southern half of the state. The Hurricanes (15-8, 7-0) clinched their fourth consecutive Region 8-5A title Tuesday night with a 10-0 win at Gautier.
With West Jones, Pearl River Central and Hattiesburg standing in the way, West Harrison has a tough road ahead.
However, West Harrison could prove to be a state title contender if Donaldson and the rest of the lineup produces.
“If we swing it like we're capable of, we've got a chance,” Marsland said. “Our pitching, it's been there. But we don't have a big strikeout guy (at pitcher). Our defense is pretty solid. As long as our guys throw strikes, then we've got a chance.”