With the 2018 college baseball season standing out as one of the best in recent memory for the state of Mississippi, it's worth taking a closer look at some of the best players to take the field this year in the Magnolia State.
Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss are always among their conference leaders when it comes to attendance numbers and the Bulldogs' improbable run to the College World Series is yet more proof that the state serves as home to some of the nation's best college baseball.
The Bulldogs began the season 2-7 — including a sweep in Hattiesburg at the hands of Southern Miss — before managing to get hot in the late stages of the season. After Tuesday's 12-2 win against North Carolina, MSU stands at 39-27 overall.
The Bulldogs are the last team standing from Mississippi, but USM and Ole Miss were often included in Omaha buzz throughout the season.
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Southern Miss finished 44-18, claimed the Conference USA regular season title and won the C-USA tournament title. The Golden Eagles ran out of steam in the postseason when they ran into a College World Series-bound Arkansas squad in the Fayetteville Regional.
Ole Miss finished 48-17, clinched the SEC West title and won the SEC tournament. The Rebels hosted the Oxford Regional, but Tennessee Tech played the role of spoiler.
Outside of the Big Three, Jackson State (34-18), Delta State (42-11) and Mississippi College (36-17) all had great seasons as well.
With so many All-American caliber players this year in Mississippi, here's your All-Magnolia State squad for the 2018 baseball season:
OF — Matt Wallner, USM — The Minnesotan has earned All-American honors in his first two seasons as a Golden Eagle and is a potential Top 10 pick in the 2019 MLB Draft In 2018, the sophomore hit .351 while leading USM with 16 homers and 67 RBIs.
OF — Jake Mangum, MSU — The First-Team All-SEC selection for 2018 will go down as one of the top fan favorites in program history. The smooth-fielding centerfielder is hitting .351 with a whopping 62 runs scored and 33 RBIs.
OF — Ryan Olenek, Ole Miss — Also a First-Team All-SEC selection this year, the Florida native finished the year with a .350 batting average with 18 doubles.
3B — Luke Reynolds, USM — The Mississippi State transfer was outstanding in his one year as a Golden Eagle, picking up multiple All-American selections. He hit .389 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs to be named the Conference USA Player of the Year.
SS — Grae Kessinger, Ole Miss — You can make a strong case that Kessinger was the most improved player in the state of Mississippi as a sophomore. He hit .300 with eight homers and 37 RBIs while playing a smooth shortstop.
2B — Hunter Stovall, MSU — The spark plug of a second baseman always finds a way to make an impact. He is hitting .324 with a pair of homers and 40 RBIs.
1B — Zach Shannon, Delta State — The 15th round selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks hit .406 with 31 homers and 93 RBIs as a senior for the Statesmen.
C — Nick Fortes, Ole Miss — A fourth-round pick by the Miami Marlins, the junior from Florida hit .319 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs this season.
DH — Elijah MacNamee, MSU — He may not have the best overall numbers, but the junior from Texas has been the MVP for Mississippi State on its run to the CWS. He is hitting .320 with eight homers and 42 RBIs.
SP — Nick Sandlin, USM — A consensus All-American, the junior from Georgia was named the National Pitcher of the Year by Perfect Game/Rawlings. When he was at his best, he was often untouchable this year. He finished 10-0 with a 1.06 ERA with 144 strikeouts and 18 walks in 102 1/3 innings. The Cleveland Indians picked the right-hander in the second round of the MLB Draft.
SP — Ethan Small, MSU — The lefty has proven to be the Bulldogs' most reliable starter this season. He is 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 17 starts. In 96 2/3 innings, he has 117 strikeouts and 32 walks.
SP — Ryan Rolison, Ole Miss — The first-round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies finished 10-4 in 17 games this season, striking out 120 and walking 45.
SP — Brady Feigl, Ole Miss — He was the Rebels' most reliable starter for much of the season, the right-hander from Missouri 8-5 with a 4.03 ERA in 16 starts.
RP — Parker Caracci, Ole Miss — An All-American selection following a breakout sophomore season, he finished with a 2.25 ERA and 10 saves in 27 appearances.
RP — Zach Neff, MSU — It's hard to pick the best arm out of the MSU bullpen, but Neff gets the nod with a 4-3 record, 3.52 ERA and two saves in a team-leading 27 appearances.
RP — Jose Tirado, Jackson State — Any one of the Big Three would be happy to have his right-hander in their bullpen. He finished 6-2 with 13 saves and a 2.67 ERA in 31 appearances.
RP — Jordan Fowler, Ole Miss — As a Freshman All-American, he finished 7-0 with a 3.20 in 16 games – seven relief appearances and nine starts.
Pitcher of the Year
Nick Sandlin, Southern Miss — He was the best pitcher in the state and arguably the best in the nation.
Player of the Year
Luke Reynolds, Southern Miss — Matt Wallner, Zach Shannon and Jake Mangum all have a strong case to make, but Reynolds' numbers put him among the nation's elite at the plate.
Coach of the Year
Gary Henderson, Mississippi State — How does this guy not already have the full-time gig?