JSU baseball begins season at reigning MLB World Series champions’ home stadium Friday
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - College baseball season is one day away, and Jackson State baseball is set to kick off their 2023 campaign at Minute Maid Park, home of the current MLB World Series champions, the Houston Astros.
It wasn’t too long ago when the Tigers were crowned the HBCU National Champions in Baseball, earning the feat under 17th year head coach Omar Johnson at the end of the 2021 season.
During that magical season, Jackson State went undefeated in SWAC play in arguably Coach Johnson’s best season in the capital city, winning all 24 contests and being crowned the regular season conference champs.
After a disappointing 29-27 overall record in 2022, Johnson and JSU will look to bounce back to the high standards the head coach has established at Bob Braddy Field during his near two decade reign as the programs leader, and singled out a key player who he thinks will benefit from the tough season.
“Last year was a battle, but we have some guys that got better because of that,” Coach Johnson said. “Jaelen Williams; I think the experience last year will be extremely valuable for him with how he performed in the fall and January. We had some injuries last year and we should be getting some of those guys back, but we are looking forward to the 2023 season.”
Williams, who plays first base for the Tigers, was one of three Tigers tabbed 2023 preseason All-SWAC team honors, earning a spot on the preseason second team by conference officials.
The third baseman averages a .320 batting average at the plate, recording a total of 65 hits, 34 runs, 46 RBI and 5 home runs in his JSU career.
Jackson State will take the BoomBox Classic rivalry to the diamond and face Southern University to open the season in Houston, Texas at the Astros Cactus Jack HBCU Classic.
Coach Johnson and JSU’s star second baseman say it is a dream come true to play at such a big stage.
“It will be a great for each and every player to step on that field,” Ty hill said, who was named to the 2023 All-SWAC first team. “You watch stuff like that on TV and [think] ‘it’s a dream.’ It’ll be a dream come true for us to step on that field, and I can’t wait to experience it.”
“Its an honor for the kids to have an opportunity to do that,” Coach Johnson said. “We’re excited about it. We always go down to Biloxi to play... It’ll be a good situation and we’re excited.”
The Tigers will bring back four of their top five hitters based on average from 2022, including Williams.
In 93 career games played for JSU, Hill has recorded 140 hits, 101 runs, and 84 RBI. Last season, Hill scored 60 runs (fifth in the SWAC) with 80 hits and 20 doubles (both second in the SWAC); all while accumulating a remarkable batting average of .406 for his career at Jackson State.
Outfielder Jatavious Melton, who was named to the 2023 preseason All-SWAC second team, batted .320 at the plate, recording a total of 65 hits, 34 runs, 46 RBI and 5 home runs during his Tigers career.
Senior outfielder Caleb Evans hit .340 in 37 games last season with two home runs and 27 RBI.
On the mound, Erick Gonzalez and Colby Guy earned valuable playing experience as freshmen last season and will expect to see their roles increase during weekend series.
Jackson State will face Southern Friday at 7 p.m. at Minute Maid Park.
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