Jackson area well-represented in Auburn Regional

Ten players in the Auburn Regional played high school and/or college baseball in the Metro
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 10:56 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The state of Mississippi was well-represented in the Auburn Regional, with the Regional champs Southern Miss advancing to a Super Regional for the second straight year.

On the field, the Magnolia State had many representatives, and ten players had ties to the Jackson Metro area, mostly from USM, but some from Samford and Auburn as well.

Seven Golden Eagles grew up playing ball in the Metro: Creek Robertson (Madison Central), Jake Cook (Madison Central), Bryce Fowler (Germantown), Nick Monistere (Northwest Rankin), Niko Mazza (MRA), Holland Townes (St. Andrew’s, Hinds CC), and Justin Storm (Madison Central). Auburn third baseman Bryson Ware is a Germantown graduate and Samford catcher Kace Garner graduated from Northwest Rankin. Garner’s teammate, outfielder Josh Rodriguez, is from New Jersey, but played ball at Hind Community College.

“Just Mississippi ball in general from top to bottom whether it’s high school, junior college, Division-I, Division-II, whatever it is, they do an outstanding job of developing guys,” Garner said.

Garner attended Meridian Community College after graduating from Northwest Rankin, and was a part of the National Champion Mississippi State team before transferring to Samford. He played with and against a couple of the players in Auburn this weekend.

“Bryson [Ware], coming up through high school, I played with him. Nick Monistere is a guy who went to Northwest Rankin, he’s doing exceptionally well over there [at Southern Miss]. There’s a couple other guys that I played Ju-Co ball against, that’s really good to see all those guys in this tournament,” he said.

The Magnolia State played a big role in these players’ paths to be Division-I athletes.

“Growing up in Mississippi, it’s some competitive baseball. That had a lot to do with me coming to Auburn, with Coach [Butch] Thompson being from Mississippi; it’s a coaching staff that kind of felt like home,” Ware said.

Despite being from the Northeast, Rodriguez found a place at Hinds.

“Hinds is probably one of the closest places to home now,” he said. “[Head coach] Dan Rives, the coaching staff over there, [hitting coach/recruiting coordinator] Josh Clarke, they did everything to make sure I was on the baseball field and performing. They love me, I love them, and they’re the reason I’m here today, to be honest.”

Perhaps the largest jump for a player in the Regional from last year to this year, Monistere was playing for a state championship at Trustmark Park a year ago with his Cougar teammates. Now, he’s an NCAA Regional champion with the Golden Eagles, drawing from that experience at Northwest Rankin.

“I usually just try to draw from that experience just to keep me calm in big situations,” he said. “To be honest, it doesn’t really compare on like a level, this is way bigger, this is the biggest I’ve ever been a part of it. It’s so much fun, but I just try to draw from high school, where my mind was, whenever I get to big situations.”

Auburn wasn’t the only Regional with Metro representation. Jackson players have been playing on a national stage all year, and that’s continuing in the postseason.

“It’s awesome we’re getting the recognition, I think we deserve it” Garner said. “A lot of guys are outstanding ball players, top to bottom, whether it’s high school, at the top level, Division-I, SEC, whatever. It’s just awesome that we’re representing.”

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