By Rocky Higginbotham
Winston County Journal
Seven years ago, Blue Mountain College started a baseball program, and the Toppers have quickly risen to being more than just competitive in a highly-touted NAIA conference.
Next year, BMC will have a little extra help from a couple of Nanih Waiya boys.
Warrior seniors Ben Cumberland and Brady Jones both signed last week to continue their careers at Blue Mountain, and Nanih Waiya baseball coach Tyler Rogers says the school could not be getting a better pair.
“You absolutely never have to worry about either one of them,” Rogers said. “They’re going to take care of what they’re supposed to be doing and they’re going to take care of the younger guys, too.
“It really is like having another couple of coaches on the field for us,” he said. “They have great work ethics and they take care of business and they’ve got their eyes on the younger guys when the coaches don’t. Ben and Brady have both been a tremendous asset to our program.”
And, they’re also both having stellar senior campaigns, helping the Warriors to a 24-2 record thus far. Nanih Waiya will begin play in the MHSAA Class 1A South State Championship Series Thursday and is two wins away from returning to Trustmark Park again for a chance at a state title.
That’s due in large part to Cumberland and Jones.
Cumberland, who could pitch or be a position player – or both – at Blue Mountain, is hitting .486 and leads the Warriors in a variety of offensive categories. His three home runs, 38 runs scored and 36 base hits are all tops on the club. He’s also second on the team with 26 RBIs and is a perfect 10-of-10 in the stolen base department.
Jones, meanwhile, is hitting .304 with a pair of home runs and a team-best 28 RBIs on the year.
“Both of them have definitely swung it well,” Rogers said. “Brady’s been a little snake bit as far as finding holes a few times this year, but both of them have been hitting it hard all year.”
Not many folks have hit it hard off Cumberland or Jones, though.
Jones, who projects as a pitcher at the next level, is 7-0 with a 2.28 earned-run average this season. He has four complete games and a shutout to his credit, and his 50 strikeouts and 40 innings pitched are both team highs.
Cumberland has been even more stingy. A closer earlier in the season, he’s coming off a shutout performance in the third round of the playoffs and is 3-0 overall with six saves. He has a 1.03 earned-run average and has fanned 22 in 20.1 innings.
“We’re extremely proud of them both and know they’ll do well at the next level,” Rogers said.
Blue Mountain, a private NAIA school, is coached by Curt Fowler and competes in the Southern States Athletic Conference.