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There’s a lot of Mississippi in the College World Series

We knew last week that there would be a strong Mississippi flavor in the 2022 College World Series. That’s because we knew Ole Miss and Southern Miss were playing for the right to go to Omaha.

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But we didn’t know the half of it.

Ole Miss swept Southern Miss and arrived in Omaha on Wednesday. There, the Rebels, with their 11 Mississippians on the roster, will likely run into several others with strong Mississippi ties.

Start with the Auburn Tigers, Ole Miss’s first-round opponent on Saturday at 6 pm Auburn’s manager is none other than Amory’s product, Butch Thompson, John Cohen’s former pitching coach at Mississippi State. Long before Thompson became a highly respected coach, he was a standout football player for the Amory Wildcats for Mississippi coaching legend Bobby Hall.

“Butch played defensive end for me a long time ago,” Hall said. “Hard, tough boy. He was from the community of Wren, about three miles west on Highway 78. We had a lot of really good, tough football players from Wren and he was one. In his senior year (1987) we got to the State Championship game.”

Thompson, a left-hander, also pitched for Amory and later for Itawamba Community College. He maintains close ties throughout the state. In fact, Bryson Ware, a part-time starter as a junior in the Tigers’ outfield, played high school baseball in Germantown, where he was a first-team all-state selection.

Win or lose on Saturday, Ole Miss will meet another Mississippian on Monday. The winner of Auburn-Ole Miss will play the winner of Arkansas-Stanford on Monday at 6 p.m. The losers will play on Monday at 1 p.m.

Madison Central All-American freshman Braden Montgomery, Mississippi’s 2021 high school player of the year, is a two-way standout for Stanford. Brady Tygart, a true freshman pitcher from Lewisburg, has excelled from the Arkansas bullpen.

Montgomery, Stanford’s cleanup hitter and a standout defensive outfielder, also started three games as a pitcher and pitched in relief in another 12 games. There seems to be nothing Montgomery, who hit 18 home runs and drove in 57 runs, can’t do in baseball — or in the classroom. He earned a perfect 36 on the ACT, presumably because he turned down what would have been a seven-figure contract in professional baseball to attend Stanford.

Says Madison Central baseball coach Patrick Robey, “I’m lucky. Some guys train their whole lives and never train someone as good as Braden. The young man is so talented and so focused. Nothing he does surprises me.

If Ole Miss and Stanford met on Monday, the game would feature a rematch of Ole Miss rookie left-hander Hunter Elliott throwing to Montgomery, as it did in the first game of last year’s 6A North State championship series when Madison Central played Elliott’s Tupelo High. School. Montgomery won a pitching duel 2–0 in what Robey called “one of the best high school baseball games I’ve ever seen.”

Both Elliott and Montgomery were honored this season as freshman All-Americans. So was the Tygart of Arkansas. The right-hander, who played for Lewisburg and lives in Hernando, pitched in 23 games out of the bullpen for the Razorbacks and led the team in saves with eight, more than double any other member of the pitching staff. He struck out 51 batters in 37.2 innings.

Think about it: Three of the key pitchers on three different teams on one side of the College World Series bracket pitched last year in Mississippi’s Class 6A baseball tournament.

Says Robey, the Madison Central coach, “It just shows how much talent, and how good baseball is, in Mississippi. I mean, we have Mississippi State, the defending national champion in college baseball, and Pearl River, which won the junior college national championship, and Ole Miss and Southern both in a Super Regional. They all have a lot of guys from Mississippi. It’s amazing, really, and it just keeps getting better and better.”

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