By Drew Kerekes \ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
A pair of West Lauderdale High School baseball players were named to The Clarion Ledger’s All-State team earlier this week.
Knights pitcher/infielder Will Stokes and catcher Blake Anderson were selected first-team All-State by the Jackson-based newspaper. Stokes was the team’s ace, pitching to a 0.70 earned-run average with 106 strikes. He also batted .367 with a home run and 17 RBIs.
Anderson, meanwhile, was a recent No. 36 overall pick for the Florida Marlins as a backstop. For West, he batted .438 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs.
West head baseball coach Jerry Boatner said Stokes has been a special part of the team for three seasons and the team’s go-to guy on the mound.
“He started his 10th-grade year and was our ace that year,” Boatner said. “Last year, he didn’t lose a game when he went 11-0. This past year, he lost once versus New Hope in a game where errors really hurt us. He wasn’t hit all year, and he has a really good future ahead of him.”
Stokes said he was honored to be recognized as one of the state’s best players. The Clarion Ledger’s All-State squad includes players from public and private schools in all classifications.
“It’s a great feeling,” Stokes said. “It lets you know your hard work has paid off.”
Like many athletes, Stokes didn’t go into the season gunning for All-State, he just did his best and let postseason awards sort themselves out, he said.
“I just try to do what’s best for the team and do my best,” he said.
Stokes’ arsenal includes a fastball that sits in the high 80s to low 90s, a slider and a changeup. Having the chance to catch Stokes for several seasons, Anderson said it was his breaking ball that made the biggest difference for the Knights’ ace.
“He never walked a lot of people, and he has a great slider,” Anderson said. “The 92 to 94 (mph) doesn’t hurt, obviously.”
An Ole Miss commit, Stokes said he’s planning to take summer courses in Oxford before settling in during the fall with team workouts. Watching the Rebels make it to the College World Series Monday night made him all the more eager to get his college career started, Stokes said.
“It’s pretty great,” he said. “They did a good job — like always.”
As for Anderson, Boatner said it was a pleasure to coach the recently drafted catcher and wasn’t surprised to see him receive yet another top honor.
“It’s a coach’s dream to have someone just play college at the next level, much less someone to get drafted in the first round,” Boatner said. “I don’t know of anyone in any sport in this area that’s been drafted in the first round, and that’s a great testimony to his work ethic. He has a great future. The percentages are against him — I think only 5 percent of players that sign a contract make it to the big leagues — but I wouldn’t bet against him.”
Some might think All-State wouldn’t be a big deal to someone just drafted No. 36 overall, but Anderson said he was proud to stand alongside Stokes as a representative of West Lauderdale.
“It’s an honor,” Anderson said. “Yeah, some other stuff happened, but that doesn’t mean I’m not proud to be named one of the best in the state.”
Anderson and his family will host Marlins team officials today, and he said he’s expecting to sign a contract and get his professional career started.
“I’m ready to go play, not because of the money, but because I’ll have a chance to be able to do what I love professionally,” Anderson said. “I just want to play. It’s not about the money.”