Pascagoula has always been known as a “baseball town.” From excellence in the youth leagues to district and state championships on the high school level, our city has forever been at the top of the list in Mississippi (and regional) circles for the diamond sport.
Not surprisingly, 2021 has become a signature year in that rich baseball legacy. This week, both Pascagoula High School and Resurrection Catholic School will be in Jackson playing for state championships. PHS in 5-A and Resurrection in 1-A. Think about that: With six classifications competing, there are only 12 teams left going for trophies, and two of them are from our fair city.
There is even a nice connection between the two ball clubs. Johnny Olsen was a star player for the Panthers in the mid-seventies, then was a highly successful coach at PHS for many years, including winning the state championship in 1996. Now, having taken the reins of the RCS program in 2016, Coach Olsen has helped turn the Eagles into a powerhouse themselves. Good karma there.
PHS truly has a storied history in high school baseball, built over many years. The Panthers have won a whopping 25 district championships, eight South State Championships, and five State Championships (1967, 1968, 1983. 1996, and 2012). Top players are too numerous to mention all, so understand that the following list is only a stab at a sampling: Robert Earl Siedell, Doug Horn, Eugene Winstead, Earl Gilbert, Donnie Davis, Russ Walker, Mike Thomas, Mike Moreland, Blair Varnes, Enrico Jones, Senquez Golson, Chase Nyman, Taylor Olsen, and Joe Gary.
Interesting connectivity comes from those names. Doug Horn went on to coach the ’67 and ’68 champs; Donnie Davis coached the ’83 champs; Richie Tillman, an outstanding Panther catcher, was an assistant coach for the ’96 champs, head coach for the 2012 champs, and still leads PHS today.
RCS, formerly OLV, also has had stellar moments in baseball over the years. Back in the day, Coach Leslie Patrick molded young men and talented players at the downtown Catholic school, including stars like David Humphries and Tom Rigby. Now, the Eagles have reemerged under Coach Olsen as a force to be reckoned with each year.
This season, RCS defeated Simmons, Noxapater, Ethel, and Stringer to reach the finals. Cole Tingle, Max Askew, Jack Thomas Schnoor, and Trace Tingle have led the way in both pitching and hitting, but it’s been a total team effort for the Eagles. Now, they take on Tupelo Christian to try and bring back some hardware to the corner of Magnolia and Watts.
PHS, with a very young team, got off to a slow start, but came on recently like gangbusters. The Panthers went through a gauntlet of South Jones, Natchez, Pearl River Central (#1 in 5-A at the time), and West Jones to get to Jackson.
Young gun pitchers Griffin Wells (freshman) and Brayden Scott (sophomore) have stepped up, while Keilon Parnell and Houston Johnson, both well known for their football exploits, have energized the offense. Again, it’s been a team effort to get to this point with an opportunity to play Saltillo and hopefully bring a sixth state title back to Tucker and Market.
As you might imagine, the question has been posed: What if all these kids were playing on one team? The short answer is that nobody in a three-state area would want to mess with that Pascagoula bunch. Personally, I don’t spend too much time on the “what if” posture. I’ve always thought it was kind of cool that our city has two high schools, so you just have to live with situations like this sometimes (Boy, that would be one heck of a team, though).
So, the Panthers and the Eagles will be playing under the bright lights of Trustmark Park, the beautiful Mississippi Braves stadium in Pearl outside of Jackson, this week in a best of three format, starting on June 1. Depending on when you read this column, we’ll be learning how the two clubs have done. Whatever the results, this is a fantastic accomplishment for PHS and RCS, and will only serve to enrich the strong and growing legacy of Pascagoula baseball.