What’s better than having a big run producer in your lineup? How about three. As a coach, it’s great to have multiple ball players who can mash the ball day in and day out sending teammates home with clutch hits on a consistent basis.
This upcoming season, Jackson State University returns Sam Campbell, Lamar Briggs and Jesus Santana who are that 1-2-3 combo. To no surprise, they are three reasons the Tigers will be in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) postseason hunt.
Last season, the three had a combined 122 RBI with Campbell totaling 42, Briggs 32 and Santana finishing the season with 48. The Tigers RBI trio is just one of the many reasons why Jackson State has high expectations.
These three, I call “poster guys” and Coach Omar Johnson will count heavily on them if Jackson State is to claim another 30 plus win season, its eighth in nine years.
Following a 32-25 season in 2015, Johnson figures to have a very deep, talented roster in 2016 with a solid core of returners in seniors Vincent Anthonia, Jevon Jacobs and Rene Colon. They will provide experience on the mound.
There can be no denying that Sam Campbell has had an effect on Jackson State baseball. Last year he had the most to prove. As a sophomore, considering he has had less time in the spotlight compared to other players on the team, Campbell made the most of his opportunities proving his slugging abilities by smashing 3 home runs with a .497 slugging percentage, .306 batting average in 173 at bats, along with 37 runs, 53 hits, 18 doubles and 3 triples as the teams designated hitter.
Campbell plays with a lot of enthusiasm. “I love baseball because I have been playing it since I could walk and the passion I have for the game is like no other. It’s one of the greatest feelings on earth”.
Lamar Briggs contributed by driving in 32 runs, a sign that he has bat speed and fast hands rather than being a strength-oriented wall banger (no home runs) making him a savvy aggressive hitter. Briggs consistency remains raw in his approach to contact spraying the baseball to all fields. Last season Briggs hit .305 in 46 games and 154 at bats, 39 runs, 47 hits and a .409 slugging percentage.
His drive to perform better fuels his desire for the love of the game. “It just makes me happy, being out on the field everyday and the atmosphere, especially during a big game. Meeting new people and the places it can take you. My passion is so strong I’m willing to do anything to keep the sport in my life as long as possible”.
Jesus Santana was among the league leaders in RBI (48) and home runs (12) in the SWAC. With his consistency, he could approach last year’s RBI and home run totals in 2016. A complete player in the batters box, Santana hit.283 in 180 at bats, with 51 hits with 12 doubles, proving he’s more than just a deep threat.
Baseball at Jackson State has taken Santana on a journey far beyond what he has expected. “It has taken me to places I had never thought about reaching”. That is something he’ll treasure for the rest of his life because the game of baseball affords those opportunities.
Inside the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) world of baseball, runs batted in equates to respect. Anybody can get a hit with the bases empty. But when a hitter consistently produces with runners on base – cha-ching! A run-producer does have its rewards.
Santana and Campbell, both were named to the 2016 HBCU Black College Nines’ Preseason First Team All-Americans, while Briggs was chosen to the second team.
The trio could possibly work towards the top of the college baseball world if they continue to work hard. It’s pretty evident that taking advantage of the chance to be in the lineup every day, being patient at the plate and getting good pitches to hit could make it happen.
The young sluggers are ready for the 2016 regular season which begins February 19th with a scheduled four game series opener against the University of Tennessee-Martin in Jackson, Mississippi. According to Santana, “there is nothing better than being a whole day at the ballpark”.