Pettway makes grade, will play for Ole Miss next season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2002

[07/03/02]Whenever Warren Central needed a clutch hit, Brian Pettway delivered.

He proved earlier this month that he can deliver for himself, too.

Pettway, the Vicksburg Post Player of the Year, got a 19 on his ACT on the final time he could take the test, ensuring the Ole Miss-bound slugger will not have to play in junior college.

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“I was really nervous,” said Pettway, whose mother called him Thursday morning with the good news. “After I heard, I was jumping for joy.

“It meant so much to me because I had taken it so many times and this was the last time I was able to take it.”

Pettway took the test just before playing in the Mississippi High School Activities Association all-star game on June 8, where he earned best defensive player for the North squad.

“After I took it, I thought I had done well,” Pettway said.

He’ll play the rest of this month with the Jackson 96ers, a select team, with former teammates Joey Lieberman, John Morgan Mims and Carl Upton. The 96ers will be playing a tournament in Birmingham this weekend.

He plans on leaving in early August for Oxford.

“We’re very excited,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, whose team went 37-19 last season, but missed out on the Southeastern Conference Tournament after being swept by Mississippi State in the last weekend of the season.

“We felt like Brian was the best right-handed hitter in the state of Mississippi and having him sign early was big for this program.”

The star recruit signed with the Rebels a longtime favorite team in September. He went undrafted in the amateur baseball draft despite having a .500 average, 16 home runs and 31 RBIs. As a pitcher, Pettway went 4-1 with a 0.33 ERA.

His pitching may get scrapped, though, because the Rebels have a bevy of quality starters. Bianco said Pettway has a very good shot at earning playing time. Finding a place to put him is the only thing in question now.

“He’s such a terrific offensive player,” Bianco said. “We may try him behind the plate a little bit and he may see playing time as a DH. We just have to wait and see.”

Pettway will go to Oxford next week for orientation, then report sometime in August. The Rebels open the season in February.

“They said they want me to hit and I always like to hit,” Pettway said. “Hopefully, everything will work out.”