McDaniel and Evans lead PCA,St. Aloysius to state baseball titles

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ulysses S. Grant’s Vicksburg campaign in 1863 is considered a masterpiece in American military history.

How fitting then it is to salute two great baseball campaigns that ended with state championships by having the Vicksburg Post’s Co-Players of the Year, Porters Chapel Academy’s Montana McDaniel and St. Aloysius pitcher Stephen Evans, pose beneath Grant’s statue at the Vicksburg National Military Park along with the Post’s Coach of the Year, St. Al’s Clint Wilkerson.

McDaniel and Evans were the respective aces of the two state title teams. McDaniel went 11-1 with a 1.08 earned run average. He struck out 113 in 75 innings pitched as PCA took the MPSA Class A crown.

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Evans was 12-2 including a two-inning stint to close out the Cathedral series. He struck out 91 in 78.3 innings pitched and had a 1.07 ERA.

Both were big with the bats as well. McDaniel batted .424 with five home runs, 39 runs scored and 30 stolen bases. Evans drove in 37 runs and had 10 doubles.

For McDaniel, the Eagles’ third title over a six-year span was one for the history books.

“It was amazing, just unbelievable. Coach (Randy) Wright said early on that we were the worst team he had in 13 years. But it all came together for us. When we cinched second place in the district, we knew we’d be in the playoffs and we just went out and made something happen.”

In two key series, the Eagles (25-8) won four games in the late innings. A 3-2 win over Franklin in the second round was a turning point.

“Both of the games against Franklin were decided late. We won the first one in eight innings and in the second one, we scored all of our runs in the sixth and seventh innings. I think for me, I got better as the playoffs went along. I definitely had more velocity. But what really helped me was my curveball. I was able to throw it at a 12 to 6 angle and it helped me a lot,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel also credited some tips he learned last summer from current Mississippi Braves hitting coach Roosevelt Brown. Brown added McDaniel to his Mississippi Bombers team to win the Governors Cup title last August.

“Coach Brown gave me a lot of confidence,” McDaniel said.

Wilkerson said Evans was a dominant pitcher last year, but just didn’t get much attention.

“He pitched really well last year, had an ERA under two, and won a lot of games,” Wilkerson said. “He just didn’t get a lot of notice. This year, he really shined on the big stage. He was so dominant in the big games.”

This year, Evans got all the big games. He went 5-1 in the postseason, including both wins in the Cathedral series, a gutty nine-inning performance against Stringer in a 1-0 loss, and a 6-0 gem to beat West Union in Game 1 of the Class 1A state championship series at Trustmark Park.

“I would say the Stringer game was his best. He struck out 15 against a very strong team,” Wilkerson said.

The key for Evans was his variety of pitches.

“He can throw four pitches for strikes. He has the 12 to 6 curve ball, a cut fastball, a slider and his changeup improved a lot this year,” Wilkerson said.

Evans said the biggest change he noticed was his arm strength.

“My velocity went up a lot this year,” Evans said. “I had confidence in my pitches. But I think when I developed my slider more, it helped me out.”

When Evans felt things weren’t working, he could go to his dad, Darrell, for advice.

“His dad played college ball at Stephen F. Austin and he provided him with a lot of good advice,” Wilkerson said.

“He was a catcher, so he knows something about pitchers. A  lot of times, I would ask him stuff during the middle of a game,” Evans said.


Contact Jeff Byrd at