2023 All-County Baseball: Vikings’ Channell sets the pace as The Post’s Player of the Year

Published 4:00 am Saturday, June 10, 2023

A leadoff hitter in baseball has a lot of jobs to handle at once.

Get on base. Score runs. Set the tone and provide momentum. When all else fails, take a few pitches and let his teammates see what the pitcher is throwing.

Blake Channell took every single one of those responsibilities seriously.

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“The team expects you to get on base and help them to see all the pitcher’s pitches, and really to find a way on base any way so you can hopefully get around and score,” Channell said. “I feel like I did a good job. I worked a lot of counts and got crucial hits when I needed to.”

Channell didn’t do a good job, he did a great one. The senior led Warren Central in a half-dozen offensive categories, including batting average (.369), home runs (4), RBIs (20), runs (34), hits (31). walks (16) and stolen bases (17). He set the table for the rest of the lineup to succeed and led the Vikings to their first region title since 2016.

As the offensive sparkplug for the Region 6-6A champs, Channell is also the 2023 Vicksburg Post baseball Player of the Year.

“It’s such an honor. I’ve seen people in the past and thought it was really cool. To have it this year is crazy,” said Channell, who has signed with Mississippi Delta Community College.

The left fielder moved into Warren Central’s starting lineup as a sophomore and has steadily improved ever since. He raised his batting average nearly 100 points from 2021 to 2022, and another 42 points this season.

He said some work last summer with a private hitting coach, Darius Kendrick, as well as workouts with Warren Central, helped him refine his approach at the plate.

“We worked all summer, and then when we got to the game it was like, ‘This is easy at this point,’” Channell said. “Staying back on the off speed. Once teams realized that I could hit good, they’re going to start throwing more stuff that’ll throw me off. So we worked on that a lot this summer.”

Channell put the lessons to work all spring. He reached base in 25 of Warren Central’s 28 games, and hit safey in 21 of them. He had nine multiple-hit games and a .474 on-base percentage.

WC coach Randy Broome said Channell’s efforts often led to early runs. Channell scored in 20 games.

“I think he saw the results when he led off the game with a knock, and nine times out of 10 we’re stealing the next two pitches. He wasn’t thrown out very often at second,” Broome said. “So now we’re not only getting a hit to start the game, we’ve got a runner in scoring position. It made our team roll, and I think he saw that.”

Channell occasionally took matters into his own hands. He hit two leadoff home runs and four total this season. He had seven over the past two years.

“It’s a great feeling. You feel like you’re on top of the world,” he said of hitting a homer.

He was just as happy to grind out a walk or a single, however, and let someone else get the hit to bring him home. It’s all part of the job of a leadoff man, and no one did it better this year than Channell.

“You try to get in that spot so your team can either hit behind you, or they hit a good one in the gap and you can get around and score,” Channell said.

2023 – Blake Channell, Warren Centrall
2022 – Gage Palmer, Porter’s Chapel
2021 – Wes Warnock, St. Aloysius
2020 – Kendrick Bershell, Vicksburg
2019 – Vantrel Reed, Warren Central
2018 – Vantrel Reed, Warren Central
2017 – Christian Oakes, Warren Central
2016 – Conner Wilkinson, Warren Central
2015 – Marcus Ragan, Warren Central
2014 – Carlisle Koestler, Warren Central
2013 – Hunter Austin, Warren Central
2012 – Cody Waddell, Warren Central
2011 – Beau Wallace, Warren Central
2010 – Stephen Evans, St. Aloysius
2009 – Stephen Evans, St. Aloysius and Montana McDaniel, Porter’s Chapel
2008 – Stanton Price, Vicksburg
2007 – Michael Busby, Porter’s Chapel
2006 – Jordan Henry, Vicksburg
2005 – Michael Busby, Porter’s Chapel
2004 – Mark Different, Warren Central
2003 – Justin Henry, Vicksburg and Ryan Hoben, Porter’s Chapel
2002 – Brian Pettway, Warren Central
2001 – Taylor Tankersley, Warren Central
2000 – Robby Goodson, Vicksburg
1999 – Shea Douglas, Warren Central
1998 – Shea Douglas, Warren Central
1997 – Cody McCain, St. Aloysius
1996 – Stacy Williams, St. Aloysius
1995 – Stacy Williams, St. Aloysius
1994 – Jason Wilbanks, St. Aloysius

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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