For the second straight season, Delta State University senior first baseman Zack Shannon has been nominated as one of the five finalists for the C Spire Ferriss Trophy.
The Ferriss Trophy Award presentation will be Monday at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. The event will start with a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. followed by the program at 12 p.m.
The Ferriss Trophy goes to the top college baseball player at a four-year institution in Mississippi. The award is named after Dave “Boo” Ferriss. The Shaw native played college baseball at Mississippi State University from 1939-42; pitched in the Major Leagues from 1945-50 with the Boston Red Sox and was the head baseball coach at Delta State for 26 seasons (1960-66, 1970-88) where he is considered the architect of the program. After he retired at DSU, he remained an advocate for college baseball in Mississippi until he died in 2016 at the age of 94.
Shannon is having an incredible season as he was recently named Gulf South Conference Player of the Year for a second straight year. He leads the GSC in batting average (.425), home runs (29), RBIs (86), runs scored (71), slugging percentage (.989), on-base percentage (.523) and hits (79).
He leads the nation in all NCAA classifications (Division I, II and III) in home runs and runs batted in. He leads Division II in slugging percentage and is third in runs scored, 10th in on-base percentage (.523) and 11th in batting average.
Shannon is the first Statesman to be nominated multiple times for the award. Last year, Shannon lost the award to Mississippi State University’s Brent Rooker, who hit .387 with 23 home runs, 82 RBIs, 96 hits and 60 runs scored. Shannon hit .434 last year with 19 home runs, 88 RBIs, 95 hits and 63 runs scored. Last year, Shannon won the Perfect Game National Player of the Year and the Tino Martinez Award for Most Outstanding Player in Division II.
The previous DSU players that have been nominated for the Ferriss Trophy are Craig Newton (2005), Rickey Noland (2008), Colton Mitchell (2012), Josh Branstetter (2013) and Will Robertson (2016).
“It’s very special,” Delta State head baseball coach Mike Kinnison said about the award and Shannon being nominated. “Any award named after Coach Ferriss or in his honor is something special. We’ve had some finalists before. We’ve had several finalists, but we’ve never had one that won it. Certainly, Zack has had a great year this year and really proud of the year he’s had. He had a great year last year, it’s just Brent Rooker had an exceptional year last year.
“We hope he’s got a chance to win, but it’s a great honor to be nominated and be one of the top five players in the state. I’m proud of that.”
Shannon said he is well aware of how huge the Ferriss Trophy is to Delta State.
“It’s something that you work for and Coach Ferriss being from Delta State, it means a little bit more to this program,” Shannon said.
Shannon said winning the Ferriss Trophy would be a huge achievement for him.
“It would be really special,” Shannon said. “Coach Ferriss was the coach here for years and this is where he made his legacy happen. I don’t think any Statesman has ever brought it back. It’s something I’m excited to have a good shot at this year.”
The Statesmen (40-9) are currently in Lakeland, Fla. as they prepare to take on Mississippi College (33-15) in the first round of the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament Thursday at 10 a.m. There’s a chance Shannon may not make the ceremony as the championship game will be on Monday, the same day as the Ferriss Trophy Ceremony. Shannon didn’t make the ceremony last year as the Statesmen won the region tournament in Cleveland and advanced to the NCAA Division II World Series.
Shannon said earning a World Series berth is first and foremost on his priority list.
“I wasn’t able to make it to the ceremony,” Shannon said. “We were fortunate enough to be in the regional. Being able to be there for it would be great, but I’m more ready for this weekend and hopefully the World Series as well.”
The other four players nominated are Southern Miss junior third baseman Luke Reynolds (.392 avg., 13HR, 54 RBIs,), Southern Miss junior pitcher Nick Sandlin (7-0, 1.15 ERA, 78.1 IP, 114 SO, 14 BB), Ole Miss junior outfielder Ryan Olenek (.396 avg., 3 HR, 26 RBIs) and Mississippi State University junior outfielder Jake Mangum (.342 avg., 19 RBIs 45 runs).
Sandlin is first in Division I in fewest walks plus hits given up per inning (0.69), third in earned run average, eighth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (8.14) eighth in strikeouts per nine innings (13.1) and ninth in strikeouts. Sandlin recently had a streak of 31 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, which was snapped Friday against Louisiana Tech.
Reynolds currently leads Conference USA in batting average, slugging percentage (.718), on-base percentage (.545), runs scored (61), tied for the conference lead in home runs, third in RBIs (54) and seventh in hits (71). Reynolds’ on-base percentage is also tops in the state.
Olenek currently leads the SEC in batting average, tied for first in the conference in hits (76) and tied for fourth in the conference in doubles (17). Olenek had a 23-game hitting streak earlier this year and has battled a shoulder injury.
Mangum, a 2016 winner of the Ferriss Trophy, is currently tied for the SEC lead in hits (76), tied for the conference lead in doubles (19), tied for fifth in stolen bases (14) and 10th in batting average (.342).
Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Executive Director Bill Blackwell said the talent in Mississippi this year was really deep.
“It’s one of the most competitive events, even getting it down to the top five finalists was very difficult,” Blackwell said. “One of the scouts that vote on the event said in his comments that he thought this was the toughest vote that they had ever gone through because there are so many good players to choose from. It was tough to leave a lot of them out of the voting but following the guidelines they had to do that.”
Shannon and Sandlin are both on the Golden Spikes Watch List. The Golden Spikes Award is sponsored by USA baseball and it goes to the top amateur baseball player in the country. The semifinalists for the award will also be announced Monday.