Former NEJ, PRCC standout Miles Smith delivers a pitch on Opening Day of the Deep South Collegiate League regular season.

“Play Ball!”

If you’ve been missing out on hearing those words in the last several months, Saturday was a good day for you.

It was mildly hot. It was a little cold-cut. Nevertheless, it was baseball.

The Deep South Summer Collegiate League competed for the first time on Saturday in Laurel at Wooten Legion Fields off of West Drive.

Former Northeast Jones standout and current Hinds Community College pitcher Patrick Little said this on Saturday, "The big thing about COVID is it's taken away a lot of reps from a lot of guys. I've worked with a guy out of Hattiesburg, and I've been able to throw bullpen for about a month, but anybody that pitches know that there's nothing like being able to get in a live environment and face real batters. [I felt] like a kid in a candy store being able to play again."

Little added that after talking to several guys in the dugout and at the complex, this was their first, second, or third time to throw since the pandemic broke out.

The former NEJ pitcher threw an inning of relief on Saturday for Team Larson, striking out two of the four opposing batters he faced and allowed no-hit.

Team Caver, Team Garner, Team Parker, and Team McCarty pulled out victories on Opening Day.

Baseball is a sport of social distancing of sorts. A minimum of ten players (nine defensive and one offensive at the plate) converse on a wide-open field at once. Players rarely come into close contact. The only place to exercise extreme caution is in the dugout.

It's far different from other sports like wrestling, football, or basketball, where close contact often happens.

There was a wide array of local talent, like Team McCarty, who featured four players native to the Jones County area. Players included brothers Miles and Mason Smith, Andrew Howard, Colson Harris. Team McCarty defeated Team Floyd 5-3 in seven and a half innings of play. Harris led the group at the plate with one hit. Both Smith brothers threw an inning apiece, posting almost identical lines - striking out three while allowing one hit, respectively. Miles and Mason played high school ball at Northeast Jones. Mason signed with PRCC earlier this year, and Miles, who played at PRCC for two years, is now with the University of South Alabama.

The Deep South Collegiate League is for incoming college freshmen, sophomores, and sophomores who have already signed to play at the next level. Except for Opening Day, which was held in Laurel, the league will play the remainder of its season at PRCC and Columbia High School. Each team's schedule consists of 20 games, not including playoffs.

Commissioner of the league is Colton Caver. Caver is a native of Gulport and played his collegiate career at East Mississippi Community College and Mississippi College.

For more information, visit the leagues' website at www.deepsouthleague.com.

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