PERKINSTON — A pair of Mississippi Gulf Coast pitchers have signed letters of intent to play Division I baseball, with lefthander Josh Lewis headed to Southern Miss and Ty Barnes on his way to Louisiana-Monroe.
"They're such good guys," Bulldogs coach Rodney Batts said. "Their work ethic is second to none. They strive to be the best on the staff."
Lewis, who is from Theodore, Ala., went 3-5 last year with a 5.01 ERA. He struck out 44 batters in 50.1 innings.
"When I got here, I wasn't strong enough," he said. "I wasn't where I needed to be, so I got in the weight room. I got stronger. Coach (Eric) Ebers helped me with my pitch development, throwing certain pitches in certain counts."
Batts said he's picked up 10 mph on his fastball since they recruited him. That's a tribute to the work he's put in in the weight room.
"Left-handers are a premium, and he's a guy who can locate all three pitches," Batts said. That's going to help us this year, and he's going to continue to get better."
Lewis said the Golden Eagles coaching staff and proximity to home were important to him.
"The program's amazing," he said. "They won 50 games last year and hosted a regional. It's something pretty awesome to be a part of."
Barnes, who came to Perkinston from Petal, went 4-3 with a 4.21 ERA as a freshman. He had 31 strikeouts in 51.1 innings.
"I've learned to be a pitcher and not a thrower," he said. "I've learned a lot of things from Coach Ebers and the coaching staff. That's a big thing, to be a pitcher and not a thrower."
ULM is coming off a disappointing season, but have a new coach in charge now. Coincidentally, he's USM's former pitching coach.
"Coach (Michael) Federico watched me through my high school career," Barnes said. "I've always talked to him. He's a great guy and knows what he's talking about. It's a great campus and I got to know the players. I'm excited to go there."
Batts pointed to Barnes competitiveness as one of his strengths. He's also put in the work to improve his performance since arriving at Gulf Coast.
"He can pitch off his fastball, he can pitch off his breaking ball," Batts said. "He can pitch to either side of the plate. That's been a real key to his success."
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