PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast baseball players Brandon Parker and Alden Davis signed letters of intent Wednesday to strong Division I programs.
Parker, a sophomore from West Harrison, will continue his college career at Dallas Baptist after the 2019 season. Davis, a sophomore first/third baseman from Pascagoula, will play at South Alabama.
"That's big for our program to be able to get guys to big programs, schools that are in consideration for regionals every year," Gulf Coast coach Rodney Batts said. "That's a starting point for us. We'll have a couple more sign with Division I programs in the fall or spring once they make their decisions."
Parker smashed the MGCCC record for home runs last year by clubbing 24 on his way to winning the ABCA/Rawlings NJCAA Division II All-American Baseball Player of the Year award.
He led the country with 81 home runs and batted .424. Parker reached base 50 percent of the time and slugged .932 with 14 doubles and two triples. He had a pair of three-home run games, one seven-RBI game and three six-RBI games. He also had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage roaming the outfield.
Off the field, Parker was named to the NJCAA All-Academic Third Team and the MACJC Academic All-State Team.
"Gulf Coast really paved the way to Dallas Baptist," he said. "The leadership from the players and coaches, they all helped me develop into the person I am, the player I am. I wouldn't be at Dallas Baptist if it wasn't for them. I give all the credit to the coaches and my teammates."
Dallas Baptist, which is coached by Dan Heefner in the Missouri Valley Conference, is coming off a 42-21 season. The Patriots are one of four Division I teams with 40 or more wins in the last four years. They lost in the Fayetteville Region championship game to host Arkansas.
"It's a Christian program. All the coaches are great guys," Parker said. "They're a top team in the nation every single year. It was perfect. They were in need of a hitter and they were on me and stayed on me."
Davis batted .384 with eight home runs and 56 RBI in 50 games. He slugged .616 and reached base 47.3 percent of the time.
He helped lead Gulf Coast to 36-16 record and a third-place finish at the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament. It was the team's first visit to a regional since 2012.
"Gulf Coast blessed me with the opportunity to play every day," Davis said. "Coach Batts is the best coach in the country, by far. He's made me disciplined with everything I do. He's taught me so much about life and the game of baseball."
South Alabama, which is coached by Mark Calvi in the Sun Belt Conference, is coming off a 32-25 season. The Jaguars lost in the SBC Tournament semifinals. They advanced to NCAA regionals in 2016 and 2017.
"I like the coaching staff and they liked me," Davis said. "That was huge to me. It's close to home, so my family can come see me."
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