The sports department email was abuzz with news of junior college baseball players being noted for their exceptional efforts on the diamond this past spring season.

The listing of players who made Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College (MACJC) all-state teams and those who were also recognized by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) has a few names on it with DeSoto County addresses.

At the top of the list is a player with a DeSoto County address who played at a Tennessee high school before heading to college.

Walls native Houston Harding was announced as a third-team NJCAA Division II All-American Monday afternoon. Harding, a pitcher who prepped at Evangelical Christian School in suburban Memphis, wrapped up his career at Itawamba Community College in Fulton with a 10-0 sophomore season record, struck out a team-high 90 batters and fashioned a 2.62 ERA while appearing in 14 games for the Indians.

Harding earned NJCAA All-Region 23 and MACJC first team all-state honors and has signed to pitch at Mississippi State next season. He is a member of a state championship team at Itawamba during his two-year career and helped his team to regional tournament appearances in both seasons he pitched in Fulton.

Lewisburg product Alex Hay of East Central Community College was named the MACJC All-State second team.

Hay, who will play for Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., next year, hit .308 on the season with four home runs, 25 RBIs and 27 runs scored. The East Central catcher only committed three errors behind the plate for a .988 fielding percentage.

Another MACJC second team pick was former DeSoto Central player Markarius Lee of Meridian Community College. Lee, a sophomore, paced the Eagles offensively from the leadoff spot. He batted .371 while leading the team with 22 stolen bases.

Lee is committed to continue his baseball playing career with Mississippi College.

Others reportedly announced as second-team all-MACJC baseball picks are Drew Smith (Lake Cormorant) and Joe Gee (Horn Lake) at Coahoma Community College.

Northwest also has a second-team NJCAA All-American in first baseman Ben Van Cleve. The Indianola product led the Rangers in nearly every offensive category. Van Cleve, bound to play next at Ole Miss, hit an eye-popping .593 in the month of May to lead Northwest to a 33-win season and No. 9 final ranking. He led the Rangers in average (.375), hits (60), doubles (13), home runs (14), RBIs (47), total bases (115) and slugging percentage (.719) this season.

As a freshman, Van Cleve hit .306 with eight doubles, eight home runs, 28 RBIs and 34 runs scored.

Van Cleve started all 91 games of his two-year career in Senatobia, helping the Rangers to a combined 63-28 record, back-to-back 20-win seasons in conference play and national ranking.

There may be more additions to the list, but the MACJC has not been good about releasing league information and what is listed here comes from official program releases we have received or other sources.

PICKLEBALL ANYONE? The Southaven Tennis Complex near Snowden Grove Park will have a unique event this Saturday. It is called “Pickleball and Pizza,” and will begin at 4 p.m., continuing to 6 p.m. that evening.

There is an organization in the area called the Mid-South Pickleball Club, and it is holding the activity as a means of introducing the game to DeSoto County.

There are also plans to hold another event on July 13 at the complex.

Pickleball resembles the game of tennis, but incorporates badminton and ping-pong at the same time. A paddle is used instead of a tennis rack and the ball that is used resembles a whiffle ball. The game is played with a modified tennis net and may be played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-size court. As in tennis, the game may be played either as singles or doubles.

Anyone with questions may email Taylor at midsouthpbc@gmail.com.

Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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