By Robert Wilson

       Jackson Prep won its fifth consecutive MAIS Class 6A state baseball championship and finished ranked No. 21 in the country by Perfect Game with a 31-7 record last season.

       With six returning starters – including junior pitcher-shortstop Konnor Griffin, the No. 1 player in the country in the Class of 2024 – Prep is expected to be the favorite to win another 6A state title and a possible national preseason ranking.

       Prep added another talented player this week when sophomore pitcher-infielder Tre Bryant – son of longtime NFL kicker Matt Bryant – transferred from Orange Beach High.

From left to right: Matt, Tre and Mellissa Bryant.

       The 6-foot, 200-pound Bryant hit .429 with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 24 runs, 18 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases and started at third base and shortstop as a freshman for Orange Beach last season. He was in the top three in six offensive categories. Bryant, also a right-handed pitcher, won a team-high five games and led the team with 37 innings and 61 strikeouts. Orange Beach finished 16-13 and lost to eventual state champion Long in the second round of the playoffs.

       Orange Beach High is only its fourth year as a high school and is a Class 4A school in the Alabama High School Association.

        “We are excited about having Tre on campus here,” Prep coach Brent Heavener said. “He seems to be a good young talent that will add to our baseball program. Tre comes from a good program at Orange Beach and looks to help us add depth on the infield and on the mound. We are looking forward to the spring and chasing another title at Jackson Prep.”

       Matt Bryant was a kicker in the NFL for 18 years (2002-2019), including the last 11 years with the Atlanta Falcons. He scored a franchise record 1,168 points for Atlanta. Bryant kicked the ninth longest field goal in NFL history (62 yards) and ranks as the 16th most accurate kicker in NFL history (85.6 percent). He is a Texas native and played at Baylor. Bryant also played in the NFL for the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tre Bryant has been friends with Griffin, who is rated No. 1 player in the country by Baseball America and MLB ProspectsLive in the Class of 2024, for about four years. They both are part of Knight Knation baseball organization with some of the best players in the country.

Griffin, verbally committed to LSU, is projected by Baseball America last summer as the No. 1 high school player in the country for the 2024 MLB Draft. If Baseball America’s projection comes true, Griffin would be the highest high school player to be selected in the Major Baseball Draft in Mississippi history.

Griffin, who played as a freshman this spring, had a .476 batting average, a .617 on base percentage, a .870 slugging percentage, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 5 home runs, 28 runs batted in, 43 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, struck out only 9 times in 84 at bats and made only 2 errors. A right-handed pitcher, Griffin had an 8-2 record, 1.64 earned run average with 59 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 42 2/3 innings.

Griffin was named to the MaxPreps Underclassmen All-American team. He was the only freshman on last year’s Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Team, making it as the first team shortstop.

       Griffin, who reclassified as a junior this school year, was one of 20 players on the 2021 15U USA Baseball National Team two summers ago. He was on the 16U/17U National Development Program this summer.

       Prep’s other returning starters are senior second baseman and South Alabama signee Duncan Mathews, senior first baseman and Hinds Community College signee Graham Busbea, senior outfielder and Mississippi State signee Rives Reynolds, senior relief pitcher and Hinds CC signee Ford McDaniel and senior designated hitter and Meridian CC signee Matthew Cochran. Mathews, Busbea and McDaniel made the All-Metro Jackson team last spring.

Photo credit Jackson Prep athletics

       Prep had four players who graduated this past year who are playing college baseball this year – pitcher Will Gibbs (Mississippi State), outfielder Trey Bridges (Louisiana-Monroe), catcher Eli Berch (Chipola, Fla., Junior College) and outfielder Cy Craig (Northwest Mississippi CC).

       Prep’s season opener is Feb. 17 at Riverfield, La., Academy.

       Bryant also is expected to play football for Prep, which won the MAIS Class 6A state championship last fall. Bryant played linebacker, running back, punter and kicker for Orange Beach High as a sophomore last fall. First-year coach Doug Goodwin led Prep to a 12-1 record, won its first state title since 2018, and ended Madison-Ridgeland Academy’s three-year state championship run.