By Robert Wilson

       Northwest Rankin alumnus Nick Monistere – the 2022 PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Baseball Player of the Year – earned his first collegiate pitching victory Saturday for Southern Miss.

Photo by Brad Bridges

       The 5-foot-11, 181-pound freshman right-hander allowed one hit and no runs and had one strikeout without walking a batter in the 11th inning to help Southern Miss to a 14-13 victory over Illinois at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field in Hattiesburg.

       After Monistere got out of the inning, Southern Miss scored one run in the bottom of the 11th to give him the victory.

       It was Monistere’s second appearance this season. He didn’t allow a hit or run and had two strikeouts without a walk in the ninth inning in Southern Miss’ 12-0 victory over University of New Orleans Tuesday in Hattiesburg.

       Southern Miss, ranked No. 18 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball, has a 5-2 record. The Golden Eagles meet Mississippi State Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Trustmark Park in Pearl.

       “It was great to see Nick pick up his first collegiate win last night,” Northwest Rankin coach KK Aldridge said. “I’m sure it’s the first of many. We text back and forth after the game, and I was able to tell him congratulations. You could tell he was excited. You love seeing him get the opportunity because he is such a great guy and such a hard worker. I have kept in touch with him throughout the fall, and I knew he was going to get some opportunities on the mound. I expect him to make the most of those opportunities and be someone the Golden Eagles can count on out of the bullpen this year. He is a competitor and a team player, so I know that he will be ready at any time to fulfill any role they need.”

Monistere had an 11-1 record, a 1.53 earned run average with 115 strikeouts and only 22 walks in 73 innings and led Northwest Rankin to a 34-3 record and the MHSAA Class 6A state championship (first one since 2005) last season as a senior. He hit a team-high .425 with 12 doubles, 3 triples, 8 home runs, 33 runs and 36 RBIs. Monistere had a .540 on base percentage and a .820 slugging percentage. He stole 18 bases in 19 attempts.

“Nick had a great senior season,” Aldridge said. “He was no doubt the best dual position player in the state of Mississippi. He’s the type of player that every coach wants to have. Nick possesses so many traits that you cannot teach. He has tremendous work ethic and leadership skills that most high school players just haven’t developed yet. He leads by action and by encouragement.

“Nick was like having another assistant coach out there on the field. When we needed to get the team to get on the same page, I could simply ask Nick to talk with them. He would handle it. Sometimes players need to hear things from other players instead of from coaches. Nick handled that role perfectly, and he was only able to do that because of the level of respect his teammates have for him. The best thing about Nick is that he is the type of player that all little kids look up to and want to be like when they get older and play. Even a greater complement than that is that he is the type of player that parents want their sons to be like both on and off the field.”

Aldridge believes Monistere will make a big impact for the Eagles this season as a freshman.

“Southern Miss got a great one,” Aldridge said. “He can handle being a dual position player, and I believe they will give him the opportunity to do both. Nick could truthfully play any position on the field. He grew up a catcher, he played infield for us, and he has the speed and arm strength to play outfield at the next level. That should be an advantage for him. He will be able to step in and fill a gap anywhere one opens up at Southern Miss.”

Monistere had an 11-1 record with a 1.88 earned run average and had 97 strikeouts and 21 walks in 70 2/3 innings and helped Northwest Rankin to a 27-9 record and a MHSAA Class 6A runner-up finish as a junior. He also hit .384 with 32 runs, 30 runs batted in, 11 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs and a .666 slugging percentage.

“Nick is a very good baseball player that continues to develop mentally and physically,” said Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “His athleticism gives him the ability to be a two-way player at the next level. We’re excited to have him as a Golden Eagle.”