Choctaw alumni on opposite teams in Super Regional
When taking the amount of high schools throughout the United States and comparing it to the number of college teams to reach both the NCCA Tournament as well as the Super Regional portion of the baseball postseason, having an athlete on a team in the final 16 teams left in Division I College Baseball can be special for that school.
Having two, though, is something twice as special and that’s where Dyer County High School stands heading into this weekend as a pair of former Choctaw pitchers are on opposite sides of one of the four Super Regional Matchups this weekend.
Beginning tonight in Nashville at Vanderbilt, the hosting Commodores will host Mississippi State in a best-of-three series with a spot in the College World Series on the line for the winner. DCHS will be represented in the series as former Choctaw Paxton Stover is a pitcher for Vanderbilt while DC alum Trysten Barlow is a pitcher with Mississippi State.
“It’s awesome,” former Dyer County head coach Preston Ozment said. “I know what their teams mean to them because they’re good teammates.
“I know what they’ve meant to our school. It’s just exciting for them to get to have that experience and be there.”
While Stover has pitched limited innings this season and Barlow is currently recovering from a shoulder injury, Ozment – who coached both during their careers in Newbern – they both are on teams that are at this level and each have a shot to go with their teams to the next level of the postseason – Omaha, Neb. and the College World Series. This also assures that one former Dyer County player will be with his team when the College World Series starts next weekend.
Needless to say, their former coach in the orange and white knows where he will be during the series.
“I will definitely be in the stands cheering both of them on and both of their teams on,” Ozment said.
Ozment, now the athletic director for Dyer County Schools, added it says a lot about the DCHS program to have the high school in Newbern represented this deep in the Division I postseason.
“They meant a lot to us when they were here,” Ozment said. “And, now they’re on successful teams as well.
“I’ve got to think – not even from a playing standpoint – those guys help out. I’ve known what kind of teammates they are, what kind of people they are and I’m excited for them. It’s something they will never forget.”
With the series being in Nashville, it makes it even easier for someone like Ozment to make the journey to support his former players.
“I really wouldn’t care how much a ticket costs,” Ozment said. “I would go just to know that I’m supporting them.”
Ozment pointed out having a player in the Southeastern Conference from an individual school can be rare, much less two – or three as is the case this season with Dyer County as fellow former Choctaw Jordan Fowler pitches for Ole Miss, which lost a 3-2 decision to Tennessee Tech on Monday to fall just short of Super Regionals.
“They’ve had some great memories from college that they’ll never forget,” Ozment said. “It’s just a testament to the type of kids we have in our program and the places they are getting to go.
“I’m just happy for them. The biggest thing is I know they will be good teammates. In a short series, you never know what will happen. Either way it goes, I know what kind of people they are and they will be rooting for their team.”
Senior Vandy pitcher Stover said he feels good about how the Commodores are playing heading into the this win-or-take-all series with an SEC rival.
“I think we feel pretty good going into it,” Stover said. “Don’t get me wrong – Mississippi State is a great team and they have a great program. I’m happy for those guys.
“We’re feeling pretty happy going in.”
Stover added his team has struggled during the year, going through some up and downs but have grown as a team.
“We’ve got a pretty good young team,” Stover said. “Some of the guys are still learning but we’re getting there.
“The bats are starting to move a little bit and we’ve got some good arms coming out of the pen and starting. I’d say we’re pretty confident.”
Stover has pitched out of the bullpen as a specialist this season and that’s something he could do this weekend if the scenario presents itself.
“I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team – that’s the main goal,” Stover said. “But, when I’m not throwing, I like to think that I’m one of the guys that provides a lot of energy in the dugout.
“That’s a big role of mine – try to get the guys going in the dugout because that definitely transfers onto the field.”
Barlow appeared in four games this spring before injury ended his 2018 season. The redshirt sophomore said he feels everything is clicking for the Bulldogs.
“We’re playing really good ball right now,” Barlow said. “Our hitting is coming around right now.
“I really think we’re going to make a push this weekend against Vanderbilt.”
Barlow added he feels his team will continue the type of play which got them through the regional round.
“We should be in line for a pretty good weekend,” Barlow said.
While he will not be on the field for the Bulldogs, the 2015 Dyer County product said he plans to support his team during the series.
“Really, just try to keep the team up – like positive energy all weekend,” Barlow said. “I mean, I can’t do anything much so I really just want to keep them up in case something doesn’t go their way.”
The best-of-three series begins on Friday at 8 p.m. in Nashville then continues on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. If necessary, the third game will be played at 6 p.m. on Sunday. The first and third games will be broadcast on ESPN while the second will be on ESPN2.