Tucson, Ariz. - Three members of Northeast Mississippi Community College's talented baseball roster have received a preseason accolade that recognizes their amazing potential on the diamond.
The trio of Tucker Childers, Jake Christa and Tyler Samaniego were honored as junior college players to watch during the 2018 campaign by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper in its annual preview edition.
"I'm really excited for them," said Northeast head coach Richy Harrelson. "They're the type of kids that we're trying to bring in. We're looking for big things from those three. It just shows how hard they've worked."
Childers is the lone sophomore amongst the distinguished tandem of Tigers. He has finalized plans to continue his career at Mississippi State University following the conclusion of his tenure on the Booneville campus.
The Ripley native burst onto the scene as a newcomer at Northeast in 2017 and earned Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-State laurels for his outstanding work at the plate.
He finished second on the team with a solid .367 batting average and compiled a .437 on-base percentage plus .662 slugging percentage as well. He tallied 51 hits, including 21 for extra bases, with 43 RBIs.
The 6-3, 220-pound lefty crushed 10 home runs last season, which was sixth most in the MACJC and highest for any Northeast student-athlete since NJCAA All-American Chase Porch went yard 10 times himself in 2008.
"This helps my confidence because other people believe in me," Childers said. "It sets high standards for this year. I definitely have to up my game a little bit and perform better than last year."
Christa was a highly sought after recruit at the prep level that originally committed to the University of South Alabama. Perfect Game rated him as the No. 29 overall prospect and the No. 14 right-handed pitcher from the neighboring Yellowhammer State.
The 6-4, 240-pound hurler led Madison (Ala.) Academy to the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) Class 4A state championship series one year ago as a senior where they fell in two games to UMS-Wright (Ala.) Preparatory School at Riverwalk Stadium, which is the minor league home of the Montgomery Biscuits.
Christa previously won three consecutive AHSAA Class 3A titles between his freshman and junior years with the Mustangs. He was named to the Rawlings-Perfect Game All-American team following his final campaign at Madison Academy.
He was a Class 3A All-State recipient from the Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA) following his junior season in which he went 7-2 with a team-low 1.59 earned run average (ERA). Christa struck out 76 batters compared to only 17 walks and conceded just 19 runs in 61.2 frames of action that year.
"It's awesome to be rewarded for the work you've put in over the summer and in the offseason," said Christa. "I want to show that I got this award for a reason and be able to prove it at this level."
Samaniego is another highly rated arm from across the state line in the Huntsville, Ala., metro area. He checked in as the No. 7 left-handed pitcher in Alabama according to the experts at Perfect Game.
However, Samaniego wields a powerful stick as well. He was tabbed as the 2017 Huntsville All-City Co-Offensive Most Valuable Player (MVP) while guiding Lee (Ala.) High School to the second round of the AHSAA Class 5A playoffs.
The 6-2, 200-pound dual threat athlete was also named to the ASWA Class 5A All-State team after he tied the school record for most RBIs in a single season with 50. He rose to fifth on the Generals' base hits list as well with 50 in his swansong campaign.
Samaniego had the highest batting average for Lee as a senior at .427 and also garnered the team's golden glove award. He made the record book for his efforts on the mound as well with 84 strikeouts during his junior year, which placed ninth all-time for the Generals.
"It definitely means a lot to get some recognition early," Samaniego said. "It really drives me to perform my best. I want to go out there every single day and give my team a chance to win."
Northeast opens its new season on Tuesday, February 6 against Calhoun (Ala.) Community College. First pitch for the doubleheader is scheduled for noon at Harold T. White Field.