By Chris McCarthy/ Publisher/Editor
Three local players had significant roles in Birmingham Southern College’s successful 2014-baseball season.
Senior pitchers Miles Nordgren and Ralls Pennington and junior catcher Jacob Mayfield helped the Panthers post a 35-12 record and win the Southern Athletic Association regular season and tournament titles.
The tournament championship including an automatic bid to the Div. III NCAA Tournament, where BSC fell to top-seeded Shenandoah in extra innings on May 16 in the South Regional in Demorest, Ga.
Nordgren is a 2010 Etowah High graduate, Pennington a 2010 Gadsden City High graduate and Mayfield a 2011 Westbrook Christian graduate.
Nordgren finished the 2014 season with a 9-2 record and a 1.49 earned run average along with 57 strikeouts. He was selected to both the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings and a D3baseball.com All-American teams. Nordgren also earned first-team All-Region, All-Conference and All-SAA Tournament honors and was named Birmingham Southern’s Man of the Year. He also made the CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District Team. Nordgren also was named the 2013 SAA Pitcher of the Year as a junior.
In addition, last week the Minnesota Twins picked Nordgren in the Major League Baseball Draft.
“Miles is one of the best Division III pitchers in the country,” said BSC head baseball coach Jan Weisberg. “He’s got decent velocity but great command. His strength is his movement; got a really good sinking fastball. I spent 13 years in the SEC, and Miles has a good of a chance succeeding in the big leagues as any of the guys we’ve had there.
“A lot of guys want to throw the ball hard and make it sink and can’t do it. Miles is a great athlete and does it naturally. He also doesn’t walk people and doesn’t beat himself. He just pounds the strike zone and gets outs.”
In 52.2 innings this season, Pennington went 7-3 with a 2.22 ERA and 26 strikeouts.
“I was pretty pleased with how the season went,” said Pennington. “Coach Weisberg told us all season to break down the season into 10-game series and then win eight of those 10 games. By the end, we were sitting where we wanted to be for the conference tournament. I think that we hit our peak at a good time and we just didn’t come out on top in a couple of close games (in the NCAA Tournament).”
Pennington noted that he and Nordgren have similar pitching styles, the main difference being that Nordgren possessed considerable more velocity.
“Miles was really vital to our success this year and gave us a quality start every time he went out there. I just tried to throw strikes in high school, but [BSC baseball coach] Jan Weisberg really focused on having the pitchers command the fastball and attack down in the zone. When you pinpoint your pitches, a hitter can’t really do that much.”
Pennington, who earned a BS in accounting, has a year of eligibility left but is leaning toward attending graduate school this fall at Samford University in Birmingham.
“Ralls doesn’t throw as hard as Miles, but he ball really moves,” said Weisberg. “He transferred in his sophomore year and really competed and went from being our mid-week starter to our No. 3 starter. He put us in a position to win every series that we won, so he did a great job for us.”
Mayfield led the Panthers this season in batting average (.361), slugging percentage (.584), on base percentage (.457), doubles (16), home runs (six), RBI (36) and total bases (99) while tying for the team lead in hits with 60. He also scored 34 runs and finished with a fielding percentage of .972.
Mayfield was voted to the All-SAA first team and All-Region third team and He was named SAA Tournament MVP and selected to the CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District Team.
As a senior at Westbrook, Mayfield was named the 2011 Bryant-Jordan Scholar-Athlete winner and was the valedictorian of his graduating class.
In baseball, he batted .587 with 15 homers, 34 RBIs, scored 55 runs and hit 20 doubles in 2011 to help the 2011 Warriors go 26-10 and make it to the Class 2A state semifinals. He was named to the Class 1A All-State first team at catcher.
Nordgren noted that one of Mayfield’s biggest strengths as a catcher was his ability to call a game and handle a pitching staff.
“Jacob’s a smart guy to begin with, and when he got here, he knew how to approach it and how to make the right calls.”
“With me being the No. 3 [pitcher], Jacob definitely was my favorite [catcher] to throw to. With both me and Miles being from Gadsden, Jacob knew what we wanted to do in certain situations.”
Nordgren and Pennington were roommates during much of their BSC careers, while Nordgren and Mayfield played summer travel ball together in high school.
“I’ve has some good catchers, but Jacob has called more pitches than anyone I’ve had,” said Weisberg. “I really trust him behind the plate. He also carried us offensively down the stretch. He was absolutely on fire in the conference tournament. Jacob had a lot on his shoulders, and I think he knew it. But he was able to handle it. Some guys slip up when they get stretch thin, but Jacob never does. He’s a real warrior.”