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Ripley product to lead Union efforts
by Blake D. Long
Jul 24, 2014 | 293 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BOONEVILLE -- Standout pitcher Ben Hellums has made the choice to assist in the rebuilding process of a team that just successfully achieved a move into one of the premier leagues in the country.

Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Hellums signed his National Letter of Intent (NLI) to join the rising Union University baseball program.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for Ben,” said Tigers head coach Kent Farris. “He came in here and worked real hard as an incoming freshman and got his velocity up. If he continues to work then he’ll do big things. We’re real happy and proud for him.”

Union, which is located in Jackson, Tenn., recently completed its transition from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to the Gulf South Conference (GSC). The Bulldogs, who are under the guidance of new headman Lee Driggers, are eligible for the playoffs at the NCAA Division II level for the initial time beginning with the upcoming 2015 campaign.

“That was a big part of my decision. I’m glad they can play in the postseason,” Hellums said. “I love it there. They’re in a really, really tough conference so I’ll get to play the best competition possible. I’ve got a lot to prove so I’m ready to get out there and stay hungry.”

Hellums basically became a second starter out of the Northeast bullpen and made 14 appearances with 23.2 innings pitched, which was more than any other Tiger reliever.

The Ripley High School product went 2-2 during his final year in a Northeast uniform with a total of just 12 earned runs allowed and an average of five strikeouts per game.

Hellums earned back-to-back victories in a span of two weekends during the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division slate this season. He struck out three batters to lead the Tigers to the first of four wins over rival Itawamba Community College and then gave up one earned run in three frames to down Holmes Community College.

The tall, lanky right-hander also poured in a 4-2 record during his debut campaign in Booneville with 49.2 innings on the hill, which was second-best on the squad behind only Arkansas State University signee Tanner Gaines, 28 punch outs and a solid earned run average (ERA) of 3.26.

Hellums tossed two frames against Mississippi Delta Community College in the final contest of the regular season to help the Tigers capture the 2013 MACJC North Division championship.

His teams played the first round of the MACJC State Playoffs in the City of Hospitality for two years straight with triumphs over Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Pearl River Community College. Northeast also garnered the right to bring the MACJC State Tournament to Harold T. White Field for the initial time in its current format during the 2014 campaign.

“It was really fun to come down and do things that haven’t been done in a while,” said Hellums. “Winning the division was awesome when we clinched it. That was one of my best memories and just getting to host the tournament this year was awesome as well.”

Hellums holds a career ERA of 3.69 in 26 outings as a Tiger. The 6-8, 174-pounder sat down a personal best five men by strikeout in a win versus East Mississippi Community College one season ago and also tallied eight scoreless appearances at Northeast.

“I could not have picked a better school to have come to out of high school,” Hellums said. “I think I learned so much here that you just can’t learn in high school. It prepared me to move on. We had a great group of guys both years I was here and I will be in contact with them as long as I’m around.”

Hellums gave credit to the Tigers’ instructors, including assistants Richy Harrelson and Jon Andy Scott, for the knowledge and wisdom that they passed to him throughout his pair of campaigns in the black-and-gold.

“I can’t say enough about the integrity of the coaches,” he said. “They taught me so much. Coach Harrelson comes in and gets me on a very solid weight program and coach Farris got me here and got me throwing. It wasn’t three weeks with them that I had velocity jumps. They’re so great at what they do.”

Hellums will receive the chance during the 2015 season to face former Northeast teammates Justin Neal of Christian Brothers University, Will Robertson of Delta State University and the University of North Alabama’s Kyle Stephenson.
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