Lamar Slugger Reid Russell to compete in College Home Run Derby
BEAUMONT - After a powerful outburst that tied a school record, junior outfielder Reid Russell was invited to participate in the 2016 TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby, slated to start at 7:30 p.m. CT Sunday on ESPN 2, it was announced Monday.
Russell, who pounded 18 homers in the 2016 campaign, will face off against seven other premier hitters from around the country, and is the only Southland Conference hitter invited and first player from Lamar University to be selected for the event - which started in 2010.
The derby will be played at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., home of the College World Series.
"I have been bugging Coach (Will) Davis for a while that I wanted to get in this, and he called me and told me a couple of weeks ago I was in," said Russell. "I am so excited.
"It was definitely a fun year. There was a lot of hard work put into it," he said. "I certainly couldn't have done it without my coaches and teammates."
Russell was named as the Southland Conference Hitter of the Year and American Baseball Coaches Association All-South Central Region First Team. He joined Michael Ambort atop the school record list for long balls in a season, had the most in the Southland Conference and ranked 13th in the country on the year.
The junior-transfer had a stretch of five games with a homer, and then reeled off an 18-game hit streak - which ranks seventh all-time at Lamar.
"It will be so great to represent Lamar, Southeast Texas and the Southland Conference in Omaha," said Russell.
The Longview, Texas native, hit .354 in his first campaign, which was second on the team, with 73 base knocks and nine doubles. He scored 41 runs and wrapped up the year with a .665 slugging percentage and had a .410 on-base percentage. He was second in the league in total bases and slugging, fourth in hitting and seventh in total hits.
Graduated equipment manager Justin Eckols, former Lamar University baseball player, will be Russell's pitcher.
"I told him if I got in it I would bring him with me," said Russell. "He will probably be the youngest pitcher of there, but it will be good. It will be fun."
The College Home Run Derby includes three rounds of play: the first round features all contestants, the second round has the hitters with the top four scores after round one, and the final round features the top two sluggers after round two.
New for the 2016 competition, contestants in each round will have a timed period of four minutes to hit as many home runs as they can, rather than the traditional 10-out method used in past derbies. Once the timed period concludes, contestants will have one final opportunity to hit a home run with the "Bonus Ball." If successful, two additional home runs will be added to the contestant's total score.
Tickets for the derby are $8 for children (ages 3-12), $12 for adults or $36 for a "Family Four Pack" - which can be purchased in-person from the CenturyLink Center arena box offices, by calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.
Joining Russell in the 2016 College Home Run Derby are:
Dylan Busby (Florida State University) - Busby capped off the 2016 campaign by ranking in the top five of 10 major team categories including slugging percentage (.597-1st), total bases (148-t-1st), triples (5-1st), home runs (14-1st), RBI (55-2nd), doubles (16-t-2nd), hits (80-3rd), runs scored (49-3rd), stolen bases (11-3rd) and batting average (.323-4th).
Greg Deichmann (Louisiana State University) - Deichmann appeared in 64 games in 2016 (62 starts), batting .288 (68-for-236) with 14 doubles, three triples, 11 homers, 57 RBI, 45 runs and five steals - finished as LSU's lead in homers and RBI. He was also LSU's leading hitter in postseason games (SEC and NCAA Tournament combined), batting .385 (15-for-39) with one double, five homers, 16 RBI and seven runs.
Adam Kuffner (University of Mississippi) - In three seasons at Ole Miss, Bortles has belted 17 home runs, including eight in 2016 to rank second on the team. The Oviedo, Florida native also has three career grand slams to his credit. He was one of three Rebels to start all 62 games this season, making 61 starts at third base and one at first base.
Hagen Owensby (East Tennessee State University) - Owensby's 88 hits this season were the most by a Buccaneer since Paul Hoilman - the winner of the inaugural TD Ameritrade Home Run Derby - recorded 99 in 2010. He led ETSU in home runs (17), batting average (.374), total bases (155), slugging percentage (.660), multi-hit games (29). Owensby hit multiple home runs in three games this season, while belting home runs in four straight games from Feb. 27-March 4 and three straight games from April 29-May 1.
Brent Rooker (Mississippi State University) - Team-captain Brent Rooker led the 2016 SEC Champion Diamond Dawgs in home runs (11) and finished fourth on the team with a .324 batting average. His 54 RBI's were also tops on the team. The Germantown, Tennessee native was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll both of his years on campus.
Gary Russo (Miami (Oh.) University) - Russo had his best year as a RedHawk in 2016, as he hit .271, slugged 19 home runs and registered 43 RBI. He posted a career-high .614 slugging percentage, as he also added eight doubles and three triples. The 2016 season marked the second-consecutive season that Russo totaled double-digit home runs, as he hit 10 in 2015. For his career, Russo smacked 31 home runs and notched 99 RBI.
The final player is to be determined.