Belhaven first baseman Tyler Akins attempts to make a diving play at Smith Wills Stadium.
Belhaven first baseman Tyler Akins attempts to make a diving play at Smith Wills Stadium.
JACKSON - When the five finalists for the C-Spire Ferriss Trophy were announced Monday, most baseball fans in the state easily recognized the first four names.

Madison County baseball fans should easily recognize the fifth.

Belhaven Blazer first baseman and closer Tyler Akins, a Madison Central grad and former Jaguar, joined Ole Miss outfielder Auston Bousfield, Ole Miss pitcher Chris Ellis, and Mississippi State pitchers Jacob Lindgren and Ross Mitchell as finalists.

"I'm just honored and blessed to even be nominated," Akins said Tuesday, minutes before his team was set to take on Oklahoma Wesleyan in the opening round of the NAIA National Championship at Smith Wills Stadium. "I feel like I've had an alright year, but the team has really helped me all along the way."

Akins, a senior, leads the NAIA in saves with 17. He has a 3-1 record and a 1.81 earned run average. When he's not pitching, he's playing first base and hitting. He currently sports the team's second-best average, hitting at a .340 clip and leads the team with 25 extra base hits and 47 RBIs.

"Tyler is the guy we want at the plate in a clutch situation," Belhaven coach Hill Denson said in a release from the school. "He has been huge for us this season. He is an outstanding player, and he deserves to be in the running for this award."

Akins said he enjoys swinging the bat more than pitching, but he's excelled at both.

Oddly enough, Akins pitched just six innings as a Jaguar when he played for Gregg Perry, who Akins said remains "One of the best coaches I've ever been around."

Belhaven defeated Oklahoma City University 9-8 on Monday with Akins on the mound. He wore a cast on his right hand to shield an injury he sustained to his left pinky finger as he took batting practice, but said he planned to play first base Tuesday.

Akins is the only senior in the group of five finalists.

Among his competition for the award, given annually to Mississippi's best collegiate baseball player - as voted on by professional scouts - is Bousfield, the Rebel outfielder who leads the Southeastern Conference in hitting. The junior from Oakland, Fla. is hitting .367 with 40 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and hasn't committed an error this season.

Ellis, another Rebel junior, has a perfect 8-0 record and a 1.96 earned run average as the Friday-night starter.

The two Mississippi State hurlers, Lindgren and Mitchell, are also both juniors. Lindgren currently has a 4-1 record and a 1.01 earned run average, and has struck out an amazing 82 batters in 44 innings. Mitchell, who hails from Smyrna, Tenn., has a 7-4 record and a 1.98 earned run average, and has held opposing hitters to a paltry .215 batting average.

All five finalists are set to attend the trophy presentation luncheon on Monday at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, which begins at 11:30 a.m. Boo Ferriss, the trophy's namesake, will be the guest speaker.

Fan voting will account for 10 percent of the final voting. Fans can vote by logging on to Votes will be tallied until 5 p.m. Sunday.