One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi . . .
Brett Young, Chad Sterbens and Matt Mossberg are three good friends and good players on Calvary Chapel's baseball team. But their days as teammates will not end after tonight's game against Los Angeles Baptist in the Southern Section Division V final at 7:30 at Blair Field.
All three have committed to Mississippi and will enroll there this fall. In fact, Young (14-0, 1.18), the county's winningest pitcher this season, is so intent on going to school that he asked major league teams not to draft him this week.
All three were recruited by Ole Miss Coach Pat Harrison, who previously coached at Pepperdine and USC. Calvary Chapel Coach Joe Walters said Harrison's interest in his players grew significantly after scouts watched them play last summer.
Keith Kessinger, assistant baseball coach and recruiting coordinator at Mississippi, said it was unusual for a "top-20 program" to recruit three players from the same small school. "But we feel they have the ability to help us win games and take us to the College World Series level we are shooting for."
According to Kessinger, Young is "a big kid with good velocity, and we think he has a high upside." On Sterbens: "He can be a solid infielder for us. He knows how to play the game and knows how to win."
Because of NCAA regulations, Kessinger could not comment specifically on Mossberg because the school had not yet received his signed letter of intent.
Young and Sterbens, both 18, made their recruiting trip to Oxford, Miss., last September and fell in love with the school.
"The campus was huge, unlike anything else I'd ever seen," said Sterbens, the Eagles' shortstop. "And Coach Harrison made us feel like we belonged there."
Young agreed with Sterbens, and added he was further impressed with Mississippi's baseball facility. "It's incredible. It looks like a new minor league park."
Mossberg, 17, took his trip to Oxford two weeks ago at the urging of Young and Sterbens. He admitted to "being apprehensive" about going to the Deep South for school, but those concerns went away quickly.
"What I'd heard about the South--once I got there and saw it--those things seemed like a stereotype," Mossberg said.
The three players have been a big reason why Calvary Chapel (27-1-1) is the top-seeded team in Division V and has won more games than any team in the county this season.
On the mound, Young, 6-foot-6 and 226 pounds, has overpowered most opponents with his 90-mph fastball, knee-buckling curve and excruciatingly slow changeup. He has struck out a county-high 124 batters and given up only 39 hits in 77 innings.
Walters said Young will start tonight. If he gets the victory, he will be the fifth pitcher in county history to win 15 games and only the second to record a 15-0 season. La Quinta's Craig Jones did it in 1995.
"He has a great arm and a tremendous competitive nature," Walters said of Young.
Sterbens is only 5-11 and 170, but he is tough. He has played the last month with a broken bone in his right hand, sustained when he dived back to a base. But he hasn't left the lineup and is batting .512 with two home runs and 44 RBIs. He has also stolen 44 bases, tying the county's single-season record, and has swiped 85 consecutive bases the past two years.
"When his doctor looked at the break, he told Chad he'd have to take six weeks off for it to heal," Walters said. "Chad told him, 'I'll take six weeks off when the season is over.' "
Mossberg (6-1, 162) is batting .500 with four home runs and 29 RBIs. Walters said the center fielder has given Calvary Chapel "a large boost" in the leadoff spot. Mossberg, like Sterbens, has excellent speed; he has stolen 43 bases and has been caught only once in his last 65 attempts, dating back the past two seasons.
Young, Sterbens and Mossberg are three of 11 seniors on the Eagle roster. That experience, Sterbens said, explains Calvary Chapel's success.
"When you play with the same guys for four years, you know how everyone thinks and reacts," he said. "And no one is out there playing for themselves. It's all about the team."
Added Mossberg: "We're not out there trying to impress each other."
They have impressed almost every team they've played, including Riverside Arlington, which defeated Mater Dei on Tuesday to reach Saturday's Division I final against Long Beach Wilson.
Earlier this season, the Eagles bounced back from a 5-0 deficit to defeat the Lions, 12-9, and win the rain-delayed San Jose West Coast Classic title. Mossberg hit a grand slam to get Calvary Chapel back in the game, and Sterbens hit a three-run homer to give the Eagles the lead for good.
Calvary Chapel's only loss was to La Habra, in the second game of the year. But that doesn't bother Young as much as the Olympic League tie with Cerritos Valley Christian, which has been the Eagles' primary rival the last few seasons.
Sterbens said the Lancers would not play off the tie. "It felt good to 'mercy' them [have the game called before the seventh inning because one team has a lead of 10 runs or more] the next time we played," he said.
More than 10 of Calvary Chapel's opponents have had games cut short by the mercy rule this season, including three of four playoff foes. The Eagles are strong in every phase of the game. And Mossberg said they are determined to end the season as Division V champions.
"We were finishing junior high the last time Calvary won it [against Long Beach St. Anthony in 1995]," Mossberg said. "The last three years, we lost in the semifinals, third and second rounds. We're ready now."