#5 - Grae Kessinger
(Yes, I had to use this picture.)
If I'm putting Ole Miss Baseball commit Grae Kessinger at five, then you know how not fair and talented the Class of 2016 has been in Oxford Athletics. I will put it this way: Any other year, #2-5 are at the top of this list.
This might be the best shortstop we may see in a long time at Oxford. Kessinger was at one point ranked as the top shortstop in the southeast if not the nation while at Center Hill.
I've mentioned this a few times before, but Grae is the grandson of Don Kessinger, who was an All-Star shortstop for the Chicago Cubs during his hay-day and is a former Ole Miss Rebel player and coach. Grae is also the cousin of Baseball teammate Chase and OHS-alum (and Dandy Dozen-alum) Anna Kathryn Kessinger. His grandmother though might not be as happy as to where Kessinger ended up being ranked as she is with the hits and errors I put up on the scoreboard.
Kessinger's level-headed even-keeled demeanor made a big difference for the diamond Chargers this year in their 35-1 State Championship run. Normally when Oxford gets off to the start they did in winning their first 32 games, they get a big head and there is usually a slip up. That slip up didn't happen, even in the loss. Oxford's defense was there, the bats weren't absent, the focus was there. The loss occurred on a home run that the defense couldn't do anything about. Kessinger and the Chargers made the other team beat them at their game, not let the other way around happen.
At the plate, Kessinger led the team in runs scored (46), doubles (13), stolen bases (16), and in batting average with RISP (.564 / 22-39). He was one of just two players to hit for the "season cycle" (hitting at least one single, double, triple, and homerun in the same season - the other was Drew Bianco). Among other stats, he was third on the team in walks (21), and tied for second in RBI (34).
Let's not forget his pitching. Coming into this past season, Kessinger was to come in to close for Houston Roth and Jason Barber and do spot-starts when needed. Needless to say that rarely ever did happen on the closing front as Barber and Roth were economical in their pitching and the fact that they were so dominant this season.
Kessinger was 3-0 on the mound this year but did not have a single save opportunity. (Barber and Reid Markle recorded the only two saves the Chargers recorded this year) He pitched 17-2/3 innings with an ERA at 1.98. He had 24 strikeouts (third on the team behind the duo), gave up 6 runs (5 earned) on 16 hits. The most impressive pitching stat he put up was out of the 80 batters he faced, only 6 times did Kessinger ever go to a 2-0 count.
I still owe Kessinger a Powerade for that triple in the championship-clinching game. He'll get it soon enough (he will get it this weekend), maybe by the time when that ring comes in.