One of my favorite baseball movies is 61*
It’s the movie about New Yankees stars Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle trying to eclipse Babe Ruth’s home run record of 60. Maris broke the record and finished with 61 home runs in the season of 1961.
In the last 20 years, 70 home runs have been hit twice in the Major Leagues with Mark McGwire hitting 70 in 1998 and Barry Bonds hitting 73 in 2001.
With all that being said watching Delta State University first baseman Zack Shannon play has been a pleasure. His 23 home runs are more than anyone in all classifications of NCAA and NAIA. In Division II, Shannon is one home run ahead of Limestone’s Chase Allen who currently has 22 home runs in 38 games.
After doing research on college baseball in the state, I would say a magic home run number in a season that would pop up in my mind is 30. In my research, I have been able to get information from 11 of the 15 universities that play baseball in the state.
Out of those 11, none of them have had a player record a 30-home run season. That’s right, not one. Mississippi State had two players that have hit 29 home runs, Bruce Castoria in 1981 and Rafael Palmeiro in 1984, and one player that hit 28, Will Clark in 1984. Palmeiro and Clark both went on to have stellar Major League careers.
When you think about a college baseball season lasting between 45-60 games, 30 home runs in a season is an astronomical number. It’s only happened three times in Division II with the record of 36 set in 1998 by West Georgia’s Brian Davis and one time in Division III in 1995 when Tim Jorgensen hit 39 bombs in 44 games for the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans in 1995.
The feat has happened quite a few times in Division I. From 1997-2003, a total of 18 players reached the 30-home run plateau but since 2004 it’s only been reached twice with Georgia Southern’s Victor Roache hitting 30 in 62 games in 2011 and San Diego’s Chris Bryant hitting 31 in 62 games in 2013. The Division I record for home runs in a season is 48, which was hit by Oklahoma State’s Pete Incaviglia over the course of 75 games in 1985.
There are some great players that have had 30 or more homers and Shannon is rapidly approaching that list with 12 games left on DSU’s regular season schedule before the conference tournament.
The great thing about Shannon, who is on the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list, is he’s not just a home run hitter: he’s an all-around intelligent hitter. He’s currently hitting a robust .445 and has struck out just 16 times in 165 total plates appearances. That means he’s homered more frequently than he’s struck out. He’s also walked 18 times and been hit six times.
Before Shannon gets to 30, the most pressing magic number is 26. That’s the DSU record for home runs in a season set by Dee Haynes in 1999.
The Statesmen, ranked fifth in the nation with a 29-6 record, will host Lee University in a three-game Gulf South Conference series this weekend. The series at Dave “Boo” Ferriss Field at Tim and Nancy Harvey Stadium will start with a doubleheader at 2 p.m. and will end on Sunday with a single game at 2 p.m.
With Shannon on the role he’s on for the Statesmen, this weekend has the makings of being a special one.
Top Home Run Seasons in Mississippi
Player School HR Year
Bruce Castoria MSU 29 1981
Rafael Palmeiro MSU 29 1984
Will Clark MSU 28 1984
Dee Haynes DSU 26 1999
Will Clark MSU 25 1985
Brent Rooker MSU 23 2017
Zack Shannon DSU 23 2018
Jeff Cook USM 23 2003
Clint King USM 23 2003
Fred Cooley USM 23 1989
Bill Selby USM 23 1992