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September 29, 2023

Three Bayou Athletes Sign to Play College Sports

Russell signs with MCC, Mancini, Batts ink names with NWCC

By Andy Collier

Sports Editor, The Bolivar Bullet

Bayou Academy had a huge week last week as three athletes signed to play collegiate sports. 

Senior golfer Collin Russell inked his name to play golf at Meridian Community College on Nov. 2. On Thursday (Nov. 3), senior softball player Marleigh Mancini and senior baseball player Austin Batts signed to play at Northwest Community College in their respective sports. 

Collin Russell

Russell has had an exceptional career in golf at Bayou as he’s played a key role in the Colts finishing state runner-up in 2019 (3A) and 2022 (5A). Individually, Russell as finished state runner-up two years in a row as he finished second in the 4A State Golf Tournament in 2021 and second in the 5A State Golf Tournament in 2022.

The chance to play golf on the collegiate level is something Russell has worked hard at during his career.

“It’s just a blessing,” said Russell. “It’s been a long time coming, and I’m just really glad to see what golf can do for me. I’m glad that I’ve been able to go out and go to places that most people have never been. It’s just been fun. I look forward to traveling and having fun with some friends.”

Russell said going on and making his decision on where to play took a lot of weight off his shoulders and was a huge relief for his family. 

“I think my mom is happier than I am,” said Russell. “She’s so stressed, but it’s just a relief to know where you’re going. You can go ahead and make plans for the future.”

Russell said the impression Meridian Head Coach Lance Strickland made on him proved to be a huge factor in him going to MCC.

“They have a really nice coach over there,” said Russell. “He’s been on me for a while. We got to talk over the summer and got to know him. He’s actually not the guy that started recruiting me, but he came in and caught my eye. It’s been great.”

When the golf season at Bayou starts this spring, Russell would love to lead his team to a state championship to close out his high career. 

“We’ve been really close,” said Russell. “We lost to Lamar by one stroke last year. It was close. The guys have been putting in a lot of work this summer, and we’ve been playing together this winter. We’re just looking forward to March and going out and starting off with a good season.”

Marleigh Mancini 

Mancini will be going to Northwest Community College to continue her softball journey after having an outstanding six year career at Bayou. 

The senior outfielder has made the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools 5A All-Fast Pitch Team two years in a row, and she was also selected to play in the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools 4A-6A All-Star game. This year, she hit .389 with three home runs, 35 RBIs and 34 runs scored and led the Lady Colts to a 22-10 record with a trip to the 5A State Playoffs. She was also a member of the Bayou Academy teams that finished 3A State Runner-Up in 2017 and 4A State Runner-Up in 2019. Since 2020, Mancini has hit .370 with eight home runs, 91 RBIs and 75 runs scored. 

Mancini was overcome with joy when talking about the chance to play college softball.

“It’s really exciting,” said Mancini. 

Mancini said she was convinced Northwest was the place to go when she went on a campus visit. 

“When I went on my visit, I fell in love with the campus and liked everything about it,” said Mancini. “I liked Coach (Chelsea) Bramlett, and I could just tell that she really cared about her players and cared about them as people.”

When looking back on her high school career, Mancini cherished her time at Bayou. 

“It’s meant a lot, and it’s really sad that it’s over,” said Mancini. “I can’t believe that I’ll never be able to play with them again, and it’s really sad.”

Austin Batts

Batts is a player that has put in the work and dedication to improve each year.

Batts had a solid junior season at catcher last year for Bayou’s baseball team as he played in the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools 5A/6A Futures Games. During his junior year, he hit .319 with a home run, 23 RBIs and 12 runs scored.

He transferred into Bayou from Cleveland Central where he helped the Wolves advance to the second round of the 5A State Baseball Playoffs as a sophomore in 2021.

The opportunity to play college baseball has always been a goal for Batts. 

“It’s exciting,” said Batts. “I’ve always wanted to play in college since I was little playing t-ball. I’m just trying to get up there and play with the guys.”

For Batts, the environment at Northwest made his decision to choose the school very easy. 

“It just felt like home with the coaches and the program they have,” said Batts

With baseball season still three months away, Batts was relieved about going on and making his decision. 

“It’s refreshing, and I’m just getting ready to focus on the season,” said Batts. 

Last year, the Colts went to the 5A State Playoffs but were put out in the first round. 

Batts would love to lead his team to the ultimate prize to close out his high school career. 

“I want to end it good and bring a state championship to Cleveland,” said Batts.

Collegiate sports in something that runs in Batts’ bloodline. Batts’ father, Rodney, was a standout baseball player at East Mississippi Community College in 1993-94 and at Delta State University in 1995-96. Rodney is a member of the Sports Hall of Fame at both schools and is currently the head baseball coach at DSU. Batts’ mother, Scottie, played basketball at DSU from 1994-98 and also served as an assistant coach on the DSU women’s basketball team for several years.