Before he was hitting bombs into the 20th row at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge or diving acrobatically into home plate at Dudy Noble, Brayland Skinner was a 5’9″, 150 lb kid out of Lake Cormorant without many offers. He also didn’t know how much his first opportunity would end up preparing him for the SEC.
Northwest Community College was one of those schools to offer him, and Rangers’ head coach Mark Carson jumped at the chance to get Brayland on board. When he committed, he considered having him pitch (Carson mentioned his impressive breaking ball) but decided to have him play in the outfield. He redshirted his first season in 2018.
“That (redshirting) was one of the best things to happen to Brayland because you still have that energy guy at practice,” Carson said. “He worked hard, fell in love with the weight room, got stronger and that’s when his game started to take off.”
While Skinner began to bulk up, he practiced with former SEC players. Current Ole Miss outfielder Hayden Leatherwood was on that team after transferring from Vanderbilt. Brant Blaylock joined the Rangers after a stint at Mississippi State. Seven others from that team transferred to other D1 programs headlined by Tanner Leggett (Mississippi State) and Ben Van Cleve (Ole Miss). Others included Reed Harding (RHP, Memphis), Drew Hurst (RHP, Austin Peay), Dakota Daily (IF, South Alabama), Kyle Moore (RHP, North Alabama) and Tanner Booth (catcher, Murray State).
The talent and competitive edge of that supporting cast motivated Brayland.
“Just by seeing the way they practice and how they carried themselves it makes you want to do what they do and get to the next level also,” Skinner said.
Skinner hit .370 for the Rangers in 2019 and .350 in a shortened 2020 season. After it was shut down, he had 8 D1 offers. Once Mississippi State gave him a call it wasn’t much of a decision.
“Honestly it meant everything,” Skinner said. “I dreamed of playing there because it’s my hometown school. Everyone wants to be the hometown hero. It’s amazing to have the opportunity.”
“He competes, flies and plays a great outfield,” Mississippi State head baseball coach Chris Lemonis said. “People don’t realize how well of an outfield he plays and he has been a pleasant surprise.”
Now, Brayland is contributing to a top-5 ball club, but he attributes a lot of his success to his JUCO days.
“It’s a lot different. You’re in a whole different state and get less attention. You really have to grind for it and you really have to want it. That played a big role and really made me want to play the game even more.”
The Bulldog play Auburn on the road this weekend for a three-game set with the Tigers.