Delta State, ranked No. 1 in some NCAA Division II polls, is undefeated no more. The Statesmen lost 12-2 at Harding today, unable to recover after allowing four runs in the first inning. DSU is 11-1 as it heads into its first Gulf South Conference series against West Florida this weekend at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. … The best active win streak among Mississippi’s small colleges now belongs to Millsaps College, which has won five straight and stands at 6-2. The Majors’ Maloney Trophy Series game against Mississippi College on Tuesday was postponed and they won’t play again until MC comes to Twenty Field on March 5. … MC, which scored 24 runs in its last two games (both wins), is 4-5 with Texas Lutheran coming to Frierson Field in Clinton this weekend. … Belhaven beat nationally ranked Freed-Hardeman at Smith-Wills Stadium on Tuesday and welcomes NAIA No. 3 Lee University for a Southern States Athletic Conference series this weekend. Lee is unbeaten in SSAC play at 6-0. BU is 0-3. … William Carey is 5-1 in the SSAC and 10-6 overall with a game against West Alabama today. … Tougaloo finally got to play at home and split a doubleheader today with Freed-Hardeman. The NAIA independent Bulldogs are 3-9. P.S. Delta State right-hander Michael Manley, a transfer from Meridian Community College, is 2-0 with a 0.51 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings over three starts. He has won the GSC pitcher of the week award the last two weeks. Eager to see how he fares against West Florida.
Nettleton’s Bill Hall, the veteran utility man vying for a roster spot with a loaded Los Angeles Angels club, went 2-for-4 with four RBIs today and is batting .375 so far this spring. … Ole Miss product Alex Yarbrough, just drafted by the Angels last summer and already on the top prospect charts, is also in the big league camp; he went 0-for-2 today. … Former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout Jarrod Dyson had a hit, two RBIs, two walks and two steals for Kansas City. … Joey Butler, a Moss Point native who played at UNO, is in Texas’ camp as a non-roster invitee and got his first hit, a double, today. He’s a 26-year-old outfielder with good minor league numbers. … Southern Miss product Brian Dozier has been playing second base (not shortstop) in Minnesota’s games; he had a hit and a run today. … Former Delta State left-hander Dusty Hughes picked up a win in relief for Atlanta, though he allowed three hits and a run in one inning. He’s got a 4.50 ERA this spring. … See where DSU alum Edwin Maysonet is in camp with the Chicago Cubs, trying to stick as backup infielder. … Former UM star Justin Henry, acquired from Detroit by Boston in an off-season trade, went 0-for-2 with two punchouts for the Red Sox. … Mississippi State alum Tyler Moore went 1-for-3 for Washington and is 2-for-11 this spring. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, the stolen base king, is just 1-for-6 for Cincinnati and has yet to steal a bag.
Preseason hype, as we all know, has been the ruin of many a poor boy. It has not, at least so far, negatively affected the play of Tim Anderson, the ballyhooed sophomore shortstop from East Central Community College. Anderson, rated a top 10 juco prospect by both Baseball America and Perfect Game, is hitting .639 with five home runs and 12 RBIs through nine games for the Warriors, who have a doubleheader slated today at Pensacola JC. Anderson debuted this season with a 7-for-8, three-homer day in a doubleheader. He batted .352 with nine homers and 29 stolen bases last season at ECCC, then really gained notice in the Jayhawk League over the summer. Anderson, from Tuscaloosa, is committed to Alabama-Birmingham for 2014, but it’s a good bet he’ll be drafted high enough that he’ll be a pro this summer. P.S. Hinds Community College, ranked No. 7 in the NJCAA Division II preseason poll, is off to a 2-4 start, including a split of two games with the Millsaps College JV team.
Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon made their spring debuts for Philadelphia today. Meridian Community College product Lee was sharp, ex-Mississippi State star Papelbon not so much. Lee started and retired six of the seven Detroit batters he faced, walking one and fanning two. Papelbon, usually a ninth-inning guy, came on to start the fifth inning. He threw 22 pitches, 13 for strikes, two of which left the yard, including a monstrous home run by Miguel Cabrera. Papelbon’s day then ended after he issued his second walk. He allowed five hits and six runs all told in 2/3 of an inning. It’s only spring training, sure, but that had to hurt a little.
Delta State’s Ben Kingsley — not to be confused with the much-decorated actor, whose real name is not Ben Kingsley — delivered an award-worthy performance on Saturday. The real Ben Kingsley went 5-for-7 with six RBIs to power the unbeaten and highly ranked Statesmen (9-0) to a doubleheader sweep of Florida Southern at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. Kingsley is on a 9-for-11 run and is batting over .500 with a team-best 17 RBIs. The senior outfielder from Mantachie has an impressive list of credits. He batted .315 with three home runs and 47 RBIs for the 2012 DSU club that finished as NCAA Division II national runner-up. As a sophomore at Meridian Community College in 2011, Kingsley batted .366 with 19 home runs. He also starred on a state championship club at Mooreville High. DSU’s Ben Kingsley isn’t likely to ever win an Oscar — a la that other Ben Kingsley — but he certainly belongs on the watch list for the Ferriss Trophy.
The calendar says winter, but the boys of summer are playing spring training games in Florida and Arizona, which warms the heart if nothing else. In Atlanta’s Grapefruit League opener today, 12 Mississippi Braves alumni (and Delta State product Dusty Hughes) participated, with Joey Terdoslavich belting a home run that accounted for the Braves’ lone tally. In the Cactus League, three Mississippi natives (Mitch Moreland, Eli Whiteside and Julio Borbon) played for Texas and another (Jarrod Dyson) for Kansas City. McComb’s Dyson, battling for the center field job with the Royals, went 2-for-2. Can’t hurt. Also in that game, 2005 M-Braves pitcher Blaine Boyer got a blown save for KC in a contest that ended 5-5. Ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart went 1-for-2 for Cincinnati in its 11-10 loss to Cleveland. Luis Hernandez, another ’05 M-Brave, got in for the Indians.
Desmond Jennings is in the spotlight heading into 2013. The Itawamba Community College alumnus takes over center field for the Tampa Bay Rays, replacing the departed B.J. Upton. Jennings, who has played mostly left field — and played it very well — since he crashed the big leagues in 2010, says he feels quite comfy in center. He played it at ICC and in the minors and tells mlb.com that it’s his “natural” position. The former football star (wide receiver/DB) certainly has the speed, and he has been described as “fearless” in his approach to chasing fly balls. “There’s more responsibility (in center),” Jennings said. “You’ve got to cover more ground, but it’s a position I love to play.” The Rays would love to see Jennings, also penciled in to bat leadoff again, hit a little better than his .246 average of a year ago. But there were no complaints about his base-stealing ability — 31 in 33 tries — and he flashed his power with 13 homers. Jennings, 26, is a potential All-Star, and it’s his time to shine.
The word “reeling” might not be strong enough to describe Belhaven’s current state, but it’ll have to do. The Blazers went on the road for the first time over the weekend to begin Southern States Athletic Conference play and lost three games by a collective 27-2. Granted, Faulkner University entered the series at 9-1 and is nationally ranked in NAIA. But BU had to expect a better showing than that. The Blazers (now 7-7) get back on the field today in a Maloney Trophy contest at Mississippi College. The NCAA Division III Choctaws are 2-3 after taking two of three games from Berry College at Frierson Field over the weekend. MC’s Josh Perez (.450) and Rob Thames (.333, four RBIs) may be licking their chops after looking at Belhaven’s pitching stats from the Faulkner series.
Getting the ball on opening day is a big deal for a pitcher. It says a lot about how you’re thought of and what’s expected of you. The three aces thrown by Mississippi’s Big 3 Division I schools on Friday did not disappoint. All three went deep into their games, and all three won, with nice numbers to boot. Southern Miss’ Andrew Pierce, the senior right-hander from Stringer and Jones County Junior College, threw seven innings in a 5-2 win over Missouri; he allowed six hits, one run, fanned nine and walked one. That’s an ace. Ole Miss junior righty Bobby Wahl worked 6 1/3 against nationally ranked TCU and yielded three hits and no runs with eight K’s and three walks in the 1-0 victory. Mississippi State pounded overmatched Portland 16-1, but the work of starter Jacob Lindgren, the sophomore lefty from Bay St. Louis, should not go unheralded. He went six, allowing five hits and the one run with three strikeouts and three walks. Now, of course, we’re eager to see what these three will do for an encore.
0 — Road games Belhaven (7-4) has played this season. The Blazers open Southern States Athletic Conference play at Faulkner (Ala.) University this weekend. 1 — Season openers lost by Ole Miss in the last 31 years. The Rebels open in Oxford against TCU on Friday. 2 — Golden Spikes Award watch list members (Adam Frazier and Hunter Renfroe) who play for Mississippi State, which begins its season of big dreams on Friday in Starkville against Portland. 3 — Wins, in three games all-time, by Delta State against Nova Southeastern, another nationally ranked NCAA Division II school that comes to Cleveland for a big series this weekend. The two last met in last year’s regionals. 5 — Mississippi-connected junior college players in Perfect Game’s preseason list of the top 50 prospects: East Central Community College shortstop Tim Anderson, Meridian CC outfielder Johnny Youngblood, MCC lefty Zach Irwin, Pascagoula’s Colin Bray (an outfielder for Faulkner State CC in Alabama) and Northwest Rankin High alum Daniel Sweet (an outfielder at Polk State in Florida). 9 — Streak of NCAA Tournament invites for Southern Miss that was broken in 2012. The Golden Eagles, with almost everybody back from a 32-win team, open on Friday in Hattiesburg against Missouri. 16 — Pitchers used, eight by each club, in Wednesday’s Maloney Trophy Series opener between Belhaven and Millsaps. The Blazers won 9-6. .219 — Team batting average for William Carey, off to a 3-5 start.