Matt Lipka has been bouncing around the Atlanta Braves’ minor league system since 2010 with mixed results. He is a career .257 hitter but has hit as high as .288 in a season. He has stolen as many as 37 bags in one year. He has always been regarded as one of the organization’s best athletes, but his progress has been stalled by injuries. Yet Lipka is only 23, and in his second crack at Double-A, he is off to a flying start in what could be a crucial year. The Mississippi Braves outfielder, who goes 6 feet 1, 200 pounds, is hitting .368 with four RBIs and six runs. He takes a 12-game hit streak into tonight’s game at Trustmark Park. Lipka was a prep baseball and football star in Texas who was bound for Alabama before the Braves made him the 35th overall pick in the 2010 draft. He reached Double-A in 2014, but a hand injury ended his time with the M-Braves after 28 games. This year, he has teamed with David Rohm (.296) and Mallex Smith (.322) to give the M-Braves a highly productive outfield. The M-Braves, who have lost five in a row to fall to 9-9, are digging in for a 15-game homestand that starts with a five-game series against old rival Montgomery. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland of the Texas Rangers had minor elbow surgery on Wednesday and will be out up to three weeks, according to reports.
Tim Anderson hit .364 in a brief Double-A trial last summer. The ex-East Central Community College standout is showing this season that it was no fluke. Anderson, a first-round pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2013, is hitting .329 with 12 RBIs, eight runs and 11 steals through 18 games for Birmingham of the Southern League. “Every week that goes by he gets better,” Julio Vinas, the Barons’ manager, told milb.com. Anderson, a shortstop, also has played well in the field, where he had some hiccups during a big league spring training look. He is rated the No. 2 prospect in Chicago’s system by both Baseball America and mlb.com. Birmingham doesn’t come to Trustmark Park in Pearl until late August. Alas, Anderson may have moved up by then. … Staying in the ChiSox system: Mason Robbins lasted until the 25th round of the MLB draft last summer. From the early returns, it looks like the White Sox may have gotten a steal. Robbins, a lefty-hitting outfielder from Southern Miss, is batting .300 through 17 games at low Class A Kannapolis this season. This comes on the heels of a strong debut season in which he hit .304 with seven homers and 32 RBIs in rookie ball at Great Falls, Mont. He also had a 17-game hit streak. “He put himself on the map in the White Sox organization, which is very good to see,” Charlie Poe, Robbins’ manager in 2014, told the Great Falls Tribune. Robbins was the state’s Mr. Baseball at George County High in 2011 and was a freshman All-America pick and career .300 hitter at USM.
Ole Miss 11, Mississippi State 1. The largest margin of victory in the 36-year history of the Mayor’s Trophy/Governor’s Cup series. No one saw that coming Tuesday night at Trustmark Park — but maybe we should have. The Rebels (24-22) certainly have perked up at the plate. They had scored five or more runs in seven of their previous 11 games, including outbursts of 10, 11 and 18. Their team batting average is up to .266 after pounding State pitching for 15 hits. They also drew seven walks. With all due respect to Ole Miss senior pitcher Scott Weathersby, who was great on Tuesday in his first career start, State has fallen and can’t get up. Since that long-forgotten 13-0 start, the Bulldogs (23-22) have scored two runs or fewer 12 times. They’ve also lost eight times when they’ve scored five runs or more. Go figure. State has a .272 team average and five players hitting .295 or better. But clutch hits seem to be evading the Bulldogs much too often. See Wes Rea’s strikeout and John Holland’s bounce out with the bases loaded in the third inning on Tuesday night; UM scored five in the bottom half and took command at 7-0. The Rebels, 10-11 in the SEC with three series remaining, head to Missouri this weekend with some real momentum. The Bulldogs (7-14) get LSU in Starkville. That could get ugly.
Hinds Community College, the No. 1 team in NJCAA Division II and the regular season champion in the MACJC, will open postseason play against 8-seed Southwest Mississippi. The best-of-3 series starts Friday at Moss Field in Raymond. Sam Temple’s Eagles are 36-5, 15-1 at home. The Bears, who made the postseason in Ken Jackson’s first year as coach, swept a doubleheader from the Eagles on April 16 at Smith-Wills Stadium. In the other postseason openers, league runner-up East Mississippi will host Mississippi Delta at Scooba; Northwest gets Jones County JC in Senatobia; and Meridian welcomes East Central. The four series survivors will play a double-elimination tournament for the state championship at a site TBD, then comes the Region 23 tourney at Eunice, La. P.S. The last weekend-plus of the regular season in the jucos produced quite a highlight show. To wit: Northwest’s Clay Casey belted three home runs in a twinbill split on Saturday against Meridian. … Jones County’s Will Hazen threw his second straight shutout on Saturday as the Bobcats completed a sweep of Coahoma. … East Mississippi got grand slams from David Pimentel and Chris McCullough in a victory on Saturday over Gulf Coast, which won the nightcap on a Tyler Rachel walk-off homer. … Pimentel belted two more homers (that’s 13 for the year) in an 11-1 win on Monday that capped a sweep of Delta. … But the most impressive feat was delivered by L.D. Coney, a freshman at Southwest. He hit for the cycle in Game 2 of a doubleheader sweep over Northeast on Sunday. Coney, from McComb, hit his first home run of the season as part of the cycle.
In his ninth game of the season, Jarrod Dyson got his first stolen base. The ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star swiped three bags on Monday, helping Kansas City beat Cleveland 6-2. Dyson, who led the Royals with 36 bags in 2014, hasn’t gotten a lot of opportunity to showcase his speed to this point. He has only 18 at-bats (three hits) and has scored five runs for the 13-6 Royals. Dyson batted .269 and scored 33 runs in 120 games (260 ABs) last year. P.S. Pearl River Community College sophomore Jacob Taylor is the lone Mississippian on mlb.com’s new list of the Top 100 draft prospects. Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-hander with an upper 90s fastball, is rated No. 76. He is 2-5 with a 3.90 ERA for a Wildcats team that has had a rough year. The Picayune native has 44 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings in 11 games. … No. 38 on the list is Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of former Hattiesburg High and MLB star Charlie Hayes. The younger Hayes is a high school third baseman in Texas.
William Carey goes into the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament as the No. 3 seed, having secured that spot by taking two of three from rival Belhaven over the weekend. BU fell to the 8-seed. Carey plays sixth-seeded Bethel on Wednesday, while BU gets top seed Auburn-Montgomery at Montgomery, Ala. … Delta State, the preseason pick to win the Gulf South Conference title, goes into the GSC Tournament as the No. 6 seed and opens on Saturday with top seed West Alabama at Livingston, Ala. … Millsaps lost twice to rival Rhodes at home in its Southern Athletic Association tourney and must now wait to see if it is deemed worthy of an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III regionals. The Majors are 28-12 this year, 0-5 against Rhodes. … It should be a very competitive atmosphere when Ole Miss and Mississippi State tangle on Tuesday in the Governor’s Cup at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Both need every win they can get. … It was not a good weekend for Mississippi-connected starting pitchers in MLB. On Saturday, MSU product Kendall Graveman allowed six runs in 4 2/3 innings for Oakland (then was demoted to Triple-A on Sunday) and ex-Picayune High star T.J. House allowed three runs in just three innings for Cleveland. On Sunday, former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn yielded six runs in five innings for St. Louis and fellow UM alum Drew Pomeranz gave up three runs in five innings in a game the A’s would ultimately lose. … Props to former Rebels star Seth Smith for belting his first home run this season for Seattle on Sunday. He now has 86 for his career. … With Josh Hamilton apparently headed back to Texas, former State standout Mitch Moreland may see fewer at-bats down the road. Playing through a sore elbow, he is batting .310 with one homer. … Regardless of whether you like Buck Showalter, the former MSU star now managing in Baltimore, you’ve got to love his “These are the good ol’ days” MLB promo.
Out of the running for the regular season title in the Gulf South Conference, Delta State will head to West Florida this weekend looking to improve its seeding and build more momentum for next week’s league tournament. DSU (22-14) currently sits fourth in the league at 15-8. Mike Kinnison’s Statesmen have won six straight GSC series. West Florida is 28-16, 19-11 (fifth). This has been a highly competitive series over the years, with the Statesmen leading 29-24. Ethan Gill, former Itawamba Community College star, powers the DSU attack with a .349 average, nine homers and 46 RBIs. Jonathan Moody, reigning GSC pitcher of the week, is 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA (and four complete games) and will start one of Saturday’s two games. The three-game set concludes on Sunday. East Mississippi CC product LeDarious Clark is hitting .320 with eight homers, 36 RBIs and 17 steals for the Argonauts. … Mississippi College (12-31, 4-25 in its return to the GSC) plays at Valdosta State today and Saturday to finish its season and Brian Owens’ tenure as coach.
It’s time for the cream to rise in conference play. With Ole Miss hosting Alabama, Mississippi State visiting Arkansas and Southern Miss making the trip to Texas-San Antonio this weekend, here are three picks to click for the state’s Big 3, each of which needs to make a move. For UM: Colby Bortles, who has reached base in 19 of his last 20 games for the Rebels (21-21, 8-10 SEC). He is batting .288 with six home runs and 34 RBIs. For State: Cody Brown, who has 17 hits in his last 11 games, boosting his average 27 points to .323 for the Bulldogs (21-19, 6-12). Biloxi native Brown has 15 RBIs and 26 runs. For USM, Ryan Milton, who is 1-0 with eight saves for the Golden Eagles (22-14-1, 9-8 C-USA). The Jones County Junior College product has a 2.45 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.
The schedule brings Belhaven and William Carey together at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. In the Southern States Athletic Conference standings, the old rivals are far apart. With the SSAC Tournament looming next week, Carey is 16-9 and in third place. Belhaven is 10-16 and clinging to seventh. The teams are slated for a doubleheader today and a single game Friday. It’s been sort of an odd season for both. Carey (26-20 overall) lost its first five games, then went on a 10-game win streak that included coach Bobby Halford’s 1,000th career victory. The Crusaders were 13-8 in early March when they endured another five-game skid. But … they’ve swept three SSAC series and took two of three from Faulkner when it was No. 2 in the nation in NAIA. Carey’s offense has been sparked all season by Tyler Richardson, who is batting .382 with 45 runs. The Crusaders (.285 as a team) have two other regulars hitting above .300: Cody Christian and Petal’s Larson Barkurn. Pitching hasn’t been a strength of this club, which has a 4.56 ERA, but the Crusaders do have a potentially dominant ace to throw in Gavin Culpepper. The 6-foot-8 right-hander is 7-2 with a 3.21 and has 88 strikeouts and 22 walks in 73 innings. Belhaven (32-20), which saw coach Hill Denson notch his 1,000th college coaching victory this season, has been on a rollercoaster, as well. After a 9-4 start, the Blazers were swept in a three-game series at home by SSAC foe Mobile in late February. They were on an 8-1 roll when they were swept at home by Auburn-Montgomery in late March. They also were swept at home by Faulkner earlier this month. BU hits .302 as a team and, led by Adam Kowalczyk’s 12 bombs, is second in the SSAC with 28 home runs. What the Blazers do best, however, is steal bases. They lead the league with 170 and have three of the top six individual base burglars. Reagan Rutledge leads the pack with 49, Emilio DeSilva has 33 and Paul Pickerrell 27. BU’s most reliable starting pitcher has been Ben Allison (7-3, 3.52). The team’s ERA is a shaky 4.52, but its defense has been a bigger issue: 106 errors, most in the SSAC, and 71 unearned runs allowed. P.S. In what has been a down year for Pearl River Community College, sophomore shortstop Derrick Mount has been tearing it up. Mount, a former Harrison Central High star, hit three homers and drove in 10 runs in a doubleheader against Co-Lin last week, earning MACJC player of the week honors. Mount is batting .359 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs for the Wildcats (13-27, 7-17 MACJC). Jones County JC’s Will Hazen, a sophomore left-hander out of St. Stanislaus, was named pitcher of the week on the basis of his two-hit, nine-strikeout effort in a 1-0 win over Mississippi Delta last week.
Billy Hamilton’s not hitting (.204), but he is still finding ways to have an impact for Cincinnati. The ex-Taylorsville High star scored both of the Reds’ runs in a 2-1 victory over reeling Milwaukee on Wednesday night. He led off the game with a single, stole second (No. 9 on the year) and scored on a Joey Votto hit. In the ninth, Hamilton, on via a walk, went first to third on a Votto hit and scored what proved to be the game-winning run on a wild pitch. “(W)e’re going to be the best base-running team in baseball,” Hamilton told mlb.com. … Corey Dickerson, who has been hitting (.302), belted a pair of home runs, including a game-tying shot in the bottom of the eighth, to help Colorado beat San Diego 5-4. Meridian Community College product Dickerson has four homers and 12 RBIs on the year. … Desmond Jennings has been scuffling (.212), but he made key contributions late in Tampa Bay’s 7-5 win over Boston. The former Itawamba CC standout, who went 2-for-4, scored a run in a four-run sixth that tied it at 5-5 and then got the go-ahead run across in the seventh when he grounded into a double play. Not an RBI, but a productive out.