Round 1 of the Battle Royale that is the junior college postseason begins today at four schools around the state. The best-of-3 playoffs feature Hinds at Jones County; Northeast at Meridian; Gulf Coast at Northwest; and Itawamba at East Central. Pearl River, which claimed the MACJC championship on the regular season’s final day, has clinched a spot in the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament, along with region host – and No. 1-ranked – LSU-Eunice. The other eight schools are battling for four spots in that double-elimination event set to begin on May 16. Jones County, ranked third in the nation, lost its grip on the state title when it was swept by Meridian – 16-8 and 13-12 – last Sunday. The Bobcats (37-9) are led by Luther Woullard (.427, five homers, 52 RBIs) and pitchers Cooper Brune (11-1, 3.69 ERA) and Tyler Spring (8-1, 2.52). Other players of note in the postseason include: Hinds’ Andrew Beesley (.488, seven homers), Northeast’s Colt Chrestman (.431), Meridian’s Davis Bradshaw (.444, eight homers), Gulf Coast’s Brandon Parker (.422, 20 homers, 71 RBIs) and Josh Lewis (8-1, 2.11), Northwest’s Brant Blaylock (.381, 17 homers, 58 RBIs), Itawamba’s LaBryant Siddell (.381) and East Central’s Wyatt Ball (.366, seven homers). … PRCC (37-9) is ranked sixth in the new NJCAA D-II poll, and Meridian is 19th. Other than Northeast, every other MACJC school still playing was ranked at one time this season. Hinds is the defending region champion.
There were huge hits by Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge in the eighth inning and another dominant ninth by Aroldis Chapman, but don’t overlook what Jonathan Holder did for the New York Yankees in their 9-6 win over Boston on Wednesday night. Former Mississippi State standout Holder entered the game in the top of the eighth. Boston led 6-5 – thanks in part to State alum Mitch Moreland’s sixth homer — and had runners at second and third with one out. Holder struck out Christian Vazquez and, after intentionally walking Mookie Betts, got a ground out by Andrew Benintendi to end the inning. In the bottom half, as Yankee Stadium went nuts, Gardner’s two-run triple and Judge’s two-run homer off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, the former Mississippi Braves star, put New York ahead. Chapman then notched his ninth save with a three-strikeout ninth. Holder, who doesn’t get a lot of work out of the Yanks’ stacked bullpen, got the win and is now 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in nine games. He has delivered 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his last three outings. … While the Yankees have won 17 of 18 to move past the Red Sox into first place in the American League East, New York’s other team is in a nosedive. The Mets, under first-year manager Mickey Callaway, the ex-Ole Miss star, may have reached a nadir on Wednesday. They lost 2-1 at Cincinnati – the National League’s worst team – and suffered a batting-out-of-order gaffe in the first inning. Once 11-1, the Mets have lost eight of nine and fallen to third place in the NL East at 18-17. A headline in one New York paper called it a “laughable spiral.” The language will get worse if things don’t begin to turn around. “(W)e’re better than this, and we’re going to start figuring it out,” Callaway said in an mlb.com article.