Blue Mountain and William Carey are creating a nice little rivalry in NAIA land. They’ll play the rubber game of a three-game Southern States Athletic Conference series today at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg as they jockey for seeding positions in the upcoming league tournament. Carey won Game 1 8-2 on Friday behind the pitching of Hunter Speer (8-2), who threw a seven-inning three-hitter, and three RBIs from RBI leader David Pementel, who has 43. BMC bounced back with a 5-1 win in Game 2 as Josh Letson (6-4), Mason Woolridge and David Torres combined on a six-hitter over nine. Five different Toppers drove in a run. Both teams are trying to get their house in order as the regular season wanes. Carey (now 29-18, 13-7 SSAC) entered the series having dropped seven of 10 games in April; its ranking in the NAIA poll sank to No. 19 this week. BMC (now 26-18, 9-11) came in with a three-game win streak but had dropped five in a row prior to that. The SSAC Tournament is just around the corner, slated for May 2-5 at Montgomery, Ala., and it’s a bear. Four of the nine teams in the league were nationally ranked this week, including No. 1 Faulkner. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders marched all the way to the NAIA World Series in 2017 and had high hopes again entering 2018. They began the year ranked sixth by Collegiate Baseball. BMC, still a young program under Curt Fowler, made the league tournament for the first time last season.
While the Drew Pomeranz-Kendall Graveman matchup was something of a dud, another Mississippi product provided the fireworks on Friday night at Oakland Coliseum. Mitch Moreland, the former Mississippi State standout from Amory, hit a grand slam that boosted Boston to a 7-3 win over Oakland and gave the Red Sox a 17-2 record, among the best starts in MLB history. Ole Miss alum Pomeranz, in his first start of the year for Boston, was tagged for three runs in the first inning and left in the fourth. Ex-State star Graveman lasted five-plus and was charged with the loss, falling to 0-4 with a 10.07 ERA. He surrendered a three-run bomb to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the second inning and the three runners on base when Moreland hit his sixth-inning slam were also his doing. Moreland was 0-for-2 against Graveman when he came up in the sixth but didn’t get to face the right-hander a third time. Emilio Pagan came on, and Moreland promptly crushed a high fastball into the right-field seats for the BoSox’s fifth grand slam of the season. Moreland is on an 11-for-23 tear, raising his average to .333 with two homers and 11 RBIs.
While Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw are hooking up in a marquee MLB matchup in Los Angeles tonight, there’s a Mississippi-flavored clash up the coast in Oakland that also bears watching. Boston, which has roared from the starting gate with a 16-2 record, welcomes former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz back from the disabled list. A 17-game winner in 2017, Pomeranz will oppose ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman, the A’s opening day starter who has struggled to a 9.87 ERA through four outings. (For the record, they did not cross paths in college.) Pomeranz, who suffered a forearm strain in spring training, made two rehab starts — one in Triple-A, the other in Double-A — and posted a 3.72 ERA over 9 2/3 innings. Graveman, who has yielded six homers this season, gets to face a scorching-hot Red Sox lineup (27 runs in three wins against the Angels) that may include State product Mitch Moreland. He has two bombs against Graveman in 12 career at-bats. P.S. JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High star, hit his first career walk-off homer — his first of 2018 — to propel Detroit to a 3-2 win in 10 innings against Kansas City today. Jones is batting .300 in 13 games.
Stuart Turner, the former Ole Miss standout, is catching at Triple-A Louisville in the Cincinnati system. He is 3-for-13 in four games. Turner spent 2017 in the big leagues after the Reds took him as a Rule 5 pick from Minnesota’s minor league system. He hit .134 with two homers in 37 games. He was designated for assignment by the Reds late in spring training, passed through waivers and was outrighted to Louisville. … Louis Coleman, the Greenwood native and ex-Pillow Academy star, is pitching at Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit organization. He has a 3.38 ERA and two saves in four appearances. The 32-year-old right-hander has a 3.15 ERA in 213 MLB games, the last with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016. … T.J. House, the Picayune High product, is pitching at Triple-A Charlotte in the Chicago White Sox’s system. The left-hander is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in two starts. House has a 4.44 ERA in 29 big league games with Cleveland and Toronto. The White Sox signed him as a minor league free agent in the off-season.
At Oxford-University Stadium, Ole Miss plays Georgia in a three-game SEC set Friday-Sunday. At Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, Mississippi State gets Arkansas. At Taylor Park in Hattiesburg, it’s Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee State in C-USA. At Braddy Field in Jackson, Jackson State hosts Alabama State in a SWAC East showdown. Here’s some quick takes on the big weekend upcoming for the state’s Big 4 Division I schools: Even after last weekend’s breakdowns at Vanderbilt, Ole Miss has to feel pretty good about the bullpen troika of Will Ethridge (16 appearances, 4.10 ERA, two saves), Parker Caracci (15, 1.73, six) and Dallas Woolfolk (14, 2.77, six). … Jake Mangum is having another standout year at State (.345, 31 runs, 12 steals), but the Bulldogs’ overall lack of punch (SEC-lows of 189 runs and 18 homers) is wasting some very good pitching. … The meat of USM’s order is pretty imposing: Luke Reynolds (.370, seven homers, 36 RBIs), Matt Wallner (.362, 10, 45) and Hunter Slater (.329, seven, 32). The 3-4-5 hitters combined for seven hits and six RBIs vs. Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday. … JSU’s Raul Hernandez is making a strong bid for SWAC player of the year, batting a league-best .406 with six homers, 14 doubles and 36 RBIs. The junior from Puerto Rico is first in the league in total bases (90) and second in slugging (.629). P.S. Division II Delta State also faces a big series this weekend, going on the road to play North Alabama in a battle of the top two teams in the Gulf South Conference standings. As crazy as Zack Shannon’s individual numbers (.453, 25 homers, 76 RBIs) are, the team’s offensive output is equally as jaw-dropping: 21 games with 10 or more runs, including slow-pitch softball sounding totals of 26, 25, 21, 19, 16 (twice), 15 and 13 (thrice).
Chris Stratton vs. Jarrod Dyson. Eighth inning, Chase Field, Phoenix. San Francisco up 2-0 on Arizona with a runner on. A Mississippi baseball aficionado moment. Dyson, the McComb native and Southwest Mississippi Community College product, won the battle, lashing an RBI triple to center field, chasing Stratton from the game. But the Tupelo native and ex-Mississippi State star ultimately won the war. Though the Giants’ bullpen would later blow the save, the team won 4-3 in 10 innings Wednesday night on a Brandon Belt bomb. Stratton was fairly brilliant in his second straight quality start. He yielded just five hits, the one run, walked none and struck out eight. He trimmed his ERA to 2.22 over four 2018 starts (and 3.29 in 24 career games). The lanky right-hander appears to have secured a spot in the San Francisco rotation, which is currently missing three injured members. “He’s one of our guys,” manager Bruce Bochy told mlb.com. Meanwhile, the triple was a big knock for Dyson, who is batting just .200 in 12 games with his new team. P.S. Also worth noting from Wednesday: In Syracuse, N.Y., Ole Miss alum David Goforth pitched two perfect innings as part of a four-man combo no-hitter for the Chiefs against Indianapolis. Goforth has 1.17 ERA in four games for Washington’s Triple-A affiliate. … In Perkinston, No. 5 Jones County Junior College beat Mississippi Gulf Coast CC 4-2 and 14-9 to extend its win streak to 10 games. Trace Henry had a go-ahead hit in the ninth of Game 1 and Robbie Woody and Brandon Hale drove in three runs apiece in the second game for the Bobcats (29-7, 14-4 MACJC). First-place Pearl River (29-7, 15-3) swept Hinds on Wednesday to maintain a one-game lead.
West Jones High will roll into Brandon on Thursday with a target on its back. The Mustangs moved into the top 10 in Baseball America’s new prep rankings, up to No. 9 from 16th on April 3. West Jones (22-1) is the only state school in the Top 25. MaxPreps ranks West Jones fourth in Mississippi, behind Madison Central, Northwest Rankin and Gulfport. Brandon (20-6) is No. 6. The Mustangs are led by dual threat Dustin Dickerson, who is batting .371 with three homers and 19 RBIs and is 6-0 with a 0.30 ERA as a pitcher. Evan Bynum is also 6-0 with a 0.81. Kris Riley leads the team with four bombs, Colson Harris with 19 RBIs and sophomore Sam Hill with a .411 average. The Mustangs’ only loss is to Hattiesburg, fifth in the MaxPreps poll. Brandon features state player of the year candidate J.T. Ginn, who is batting .460 with nine homers and carries a 4-0, 0.55 pitching ledger.