Hard to imagine a worse start to a season than what Belhaven University endured on Tuesday. The Blazers yielded a stunning 19 runs in the first inning and lost to Huntingdon 25-0 at Montgomery, Ala. BU used five pitchers in the first, and none of the first three retired a batter. Shane Brown, a transfer from Copiah-Lincoln Community College, started and took the loss; he yielded a hit, three walks and a hit batsman. The Blazers, transitioning to NCAA Division III from NAIA this season, managed just three hits and committed four errors. The Blazers, who were stung in the preseason by the death of catcher Devin McCann in a car wreck, went 33-24 in 2015. Hill Denson’s club plays again on Friday at Louisiana College.
14 – Pitchers used by Millsaps College in going 1-2 in the Millsaps Invitational over the weekend. Daniel Ross went 5 1/3 innings against LaGrange on Friday to get the lone win.
13 – RBIs by Pearl River Community College’s Carter Hankins in six games over the weekend. The Wildcats (8-2) won five of the six.
11 – Runs in six games this season by Mississippi College’s Logan Ferrell.
10 – RBIs in seven games for Delta State’s Will Robertson.
9 – Losses to start the season for Tougaloo College.
8 – Road games scheduled to start the season for Belhaven University, which opens today against Huntingdon in Montgomery, Ala.
4 – Wins in four games to start Chris Kirtland’s coaching career at Jones County Junior College.
2 – Wins in two starts for William Carey University’s J.D. Little, who has a 1.38 ERA.
1 – Home run on Friday by Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s Brian Lane, the first at Biloxi’s MGM Park for the Bulldogs.
Baseball America, which ranked Mississippi State No. 20 in its preseason poll, published its preview capsule of the Bulldogs on the magazine’s web site today. BA predicts a rebound for State from last year’s 24-30 campaign based on the success its players had in summer ball and a recruiting class that ranked fifth in the nation. BA notes that State won the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball Most Valuable Program award, which sounds impressive. State’s pitching woes in 2015 could be blamed in part on adjustments to the new baseball, coach John Cohen said. This year, Bulldogs pitchers will be adjusting to the loss of pitching coach Butch Thompson, now the head coach at Auburn. Adversity doesn’t have to be a bad thing. As Cohen told BA, “(T)hat’s where character is born.” P.S. Memorial services will be held Sunday and Monday in Pennsylvania for Devin McCann, the Belhaven University senior catcher who died in a car accident near Brookhaven last weekend. Visitation will be on Sunday at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Pennsylvania, from 6-9 p.m. EST. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. on Monday at St. Gabriel R.C. Church, in Norwood, Pennsylvania. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for memorial gifts to be made in Devin’s honor to 220 Second To None Baseball Academy, 217 W. Peach Street, Vineland, NJ 08360.
Outfielder Terrell Hodges and right-hander Tanner Cable, both newcomers, are the two Belhaven University players appearing on the American Southwest Conference’s 2016 Watch List. Hodges, a Holmes Community College transfer, hit .296 with four homers, 36 RBIs and 31 steals over two seasons with the Bulldogs. Cable pitched (sparingly) at Delta State last season after two years at Northwest Mississippi CC, where he was drafted in 2013. Interesting season ahead for Hill Denson’s Blazers, who have a lot of new names on the roster. BU, transitioning from NAIA, is playing an NCAA Division III schedule this season but is ineligible for the ASC title. The Blazers (33-24 in 2015) lost top hitter Emilio DeSilva (.338), stolen base fiend Reagan Rutledge (53 bags) and seven-game winner Ben Allison. Adam Kowalczyk, who hit 14 homers, and closer Zach Osha (nine saves) are back. Belhaven opens on Feb. 16 at Huntingdon in Alabama. The Blazers will play their first eight games away from Smith-Wills Stadium. The home opener is scheduled for March 1 against Huntingdon at 4 p.m.
Even a social media boost from fellow Southern Miss alum Brett Favre couldn’t propel Brian Dozier into the MLB All-Star Game. The American League Final Vote winner was Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas, MLB announced a short time ago. Minnesota’s Dozier, second in the Final Vote among fans, fell short despite being tied for the AL lead in runs (65) and topping AL second basemen in homers (18) and RBIs (45). Jose Altuve of Houston was voted in as the starter at second base by the fans, and Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis was selected as a reserve on Monday. … Jim Davenport is the only USM product to make an MLB All-Star team. He did so in 1962 when he was with the San Francisco Giants, going 1-for-1 as a sub at third base in the first of the two games played that year. … Ex-Ole Miss pitcher Aaron Barrett has been activated from the disabled list by Washington (see previous post) and will be in the Nationals’ bullpen for tonight’s game at Baltimore. … Belhaven University officially began its membership in the American Southwest Conference on July 1 and will begin transition to NCAA Division III (non-scholarship) status on Sept. 1, according to a school release. The ASC, of which Mississippi College used to be a member, is comprised mostly of Texas schools, including UT-Tyler, UT-Dallas, Mary Hardin-Baylor and Hardin-Simmons. The Blazers, previously an NAIA member, played baseball in the Southern States Athletic Conference from 2010-15 and in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference for many years before that. Hopefully, the Blazers will continue their long-standing rivalry with William Carey, still an NAIA member. BU’s 2016 schedule hasn’t been posted. … The Laurel Black Cats semi-pro team will host the Magnolia State Tournament on Saturday and Sunday at Boston Park in Laurel. The Black Cats are 16-3 against a schedule that includes teams from Meridian, Jackson, Tougaloo, Perry County and the Gulf Coast. The Black Cats, owned and managed by Jody P. Babineaux, are carrying on the tradition of the independent Negro Leagues team of the same name that barnstormed the South beginning in the 1930s. … The Hattiesburg Black Sox, one of the state’s iconic semi-pro clubs, did not field a team this year for the first time since 1941.
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.
Jackson State’s Melvin Rodriguez is having a season worthy of Ferriss Trophy consideration. The senior from Puerto Rico leads NCAA Division I in batting. He currently sits at .446 with five homers, 44 runs and 52 RBIs for the Tigers (25-15, 11-6 SWAC). He also has a .505 on-base percentage and 11 steals in 12 tries. … Southern Miss (21-14-1, 9-8 C-USA), leads its conference in ERA (2.82) and fielding (.974). Those stats may bode well for USM’s chances of winning in the postseason, when those aspects of the game are magnified. … Ole Miss ranks last in the SEC in hitting at .247 and 13th in runs (187). Mississippi State is ninth in batting at .273 and sixth in runs (230). The schools rank 10th and 11th in ERA, State at 4.14, UM at 4.15. It’s little wonder both have struggled to win in the league. … Delta State has 36 homers this year, its most this decade, the school reports. Ethan Gill leads the Statesmen with eight. … Millsaps (25-10 with a game tonight against Mississippi College) will host Rhodes, Hendrix and Sewanee this weekend in a Southern Athletic Association double-elimination tournament. The winner advances to the SAA’s best-of-3 championship series. The Majors are 19-4 at Twenty Field. … Belhaven University improved to 6-0 against Tougaloo this season with a 14-4 win on Monday. BU is 32-20 overall but just 10-16 in the Southern States Athletic Conference heading into a season-ending series at rival William Carey this weekend. WCU is 25-19 (heading into a twinbill at Tougaloo today) and 16-9 in the league. Tyler Richardson continues to shine for the Crusaders, with a .374 average, 43 runs and 28 RBIs in 40 games. … Hinds Community College snatched first place in the MACJC with its dramatic sweep of Northwest on Sunday. The NJCAA Division II top-ranked Eagles (31-4) are 18-4 in the league and take on Jones County JC (14-8) in Raymond on Wednesday. Northwest (16-6) visits East Mississippi (16-6) on Wednesday, and Meridian (also 16-6) has a twinbill at last-place Coahoma that day. … A bunch of Hinds players have nice numbers, but none are more impressive than Austin Sanders’. The Ole Miss signee is 3-0 with nine saves and a 1.48 ERA.
Belhaven University visits Mississippi College tonight in the first game of the Maloney Trophy Series. BU, still an NAIA member, is 23-12, led by the terrific trio of Emilio DeSilva (.347, 26 steals, 36 runs), Paul Pickerrell (.344, 34 RBIs, 36 runs) and Adam Kowalczyk (.333, six homers, 37 RBIs). MC, in its first year back in NCAA Division II, has taken some lumps. The Choctaws are 9-17 – but are 7-2 outside the Gulf South Conference and have won six of 13 games at Frierson Field in Clinton. Starkville Academy product Hunter Bolin has been MC’s steadiest hitter, batting .383 with 17 RBIs and 18 runs. A 5.84 staff ERA tells a lot about the Choctaws’ season. … Millsaps, the other Maloney Trophy participant, is rolling along at 15-4 after an impressive sweep of the University of Chicago on Monday. Former Madison Central High star Isaac Glenn has paced the D-III Majors with a .433 average, a homer and 28 RBIs. … Millsaps meets Belhaven on April 8 at Smith-Wills Stadium and hosts MC at Twenty Field on April 21 to conclude the Maloney games.
No college team in the state is hotter at the moment than Mississippi State. While the weather of late has been anything but consistent, the Bulldogs (6-0 as of this morning) have been steadily pounding the ball, scoring 72 runs all told, including 18 in a rout of overmatched Alabama State on Saturday. State is batting .343 as a team, led by Jacob Robson, whose .667 mark leads the regulars.
Also hot: Ole Miss’ J.B. Woodman (.429) and Christian Trent (2-0, 1.64 ERA in two starts) have carried the Rebels to a 3-1 start. … William Carey had a 10-game win streak stopped on Saturday in a loss to Loyola of New Orleans. The Crusaders are 10-1 and 5-1 in the Southern States Athletic Conference, led at the plate by Tyler Richardson (.435, 20 runs). … Keith Shumaker, Millsaps’ NCAA Division III All-American, is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his two starts for the 3-1 Majors. Shumaker beat D-III No. 8 Webster on Saturday. … Southern Miss has three players hitting over .350 — Dylan Burdeaux, Connor Barron and Tim Lynch — and a staff ERA of 2.29, but the error-prone Golden Eagles are 0-3-1 after a 3-0 start.
Also not-so-hot: Mississippi College coach Brian Owens notched career win No. 200 on Thursday in a 16-inning battle against Union, but the Choctaws dropped the last two games of that Gulf South Conference series. MC is 7-4 and 2-4 in the conference. … Belhaven was swept by Mobile in a three-game SSAC series at home this weekend, scoring only eight runs. Ranked No. 14 in the NAIA preseason poll, the Blazers (10-7) have a staff ERA of 5.08. … Pitching has also been an issue for Delta State, which is off to a 2-5 start. The Statesmen’s ERA is 6.38. DSU, 1-2 in the Gulf South, will try to play a home-opening doubleheader today against GSC foe North Alabama at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. … Jackson State has lost three of four after a 3-1 start. The Tigers also have had pitching issues: 6.24 ERA. … Blue Mountain pitchers yielded eight home runs in a doubleheader against NAIA No. 5 Faulkner on Saturday and were swept in the SSAC series by a 32-7 margin. The Toppers are 7-7, 1-5.
The lawnmower doesn’t always crank the first time for that first mow of the season. Some sputtering and stalling out can occur. Delta State’s baseball team knows the feeling. The Statesmen’s engine didn’t turn over for the start of their season. They scored just five runs (and stranded 24 baserunners) in three straight losses to Nova Southeastern in Florida over the weekend. Next up is Arkansas-Monticello today. Look for DSU to rev it up against the Boll Weevils. William Carey also got off to a sluggish start, losing its first five games before finally notching a victory. But there were no such problems for Belhaven, Mississippi College and Hinds Community College, to mention a few. BU is 6-2, including a win over NAIA defending national champion Cumberland, and winds up its nine-game season-opening homestand today against winless Tougaloo. Emilio DeSilva and Joey Harris are both humming along at .400 for the Blazers and have combined to drive in 24 runs. MC mowed over Tougaloo three straight by a 51-9 cumulative score and then chewed up equally outmanned Lemoyne-Owen 21-1 and 7-0 on Tuesday. Former Starkville Academy star Hunter Bolin is batting an eye-popping .588 with eight RBIs and nine runs for the Choctaws. Hinds, ranked No. 2 in the juco polls, beat Mineral Area (Mo.) in a pair of doubleheaders last weekend as Chase Lunceford cranked out six hits in 10 at-bats with a homer, two RBIs and five runs.