William Carey University, yet to play a true home game, has won eight in a row and will take a 12-4 record into its first games at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg this weekend. Tyler Graves leads the Crusaders’ attack with a .442 average and 26 RBIs, and Adrian Brown also has been stuffing the box scores. The son of the former big leaguer of the same name is batting .385 with three homers, 15 RBIs, 22 runs and 10 steals. Lane Fazende, working out of the Carey bullpen, has three wins, a save and an 0.89 ERA. … Going the other way is Mississippi College, reeling from three straight one-run losses at West Alabama over the weekend. UWA scored four in the ninth to win 5-4 on Sunday. The NCAA Division II Choctaws, who play Spring Hill on Wednesday, are 2-13 and 0-6 in the Gulf South Conference. Casey Echols is batting .368 and Chance Whitten has four home runs, but the MC pitching staff has a 7.64 ERA. … Millsaps and Belhaven will battle on Tuesday at Twenty Field in a Maloney Trophy Series game; the Majors won the first meeting of the D-III rivals 6-3 at Smith-Wills Stadium last week. Millsaps is 6-6 but coming off what could be a springboard victory, rallying from a 7-0 first-inning deficit to beat Webster 13-11 in Memphis on Sunday. Jon Dale Dieckman had a big two-run hit in a four-run eighth inning that propelled the Majors. Seth Trulock and Jimmy Fondren also had two RBIs in that game. Belhaven took a series from American Southwest Conference foe Hardin-Simmons over the weekend. Tyler Wolfe (3-0, 1.53 ERA) notched a complete game in the 13-3 victory in the rubber match on Saturday, and Stephen Sexton had a homer and four RBIs. He is batting .355 with three homers on the year. Terrell Hodges is at .406 with two bombs and 11 RBIs. … Delta State won the rubber game of its GSC series at Lee University and moved to 10-3, 4-2. Juwan Burney, batting .406, led the Statesmen in the 13-5 clincher with a pair of homers. DSU will play D-I rival Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena on Wednesday. Valley is 1-4, having beaten Arkansas State 10-9 last Wednesday in its last game. … Caleb Leach (.433) and Dustin Allen (4-1, 2.81 ERA) have led Blue Mountain to a 12-6 record. … Tougaloo has dropped six straight to fall to 4-10. Correction: The Carey-MC game is scheduled for March 28 in Clinton.
Smith-Wills Stadium, approaching its 42nd birthday, will crackle to life again today for Belhaven University’s season opener. BU takes on Berry College at 4 p.m. at the Jackson ballpark, which opened in April of 1975 as the home of the Double-A Jackson Mets. The Blazers have called Smith-Wills home since 2006 – after the last pro tenant departed — and the big yard with the artificial surface has been a good fit. They went 12-7 at home in 2016 en route to a disappointing 20-18 overall record. Two key players return from that team: Terrell Hodges, a former Northwest Rankin High and Holmes Community College star, and Tanner Cable, an ex-Delta State pitcher. Both made the American Southwest Conference preseason watch list. Hodges, an outfielder, had a monster year in 2016, batting .397 with seven homers, 26 RBIs, 43 runs and 30 stolen bases in 38 games. Cable, a right-hander, was 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA in an injury-shortened campaign. Also back is third baseman Daniel Ammirati, a .331 hitter last year. Belhaven is still in transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III and is not yet eligible for the ASC Tournament or D-III postseason play. P.S. Jones County Junior College also opens today with a considerable target on its back. The defending NJCAA Division II national champs were ranked No. 1 by the NJCAA and Collegiate Baseball magazine and were pegged as the team to beat in D-II by Baseball America. The Bobcats, 54-9 in 2016, return a wealth of talent, featuring the power of Erick Hoard and Tanner Huddleston, the speed of Shelton Wallace and Fred Franklin and an armada of arms. JCJC starts with a twinbill today against Southwest Tennessee at Community Bank Park in Ellisville.
The Jones County Junior College express just keeps rolling on. The Bobcats, ranked fourth in the nation, beat Holmes Community College in Goodman 15-13 and 5-4 on Tuesday, improving to 18-2 in the MACJC and 35-3 overall under new coach Chris Kirtland. Over just its last 11 games, JCJC has won by scores of 11-1, 12-2, 13-3, 9-1, 13-3, 14-3, 20-1 and 8-3 before the sweep of Holmes. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s Brian Lane was named MACJC player of the week after batting .571 with a homer and six RBIs and extending a hitting streak to 11 games in four contests last week. The Delta State signee is batting .411 on the year with 29 RBIs. … In Cleveland on Tuesday, DSU’s Will Robertson, having a monster season, went 4-for-6 with two doubles and a homer in a sweep of Ouachita Baptist. Robertson’s 26th double broke the school record held by, among others, Statesmen coach Mike Kinnison. Robertson, a redshirt senior from Falkner, is batting .451 with six homers and 59 RBIs for the 30-13 Statesmen, ranked 15th in NCAA Division II. … Logan Ferrell, Caleb Upton and Hunter Bolin combined for 10 hits as Mississippi College beat Belhaven University 13-9 on Tuesday at Smith-Wills Stadium in a game between Maloney Trophy Series combatants. MC went 2-0 against BU this season and beat Millsaps in their only meeting. … Millsaps (19-19), which wound up fourth in the Southern Athletic Association regular season, will play No. 5 seed Berry in the first round of tournament play on Friday at Birmingham-Southern. BSC, the regular season champ, opens with Sewanee in one of the two four-team, double-elimination pods. The winners from the two pods meet in a best-of-3 series for the SAA championship. … Here’s an interesting stat on Jackson State’s Jesus Santana. Of his 33 hits, 10 have left the park; he also has eight doubles. The Tigers (21-17) host the University of New Orleans tonight at Braddy Field. … Tate Blackman got a hit for Ole Miss on Tuesday, extending his streak of reaching base to 22 of 23 games as the Rebels whipped Memphis 7-0 at AutoZone Park. The nationally ranked Rebels (27-10) also blasted three homers in the minor league ballpark. … Southern Miss, also ranked in some polls, lost at Tulane 12-0 on Tuesday, perhaps looking ahead to the huge series against Rice this weekend in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles (27-11) and Owls are tied for first in C-USA at 12-3. … Mississippi State (24-12-1) takes its various national rankings to Biloxi tonight to play Louisiana-Monroe at MGM Park. ULM’s roster includes seven Mississippi juco products, among them ex-Hinds CC star Keller Bradford, son of former big leaguer Chad. Keller has a 2.78 ERA in 23 relief appearances for the Warhawks.
Mississippi State jumped to No. 5 (from 10th) in the new Baseball America poll, and on Tuesday the Bulldogs will jump back into the fray against Southern Miss, unranked but rolling, in the first of the three College Series games at Trustmark Park in Pearl. This should be good. State, at 17-7-1, has more losses than any team ranked 13th or higher in the BA poll. But the Bulldogs have beaten Vanderbilt and Georgia two of three in their first two SEC series, apparently impressing the pollsters. USM is 19-6, coming off a sweep of a C-USA series against Texas-San Antonio. The Golden Eagles won last year’s College Series game, ending a six-game skid against State with a 3-0 victory before a rowdy crowd of 5,438 at the TeePee. You can debate the significance of these midweek games, but last year’s sure seemed to be a harbinger. USM was 13-8-1 at the time, finished 35-16-1. State was 18-8 and finished 24-30. If nothing else, a win for USM on Tuesday would be a big boost toward cracking the national polls. Looming just ahead for State is a home series with Ole Miss, 20-5 but coming off a lost weekend against South Carolina that dropped the Rebels from seventh to 13th in the BA poll. … A few miles from Trustmark Park on Tuesday, Millsaps will host Belhaven at Twenty Field in the second Maloney Trophy Series game of the year. The Majors topped their NCAA Division III rivals 10-7 last week. … And a short hop from Twenty Field on Tuesday, Hinds Community College and East Central CC will play an MACJC doubleheader at Smith-Wills Stadium. Hinds, ranked in preseason, is 11-13 and 3-5. ECCC is 19-7, 7-3.
Belhaven University is humming: 13-4 with a seven-game win streak. Millsaps is sputtering at 10-10. The timing of the first Maloney Trophy Series game of 2016 certainly looks favorable for the Blazers, who’ll host the Majors today (4 p.m.) at Smith-Wills Stadium. Of course, both BU coach Hill Denson and Millsaps’ Jim Page are likely to trot out a bunch of pitchers, so anything can happen. The Blazers’ hot streak has been fueled in large part by junior outfielder Terrell Hodges, a former Northwest Rankin High and Holmes Community College star. He is batting .463 (slugging .791) with four home runs, 15 RBIs, four triples, 22 runs and 15 steals. Last week, Hodges had 11 hits, two homers, six RBIs, 10 runs and five steals — and somehow did not win American Southwest Conference player of the week honors. Millsaps lost two of three at home to Rhodes over the weekend, scoring five runs all told. The Majors have only two homers (both by Lee Ogletree) all season. Isaac Glenn, the Madison Central product, leads their attack at .360 with 11 RBIs and 17 runs. Ogletree, from Raymond High via Hinds CC, is hitting .333 with 19 RBIs. P.S. Meanwhile, at MGM Park in Biloxi, Southern Miss will hook up with longtime rival Tulane in an intriguing non-conference contest. The Golden Eagles (16-5) and Green Wave (13-7) have met 152 times, with Tulane leading 93-59. USM features a lot of power, with 26 homers as a team, six by Tim Lynch, the preseason All-C-USA pick who is batting .373 with 22 RBIs. Tulane has some thump, too: 20 homers, led by Hunter Hope with five. USM is 0-1 at MGM Park, having lost to South Alabama earlier this month.
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.