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.
Cody Satterwhite, on the comeback trail from a variety of injuries, has received a non-roster invite to the New York Mets’ big league spring camp. The former Ole Miss standout from Jackson, now 28, notched 15 saves with a 2.33 ERA at Double-A Binghamton in 2014. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him land a role in the Mets’ bullpen. … Former Mississippi State ace Chris Stratton, San Francisco’s top pick in 2012, has a non-roster invite to the Giants’ camp. Stratton, from Tupelo, reached Double-A last season. … Belhaven University, 4-0 after whipping Tougaloo 16-2 on Tuesday, will host the BU Invitational starting Thursday at Smith-Wills Stadium. The Blazers will play Culver-Stockton; NAIA nationally ranked Missouri Baptist, which swept William Carey three straight last weekend; and NAIA national champ Cumberland University. … Tougaloo’s game at Belhaven on Tuesday marked the coaching debut of former Jackson State star (and onetime Jackson Generals pitcher) Earl Sanders. … Blue Mountain went 1-2 last weekend at Georgia Gwinnett despite allowing 36 runs. … Hinds Community College, the No. 2 team in the national juco polls, has moved its opener to Friday (from Saturday) in Raymond. The Eagles will play two against Mineral Area (Mo.). … Also opening on Friday are Mississippi College, which will take on Tougaloo at Frierson Field in Clinton, and Delta State, which travels to Nova Southeastern in Florida. … The NCAA Division I schools start on Feb. 13. Both State and Ole Miss are ranked in various national polls. … Also slated to start on Feb. 13 is Division III Millsaps, which hosts Ozarks (Ark.) at Twenty Field on its Jackson campus.
When last we saw the Belhaven Blazers — on May 14 of last year — they were walking off the Smith-Wills Stadium turf following an 8-7 loss to Oklahoma Wesleyan. That heartbreaking defeat, in an NAIA opening round regional, ended BU’s season at 42-21. Today, the Blazers turn the page. They’ll walk back onto the Smith-Wills turf to start the 2015 season against Saint Francis (Ind.). Among Belhaven’s returning cast are two key position players: NAIA All-American Paul Pickerrell, who batted .345 with 44 RBIs, 48 runs and 38 steals, and Reagan Rutledge, a .278 hitter who swiped a school-record 64 bags, batted .278 and scored 60 runs. How those two go may well determine how the team goes. … Meanwhile, in Hattiesburg, William Carey also opens its season, facing NAIA nationally ranked Missouri Baptist at Wheeler Field, and a milestone watch begins in earnest. This is Bobby Halford’s 30th year as Carey’s coach, and he has 992 wins. The Crusaders (31-26 in 2014) are led by D.J. Johnson, who hit .305 last year.
Ready or not, the 2015 college baseball season begins in Mississippi one month from today, when Belhaven University hosts Saint Francis (Ind.) at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson and William Carey takes on Missouri Baptist in a twinbill at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Tougaloo, under new coach Earl Sanders, the former Jackson State star, opens on Feb. 3 at Belhaven. The Bulldogs will serve as the opening day foe for Mississippi College on Feb. 6 at Frierson Field in Clinton. MC, transitioning to NCAA Division II, begins playing a Gulf South Conference slate this season; the much-anticipated Delta State series will be April 11-12 in Clinton. DSU starts the 2015 campaign on the road on Feb. 6, playing Nova Southeastern in Florida. The Statesmen’s home opener at Ferriss Field in Cleveland is Feb. 18 against Harding. Opening day for NCAA Division I schools is Feb. 13, and each of the Big 4 is at home: Ole Miss hosts William and Mary, Mississippi State gets Cincinnati, Southern Miss plays Murray State and Jackson State welcomes Texas-Pan American. Alcorn State opens at Savannah State. Mississippi Valley State hasn’t published a schedule. The Delta Devils’ opener will be the debut of coach Aaron Stevens, a longtime assistant to Doug Shanks, who retired in November to take a high school job at Central Hinds Academy. Shanks had a good run at Valley, winning five division titles, but 2014 was a rough year: 4-38, 4-17 in the SWAC. NAIA member Blue Mountain also has not released its schedule. P.S. The Maloney Trophy Series between Belhaven, MC and Millsaps, once a nine-game round-robin, has been reduced to a total of three games. Maybe it’s time to bring Tougaloo into the mix.
With five hits in his last three outings, Anthony Alford appears to be finding his stroke in the Australian Baseball League. The former Mr. Baseball from Petal High is 5-for-12 with a home run, six runs and two RBIs in his last three games for Canberra. For the young ABL season, Alford is at .219. Drafted by Toronto in the third round in 2012, Alford has just 94 minor-league at-bats to date as he had been focused on football, which he has now given up. … Mississippians Hunter Renfroe and Tim Anderson got kudos from mlb.com’s Jim Callis for their work in the Arizona Fall League, which wrapped up last week. Mississippi State product Renfroe, a San Diego prospect, batted .284 with a league-best six homers and 20 RBIs. He also led the AFL in extra base hits, total bases and slugging. Anderson, a Chicago White Sox prospect from East Central Community College, hit .301 with six steals. “(F)ew shortstops can match his tools,” Callis wrote. … Tyrell Jenkins, the 6-foot-4 right-hander acquired by Atlanta from St. Louis in the Jason Heyward deal, posted a 2.22 ERA in the AFL. Jenkins, 22, is a candidate for the Mississippi Braves’ roster in 2015, which will be his sixth pro season. He pitched in high-A ball this past season. … Former M-Braves star Jeff Francoeur will get another shot (how many is that?) at making a big league club next spring, this time with Philadelphia. Francouer had a big year (.289, 15 homers, 69 RBIs) in Triple-A with San Diego in 2014, though he didn’t hit at all in his MLB trial. … Ex-MSU standout Tyler Moore is batting .299 with six homers, 17 RBIs and 19 runs in 22 games in the Dominican Winter League as he attempts to improve his stock in the Washington organization. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC alumnus Roy Corcoran, 34, is pitching in the Mexican Pacific League. The onetime major leaguer is 2-3 with a 3.66 ERA for Hermosillo. Corcoran, who originally signed with the Montreal Expos in 2001, pitched in independent ball the last two years. His last MLB season was 2009; he has a career 4.17 ERA in 82 games. … Belhaven University is ranked No. 14 in the NAIA preseason poll. The Blazers open the 2015 campaign on Jan. 30 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. William Carey also opens that day in Hattiesburg.
Hunter Renfroe mashed a grand slam in a televised Arizona Fall League game on Saturday. The former Mississippi State standout and San Diego prospect is batting .271 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in the AFL. … East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson, also playing in the AFL, had another three-hit game on Saturday and is batting .313 with two homers and five stolen bases. The Chicago White Sox prospect missed a big chunk of the 2014 season because of a broken wrist. “I definitely saw some things that helped me become a better ballplayer,” he told mlb.com about his downtime. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, understandably rusty, is 2-for-16 with eight strikeouts in the Australian Baseball League, where Toronto sent him to get some work in preparation for his return to the minors in 2015. … Belhaven University senior second baseman Paul Pickerrell has been named to the NAIA preseason All-America team. The Pearl River CC transfer batted .345 with 38 runs and 38 steals for the Blazers in 2014. … Preston Brown threw five scoreless innings and Reid Humphreys, the former Northwest Rankin High star, went 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs as the Maroon beat the Gray 8-0 in a Mississippi State fall scrimmage on Saturday. … Hinds CC, the NJCAA Division II runner-up in 2014, will open its 2015 season on Feb. 7 in Raymond against Mineral Area (Mo.) College. The Eagles will play 28 MACJC games next season. With Meridian re-joining the state association, every team in the league will play two games against every other team. There are still North and South divisions, but the playoff qualifying system has been altered slightly.