There’s a lot on the line this weekend when Mississippi College hosts old rival Delta State to finish the regular season at Frierson Field in Clinton. MC (19-23) is 14-15 and in seventh place in the Gulf South Conference standings. The top eight teams make the GSC Tournament. DSU (35-10), ranked No. 1 in the South Region and as high as third overall in NCAA Division II, is first (23-7) in the league and trying to nail down the top seed in the tournament. The top seed hosts. After a terrible start, MC has won 17 of its last 23, including a clutch series win at Lee University last weekend. Led by Casey Echols (.347), the Choctaws have seven regulars batting .307 or better. But MC’s pitching (6.07 ERA) will need to step up. DSU is the GSC’s best offensive club, batting .323 with 44 homers. Zack Shannon has been amazing: .461, 13 homers, 71 RBIs. And the pitching quartet of Seth Birdsong, Corey Beard, Tre Hobbs and closer Zach Osbon makes taking a series from the Statesmen a tall order. DSU leads the all-time series 106-29-1. The teams play one game today and doubleheader on Saturday. … Millsaps begins Southern Athletic Association postseason play against Hendrix at Memphis today. Millsaps (17-22) is the sixth overall seed and is playing in the four-team bracket hosted by Rhodes, the No. 2 seed. Andy Page (.397), Lee Ogletree (.303, five homers, 34 RBIs) and Jacob Mardick (8-2, 2.59) have had all-conference type seasons for the Majors. … Blue Mountain finishes an SSAC series against Brewton-Parker at home today after sweeping a twinbill on Thursday. With Caleb Leach (.368, five homers, 35 RBIs) and Dustin Allen (8-3, 3.04) leading the way, the Toppers (30-23, 11-12) already had clinched a spot in next week’s conference tourney at Montgomery, Ala. William Carey (17-7 SSAC) also will be there. The NAIA nationally ranked Crusaders (34-15) are finishing up a non-conference series against Stillman College in Hattiesburg today. James Land hit his 15th bomb in a 16-6 win on Thursday. … Tougaloo finished its regular season 10-42, including a pair of home losses to Miles on Wednesday. Earl Sanders’ Bulldogs lost 18 of their last 19 and went 0-6 against GCAC competition. … Belhaven (26-14) is awaiting word on a bid to the NCCAA Tournament; regionals begin the week of May 15.
Even if you’re not partial to maroon or gold, there are compelling reasons to check out tonight’s Mississippi State-Southern Miss game at Trustmark Park in Pearl. USM (16-4) is on a seven-game winning streak that has propelled the Golden Eagles into a couple of the national polls. State (12-9) was swept three straight at Arkansas over the weekend but features the SEC’s batting average leader, Brent Rooker, a .446 hitter who also tops the league in slugging, RBIs and steals. His six homers lead the team. Jackson Prep product Jake Mangum (.378) and Ryan Gridley (.354) also have played well for the Bulldogs. The Eagles’ starting pitcher will be ex-Oak Grove High star Taylor Braley, who is also their best hitter. He has a 3.38 ERA in three starts and a .366 batting average with six homers and 22 RBIs. Meridian native Mason Irby, a juco All-America pick at Jones County Junior College in 2016, is the reigning C-USA hitter of the week. In addition to Braley, USM trots out three other sluggers with four or more homers: Dylan Burdeaux, Casey Maack and Matt Wallner, who might also make a mound appearance. State won last year’s game 13-5 and leads the series at the TeePee 5-3. … Meanwhile, at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson tonight, NCAA Division III rivals Belhaven and Millsaps will hook up in the decisive third game of the Maloney Trophy Series. The host Blazers are 12-8 and feature a trio of impressive hitters: Daniel Ammirati (.406), Terrell Hodges (.347, five homers, 22 RBIs) and Stephen Sexton (.338, six, 20). Andy Page leads the Majors (9-12) with a .341 average, and Lee Ogletree is batting .288 with three homers and 20 RBIs.
In Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday night, under the SEC Network spotlight, Jake Mangum and Noah Hughes — freshmen and former Jackson Prep teammates –- played starring roles for Mississippi State in an SEC series-clinching win against Vanderbilt. Mangum had a go-ahead, two-run hit in the eighth inning and Hughes delivered two scoreless innings of relief in the 5-4 victory against a Commodores team ranked as high as No. 2 in the country. But those aren’t the only names to know today. Other Magnolia State players taking star turns this weekend: Southern Miss catcher Chuckie Robinson delivered a go-ahead hit and threw out a Marshall baserunner trying to steal in the eighth inning as the Golden Eagles won the rubber game of their C-USA series on Saturday. … Ole Miss’ Wyatt Short notched his fifth save of the year and 18th of his career as the Rebels beat Tennessee 6-4 on Saturday and evened their SEC series. … Wallace Rios of Alcorn State hit two homers and drove in six runs as the Braves beat Alabama A&M 15-13 in a SWAC contest. … Nick Lowe hit a game-tying sac fly and Cody Christian drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth to give William Carey a 5-4 win over visiting Blue Mountain in a Southern States Athletic Conference game. … Garrett Odom blasted two homers and knocked in six runs to pace Mississippi College to a 13-7 Gulf South Conference win against Christian Brothers. …. Terrell Hodges went 6-for-12 with six runs, three RBIs and two steals as Belhaven swept Louisiana College in an American Southwest Conference series at Smith-Wills Stadium. … Millsaps’ Brennan Ducote had two hits and two RBIs to spark the Majors to a 4-1 win over Southern Athletic Association rival Rhodes in Game 2 of a Saturday twinbill. … And in Cleveland, where Delta State swept a GSC doubleheader from Alabama-Huntsville, ranked No. 9 in NCAA Division II, the heroes were many. Lefties Justin Vincent and Tre Hobbs threw complete games; Ben Pickard drove in seven runs; Brandon Cummins scored five times; and Trent Giambroni hit his seventh homer.
Mississippi College, which stopped a five-game losing streak with a win at Spring Hill on Tuesday, makes its first Gulf South Conference road trip this weekend, facing Shorter at Rome, Ga. It could be a telling series for the Choctaws, 7-7 overall and 1-5 GSC under new coach Jeremy Haworth. He said before the season that the pitching staff might be in for some growing pains, and that has held true. MC has a 5.73 ERA, though sophomore Jake Fraze (3-1, 3.77) and senior Tyler Scholl (0.77 in nine relief outings) have been stoppers. The defense, which Haworth was banking on for slick play, has endured some rough patches. The Choctaws have committed 27 errors with a cost of 20 unearned runs. Can’t afford that. The hitters have held up their end, with a .314 average. Logan Ferrell is off to hot start in his senior campaign, batting a team-best .418 with 19 runs. Hunter Bolin is hitting .393, Toler Robinson .348, Blaine Crim .333 and Caleb Upton .255 with 11 RBIs. MC lost 14 of its final 15 games last year under a lame-duck coach and limped to a 12-34 finish, 4-28 in the GSC in its return to the NCAA Division II conference. With a new coach in charge, the Choctaws figure to be more energized for the stretch run this spring. P.S. Delta State (9-5 and 8-4 at home) is 4-2 in the GSC and faces its first conference road series at Union this weekend. Will Robertson tops the Statesmen with a .491 average; Tre Hobbs is 4-0, 1.71. … Most of the other small colleges will open conference play this weekend. William Carey (11-5 with five straight wins) is at Martin Methodist in Southern States Athletic Conference play. The Crusaders have been led by Tyler Odom (.451) and J.D. Little (3-1, 2.08). … Blue Mountain (12-4) opens SSAC play at Mobile. … Belhaven, yet to play a home game at Smith-Wills Stadium, has won five of six after the 25-0 loss in its opener and hosts Sul Ross State in an American Southwest Conference series on Friday and Saturday. Adam Kowalczyk is hitting .385, and Tanner Cable is 2-0, 2.57. … Millsaps, off since Feb. 21, will take a sub-.500 mark into its first Southern Athletic Association series at Oglethorpe. Isaac Glenn was hot before the break, batting .406. … Tougaloo, after starting 0-16, has won its last two and will play its first Gulf Coast Athletic Conference series at Talladega.
There were hot starts (see Ole Miss and Southern Miss, who registered Opening Weekend sweeps). And there were lukewarm starts (Mississippi State went 2-2, with both losses to Florida Atlantic, and Jackson State also split its four games). Alcorn State celebrated the first win of the Brett Richardson era (6-2 vs. Southern University on Sunday) but lost its other two games in the MLB Urban Invitational. On the colder end of the scale, Mississippi Valley State went 0-4 at Nicholls State. Among the small four-year schools, Blue Mountain, now 8-4, swept three games over the weekend from Tougaloo, which fell to 0-14 on the year. William Carey beat NAIA No. 21 Missouri Baptist two of three. Delta State took two of three from West Alabama to start its Gulf South Conference schedule. (Worth noting: Tre Hobbs, a lefty out of Mississippi Delta Community College, threw a six-hit shutout for the Statesmen and is now 3-0 with an 0.47 ERA.) Mississippi College won one of three GSC games against West Florida, and Millsaps went 1-2 in a tournament at Piedmont College. Which brings us to the most inspiring performance of the weekend. That has to go to Belhaven, which bounced back from a 25-0 loss in its season opener last Tuesday to sweep a road series at Louisiana College. Senior slugger Adam Kowalczyk led the way with two homers, five RBIs and six runs in the three games. BU is slated to play at Millsaps on Tuesday in the first game of the Maloney Trophy Series.
JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton, heads a group of Mississippi-connected players named to the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game. Jones, a shortstop in Detroit’s system currently batting .304 with two homers for Scottsdale, is on the East roster. The West includes 2015 Mississippi Braves starter Lucas Sims and two Biloxi Shuckers alums, outfielder Michael Reed and closer Damien Magnifico. Magnifico had a magnificent run with Milwaukee’s Double-A team last summer, moving into the bullpen and going 4-1 with 20 saves and a 1.17 ERA in 42 appearances. The Fall Stars Game is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. CST and will be televised by MLB Network. … Connor Lien, expected to contend for an outfield spot with the M-Braves next spring, is scuffling in the AFL. He is hitting .171 with a homer, 18 strikeouts and two walks in 41 at-bats for Peoria. Still, Baseball America’s Bill Ballew calls Lien “one of my top sleepers in the organization.” … Jackson native and Ole Miss alumnus Cody Satterwhite, a veteran minor league pitcher, is on the U.S. roster for the first Premier 12 international tournament set for Nov. 8-21. Pool play is in Taiwan and Japan with the semifinals and finals in Tokyo. According to Baseball America, Premier 12 is the top senior event for the International Baseball Federation, now re-branded as the World Baseball Softball Confederation. Satterwhite, currently a New York Mets farmhand, is joined on the American squad by former M-Braves star Tyler Pastornicky and Biloxi Shuckers alum Brett Phillips. … Tampa Bay released former Jackson State catcher Jovany Felipe, who batted .182 in rookie ball this summer after signing as an undrafted free agent. … The Belhaven-William Carey rivalry apparently is no more. With the Blazers moving to NCAA Division III, their 2016 schedule does not include the NAIA Crusaders, their longtime rivals in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference and Southern States Athletic Conference. BU will play Maloney Trophy rivals Millsaps and Mississippi College next season. Carey is playing NCAA D-II’s Delta State and MC in 2016, as well as NAIA Tougaloo.
Starkville’s Dudy Noble Field is a hot spot in the state this weekend — weather permitting, as always — with Mississippi State hosting SEC foe Florida as part of Super Bulldog Weekend. At Braddy Field in Jackson, Jackson State faces a SWAC showdown with Alabama A&M. Down in Hattiesburg at Taylor Park, Southern Miss has a big C-USA series against Florida Atlantic. Up in Cleveland, Ferriss Field will fill up for Delta State’s Gulf South Conference battle with Shorter. Mississippi Valley State will host Belhaven in Itta Bena today and then travel to Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium on Saturday for a twinbill against the Blazers. And on Sunday at Smith-Wills, perhaps the most compelling matchup of the weekend will see NJCAA Division II No. 1-ranked Hinds Community College take on No. 16 Northwest Mississippi CC. The doubleheader begins at 2 p.m. Hinds dropped a pair to Southwest at Smith-Wills on Thursday, falling into a tie atop the MACJC standings with Northwest at 16-4. Hinds (29-4 overall) has gotten prolific production from Jonathan Washam (.402 entering the Southwest set), Madison’s Matt Jones (.394, 34 runs), Cleveland’s Marshall Boggs (.349) and Clinton’s Chase Lunceford (.353, five home runs). Randy Bell (7-0, 2.36 ERA) of Woodville and Houston Case (6-1) of Brookhaven are the top winners on the mound for the Eagles, and Madison’s Austin Sanders has nine saves. Northwest (25-8) has won 12 straight games, including a sweep of Northeast on Tuesday in which the Rangers scored 21 runs on 29 hits. Clay Casey, the former DeSoto Central star, has swung a mighty bat, with a .358 average, eight homers, 28 RBIs and 30 runs. Ole Miss transfer Dalton Dulin leads the Rangers with a .382 average and has a school-record 36 stolen bases. Coldwater’s LeeMarcus Boyd is batting .320 with 30 runs. Myrtle’s Colt Smith is Northwest’s ace, having posted a 6-0 record with a 0.54 ERA, and Tupelo’s J.G. Lipscomb is 4-1, 1.48.