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.
0 – Runs yielded in seven innings by Tre Hobbs, whose two-hitter on Saturday capped Delta State’s season-opening three-game sweep at Harding over the weekend.
4 – Home runs by the Statesmen, each by a different player.
4 – Hits by true freshman Grant Barber, who also scored three runs and drove in two as Mississippi College went 1-3 against Florida Tech.
5 – Wins in five games to date for Blue Mountain College, which got a combined 18 hits from Peyton Callahan and Josh Whitaker in those wins.
7 – RBIs by BMC’s Callahan over those five games.
8 – Strikeouts by MC’s Jake Fraze, who allowed two runs in seven innings to get the one W for the Choctaws.
8 – RBIs by Larson Barkurn as William Carey opened with two wins in four games played at three different locations.
9.28 – ERA posted by Carey’s pitching staff in those four games.
24 – Runs scored by Millsaps College in winning two of three at Huntingdon.
The college season in Mississippi starts on Feb. 1, when Blue Mountain College takes on Christian Brothers at BNA Bank Park in New Albany. (The inaugural game at the new BMC SportsPlex on campus is set for March 10.) Hard to believe the Toppers are entering their eighth season. BMC went 23-32 in 2016, 7-19 in the Southern States Athletic Conference, one of NAIA’s best leagues. Curt Fowler, the only coach BMC has had, welcomes back hitters Caleb Leach (.343, six homers), Peyton Callahan (.336) and Miciah Heard (.314, 31 steals) and hurlers David Torres and Christian Dale, both 5-game winners. … On Feb. 3, Mississippi College will host Florida Tech, NAIA nationally ranked William Carey hosts Shawnee State (as part of the WCU Invitational) and Millsaps plays at Huntingdon in Alabama. Delta State opens on Feb. 4 at home against Harding. Belhaven University’s first game is Feb. 10 at home against Berry, and Tougaloo will launch that same day at Loyola of New Orleans. Rust’s schedule has not been posted. Most of the junior colleges play the second weekend of February, and the NCAA Division I start date is Feb. 17. … For the record, MUW – and recently named coach Matt Wolfenbarger — will start play in 2018 as a Division III program.
Brian Dozier appears to be over his slump. The former Southern Miss standout, whose average had dipped below .200 in late May, has hit .375 over his last 15 games with two homers, six RBIs and 12 runs. The Minnesota Twins second baseman is at. 244 for the season with eight homers and 28 RBIs, a little off his All-Star production from 2015 but trending in the right direction. … A number of other Mississippians are producing some hot stuff with the bat: At Triple-A El Paso, ex-Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe hit his 17th homer on Wednesday and has three in his last six games. He is batting .314 for San Diego’s top farm team. … MSU alum Adam Frazier, at Triple-A Indianapolis (Pittsburgh), is batting .393 in June with 14 runs and 10 RBIs. He is at .333 for the year. … At Double-A Arkansas (Los Angeles Angels), Ole Miss product Alex Yarbrough is batting .357 over his last 10 games, boosting his average to .272. He is bidding to get back to Triple-A, where he began the season. … Southwest Mississippi Community College alum Kade Scivicque has hit .359 over his last 10 games for Class A Lakeland in Detroit’s system. The second-year pro, a catcher, is batting .276. … Miciah Heard, a Blue Mountain College player from Thaxton, is off to an 11-for-22 start in the Cotton States League, the New Albany-based college summer circuit. Heard, a .314 hitter for BMC, has 13 steals, nine runs and five RBIs in six games for the Tallahatchie Rascals. … Not exactly hot but glad to be back on the field is Anthony Alford, the former Petal High star. Alford, who suffered a concussion on June 10, played Wednesday for Class A Dunedin, going 0-for-3. The highly regarded Toronto prospect is batting .200 in an injury-wracked campaign.
William Carey and Delta State, both dreaming of a long and lustrous postseason, get started on that quest this week with conference tournament play. Carey, nationally ranked in NAIA, is the fourth seed in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament and plays Mobile on Wednesday at Montgomery, Ala. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders are 35-17 and finished 17-8 in the SSAC. Carey’s split of two games with Loyola of New Orleans over the weekend cost Blue Mountain a berth in the SSAC tourney. BMC finished 7-19 in the league, ninth behind Loyola’s 7-18. The 23 wins were the most in a season for Curt Fowler’s still-young BMC program. Delta State (34-15), nationally ranked in NCAA Division II, heads into the Gulf South Conference Tournament as the No. 2 seed at 23-10. The event starts Saturday at Pensacola, Fla. Mike Kinnison’s Statesmen took two of three from Mississippi College over the weekend, clinching the No. 2 spot in the tournament with a 23-6 bashing of the Choctaws in Game 1 of a Sunday twinbill. MC finished 17-30 and 7-25 in its first year under Jeremy Haworth and second season back in the GSC.
The state’s small colleges will roll out the welcome mats this weekend, with Delta State, Mississippi College, Belhaven and Millsaps hosting out-of-state guests for conference series. Also on the agenda are two matchups of in-state rivals: Rust at Tougaloo and Blue Mountain at William Carey. Tougaloo just beat Rust twice (13-0 and 15-1) in Holly Springs on Thursday; they’ll play another twinbill on Saturday. The BMC-Carey series (single game today, two on Saturday at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg) should be more competitive. Maybe. Carey is 18-8 and 4-2 in the Southern States Athletic Conference. The visiting Toppers are 13-13 and 0-6. Led by Tyler Odom (.416), Carey is batting .319 as a team. The Crusaders’ pitching also has been very good, posting a 2.81 ERA. Coach Bobby Halford has a stable of starters to choose from, including Devin Smith (3-0, 1.64 ERA) and J.D. Little (4-1, 3.50). For BMC, All-SSAC first baseman Seth Davis has scuffled (.227), but Miciah Heard has been hot (.325) and Caleb Leach has four homers in 33 at-bats. The key for Curt Fowler’s Toppers might be how well their pitching staff (6.90 ERA) handles Odom and Co. P.S. In juco land, the state’s two big dogs will be on home turf on Saturday. Jones County Junior College (19-1, 2-0 MACJC) will host East Mississippi Community College (4-14, 0-2). Mason Irby and Erick Hoard have combined for 13 bombs for the Bobcats; Hoard hit a grand slam and a three-run shot in a sweep of East Central on Wednesday. Meridian CC (17-1, 2-0) welcomes Copiah-Lincoln (5-10, 1-1). Jones and Meridian were rained out of their big showdown last weekend; it has been rescheduled for May 2, the end of the regular season.
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.
No one had a better opening weekend than Mississippi College’s Hunter Bolin. The junior from Starkville went 9-for-13 with five RBIs and five runs as the Choctaws launched the Jeremy Haworth era with a three-game sweep of Tougaloo at Frierson Field in Clinton. MC outscored the Bulldogs 32-14, and its pitchers posted a 2.63 ERA. If there was a downside, the Choctaws committed seven errors; Haworth is counting on defense to be a strength of this club, which is entering its second season of NCAA Division II play. … Jasper James, a junior from Wiggins, had eight hits and five RBIs in three games for Tougaloo. … Blue Mountain College took three of four from Judson College in New Albany, capping the weekend with a brilliant performance by Collin McCrory, who threw a one-hitter in a 5-0 victory. The junior from Amory was one out away from a seven-inning no-hitter. … Will Robertson, a senior from Falkner coming back from a 2015 injury, went 5-for-12 with two homers and four RBIs to help Delta State sweep Harding in a three-game series at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. … Nick Lowe and James Land each hit a homer and the pair combined for 10 RBIs but William Carey went just 1-2 on its trip to Ave Maria in Florida. … Millsaps put up 20 runs but won only once in three outings at the Firehouse Classic at Montgomery, Ala. Lee Ogletree, a 2015 transfer from Hinds Community College, had six hits and four RBIs for the Majors. He picked up three of his RBIs in an 11-7 win over Southwestern on Saturday. P.S. Worth noting: Pearl River CC scored in every inning of both games of a doubleheader sweep of Mineral Area CC on Saturday in Poplarville. The Wildcats won 14-7 and 16-8. After losing the season opener to Mineral Area on Friday by a 20-9 count, PRCC won Game 2 of that twinbill 14-4. Carter Hankins, a sophomore from Purvis, banged out nine hits and drove in six runs for the weekend.
The Southern States Athletic Conference is one of the best leagues in NAIA, having sent at least one team to the NAIA World Series for five straight years. William Carey University figures to be among the SSAC teams chasing postseason glory in 2016. “We return a ton of experience from last season and have added a deep and talented recruiting class,” veteran coach Bobby Halford said in a school release. Carey, which opens today at Ave Maria in Florida, returns seven regulars, topped by All-SSAC pick Tyler Richardson, who batted .385 and scored 50 runs in 50 games; Nick Lowe, who hit six homers and drove in 40 runs; and SSAC freshman of the year Tyler James, who stole 30 bases. Added to the mix are the likes of James Land, a slugging first baseman from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and Adrian Brown, an outfielder with speed and pop from Copiah-Lincoln CC. The Crusaders will miss ace Gavin Culpepper, who went 9-2 for a 30-23 club. Senior Mason Woodrow (3-4, 6.39 ERA in 2015) will be among the pitchers counted on to step up. Carey was pegged to finish tied for third in the league’s preseason poll. P.S. Blue Mountain, pegged eighth in the SSAC, opens today against Judson College in New Albany. Millsaps, coming off a 29-win season that ended in the NCAA Division III regionals, plays Randolph-Macon in Alabama today. The Jeremy Haworth era at Mississippi College will begin on Saturday, when the Choctaws host Tougaloo for a doubleheader. The opener was pushed back from today.
Time to take a break from the football recruiting blather and Super Bowl hype. Enough already with the Golden State Warriors. Opening Day Eve for college baseball is upon us. To get in the spirit of the new season, here’s a list of nine Magnolia State players to watch over the coming months:
1. Seth Davis, Blue Mountain, first baseman. No player in the state made a bigger leap forward in 2015 than Davis. A .195 hitter as a sophomore, the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder raked at a .396 clip last season, belting eight homers and driving in 40 runs. He was BMC’s first first-team All-SSAC selection.
2. Adrian Brown, William Carey, outfielder. Brown was a first-team All-NJCAA Region 23 pick for Copiah-Lincoln CC in 2015 after batting .318 with seven homers and 12 steals. If the name sounds familiar, it should. Brown’s father, also named Adrian Brown, played in the big leagues from 1997-2006.
3. Isaac Glenn, Millsaps, outfielder. Glenn, who played in the shadow of Keith Shumaker in 2015, will get a bigger share of the stage now. He led the Majors with a .436 average and 45 RBIs last year and earned first-team All-SAA honors. He’s now getting NCAA Division III preseason All-America notice.
4. Ethan Gill, Delta State, third baseman. Slugging is making a comeback, and the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gill can accurately be called a slugger. He came in last year as a transfer from Itawamba CC and led the Statesmen in homers (10), RBIs (51) and slugging percentage (.610). He also batted .325.
5. Gavin Collins, Mississippi State, catcher/third baseman. Collins made the SEC All-Freshman team at catcher in 2014 and was a preseason All-SEC pick last year but was set back by a hand injury. He wound up hitting just .228 in 35 games. Expect a bounce-back season.
6. Brady Bramlett, Ole Miss, right-hander. Drafted in the 22nd round by Oakland last summer, Bramlett opted to return to Oxford. That’s a real shot in the arm (pun intended) for the Rebels. After missing the 2014 season with an injury, Bramlett went 7-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 2015.
7. Nick Johnson, Southern Miss, right-hander. The former Ridgeland High star is poised for a bigger role with the Golden Eagles, who lost a lot from a very good 2015 staff. Johnson was 4-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 12 games and 27 2/3 innings. He limited batters to a .198 average.
8. Jesus Santana, Jackson State, third baseman. As a freshman in 2015, the Puerto Rico native led the SWAC in homers with 12 while batting .283 with 48 RBIs. He was All-SWAC last year and is now showing up on some black college preseason All-America charts.
9. Collin Carroll, Alcorn State, first baseman. Carroll won’t sneak up on anyone in 2016. Collegiate Baseball has pegged the senior as the SWAC’s projected player of the year and a third-team All-America. Carroll, a transfer from Southwest Mississippi CC last year, batted .337 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs.