The sound of pads popping, whistles blowing and bands playing can mean only one thing: Fall ball is just around the corner. Returning Ole Miss players were all over Baseball America’s rankings of the top prospects in various summer leagues. Ryan Rolison, who went 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in the Cape Cod League, made BA’s list of the top prospects in that highly regarded circuit. UM’s Parker Caracci was tabbed as the best prospect in the Ripken Collegiate League, where he posted seven wins and a 0.70 ERA. First baseman Cole Zabowski also made the Ripken top 10. Pitcher Houston Roth was on the publication’s list of top prospects in the Perfect Game Collegiate League, and Dallas Woolfolk was a rather obvious standout (four saves, 0.87 ERA) for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. … Mississippi State left-hander Konnor Pilkington, who could be the first Mississippian picked in the 2018 draft, also pitched well for Team USA, and Bulldogs catcher Dustin Skelton made BA’s Perfect Game prospect rankings. … Mississippi College outfielder Blaine Crim was ranked among the top prospects in the Great Lakes Collegiate League, and Will Freeman, a sophomore right-hander at Jones County Junior College, was rated No. 1 in the Prospect League. Alabama native Freeman was 3-1 with five saves and a 1.80 ERA as a freshman for state champion JCJC. … Mississippi State’s new freshman class includes three members of Baseball America’s Top 500 draft prospects from 2017: outfielder Jordan Anderson, pitcher Chad Bryant and outfielder Owen Lovell. Ole Miss has two of the Top 500: pitcher Jordan Fowler and first baseman Tim Elko. … Southern Miss welcomes back standout closer Nick Sandlin, who showed good stuff in the Cape Cod League, and Matt Wallner, who won several national freshman player of the year awards last season. … Delta State returns a bunch of players from its NCAA Division II College World Series team, including slugger Zack Shannon, who earned a boatload of conference, regional and national honors. … Mississippi University for Women will have a fall program for its first class of recruits. MUW, which has applied for NCAA Division III membership, will launch its inaugural season in 2018. Coach Matt Wolfenbarger is a former Coahoma Community College pitching coach and Delta Academy head coach. The Owls announced 35 commitments from prep and juco players for the coming season and will hold an open tryout on Saturday at Columbus High, where the W will practice and play. The 2018 schedule includes games against Rust, Tougaloo, Blue Mountain and Belhaven.
Former Ole Miss star Stephen Head got a little love from Baseball America in its latest issue. The magazine, as part of a feature on Louisville’s Brendan McKay, listed the 10 best seasons by a two-way college player, and Head’s tremendous 2004 campaign at Ole Miss made the list. The former Hillcrest Christian standout, a sophomore that year, batted .346 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs as a first baseman/outfielder and posted a 6-3 record with five saves and a 2.82 ERA as a left-handed starter/reliever. Head was named the SEC player of the year (and Ferriss Trophy winner), outshining a group of teammates that included future big leaguers Seth Smith, Chris Coghlan, Alex Presley, Matt Tolbert and Matt Maloney. Drafted in the second round as a position player by Cleveland in 2005, Head’s pro career peaked in Triple-A. He played seven years all told, batting .263 with 73 homers and posting a 6.00 ERA in eight games as a pitcher in his final season in the Colorado system.
The college season ended on a sour note: Mississippi State’s 14-4 loss to LSU in the Super Regional at Baton Rouge. But all in all, it was – once again – a pretty sweet year for the Magnolia State. Two four-year schools played in the College World Series in their division. Three teams won conference championships. Four players won conference player of the year honors, and six earned All-America recognition. Led by C-USA player of the year Dylan Burdeaux, Southern Miss enjoyed one of its best seasons, winning 50 games and hosting an NCAA regional. State upstaged the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg, beating them twice on a manic Monday to advance to the Super Regional. Brent Rooker – first-team All-American, SEC player of the year and Triple Crown champ, Ferriss Trophy winner, 35th overall pick in the MLB draft – drove the bus for the Bulldogs, who navigated a bumpy road to a 40-27 finish. Delta State, fueled by All-American Zack Shannon’s monster year, won both the regular season and tournament titles in the Gulf South Conference en route to the Division II College World Series and a 45-13 finish. All-America slugger James Land helped power William Carey to the NAIA World Series, where the Crusaders won three games before ending their year at 45-20. Blue Mountain had its best season in the program’s short history, going 32-25 and making the SSAC Tournament for the first time. Ole Miss, Jackson State and Belhaven also had winning seasons, though the Rebels and Tigers had to be disappointed in their finish. UM, nationally ranked early in the year, went 32-25, lost in the first round of the SEC Tournament and failed to make the NCAAs. Jackson State (38-17) had the best record in the SWAC in the regular season but crashed in the league tournament, its only real avenue to the NCAAs. Belhaven, still transitioning to D-III, came in at 26-14 and saw Terrell Hodges earn NCCAA All-America honors. Mississippi College, having completed its transition back to D-II, wound up at 20-28, but a strong finish enabled the Choctaws to earn a berth in the Gulf South Tournament. There wasn’t so much to cheer about at Alcorn State (12-33), Mississippi Valley State (7-34), Millsaps (19-23) and Tougaloo (10-42), though the Braves did pull off an upset of Grambling in the SWAC Tournament and the Majors beat the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in D-III during the year. And so the book closes … but only for a while. Fall ball is just a few months away.
Both Delta State and William Carey University play on in elimination games again today in their respective World Series brackets. DSU (45-12) plays Colorado Mesa (49-11) in the NCAA Division II College World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas, while Carey (45-19) gets Lewis-Clark State (38-13) in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. … The Statesmen, upset in their CWS opener last week, stayed alive on Monday with a 4-0 win against North Georgia as senior left-hander Tre Hobbs threw a dazzling two-hitter. DSU is ranked No. 1, Colorado Mesa No. 2. DSU won the national title in 2004; Colorado Mesa reached the title game in 2014. … Carey beat Missouri Baptist 12-3 on Tuesday in its second straight must-win game. The Crusaders (45-19), averaging eight runs a game through four series contests, got four-RBI efforts from Tyler Graves and Larson Barkurn in Tuesday’s win. Graves has three homers in Lewiston, Barkurn two — his only two of the year. Carey won an NAIA title back in 1969. Lewis-Clark, which is playing on its home field, has won 18 national titles.
Here are a few names to know heading into the weekend: Cameron Baranek, Dominick Cammarata and Wes Degener. … Baranek is the leading hitter for Hope International, which is William Carey University’s first-round opponent on Friday in the NAIA World Series at Lewiston, Idaho. Baranek is batting .356 with 13 homers for a Royals team that is playing just its second season. The California-based Royals (35-16) can mash (66 homers) and dash (101 steals), but their pitching staff has a 4.48 ERA. … Cammarata is the hitting star for Pitt (N.C.) Community College, which is Hinds CC’s first-round foe on Saturday in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla. Cammarata has put up a .349 average, 17 homers and 69 RBIs for a Bulldogs team that is 41-7 with 16 straight wins. … Degener is the catalyst for Lindenwood (Mo.) University, which is Delta State’s first-round opponent on Saturday in the NCAA Division II World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas. Degener is hitting .399 with 21 steals and 54 runs for the Lions (39-18), who won the Central Region title in their first regional appearance. … But enough about those guys. Here are some picks to click for the home boys: Adrian Brown, Quinton Logan and Clay Casey. … Brown, Carey’s senior center fielder from McComb, does a lot of things in a loaded lineup that also features James Land and a band of Tylers (Graves, Odom, James). Brown is hitting .300 with four homers, 16 doubles, five triples, 44 RBIs, 60 runs and 36 steals. If the Crusaders make a run in Lewiston, Brown will be in the thick of things. … Logan, a sophomore from Natchez, is not Hinds CC’s best hitter – that’s Jackson Mitchell (.385, six homers) — and he’s not the Eagles’ ace – that’s Caleb Morgan (8-1, 2.23). Logan is a two-way threat for Hinds, posting a 1.19 ERA and seven saves and a .333 batting average with 11 doubles, 47 RBIs and 42 runs. Somehow, someway, he’ll be a factor in any success in Enid. … Casey, a transfer from Houston (by way of Northwest CC and DeSoto Central), has had a big year for Delta State that has been largely overshadowed by the ginormous year enjoyed by Zack Shannon. Casey is batting .346 (.673 slugging) with 17 bombs, 62 RBIs and 58 runs. If Shannon gets pitched around in Grand Prairie, Casey is certainly capable of picking up any slack.
Mississippi is having a heck of a year on the college diamonds, and it ain’t over yet. Southern Miss’ Dylan Burdeaux won Conference USA player of the year honors today, giving the state four such honorees. Burdeaux joins Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker (SEC), Delta State’s Zack Shannon (Gulf South) and William Carey’s James Land (SSAC) as top dogs in their league. (Rooker beat out Burdeaux and Shannon for the Ferriss Trophy that goes to the state’s best player.) For what it’s worth, Jackson State’s Bryce Brown had a pretty good case for SWAC POY, and Itawamba Community College’s Tyreque Reed (a State commit) led NJCAA Division II in hitting with an amazing .504 average. DSU, Carey and Hinds CC are all bound for the World Series at their respective levels. The NCAA Division I schools are only just beginning their quest for Omaha, with USM looking like it might have a realistic shot.
They had the best record in the league. They put up wow-inducing numbers, both with their bats and their arms. They’re the top seed in this week’s tournament and, even though wild and crazy things can happen in double-elimination play, it’d be foolish to bet against them. So, who are we talking about? Could be Jackson State, Delta State or Jones County Junior College. The description fits all three. JSU, which went 20-4 in the SWAC East and 36-15-1 overall, starts conference tournament play Wednesday against Southern University, the fourth-place team from the West, at Barrow Stadium in New Orleans. The Tigers hit .322 as a team with 421 runs and 132 steals; they posted a 3.46 ERA, a .252 batting average against and seven complete games. Tigers to watch: Lamar Briggs (.379), Jesus Santana (nine homers, 62 RBIs), Bryce Brown (.368, 25 steals), C.J. Newsome (50 runs), Miguel Yrigoyen (nine wins, 2.93), Jose Tirado (seven saves). Delta State, regular season and tournament champion in the Gulf South Conference, will start NCAA Division II South Region play on Friday at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. It’s a strong, seven-team field, including defending national champ Nova Southeastern and GSC powers West Alabama and Valdosta State. But DSU (41-11) looks up to the task. The Statesmen are hitting .320 with 432 runs and 60 homers; the staff ERA is 4.57 (fifth in the hitter-heavy GSC) with five shutouts and just 25 homers allowed. Statesmen to watch: Ferriss Trophy finalist Zack Shannon (.451, 18 homers, 84 RBIs, 60 runs), Clay Casey (.358, 17 homers), Seth Birdsong (9-1, 2.82), Zach Osbon (six saves, six wins, 1.35). And then there’s Jones County JC, ranked No. 1 in the country in NJCAA D-II. The Bobcats (44-2) open Region 23 Tournament play on Wednesday against Pearl River at Community Bank Park in Ellisville. JCJC batters hit .370 with 437 runs and 44 homers; its pitchers had a 2.64 ERA with 9.3 K’s per game. Bobcats to watch: Erick Hoard (.417, 12 homers, 53 RBIs), Shelton Wallace (.452, 62 RBIs), Fred Franklin (40 steals), Ben Stiglets (11-0, 1.60), Logan Robbins (11-0, 2.34, 83 K’s in 61 2/3 innings). P.S. William Carey won its opener in the NAIA Opening Round tournament and plays top-seeded Southeastern (Fla.) University today at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Carey knocked off Texas Wesleyan 4-3 with a four-run ninth sparked by big hits from Tyler Odom and Cody Christian.