Busy schedule at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium (with its artificial surface) this weekend: Millsaps College will play Wisconsin-Platteville on Friday at 2, followed by a Belhaven University-UWP game. On Saturday at 10, Millsaps and UWP will meet again, followed by a doubleheader between Belhaven and Centenary. Millsaps and Centenary will hook up on Sunday at 11, followed by a doubleheader (at 2) between Mississippi College and Gulf South rival West Georgia. That series will conclude on Monday with a noon start. … Unbeaten Delta State bolted to No. 7 – up eight spots – in the new NCBWA Division II poll. The Statesmen are 9-0 heading into a three-game series vs. Union University this weekend at Cleveland’s Ferriss Field. Mississippi College (7-3), ranked as high as No. 7 in one preseason poll, is 18th in the writers poll. … MUW opened its second season with a doubleheader sweep, 10-2 and 12-6, of Lane College on Monday at Columbus High’s field. Owls leadoff batter Heath Ford went 3-for-8 with three RBIs in the two games, and Leon Petite had two hits, three runs and three RBIs. … Tougaloo College and Rust College faced off in a Gulf Coast Athletic Conference series over the weekend, with the host Bulldogs winning both games to improve to 2-5. Rust is a new member of the GCAC this season. … Pearl River Community College’s Shemar Page and Jones County JC’s O’Neil Burgos were named the MACJC pitcher and hitter of the week. Page, a sophomore right-hander from Raleigh, threw five hitless innings with 10 strikeouts in a win last weekend against St. Louis CC. Burgos, freshman out of Brookhaven Academy, went 7-for-13 with a homer and four RBIs in the Bobcats’ 4-0 week. … Meridian CC, ranked No. 4 in preseason by Collegiate Baseball, is off to a 2-2 start with a doubleheader slated for Sunday against Copiah-Lincoln CC at Hartfield Academy in Flowood, just down the highway from Smith-Wills.
So many numbers to absorb in the young college season, but there is one that blinks like a blinkin’ beacon: 0.89. That would be Delta State’s staff ERA nine games — and nine wins — into the year. Hunter Riggins, a sophomore from Hernando, is leading the way with two wins and a spotless ERA.
Another shiny object: 17,660, the total attendance for the two dates at newly renovated Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, where Mississippi State celebrated its rich history and also found time to bushwhack Youngstown State in three games, outscoring the Penguins 36-5. Tanner Allen moved to the top in the way-too-early Ferriss Trophy race, going 7-for-13 with two homers and a ridiculous 13 RBIs.
At Oxford, Ole Miss drew 17,634 faithful for its two-game split with Wright State. Thomas Dillard, junior from Oxford, went 5-for-6 with a homer for the Rebels.
At Hattiesburg, Southern Miss swept Purdue in three games — starting with an epic walk-off in Friday’s opener — as 11,030 turned out at Taylor Park. Hunter Slater paced the Golden Eagles’ attack with eight hits, including a homer, with four RBIs and four runs.
In Clinton, Mississippi College lost two of three to Quincy, surrendering 29 runs. But only one of those runs was allowed by Ryan Lane, who turned in a two-hit, 11-strikeout performance in the 7-3 Choctaws’ lone victory.
There was no joy at Braddy Field in Jackson, where the J-State Tigers lost three games to Boston College, which was visiting the Magnolia State for the first time since winning the NCAA Oxford Regional in 2016.
Meanwhile, Millsaps (1-5) went on the road and allowed 38 runs in three losses. William Carey University (3-7) went on the road and scored just two runs total in a pair of losses to LSU-Alexandria.
Each of the state’s Big 3 is ranked in multiple preseason polls, testament to the talent they return from championship teams in 2018. But there will be opportunities for newcomers to step up. With the start of the 2019 NCAA Division I season upon us, here are some newbies of note at Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss: At State, freshman J.T. Ginn should need no introduction. Already pegged as a second-team All-America by Baseball America, the ex-Brandon High star — and first-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers last June — is expected to pitch and hit for the Bulldogs. Slightly less heralded among the State newcomers is Gunner Halter, a junior college transfer who could also have a major impact. The son of former major leaguer Shane Halter, Gunner figures to start at second base. He goes 6 feet 3, 180 pounds and slugged 29 homers in two years at Seminole (Okla.) State. He was drafted in 2017 and 2018. “He can do a lot of special things,” State coach Chris Lemonis said of Halter at media day. … The newcomer generating most of the buzz at Ole Miss is Gunnar Hoglund, the two-way star from Florida who was the 36th overall pick by Pittsburgh in last summer’s draft. But another freshman to watch is outfielder Josh Hall. Considering how stacked the Rebels are in the outfield, Hall may find playing time hard to come by, but he has a certain set of skills that could prove valuable. The Alabama native set a national prep record with 224 career steals, including 82 bags as a senior. In addition to his speed, he is also reputed to be a great bunter. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Hall was a first-team prep All-America pick and his state’s Class 6A player of the year. … At USM, true freshman Danny Lynch is expected to start at third base, filling the job vacated by C-USA hitter of the year and pro draftee Luke Reynolds. Florida native Lynch is the younger brother of ex-USM star Tim Lynch, who played three years in the New York Yankees’ system. Danny Lynch, listed at 6 feet 2, 225 pounds, is expected to provide some left-handed power for the Golden Eagles. “We really just have this great lineup. It’s easy, I just have to go out and play my role,” Lynch told the school newspaper, the Student Printz.
So, who won the weekend among the small colleges? Gotta go Delta State, which remained undefeated (5-0) with wins on Saturday over Southern Arkansas and Henderson State in an event at Arkadelphia, Ark.; David Herrington is raking at a .471 clip for the Statesmen, and Darek Sargent is hitting .412 with 10 RBIs. … Props also to Mississippi College, which moved to 6-1 by taking three of four from Lindenwood, including a sweep by the counts of 15-2 and 10-0 on Sunday. Garrett Hollinghead and Zack Ingram provided the pitching brilliance for the Choctaws, and Blaine Crim homered in both games. Crim is batting .346; Billy Cameron leads the MC attack at .417. … Belhaven opened its season by going 2-1 at Smith-Wills Stadium, including a Saturday upset of Rhodes, which is nationally ranked in NCAA Division III. Trip Benson had the game-tying and winning RBIs for the Blazers. … Millsaps, led by a four-hit effort from William Wagner, opened its season with a win over LeTourneau on Saturday but squandered an early lead on Sunday and fell 17-7 to Maryville. … Blue Mountain split four games with Central Baptist and is now 5-2-1. Trey Hathaway is 10-for-30 with six doubles and six RBIs for the Toppers. … One of the best individual performances of the weekend was delivered by William Carey’s J.C. Sanner, who threw a three-hit shutout at NAIA nationally ranked Campbellsville. The Crusaders are off to a 3-5 start. … Tougaloo lost three at NAIA power LSU-Shreveport to fall to 0-5.
“Play ball” time arrives for NCAA Division III schools Belhaven University and Millsaps College this weekend, with the Blazers set to open on Friday at Smith-Wills Stadium and the Majors on Saturday at Twenty Field as part of a round-robin tournament. Belhaven coach Hill Denson has announced that this will be the final season of his long and heralded career. The swan song begins against LeTourneau, a D-III school from Texas. The Blazers, 12-27 in 2018, a rare losing season for Denson, were pegged to finish 11th in the 12-team American Southwest Conference. The team had two players get recognition on the league’s preseason Watch List: second baseman Evan Moore, who hit .297 with 23 runs and 14 steals as a freshman, and right-hander David Hall, who posted a 3-6 record and 4.71 ERA last year. Pitching was a 2018 sore spot for BU, which put up a 6.53 staff ERA. Millsaps will play LeTourneau on Saturday, launching coach Jim Page’s 31st year with the purple and white. He topped 750 career wins in 2018 as the Majors went 25-19. The team returns outfielder Jimmy Johnstone, a .361 hitter and second-team All-Southern Athletic Association pick in 2018; outfielder Brennan Ducote, who batted .374 with four homers and 33 RBIs; and right-hander Conner Haynes, 4-1, 3.22 ERA. … Belhaven and Millsaps will play the first of three Maloney Trophy Series games on March 6 at Smith-Wills.
Names to know from college baseball’s opening weekend, which was, for the most part, a rousing one for Magnolia State schools:
Darek Sargent, Delta State: 5-for-10, a homer, seven RBIs as the Statesmen went 3-0 against East Central University.
Hunter Riggins, DSU: 5 2/3 shutout innings, one hit, 10 strikeouts.
Billy Cameron, Mississippi College: 4-for-10, a homer, four RBIs as the Choctaws swept three at Harding.
Zack Ingram, MC: six innings, one run, nine strikeouts.
Kyle Bayles, William Carey: 5-for-15, five runs, four RBIs, five shutout innings as the Crusaders went 2-2 against Missouri Baptist and Ave Maria.
J.C. Sanner, WCU: six innings, no earned runs, 12 strikeouts.
Drake Wallace, Blue Mountain: 3-for-10, a homer, five runs, four RBIs as the Toppers went 3-0-1 against William Wood.
Mason Woolridge, BMC: two saves, three scoreless innings.
As a flight of fancy, ncaa.com recently picked an all-time starting lineup of Mississippi State alumni, a Maroon 9, so to speak. It’s a very impressive bunch: CF Dan Van Cleve, SS Adam Frazier, 1B Will Clark, RF Rafael Palmeiro, LF Brent Rooker, 3B Travis Chapman, C Ed Easley, 2B Jeffrey Rea and P Jeff Brantley. Of course, a lot of great players were left off. One of the more glaring omissions would seem to be Jake Mangum, currently the Bulldogs’ center fielder. The former Jackson Prep star has a .356 average, 49 doubles, 87 RBIs, 154 runs and 34 stolen bases over 195 games entering 2019. He has been the SEC’s freshman of the year, an All-SEC pick, a Ferriss Trophy winner and an All-America selection. He has been drafted twice by MLB clubs. He led State to the College World Series last summer and returned for his senior season to try again for that elusive national title. It’s hard to imagine a player having had a greater impact on the program. He certainly rates a spot in the Maroon 9.
William Carey University lifts the lid on the 2019 college season today with a home game against Missouri Baptist at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. There could be some karma at work for the Crusaders this season; 50 years ago Carey won the NAIA national championship. WCU lost many of the key contributors from its 2018 team, which went 36-25 and played in an NAIA regional. “Last year’s team was built on speed evidenced by their 150 stolen bases as a team. This year we should have a little more power in the lineup with the guys we have coming back and the addition of new guys,” longtime coach Bobby Halford said in a school release. Back are second baseman Caleb Ledet, who batted .336 with 31 runs in 43 games; outfielder Lucas Scott (.283, 11 steals, 47 games); right-hander Devin Smith (7-4, 3.65 ERA); and righty Lake Robertson (2-2, two saves, 6.11). Newcomers to watch include South Alabama transfer outfielder/closer Kyle Bayles, a onetime Meridian Community College standout, and Pascagoula High All-State shortstop Patrick Lee. P.S. On Friday, Delta State opens at home against East Central University, Mississippi College visits Harding in Arkansas and Blue Mountain launches at home against William Wood. Tougaloo starts on Saturday against Selma in Alabama. Next week brings the openers for Belhaven University (Feb. 8 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson against LeTourneau) and Millsaps College (Feb. 9 at Twenty Field in Jackson, also vs. LeTourneau). The NCAA Division I start date is Feb. 15: Mississippi State begins the Chris Lemonis era at renovated Dudy Noble Field against Youngstown State, Ole Miss hosts Wright State, Southern Miss opens at home with Purdue, Jackson State welcomes Boston College and Alcorn State plays Prairie View A&M in the MLB Urban Invitational at New Orleans. Mississippi Valley State opens Feb. 19 at Stillman in Alabama.
Seven state schools, including the Big 3 NCAA Division I schools, are ranked in Collegiate Baseball Magazine’s preseason polls, which came out this week. There might be a tendency to take such news for granted – aren’t there a bunch of Mississippi schools ranked every year? – but we really should not do that. Let’s put this in perspective. Mississippi ranks among the least populous states – 34th in 2018, according to World Atlas – and is smaller, population-wise, than any other Deep South state. It produces good players: 16 Mississippi high school products appeared in big league games in 2018. Per capita, that figure is among the best in the nation. But there isn’t a large volume of talent. And there are 30 senior and junior colleges playing baseball in the state. College coaches here can’t just roll out the balls and bats and win games. Over the years, they’ve mined and refined the state’s talent to build winning programs and grow tremendous fan support. They’ve developed tradition and created brands that are attractive to out-of-state talent. Twenty-two state college alumni, including 11 who played high school ball in other states, appeared in big league games in 2018. Each of the state’s Big 3 had a player in the World Series this year: Mitch Moreland (Mississippi State) and Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss) with Boston and Brian Dozier (Southern Miss) with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s pretty impressive stuff for what Willie Morris used to call “poor old whupped-down Mis’ippi.” So when these polls come out, sprinkled with Mississippi schools, don’t just shrug. Smile and be proud. … Collegiate Baseball pegged Ole Miss, SEC Tournament champ in 2018, at No. 11 in NCAA Division I. Mississippi State, which went to the College World Series last summer, is No. 27 and Southern Miss, 2018 C-USA champion, is No. 30. Delta State, coming off yet another NCAA regional appearance, is No. 10 in Division II, while Mississippi College, the Gulf South Conference Tournament champ in 2018, got votes in the D-II poll. Meridian Community College, runner-up in the Region 23 Tournament last season, is No. 9 in the NJCAA D-II poll, with defending state champion Pearl River checking in at 13th and Jones County 15th. … MSU’s Jake Mangum and USM’s Matt Wallner made CB’s first-team All-America list, while UM’s Parker Caracci and Ryan Olenek were second- and third-team picks.
Just 62 days to get through until the first pitch is thrown in the 2019 college season. William Carey University, an NAIA member, will get it started on Jan. 31 with a home game against Missouri Baptist at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Delta State lifts the lid on its season on Feb. 1 at home against East Central University, and fellow NCAA Division II member Mississippi College starts on Feb. 2 at Harding in Arkansas. Division III Belhaven University opens Feb. 8 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson against LeTourneau, and D-III Millsaps welcomes LeTourneau to nearby Twenty Field on Feb. 9. The D-I start date is Feb. 15: Mississippi State launches the Chris Lemonis era at renovated Dudy Noble Field against Youngstown State, Ole Miss hosts Wright State and Southern Miss opens at home with Purdue. SWAC school schedules have not been posted.