The hitting hero of a busy weekend for the state’s small colleges was Brian Lane, a senior at Delta State. Lane went 6-for-12 with a home run and nine RBIs as the Statesmen rebounded from a season-opening loss with big wins on Saturday and Sunday in Florida. Shut out by Lynn on Friday, DSU – ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II – erupted for 31 runs against Nova Southeastern and Palm Beach Atlantic. … Playing at home in Hattiesburg, William Carey, ranked sixth in NAIA, won its first three games behind a pitching staff that yielded only three earned runs. Cole Edgens threw a three-hit shutout against Georgetown College on Saturday. … Mississippi College opened with a doubleheader split against Lindenwood on Saturday; the rubber game was rescheduled for today at Frierson Field in Clinton. Kyle Smith sparked the Choctaws with five hits and four RBIs in the two games. … Millsaps got 20 hits in its two games at Huntingdon in Alabama but scored just four runs and lost twice. … Tougaloo went 0-3 at Talladega, though two of the losses were one-run defeats. … Blue Mountain took three of four from visiting William Woods to improve to 5-2. Miciah Heard is off to a hot start (10-for-25, six RBIs) for the Toppers. Jonas White is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts.
The start of William Carey’s season will have a very different feel than a year ago. The Crusaders, ranked sixth in the NAIA preseason poll, open Friday against Georgetown College at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. They’ll also play Ave Maria University later that day. Those are the first of 18 straight home games. Carey didn’t get to play a game at home in 2017 until the end of February – 16 games into the season – because of tornado damage on its campus. No matter, Bobby Halford’s resilient crew went 45-20 last year and made it to the NAIA World Series for the first time since 1978. Right-hander Cole Edgens (10-1, 4.13 ERA last year), outfielder Christian Smith (.322, 18 stolen bases) and shortstop Wes Brown lead a small group of returnees. … Also opening on Friday – on the road — are Delta State, the No. 1-ranked NCAA Division II team by Collegiate Baseball; D-III Millsaps; and NAIA Tougaloo. DSU returns decorated slugger Zack Shannon – plus just about every other lineup regular – and 10-game winner Seth Birdsong from a CWS participant. The Statesmen open at Lynn (Fla.) University. Millsaps, coming off a rare losing (19-23) year, plays at Huntingdon in Alabama, and Tougaloo visits Talladega. … D-II Mississippi College will host Lindenwood, a Missouri school, for a doubleheader on Saturday in Clinton. P.S. USA Baseball has announced the 16-team field for the 2018 National High School Invitational, and Hattiesburg High and star outfielder Joe Gray are in it. The seventh edition of the tournament will be held at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., from March 28-31.
Delta State won’t sneak up on anybody in 2018. The Statesmen, overlooked in most of the 2017 preseason polls before making a run to the NCAA Division II World Series, will start the new season ranked No. 1 by Collegiate Baseball. Mike Kinnison will need to plug a couple of holes in his pitching staff, but DSU’s lineup returns virtually intact from last year’s 45-13 club. Expectations should be running high all over the Magnolia State, according to Collegiate Baseball’s editors. Each of the Big 3 Division I schools is ranked in the magazine’s Top 40: Mississippi State is 13th, Southern Miss 25th and Ole Miss 38th. William Carey, which went to the NAIA World Series last year, will open at No. 6 in 2018, and Jones County Junior College is pegged No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll. East Central CC checks in at 17th.
Far from the bright lights of Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field, Ferriss Field in Cleveland also will come to life tonight. Delta State fans will get a preview of the 2018 Statesmen team when the annual Green and White Series begins. Zack Shannon, everybody’s All-American from last year’s NCAA Division II College World Series team, is the big name on the Gray team. He hit .434 with 19 homers and 88 RBIs in 2017. Leading the White squad is Clay Casey, who batted .333 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs. Game 2 of the best-of-3 is slated for Friday and the potential Game 3 is Saturday. … Ole Miss has one more weekend of intrasquads ahead before next Wednesday’s Pizza Bowl, the culmination of fall ball in Oxford. Sophomore Thomas Dillard has had a particularly strong fall, batting about .480, and redshirt junior Brady Feigl threw four perfect innings on Sunday. Freshmen Anthony Servideo and Carl Gindl also have stood out. Servideo, a middle infielder, was hitting .348 before going 1-for-9 in last weekend’s games. … Southern Miss has been transitioning to new pitching coach Christian Ostrander during its fall session. Ostrander is a Delta State alum who previously coached at Louisiana Tech and Jones County Junior College, where he had some outstanding teams. The Golden Eagles lost two key arms, Kirk McCarty and Taylor Braley, from last year’s 50-win squad. “The unknown is going to be who steps up for us,” USM coach Scott Berry told d1baseball.com. … Mississippi State’s 2017 recruiting class has been ranked in the top 25 by three different publications. The Bulldogs, who started fall ball on Oct. 9, are blending in three freshmen who were drafted last June plus Alabama’s Mr. Baseball, Owen Lovell. Lovell, 6 feet 4, 220 pounds, could help fill the void left by slugger Brent Rooker, the SEC player of the year and Ferriss Trophy winner. State wraps up its fall season Nov. 17-19 at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium.
It’s opening day in the Arizona Fall League, which is sort of a select circuit for minor league prospects. Peoria, which hosts Glendale today, is managed by 2017 Mississippi Braves skipper Luis Salazar and features several M-Braves players from this past season. Most notable among that group are Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High standout; Ronald Acuna, Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect; Max Fried, today’s scheduled starter; and Alex Jackson. Ex-Harrison Central star Bobby Bradley (Cleveland) is on the Glendale roster. Southern Miss alum Cody Carroll (New York Yankees) pitches for Scottsdale, which is hosting Mesa. On Mesa’s roster are Madison Central product Spencer Turnbull and ex-Mississippi State standout Zac Houston, both Detroit farmhands. Former Ole Miss star Braxton Lee (Miami) plays for Salt River, which visits Surprise. Delta State product Dalton Moats (Tampa Bay) is on the Saguaros’ pitching staff. The AFL season runs through Nov. 16. P.S. Boston was knocked out of the American League playoffs by Houston on Monday, but ex-State standout Mitch Moreland went down swinging. Moreland, in perhaps his last appearance in a Red Sox uniform, was 5-for-13 (.385) with two doubles in the four games, raising his career postseason average to .236 (26-for-110).
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.
Passed over in draft after draft by MLB clubs, Tre Hobbs will launch his pro career in the independent Frontier League. The former Delta State star reportedly has signed with the Southern Illinois Miners, who are based in Marion, Ill. Don’t be surprised by any success Hobbs might have. The 5-foot-10 left-hander from Greenville won 22 games over two seasons at Delta State, posting 15 complete games and tossing four shutouts. He was a consensus All-America pick in 2016, when he went 13-2 with a 3.18 ERA. He wasn’t as dominant this year but still won nine games with a 4.18 and 90 strikeouts in 92 innings, helping the Statesmen reach the NCAA Division II World Series. He threw a brilliant three-hitter in a CWS elimination game. … The Frontier League, which has been around since 1993, claims a large number of alumni who have signed with affiliated teams and made the big leagues, including former Ole Miss pitcher Matt Duff and ex-Mississippi Braves hurler Brandon Cunniff.