Zack Ingram, a sophomore right-hander at Mississippi College, was named both the Gulf South Conference and NCAA Division II South Region pitcher of the week this week. He is 4-0 with a 3.16 ERA this season, and he threw a no-hitter for the Choctaws in 2017. Ingram is the well-credentialed ace of a pitching staff that will be challenged, to say the least, when MC visits Delta State for a GSC series this weekend in Cleveland. They’ll play a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday at Ferriss Field. Highly ranked DSU, which already has clinched the GSC regular season title, is 36-7 (21-4), led by an offense that is batting .340, slugging .522 and tallying 10 runs a game. Clay Casey is the reigning GSC player of the week and is batting .362 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs. He’s not even the Statesmen’s best hitter. That’s Golden Spikes Award candidate Zack Shannon (.439, school-record 27 homers, 80 RBIs). Oh, and Emil Ellis is hitting .395. MC is 28-13 (17-8 GSC) and enjoying one of its best years in a while. Chris Crosby (5-3, 3.73), Hunter Mullis (5-3, 4.39) and Brandon Kennedy (3.34) are other high-performing members of the pitching staff. The Choctaws can hit a little, too, with seven regulars at .300 or better, led by Blaine Crim at .370. DSU leads this old rivalry 119-41-2, but the series stands 6-3 since MC returned to the GSC. And Ingram beat the Statesmen – with much the same lineup — last year, so there’s a blueprint.
You like numbers? Monday’s Valdosta State-Delta State game in the Gulf South Conference Tournament at Cleveland produced some numbers. To wit:
36 – Runs. DSU won 19-17.
13 – Deficit overcome by the Statesmen.
13 – Runs scored in the fourth inning by Valdosta, which hit two grand slams.
38 – Combined hits. There were also 13 walks and two hit batsmen.
366 – Pitches thrown, by nine different pitchers.
6 – Home runs by DSU, a tournament record. Emil Ellis hit two, and Zack Shannon, Clay Casey, Justin Nussbaum and Jacob Burney hit the others.
3 – Homers by the Statesmen in a nine-run fifth inning.
17 – Homers for the year for Shannon and Casey.
6 – RBIs by Ellis. Nussbaum picked up four.
45 – Consecutive game on-base streak for Shannon.
1 – Saves on the year for Shannon, who got the last three outs.
3:46 – Time of game.
40 – Wins for DSU.
13 – Number of 40-win seasons in 21 years for DSU coach Mike Kinnison.
13 – GSC championships for the Statesmen, who’ll play West Alabama with another on the line today at Ferriss Field.
Mississippi College makes its first trip since 1996 to Ferriss Field in Cleveland this weekend. It might not be great fun. Waiting there for the Choctaws is a nationally ranked Delta State team that leads the Gulf South Conference in nine offensive categories. MC, improved this year under first-year coach Jeremy Haworth, is 16-28, 7-23 in the GSC (still ineligible for the championship), and has a staff ERA of 5.29. DSU is 32-14, 21-9 and pushing hard for an NCAA Division II Tournament bid. The Statesmen are ranked No. 6 in the latest South Region rankings. MC trails in the all-time series with DSU 104-28-1, though the Choctaws did win one of three last year in Clinton. The teams will play two games on Saturday and a single game Sunday. … Other series to watch this weekend: There’s Mississippi State-Alabama and LSU-Ole Miss, of course, and Southern Miss faces what could be a big test at Florida Atlantic. The Owls are 28-11, 12-6 C-USA, just 2 games back of the first-place Golden Eagles (30-12, 14-4). FAU’s C.J. Cheatham, the league’s preseason payer of the year, is batting .365. … Jackson State, which is hosting Alabama A&M, is treading water in the SWAC East at 8-8, good for second place in the standings behind Alabama State, 18-0 and visiting Alcorn State this weekend. JSU’s Cornelius Copeland leads the SWAC in hitting at .423 and Jesus Santana leads in homers with 13. … William Carey (34-16, 16-7 SSAC) finishes its regular season at Loyola of New Orleans. Carey is third in the league; Faulkner has clinched the title. … Blue Mountain (22-31, 5-18 SSAC) needs to win two of three at Martin Methodist (20-22, 7-14) to earn a league tournament berth, according to the Toppers’ web site. … In the jucos, NJCAA No. 8-ranked Meridian is at No. 20 Northwest on Saturday in a battle of MACJC second-place clubs. The Eagles will then host No. 2 Jones County on Monday to end the regular season. JCJC (40-4, 23-3) has clinched the regular season crown.
Opposing pitchers must be hard-pressed to find a soft spot in Delta State’s lineup. Every regular is hitting .300 or better, and collectively the Statesmen are batting .336 with 212 runs in 30 games. Will Robertson, a senior from Falkner who missed 2015 with an injury, has been hot from the jump and is batting .409. Trent Giambroni and Ben Pickard have seven home runs each. DSU also throws out a pair of aces: Left-handers Tre Hobbs and Dalton Moats are a combined 12-3 with a 3.02 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 107 innings. The sum of these parts is also impressive. The Statesmen, unranked in preseason, are now ranked in two NCAA Division II polls, No. 14 in one, 24 in the other. They’ll take a 20-10 overall record and a 13-5 Gulf South Conference mark into this weekend’s series against Christian Brothers at refurbished Ferriss Field. … Cleveland isn’t the only hot spot in the state this weekend. In Hattiesburg, at Wheeler Field, William Carey plays host to NAIA No. 3 Faulkner in a Southern States Athletic Conference series. The Crusaders are 23-11 and coming off what amounted to a batting practice session against Tougaloo on Wednesday. WCU won 18-3 and 16-0; Tyler Richardson had a day, going 4-for-8 with nine RBIs. Things will be a little tougher against Faulkner, which is 29-7, 11-1 SSAC and was ranked No. 1 last week before losses to Georgia-Gwinnett and Bethel. Carey, 7-4 in the league, is 18-5 overall at home. Faulkner is 4-3 on the road. … Of course, the hottest spot in the state this weekend is Starkville. Tonight’s pitching matchup is a dandy: Mississippi State’s Dakota Hudson vs. Ole Miss’ Brady Bramlett in the opener of the three-game series at Dudy Noble Field. Strong arms and good hitters abound on these two nationally ranked rivals. State (18-7-1, 4-2 SEC) is hitting .317 as a team, third in the league. Ole Miss (20-5, 2-4) has a 2.73 staff ERA, fourth in the league. The Bulldogs roll out the likes of Jacob Robson and Jack Kruger and Austin Sexton, each of whom has sparkling stats. The Rebels feature Tate Blackman and J.B. Woodman and Wyatt Short, among other stars. But many times the hero in a big series is someone you might not expect. Here’s a couple of candidates: Nathaniel Lowe arrived at State as a touted slugger, coming off a 17-home run season as an NJCAA All-America in 2015. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Lowe is hitting .306 and is third on the team with 22 RBIs, but he has just one long ball. Who better to break out against than Ole Miss? The Rebels, meanwhile, have been waiting for Errol Robinson to break out. A highly rated draft prospect who made some preseason All-America teams, the junior shortstop is batting just .213 with four extra-base hits in 24 games. He batted .297 in 2015, with 31 runs and 30 RBIs in 58 games. Robinson had a big hit in a win against State last year; perhaps he can summon another.
What do you take to a housewarming? Delta State’s players brought a handful of home runs and a little bit of pitching to newly refurbished Ferriss Field (Harvey Stadium) in Cleveland on Saturday, and an announced crowd of 881 brought some atmosphere. When the party was over, Statesmen baseball had settled in nicely with a doubleheader sweep of Harding. Ethan Gill blasted two homers for DSU, and Will Robertson and Colton Welch added one each. Juco transfer Dalton Moats didn’t pitch great in the season opener but did notch the win in an 11-5 romp. Tre Hobbs, another transfer (from Mississippi Delta Community College), was outstanding in Game 2, allowing one run and fanning six in 5 2/3 innings of a 2-1 victory. All in all, it was a good start for DSU, which ended the 2015 season a little short of its annual goal, which is an NCAA Division II regional appearance. The Statesmen went 25-18 last year, finishing with a loss in the Gulf South Conference Tournament title round. The new digs might provide some inspiration this season, though winning at Ferriss Field has never been a problem for DSU, which went 11-2 there in 2015.
Delta State will dedicate Tim and Nancy Harvey Baseball Stadium at Ferriss Field and unveil a statue in honor of former coach Dave “Boo” Ferriss on Saturday. The ceremonies will coincide with DSU baseball’s biannual reunion, which will bring over 350 former players, coaches and diamond girls to Cleveland. Tim Harvey was a DSU player under Ferriss, and he and his wife made the lead gift for stadium renovations. If there is anyone who doesn’t know, former major league pitcher Ferriss won 639 games over 26 seasons as DSU coach, took three teams to the NCAA Division II World Series and laid the foundation for what is one of the nation’s best D-II programs. … Tim Dillard is being inducted into the Itawamba Community College Hall of Fame and will be honored in a ceremony during the school’s football homecoming in Fulton on Saturday. Dillard, 32, who pitched in Triple-A for Milwaukee this season, starred for ICC in 2002 and ’03, leading the Indians to the juco World Series as a sophomore. A 34th-round draft pick, he has pitched 13 seasons in pro ball, posting a 4.70 ERA in 73 big league games, all with the Brewers. … Mike Smith, a senior outfielder for Mississippi State, didn’t play a great deal in 2015 as a juco transfer, batting .208 in 24 at-bats. He’s bucking for more playing time next spring. In nine scrimmages this fall, Smith is 10-for-23 with seven RBIs, six runs and five steals. The Bulldogs scrimmage again on Sunday at Dudy Noble Field. … The “Jake Gibbs Letterwinner Walk,” honoring every Ole Miss athlete who earned a letter, will be unveiled next October as part of a Vaught-Hemingway Stadium project, the school announced. Gibbs was a football and baseball star for the Rebels and is the school’s second all-time winningest baseball coach. He also played in the big leagues.
Delta State is finally playing at home again, but the Statesmen can’t get too comfortable. Greeting DSU today in its first game at Ferriss Field in Cleveland since April 5 is West Florida, the No. 4 team in the country in NCAA Division II and the No. 1 team in the Gulf South Conference standings. DSU is seventh in the Collegiate Baseball poll and second in the GSC, a game back of West Florida. This three-game series (single game today at 6 p.m, doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m.) will decide the regular season title. The Statesmen lead the all-time series 25-23. Yes, this should be good. DSU (32-9, 21-5 GSC) went 8-2 (with one cancellation) on its extended road trip. The Statesmen are 13-3 at Ferriss Field. They feature five of the top 10 hitters in the league, led by Will Robertson, No. 2 at .392. And their pitching is pretty good, too. P.S. William Carey qualified for next week’s Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament with a 12-7 win at Bethel on Thursday. J.C. Cassidy led Carey with a 4-for-4 effort, including a home run and four RBIs. The Crusaders are 30-23, 16-12 SSAC.