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.
Rivals William Carey University and Blue Mountain College will meet Wednesday in the first round of the SSAC Tournament at Montgomery, Ala. NAIA No. 23 Carey (36-15) is the third seed, BMC (31-23) the sixth in its first SSAC postseason appearance. The Crusaders won two of three from the Toppers in the regular season. Middle Georgia State is the top seed in the eight-team, double-elimination event. … Delta State, regular season champion in the Gulf South Conference, will host the league tournament May 6-9 at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. DSU is 37-11 and ranked No. 1 in the NCAA Division II South Region. … With four games left in the regular season, Jones County Junior College has clinched the MACJC championship and a berth as host in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament set for May 17-20. Jones, ranked No. 1 in Division II, is 40-2, 22-2 MACJC. The Bobcats are the defending D-II national champs. … Millsaps went 2-1 in the weather-interrupted SAA Tournament in Memphis over the weekend and ends its season at 19-23. Rhodes, which didn’t play Millsaps, went 2-0 in the event and advanced to the league’s championship series. The Majors will miss the NCAA Division III postseason for the second straight year. … Belhaven, ranked seventh in the April 25 NCCAA poll, is still awaiting word on a bid to the organization’s national tournament. The Blazers, in their second year as a D-III program, are 26-14. … Three Mississippians are among the statistical category leaders after MLB’s opening month. Ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati) is tied for the lead with 10 stolen bases, this despite batting just .213. McComb’s Jarrod Dyson (Seattle) is third in steals with eight, while hitting .229. Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland (Boston) has 12 doubles, obviously feeling right at home in his first year in Fenway Park. Former Ole Miss star Zack Cozart (Cincinnati) leads with four triples. His season-high is five, set in 2014. A career .249 hitter, Cozart is sitting at .352, eighth in the majors. … Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson (Tampa Bay) leads Mississippians in homers with six; he is batting .330 with nine doubles for the Rays.
There’s a lot on the line this weekend when Mississippi College hosts old rival Delta State to finish the regular season at Frierson Field in Clinton. MC (19-23) is 14-15 and in seventh place in the Gulf South Conference standings. The top eight teams make the GSC Tournament. DSU (35-10), ranked No. 1 in the South Region and as high as third overall in NCAA Division II, is first (23-7) in the league and trying to nail down the top seed in the tournament. The top seed hosts. After a terrible start, MC has won 17 of its last 23, including a clutch series win at Lee University last weekend. Led by Casey Echols (.347), the Choctaws have seven regulars batting .307 or better. But MC’s pitching (6.07 ERA) will need to step up. DSU is the GSC’s best offensive club, batting .323 with 44 homers. Zack Shannon has been amazing: .461, 13 homers, 71 RBIs. And the pitching quartet of Seth Birdsong, Corey Beard, Tre Hobbs and closer Zach Osbon makes taking a series from the Statesmen a tall order. DSU leads the all-time series 106-29-1. The teams play one game today and doubleheader on Saturday. … Millsaps begins Southern Athletic Association postseason play against Hendrix at Memphis today. Millsaps (17-22) is the sixth overall seed and is playing in the four-team bracket hosted by Rhodes, the No. 2 seed. Andy Page (.397), Lee Ogletree (.303, five homers, 34 RBIs) and Jacob Mardick (8-2, 2.59) have had all-conference type seasons for the Majors. … Blue Mountain finishes an SSAC series against Brewton-Parker at home today after sweeping a twinbill on Thursday. With Caleb Leach (.368, five homers, 35 RBIs) and Dustin Allen (8-3, 3.04) leading the way, the Toppers (30-23, 11-12) already had clinched a spot in next week’s conference tourney at Montgomery, Ala. William Carey (17-7 SSAC) also will be there. The NAIA nationally ranked Crusaders (34-15) are finishing up a non-conference series against Stillman College in Hattiesburg today. James Land hit his 15th bomb in a 16-6 win on Thursday. … Tougaloo finished its regular season 10-42, including a pair of home losses to Miles on Wednesday. Earl Sanders’ Bulldogs lost 18 of their last 19 and went 0-6 against GCAC competition. … Belhaven (26-14) is awaiting word on a bid to the NCCAA Tournament; regionals begin the week of May 15.
It started on March 12 in an unlikely place against an unlikely opponent. Mississippi College limped into Union University’s Fesmire Field in Jackson, Tenn., with a 2-17 record and seven straight losses. The host Bulldogs were 17-3, leading the Gulf South Conference with a 7-2 record and freshly ranked 24th in NCAA Division II. But just when it seemed as if “Taps” had become the anthem for their season, the Choctaws changed the tune. In the opener of a twinbill played on a chilly Sunday, MC’s Hunter Lacefield, a Northwest Mississippi Community College transfer, and Zack Ingram, a true freshman, combined to hold Union to three hits. Clutch knocks by Hunter Wilson and Casey Echols put the Choctaws up 4-2 in the fifth inning, and they rolled on to win 7-2. Union’s Game 2 starter was Teddy Christie, who sported a 5-0 record. Cue up the “Rocky” music. MC beat Christie 5-4. The Choctaws capitalized on four Union errors and the stout pitching of Hunter Mullis and Tommy Taborda. MC has lost only one game since; the 12-inning win against nationally ranked Southern Arkansas on Wednesday was the team’s ninth straight. At 10-10 in the GSC, they’ve climbed to seventh (of 12) in the standings. They’re fourth in the league in hitting, and the staff ERA, so bad early on, is trending in the right direction, a hair above 4.00 over the last nine games. North Alabama, 13-8 in the league, comes to Frierson Field this weekend for a series that could be very big for the Choctaws in their charge to make the GSC Tournament. Is that “Reveille” playing in the background? P.S. William Carey has dominated its series against Blue Mountain, beating the Toppers 15 times in 16 meetings. They meet again this weekend in an SSAC series at the new BMC SportsPlex, and it could get interesting. Nationally ranked Carey is 25-10, 11-4 in the league. BMC is 25-15, 6-6. James Land and Tyler Graves carry the big bats for the Crusaders, and the Toppers’ Caleb Leach has emerged as one of the SSAC’s best hitters. Three of the conference’s top base stealers also will be on hand: Carey’s Tyler James and Adrian Brown and BMC’s Miciah Heard. … As part of Hinds Community College’s centennial celebration, the school is hosting a tribute to the baseball program tonight in Raymond. Hinds was the first Mississippi school to reach the Juco World Series back in 1989, the year the program was merged with Utica’s. The 2014 Eagles were one win away from claiming the NJCAA Division II national title, which also would have been a first for the state. Jones County JC pulled off that feat last summer.
A dreadful start is becoming a distant memory for Mississippi College. After losing 17 of their first 19, the Choctaws have slugged their way to seven victories in their last eight games, including winning three straight Gulf South Conference series. They swept West Georgia at Frierson Field in Clinton this weekend, taking Saturday’s doubleheader 15-11 and 10-1. Hunter Austin and Will Elliott drove in three runs each in the first game, though the overshadowed hero may have been pitcher Jake Fraze, who delivered 4 1/3 innings of stellar relief as MC held off the Wolves. In Game 2, Hunter Mullis tossed a four-hitter, and Blaine Crim and Casey Echols delivered big hits. Led by Chance Whitten (.330, seven homers, 19 RBIs), Echols (.364) and Elliott (.286, three homers, 18 RBIs), MC’s hitting has been productive most of the season, Jeremy Haworth’s second as coach. What the Choctaws need is more pitching along the lines of what Fraze and Mullis provided on Saturday. The staff ERA is 6.38. MC faces an interesting showdown against William Carey on Tuesday at Frierson Field. The Crusaders are 23-7 (with a game against Mobile today) and ranked ninth in NAIA. And Carey hitters can rake: .313 average, 9.2 runs per game. P.S. Delta State is also on a roll, moving to 21-7 with a sweep of GSC foe North Alabama on Saturday. The Statesmen, who’ve won seven straight, scored 26 runs in those two wins, 18 in Game 2, in which Clay Casey went 4-for-4 with four RBIs and four runs and Josh Russell knocked in five runs.
The state’s college teams have played enough games to where the stats are starting to be meaningful. Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum, the 2016 SEC batting champ and Ferriss Trophy winner, isn’t experiencing any apparent symptoms of a sophomore slump. The Jackson Prep product currently leads the SEC in hits with 26; he’s second in runs (20) and fifth in hitting (.456). Brent Rooker sits third in the league with 18 RBIs. … Ole Miss pitcher Will Ethridge ranks second in the league in batting average against (.082) and fourth in strikeouts (26), while teammates Dallas Woolfolk and Will Stokes are tied for second with two saves apiece. … Southern Miss’ Taylor Braley is second in C-USA in on-base percentage (.542) and first in walks (12), while Mason Irby leads the loop in sacrifices with five. Hayden Roberts’ 25 strikeouts ranks second among C-USA pitchers. … Lamar Briggs is crushing it for Jackson State, leading the SWAC in batting (.429) and slugging (.571). The Tigers’ C.J. Newsome ranks first in runs (15), Jonathan Aponte first in wins (three) and Jose Tirado t-first in saves (two). … Alcorn State’s Jason Sanez is No. 2 in SWAC hitting at .375, and Mississippi Valley State’s Jackson Webb is second in slugging (.563). Webb and teammate Arrington Smith have two homers each, ranking second in the SWAC. … Delta State, 12-4 and ranked as high 18th in NCAA Division II, is led by Zack Shannon, whose 20 RBIs rank fifth in the Gulf South Conference; his .403 average is ninth. With four homers, Clay Casey is tied for fifth. Tre Hobbs’ 29 strikeouts is sixth-best in the league. … Mississippi College’s Casey Echols (son of former State star Tracy Echols) is seventh in the GSC with a .404 average while leading the Choctaws in hits and runs. … William Carey’s Tyler Graves tops SSAC hitters with a .443 average and is No. 2 in RBIs with 32. Adrian Brown is first in runs (28), Tyler James in stolen bases (19) and Lane Fazende in ERA (0.81). James Land’s four homers rank fourth. … Blue Mountain’s Miciah Heard is third in the SSAC with 17 steals, while teammate Caleb Leach, having a big year, is eighth in batting at .368. … Millsaps’ Jacob Mardick, a junior left-hander, leads the Southern Athletic Association with 31 K’s and is third in ERA at 2.28. He is 3-0 for an 8-8 team. … Belhaven’s Terrell Hodges is third in the American Southwest Conference with a .735 slugging average, and Daniel Ammirati is tied for second with seven doubles.
With a new-look lineup but familiar expectations, Delta State is humming along this season. DSU takes an 8-2 record – with only one appearance to date at Ferriss Field in Cleveland – into a big Gulf South Conference series at Lee University this weekend. The Statesmen took two of three at West Alabama last weekend in their GSC opening series. Lee is 10-2 and 2-1. Both schools are ranked in various polls. DSU won the conference tournament last season, earning yet another bid to the NCAA Division II postseason, and was pegged to finish second in the league in the preseason poll. Newcomers are all over the DSU lineup, and many have settled in quite nicely. Zack Shannon, a junior college transfer from Illinois, is batting .410 with 10 RBIs and Emil Ellis, an East Mississippi Community College transfer, is at .359 with nine runs. Division I transfer Clay Casey, a former DeSoto Central and Northwest Mississippi CC standout, has just six hits but two have left the park, and he’s got five RBIs. The pitching staff also lost some key players from 2016 but returned a solid core. Oddly enough, Tre Hobbs, the senior All-America candidate, owns both of the team’s losses. The left-hander is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA. That number is sure to drop. Corey Beard, who has been the No. 1 starter, is 2-0, 4.76. Zach Osbon has been an ace out of the bullpen: 2-0, two saves, no runs allowed and 12 punchouts in 9 2/3 innings. DSU coach Mike Kinnison has averaged 42.6 wins over his 20 seasons. That’s a high standard – but one the 2017 Statesmen appear capable of reaching. P.S. Mississippi College, the state’s other D-II program, heads into a GSC road series this weekend still tuning its engine. The Choctaws thumped Arkansas-Monticello 10-5 earlier this week for just their second win. They are 2-10 and 0-3 GSC as they take on West Alabama in Livingston. MC went 17-30, 8-25 in 2016. Bettering those numbers in Jeremy Haworth’s second season might be tough.