Focus on Wildcat Field in Poplarville. This should be good. Itawamba Community College makes the long trip south to meet Pearl River CC today in a battle of two of the top three teams in the MACJC standings. ICC is 19-3 and ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll, the school’s highest ranking ever. But the Indians, at 5-1, aren’t in first place in the league. PRCC is – at 6-0. (East Central is actually second at 7-1.) The 18th-ranked Wildcats (20-4) are pumped up from a hard-fought sweep of rival Gulf Coast earlier this week. PRCC’s Connor Lewis, a sophomore from Corinth, has been a sparkplug, batting .329 with four homers, 17 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. Justin Medlin leads the team in hitting at .373, and Kyle Crigger follows at .361. The ace of the staff is lefty Houston Harding, who is 5-0 with a 2.78 ERA and 43 strikeouts. For PRCC, Simon Landry, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore from Louisiana, brings the thunder: .420, nine homers, 34 RBIs. The Wildcats are deep in arms, topped by Shemar Page (5-0, 1.75), Camden Dusang (5-0, 2.49) and Miles Smith (3-1, 3.20).
Brooms were in fashion in the opening round of league play in the MACJC over the weekend. Six of the seven doubleheaders resulted in sweeps, including the only matchup between two nationally ranked teams. Itawamba Community College (16-2), ranked eighth in last week’s NJCAA Division II poll, beat No. 16 Mississippi Gulf Coast CC 7-4 and 11-9 in Fulton. Labryant Siddell, a freshman out of Tupelo High, went 4-for-6 in the twinbill with two homers and four RBIs. Kyle Crigger homered and drove in three runs in Game 1, and Houston Harding pitched 6 2/3 innings to improve to 4-0. Cullen O’Shea went deep in both games for Gulf Coast (16-4). No. 2-ranked Jones County JC (15-3) took two from East Mississippi in Scooba. The Bobcats rode the bats of Stephen Matthews (homer), Brandon Hale (homer) and Luther Woullard (two doubles, two RBIs) in the opener, a 12-6 win, and the arm of Jay Simpson in Game 2, a 7-1 victory. Fifth-ranked East Central (13-4) bounced back from three midweek losses to sweep Coahoma, and No. 19 Pearl River (15-3) won a pair from Northwest. No. 13 Hinds (12-3) split with Northeast, Southwest swept Holmes and Meridian swept Copiah-Lincoln.
He hit one home run last season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and says he never hit one in high school. But there sits Dylan Menhennett, leading all NJCAA Division II batters with five homers. “I’ve been working out non-stop, just getting better,” he said in a release by the school. “I’ve been swinging every night, coming up here (to Farris Field) and getting extra work.” The third baseman from Biloxi is 11-for-18 with 12 RBIs for the undefeated Bulldogs, who have pounded their opponents 74-12. Gulf Coast is among three MACJC teams off to a 6-0 start. … Jones County JC, preseason No. 1 in the NJCAA poll, is also 6-0 and has outscored its opposition 51-17. Luke Hudson, one of several freshmen in the Bobcats lineup, is 9-for-16 with two homers and seven RBIs. … Itawamba CC moved to 6-0 with a sweep of Columbia State on Tuesday, notching career wins No. 501 and 502 for longtime coach Rick Collier. The former Delta State player has one Juco World Series appearance, two region titles and two state titles on his ICC resume. … East Central CC is 4-0 after sweeping Bevill State on Tuesday. The Warriors won their first two games last weekend on walk-off hits by Kenneth Scott and Hunter Harper. Harper homered on Tuesday. … Hinds CC, the defending Region 23 champion, is 5-1 after rolling over Bishop State 13-2 and 9-4 on Tuesday.
Drafted by the Florida Marlins out of Ole Miss in 2006, Chris Coghlan has worn a lot of different unies and played in a lot of different towns over the years. “I am really grateful for the journey that I’ve had, honestly,” he told MLB Network earlier this year. He won a rookie of the year award in 2009 and a World Series ring last fall. He also endured injuries and demotions. Alas, his mercurial career took another downturn last week. Coghlan was on a rehab assignment for Toronto when the Blue Jays, needing to clear roster space, released the 32-year-old outfielder/infielder. He has been with four different teams since the start of 2016 and now finds himself looking for a fifth. He hit .200 in 36 games for the Blue Jays, making his biggest impression when he hurtled Yadier Molina at home plate back in April. A lefty hitter with versatility, Coghlan might be able to catch on with a contending team in need. Maybe his journey will continue, maybe not. Desmond Jennings has been without a team since mid-June. The former Itawamba Community College star, drafted the same year as Coghlan, has been released three times since last August, most recently by the New York Mets. He was batting .237 with eight homers for their Triple-A Las Vegas club. Beset by injuries in recent years, the 30-year-old outfielder’s once-promising career has veered way off course. Hopefully, he enjoyed the journey.
Brent Rooker, the first Mississippian picked in the 2017 draft (35th overall), has proven to be a quick study in pro ball. The ex-Mississippi State standout has already advanced a level in Minnesota’s system and is batting .314 with four home runs over his last 10 games, raising his average at high Class A Fort Myers to .237 with seven homers. But Rooker has a lot of company in the fast lane. Each of the top 10 Mississippi-connected players drafted and signed in June is off to a good start, some a great start. Tyreque Reed (Itawamba Community College) is batting .350 with five homers and 26 RBIs in the rookie Arizona League, though he hasn’t played in over a week for the AZL (Texas) Rangers. Dylan Burdeaux (Southern Miss) hit .319 in short-season A for Detroit and was quickly bumped up to low-A, where he is batting .265 in 23 games. Taylor Braley (USM), the second Mississippian picked (sixth round, Miami), is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in four appearances in the short-season A New York-Penn League. It may feel like old home week at times in the NYPL. Other Mississippians in the league: Braley’s former teammate Kirk McCarty is with Cleveland’s affiliate and is 2-1, 2.05 in nine games; Ryan Gridley (MSU), an Oakland draftee, is batting .268 with 17 RBIs and five steals; and David Parkinson (Ole Miss) is 1-1, 2.84 for Philadelphia’s affiliate. Tate Blackman (UM), in rookie ball with the Chicago White Sox, is hitting .227 with two homers and 13 RBIs and is over .300 in his last 10 games. Bryce Brown (Jackson State) is batting .254 with 20 RBIs and 12 steals at the rookie level for Tampa Bay. Erstwhile East Mississippi CC quarterback Vijay Miller, a San Diego draftee who apparently has given up football, has a 4.00 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 18 innings in the rookie Arizona League.
Injuries have dogged former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull for the past two seasons and caused his prospect status to dip. When he’s healthy – as he apparently was on Wednesday – Turnbull looks like a future big leaguer. The 24-year-old right-hander, pitching for Class A Lakeland in the Detroit system, allowed just one hit and one run in seven innings of work to improve to 5-3 with a 3.67 ERA in 12 starts. It was his third start for the Flying Tigers since he returned from a stint on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis. Turnbull missed a chunk of 2016 with a shoulder problem. “(Y)ou always face adversity in this game,” he told milb.com, “so you just have to take it and move forward as quickly as you can. I’m just happy to be back.” A second-round pick out of Alabama in 2014, Turnbull (17-10, 3.43 career) is currently rated the Tigers’ No. 25 prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was No. 12 last year. In Wednesday’s game, he retired Mississippi State product Brent Rooker twice; Rooker, a first-round supplemental pick by Minnesota in June, is batting .194 for Fort Myers. Turnbull’s Lakeland teammate Jake Robson, another ex-Bulldogs star, had two hits and boosted his average to .333. P.S. Jackson State alum Bryce Brown, a 15th-round pick in June by Tampa Bay, leads the rookie Appalachian League with 12 stolen bases in 28 games. He stole 27 bases this past season at JSU while batting .374. … Houlka native Tyreque Reed is riding a five-game hit streak and batting .351, which amazingly ranks just seventh in the rookie Arizona League. Reed, a .500 hitter at Itawamba Community College this season, was an eighth-round pick by Texas.
Three more Mississippians have popped into Baseball America’s latest rating of the Top 500 draft prospects: Add Kirk McCarty, Cordell “C.J.” Dunn and Tyreque Reed to the list that again includes Brent Rooker and Jake Mangum. Rooker, SEC player of the year at Mississippi State, is up to No. 46 overall, while Mangum, a draft-eligible sophomore at State, dipped slightly to 170. McCarty, Southern Miss’ ace left-hander, checks in at No. 220. Dunn, a catcher at Center Hill High and a Texas Tech signee, is listed at 416, while Reed, a slugging infielder/outfielder at Itawamba Community College and a State commit, is No. 472. Dunn batted .382 with 22 RBIs in 28 games for the Mustangs. The 260-pound Reed hit .504 with 15 homers for ICC in 2017. Many more from the state could and probably will be drafted next week. Twenty-nine players from state schools were picked in 2016.