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.
The college season ended on a sour note: Mississippi State’s 14-4 loss to LSU in the Super Regional at Baton Rouge. But all in all, it was – once again – a pretty sweet year for the Magnolia State. Two four-year schools played in the College World Series in their division. Three teams won conference championships. Four players won conference player of the year honors, and six earned All-America recognition. Led by C-USA player of the year Dylan Burdeaux, Southern Miss enjoyed one of its best seasons, winning 50 games and hosting an NCAA regional. State upstaged the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg, beating them twice on a manic Monday to advance to the Super Regional. Brent Rooker – first-team All-American, SEC player of the year and Triple Crown champ, Ferriss Trophy winner, 35th overall pick in the MLB draft – drove the bus for the Bulldogs, who navigated a bumpy road to a 40-27 finish. Delta State, fueled by All-American Zack Shannon’s monster year, won both the regular season and tournament titles in the Gulf South Conference en route to the Division II College World Series and a 45-13 finish. All-America slugger James Land helped power William Carey to the NAIA World Series, where the Crusaders won three games before ending their year at 45-20. Blue Mountain had its best season in the program’s short history, going 32-25 and making the SSAC Tournament for the first time. Ole Miss, Jackson State and Belhaven also had winning seasons, though the Rebels and Tigers had to be disappointed in their finish. UM, nationally ranked early in the year, went 32-25, lost in the first round of the SEC Tournament and failed to make the NCAAs. Jackson State (38-17) had the best record in the SWAC in the regular season but crashed in the league tournament, its only real avenue to the NCAAs. Belhaven, still transitioning to D-III, came in at 26-14 and saw Terrell Hodges earn NCCAA All-America honors. Mississippi College, having completed its transition back to D-II, wound up at 20-28, but a strong finish enabled the Choctaws to earn a berth in the Gulf South Tournament. There wasn’t so much to cheer about at Alcorn State (12-33), Mississippi Valley State (7-34), Millsaps (19-23) and Tougaloo (10-42), though the Braves did pull off an upset of Grambling in the SWAC Tournament and the Majors beat the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in D-III during the year. And so the book closes … but only for a while. Fall ball is just a few months away.
They had the best record in the league. They put up wow-inducing numbers, both with their bats and their arms. They’re the top seed in this week’s tournament and, even though wild and crazy things can happen in double-elimination play, it’d be foolish to bet against them. So, who are we talking about? Could be Jackson State, Delta State or Jones County Junior College. The description fits all three. JSU, which went 20-4 in the SWAC East and 36-15-1 overall, starts conference tournament play Wednesday against Southern University, the fourth-place team from the West, at Barrow Stadium in New Orleans. The Tigers hit .322 as a team with 421 runs and 132 steals; they posted a 3.46 ERA, a .252 batting average against and seven complete games. Tigers to watch: Lamar Briggs (.379), Jesus Santana (nine homers, 62 RBIs), Bryce Brown (.368, 25 steals), C.J. Newsome (50 runs), Miguel Yrigoyen (nine wins, 2.93), Jose Tirado (seven saves). Delta State, regular season and tournament champion in the Gulf South Conference, will start NCAA Division II South Region play on Friday at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. It’s a strong, seven-team field, including defending national champ Nova Southeastern and GSC powers West Alabama and Valdosta State. But DSU (41-11) looks up to the task. The Statesmen are hitting .320 with 432 runs and 60 homers; the staff ERA is 4.57 (fifth in the hitter-heavy GSC) with five shutouts and just 25 homers allowed. Statesmen to watch: Ferriss Trophy finalist Zack Shannon (.451, 18 homers, 84 RBIs, 60 runs), Clay Casey (.358, 17 homers), Seth Birdsong (9-1, 2.82), Zach Osbon (six saves, six wins, 1.35). And then there’s Jones County JC, ranked No. 1 in the country in NJCAA D-II. The Bobcats (44-2) open Region 23 Tournament play on Wednesday against Pearl River at Community Bank Park in Ellisville. JCJC batters hit .370 with 437 runs and 44 homers; its pitchers had a 2.64 ERA with 9.3 K’s per game. Bobcats to watch: Erick Hoard (.417, 12 homers, 53 RBIs), Shelton Wallace (.452, 62 RBIs), Fred Franklin (40 steals), Ben Stiglets (11-0, 1.60), Logan Robbins (11-0, 2.34, 83 K’s in 61 2/3 innings). P.S. William Carey won its opener in the NAIA Opening Round tournament and plays top-seeded Southeastern (Fla.) University today at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Carey knocked off Texas Wesleyan 4-3 with a four-run ninth sparked by big hits from Tyler Odom and Cody Christian.
Jackson State rules the SWAC. At this moment. JSU will have to prove itself again in the SWAC Tournament next month, but there can be little debate about whether the Tigers are the SWAC’s best team right now. Omar Johnson’s club has won 11 straight games to improve to 29-11 overall and 15-3 in the conference heading into a weekend series against Alcorn State at Lorman. Tigers hitters and pitchers lead the SWAC in just about everything. They’re batting .327 with an amazing 338 runs. The 3.45 staff ERA is almost two runs better than the second-best number in the league. JSU hitters also lead the SWAC in slugging, steals, doubles and triples, and the pitchers lead in strikeouts, shutouts, complete games and saves. All-SWAC candidates abound: Lamar Briggs, Miguel Yrigoyen, Jesus Santana, Bryce Brown, Cornelius Copeland. Two of the Tigers’ three SWAC losses came against Alabama State in early March; JSU got some payback by sweeping the Hornets three straight on the road last weekend. The other loss was to Alcorn in Biloxi on March 17. Johnson has rather quietly built a nice resume at JSU with well over 300 wins in 11 seasons, two SWAC championships and several division titles. More hardware may be coming. Baseball America projects the Tigers as SWAC champs and an NCAA regional participant. With an RPI that likely will be around 200, they’ll have to win the tournament to get in. P.S. William Carey University, ranked 23rd in the latest NAIA poll, gets a crack at No. 2 Faulkner in a three-game SSAC series this weekend in Montgomery, Ala. Faulkner, which had been No. 1 the previous six weeks, is 39-8, 14-4, just a notch ahead of the Crusaders (29-14, 15-6) in the league standings. Faulkner’s T.J. Condon leads the SSAC in home runs (18) and RBIs (57). Carey’s James Land, who has 15 homers, is the league’s top hitter at .392. Faulkner’s Israel Fuentes and Ivan Pelaez rank 2-3 in ERA, with Carey’s Lane Fazende and Cole Edgens at 4-5. … Belhaven is ranked 10th in the NCCAA poll released this week and may be positioned for an invitation to the organization’s national tournament. The Blazers are 23-14 heading into their last American Southwest Conference series of the season at LeTourneau. BU, in transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III, is not eligible for the ASC Tournament.
A bunch of attention-grabbing stuff went down last week among the state colleges. There was Brent Rooker’s three-homer game for Mississippi State, which helped him earn SEC player of the week honors. William Carey’s James Land also won a player of the week award, getting the SSAC nod after batting .455 with seven RBIs in a hard-fought series win against Blue Mountain. Ole Miss swept Alabama. Jackson State swept Mississippi Valley State. Delta State took three games from Shorter, its fourth straight GSC series sweep. Southern Miss took two of three from Florida International to remain atop the C-USA standings. Jones County Junior College, now 31-1, won four more MACJC games by a cumulative 52-11. As impressive as any of that, however, was Millsaps’ sweep of Oglethorpe at Twenty Field. Three straight walk-off wins. Logan Patterson had a big series, going 6-for-14 with three runs and two RBIs, including a game-winner on Saturday. Wes Lasserre hit a walk-off grand slam in the first game on Saturday. But the play of the week came on Sunday, a squeeze bunt by Cavan Breland that scored two runs and gave the Majors a 7-6 win. Patrick Grumbley, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior inserted as a pinch runner, made a mad dash all the way from second base to score the game-winner. In 16 games, Grumbley is 1-for-5 with five walks and eight runs for the Majors, now 15-18 and 6-8 in the Southern Athletic Association.
Corey Dickerson: The Meridian Community College product from McComb notched the first hit and first run of the MLB season in Tampa Bay’s win against the New York Yankees on Sunday.
Kendall Graveman: The ex-Mississippi State standout will start the opener tonight for Oakland against the visiting Los Angeles Angels; he was 10-11, 4.11 in 2016.
Zack Ingram: The freshman from Alabama threw a no-hitter for Mississippi College as the Choctaws completed a GSC series sweep at Valdosta State; Ingram is 2-4, 4.25 for MC, now 13-18, 10-10.
Spencer Price: Mississippi State’s closer got the save in all three games as the Bulldogs (19-10, 6-3 SEC) took down nationally ranked Ole Miss (16-12, 3-6) in Oxford; MCC transfer Price has nine saves all told for State, now ranked No. 22 by Baseball America.
J.C. Keys: The Southern Miss senior out of Oak Grove tossed a one-hitter as the Golden Eagles finished off a C-USA series sweep at Western Kentucky; Keys is 2-1, 3.46 for nationally ranked USM, now 24-5 (8-1 C-USA) heading into Tuesday’s clash with Ole Miss at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
Zack Shannon: The Delta State junior went 7-for-10 with 10 RBIs as the Statesmen swept a GSC series from Christian Brothers, a team they’ve beaten 47 straight times; juco transfer Shannon is batting .450 with nine homers for NCAA Division II nationally ranked DSU (25-8, 16-5).
Miguel Yrigoyen: The Jackson State senior tossed a seven-hitter as the Tigers finished off a SWAC sweep of Alabama A&M; Yrigoyen (4-2) walked one and fanned seven for the Tigers (22-11, 9-3).
Larson Barkurn: The senior from Petal delivered a walk-off hit that snapped a four-game skid and propelled William Carey to a doubleheader sweep and series victory over SSAC foe Bethel; the NAIA nationally ranked Crusaders are 25-10, 11-4.
Tanner Huddleston and Erick Hoard: The Jones County Junior College teammates notched back-to-back four-RBI games as the Bobcats beat Northeast 13-1 and 15-2; NJCAA D-II No. 1-ranked Jones (27-1, 9-1) is back atop the MACJC standings thanks to Itawamba’s sweep of Pearl River.
Jackson State has won six of seven to put an 18-8 shine on its record. The Tigers lead the SWAC standings and lead the SWAC stats by a wide margin in batting average, scoring and ERA. Three Tigers – Lamar Briggs, Bryce Brown and Wesley Reyes – are hitting .360 or better. Briggs, Cornelius Copeland and Jesus Santana have scored 22 runs apiece. Santana leads the league in RBIs with 29, and Briggs has 23. On the bump, Miguel Yrigoyen is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA, and closer Jose Tirado has a 1.15. But this is no time for strutting. A stern test is at hand — a challenge and an opportunity. The Tigers are in Fort Myers, Fla., this weekend to face perhaps the best team on their schedule, one they’ve never met before. Florida Gulf Coast is 19-3 and ranked 12th by Baseball America. The Eagles beat then-No. 1 Florida State last week and then-No. 2 Florida twice the week before that. The Eagles can hit (7.4 runs per game) and pitch (3.18 ERA), too. DH Nick Rivera is coming off a nine-RBI game against Rutgers. It’s a trip to the coast for Omar Johnson’s Tigers, but it’s certainly no day at the beach.