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.
There were two huge stunners in the opening round of the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament in Ellisville and upsets of considerable weight in Hattiesburg and Pearl, as well, on Wednesday. To wit: NJCAA Division II No. 1 Jones County Junior College squandered a four-run lead and fell to Pearl River 5-4 in the regional, and Hinds upended second-ranked LSU-Eunice 6-2. John Moore and Lucas Scott got clutch hits for PRCC and Colby White did the clutch mound work. Jones lost for just the third time all season and first time at home. The Wildcats and Hinds will play in a winner’s bracket game today. Jones meets East Central in an elimination game. … William Carey University won twice to stay alive in the NAIA Opening Round tourney at Wheeler Field. In their second game of the day, the Crusaders rallied to beat top-seeded and ninth-ranked Southeastern (Fla.) University 6-4, forcing a winner-take-all game today for a berth in the NAIA World Series. Carey scored twice in the ninth to tie the score, then went ahead in the 10th on a Christian Smith two-run single. Closer Lane Fazende worked the last three innings to get the win. … West Lauderdale High entered the MHSAA state finals at Trustmark Park with a 31-2 record and is the only Mississippi school ranked by Baseball America at No. 10. But Corinth (29-8) jumped on the Knights for three runs in the first inning and Kyle Crigger made the lead stand up with a complete game effort in a 5-3 win in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Class 4A series. P.S. There also was an upset of note in the SWAC Tournament in New Orleans as Alcorn State, the 4-seed from the East, beat West No. 1 Grambling State 7-6 in 11 innings.
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.
While top-ranked Jones County Junior College and LSU-Eunice sit and watch, eight MACJC teams will duke it out this week for four spots in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament. Four teams tied for second in the MACJC regular season (behind runaway champ Jones) and they’ll be the host schools in the best-of-3 playoffs that start on Thursday. Second-seeded Northwest will host Copiah-Lincoln; No. 3 Hinds gets East Mississippi; No. 4 East Central welcomes Mississippi Delta; and No. 5 Itawamba hosts Pearl River. The four series winners advance to Ellisville next week for the region tournament. Worth noting: ICC’s Tyreque Reed leads NJCAA Division II in hitting at .504. The Indians are batting .338 as a team. … Jones tops the nation at .372, with East Central (.334) and Delta (.329) also ranking among the leaders. … Northwest’s J.G. Lipscomb rates third in the nation in saves with 10. The Rangers’ offensive spark has come from David Herrington, batting .435 with seven homers, 32 RBIs and 27 steals. … PRCC’s Simon Landry has 14 homers, second among state hitters to ICC’s Reed, who has 15. ECCC’s Cole Prestegard has 10. … Hinds’ Caleb Morgan is 6-1 with a 1.70 ERA, eighth-best in the nation. … Delta’s Cole Marsh is 9-1 with a 1.79, ranking 11th in the country. … Co-Lin is the only team still playing with a losing record (20-25). The Wolves are second in the state (behind Jones) in stolen bases with 108, which ranks 13th in the nation. Matthew Mordecai leads four players in double figures with 17.
The way Jones County Junior College is barreling along, it appears that everyone else is playing for second place in the MACJC. Today, in Poplarville, Pearl River and Hinds actually will play for second place in the standings. Pearl River, under first-year coach Michael Avalon, currently sits at No. 2, 12-4 in the league, 21-9 overall. Hinds, led by veteran skipper Sam Temple, is third at 11-5 and 22-10. Lucas Scott, a George County High product, is PRCC’s leading hitter at .366, and Taylorsville’s Austin Moffett is batting .323 with 18 steals. But the Wildcats’ scariest offensive threat may be Simon Landry, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound freshman from Louisiana who has 11 home runs. Peyton Lee (4-0, 1.78 ERA), from Picayune, and Colby White (3-1, 1.83) have been PRCC’s best pitchers. Hinds has an ace in Caleb Morgan (4-0, 1.60), a Grenada product, and several well-credentialed hitters: Kyle Shimpf (.385, five homers), Brandon’s Jackson Mitchell (.373), Hernando’s Will Craft (.357) and Natchez’s Quinton Logan (.353, 30 RBIs, 32 runs). While the Wildcats and Eagles are battling it out at Wildcat Field, Jones (15-1, 33-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II) will host Gulf Coast for a twinbill in Ellisville.
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.
A gem of an outing by Jarod Wright of Northwest Mississippi Community College has shaken up the pecking order in the MACJC standings. Wright threw a four-hitter against previously undefeated, No. 1-ranked Jones County JC in Senatobia on Saturday as the Rangers took an 11-1 win. Jones (23-1, 5-1) bounced back to win Game 2 14-2 behind Logan Robbins’ strong start and a grand slam by Shelton Wallace. But first place in the league now belongs to East Central, which improved to 6-0 (and 20-4) with a jaw-dropping sweep of Holmes in Goodman on Saturday. The Warriors, ranked seventh in NJCAA Division II, won 30-1 and 11-2. They hit seven homers on the day, six in Game 1, including a Wyatt Ball grand slam. Cole Prestegard went deep in both games, and pitchers Dylan Marsh and Tanner Elders weren’t too bad either. As fate would have it, JCJC and ECCC hook up Tuesday in Decatur. Could be classic. … Pearl River is also unbeaten in the league at 4-0 (13-5 overall) after a sweep of Northeast in Poplarville on Saturday. New coach Michael Avalon’s Wildcats, who’ve won eight straight, are at Gulf Coast on Tuesday and at Itawamba next Saturday. … ICC moved to 5-1 in the league (18-4 overall) by battering Meridian 17-2 and 5-2 on Sunday. Keith Stepter hit three homers and Tyreque Reed two in the first game of that twinbill. … Sitting at 3-1 in the MACJC is Mississippi Delta, under first-year coach Dan Rives.
Taylor Braley: The former Oak Grove High star pitched seven innings and doubled in the game’s first run to boost Southern Miss past Mississippi State 7-5 on Tuesday before a crowd of 5,198 at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
Kenny Wright: The junior out of Winston Academy threw a four-hitter for Millsaps in a 10-0 win against Belhaven that clinched the Maloney Trophy Series at Smith-Wills Stadium.
Blake Key: The Meridian native went 5-for-6, including Blue Mountain’s first-ever cycle in Game 2, drove in seven runs and scored six as the Toppers swept visiting Rust 17-7 and 19-1.
Cornelius Copeland: Drove in four runs and scored four more to spark Jackson State to a 17-2 win over LeMoyne-Owen, completing a doubleheader sweep at Braddy Field.
Zach Osbon: Held Henderson State to one run over the last three innings as Delta State rallied from a nine-run deficit to beat the Reddies 15-13 at Ferriss Field.
Colby Bortles: Knocked in Ole Miss’ lone run – in the ninth inning – in a 2-1 loss in 11 innings against Memphis at AutoZone Park.
Adam Frazier: The former Mississippi State standout, batting .442 this spring, scored the first and last runs of the game as Pittsburgh walked off with a 5-4 win against Tampa Bay in Grapefruit League action.
Fred Franklin and Logan Robbins: The reigning MACJC hitter and pitcher of the week will lead NJCAA Division II No. 1 Jones County Junior College (20-0) against 19th-ranked Hinds CC in a doubleheader today in Raymond.
Ole Miss took two of three from Vanderbilt. Jackson State took two of three from Alcorn State. Delta State and William Carey scored sweeps, and Mississippi Valley State, Mississippi College and Belhaven all won conference series on the road. Oh yeah, and Jones County Junior College remained unbeaten. But as the dust settles on an eventful weekend in college baseball, Southern Miss emerges as the team of the moment. The Golden Eagles swept Louisiana Tech at Ruston, La., in their C-USA opening series. Tech, loaded with former Hinds Community College stars, was 15-2 entering the weekend and ranked in some polls. Each game was a battle: 5-2, 13-9, 8-5. The Eagles got clutch pitching from Kirk McCarty and Matt Wallner in Game 1 and from Nick Sandlin in Game 3. They blasted seven homers all told – two by Taylor Braley – in Games 2 and 3. USM is now 16-4 and will take a seven-game win streak into Tuesday’s game against Mississippi State at Trustmark Park in Pearl. MSU (12-9) was one of the few state teams to suffer a bad weekend, scoring just six runs while dropping three straight at Arkansas to start SEC play. … Ole Miss, 14-6 and up to No. 11 in Baseball America’s new poll, won a wild rubber match with Vandy 10-8 on Sunday in Oxford as Dallas Woolfolk tossed two scoreless innings late and Chase Cockrell delivered a go-ahead double in the eighth. C.J. Newsome drove in four runs and Jose Tirado pitched a sterling 4 1/3 innings of relief as JSU (12-9, 6-3 SWAC) beat Alcorn 11-6 in Sunday’s series clincher at Braddy Field. Zack Shannon, batting .440 with five homers and 33 RBIs, knocked in eight runs as DSU (18-7, 10-5 Gulf South) rolled past Alabama-Huntsville. William Carey, 22-5 and ranked 12th in NAIA, scored 49 runs in a sweep of outmanned Brewton-Parker. MC (6-18, 4-10) won its second straight GSC series, taking the rubber match from Christian Brothers 6-5 on Sunday as Will Elliott and Hunter Austin drove in two runs apiece. Landon Boyd worked seven shutout innings in relief on Saturday to lift Belhaven past McMurry and give the Blazers an American Southwest Conference series win. BU (12-8) will play Millsaps on Tuesday at Smith-Wills Stadium for the Maloney Trophy. The Majors are 9-12 and coming off a Southern Athletic Association series loss at Rhodes. Finally, Jones County JC beat East Mississippi 8-5 and 3-1 on Saturday in Scooba to improve to 20-0, 2-0 MACJC. The Bobcats are ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II.
East Mississippi Community College, you’re up. Ten different teams have tried and failed to take down Jones County Junior College, which is 18-0 and ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA Division II poll. The Bobcats, the defending national champs, visit Scooba for a doubleheader today to start MACJC play. The Lions are 9-3 and ranked 14th. They are led by Marcus Ragan (.364) and Alex Knight (2-0, 3.38 ERA). They’ll face a JCJC team loaded with weapons. Start with the pitching trio of Logan Robbins (5-0, 2.25), Mason Strickland (5-0, 2.67) and Ben Stiglets (4-0, 2.13). The lineup features Shelton Wallace, a .451 hitter; Erick Hoard, .385 with six home runs; Jonathan Parker, .375 with 21 RBIs; and Fred Franklin, .349, 14 steals, 29 runs. Jones has registered its share of blowouts but also has won six games decided by one or two runs. So, go get ’em Lions. P.S. In other league openers of note: No. 8 East Central is at Coahoma; No. 11 Itawamba visits No. 13 Gulf Coast; 18th-ranked Hinds hosts Northeast; and No. 20 Northwest is at Pearl River. … Props to veteran Holmes coach Kenny Dupont, who notched his 500th victory with the Bulldogs on Wednesday. Dupont has guided Holmes to 17 straight winning seasons and has the team off to a 9-9 start in 2017.