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 Hardy 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.
Jones County Junior College slipped out of the top spot in the new NJCAA Division II poll, replaced by LSU-Eunice, which beat the Bobcats 3-2 last week. Jones is 13-3. Rising on the chart was East Central CC, up to No. 5 from 10th in the previous poll. The 11-1 Warriors have won seven straight. Wyatt Ball has led the charge, batting .500 with two homers, 14 RBIs and 14 runs. George Farid is hitting .441, and Southern Miss signee Jacob Edwards is at .390 with 16 RBIs. On the bump, Delta State-bound Payton Griffin is 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA, and Kolby Crowley has a 0.84 in six appearances. Four other MACJC schools are ranked, though each slipped a bit from last week. Itawamba (12-2) is eighth, Hinds (11-2) 13th, Gulf Coast (16-2) 16th and Pearl River (9-3) 19th. Holmes, at 11-2, isn’t in the Top 20, nor is Copiah-Lincoln (10-2). Only two of the 15 teams in the league are under .500. Conference play, which starts this weekend, will sort a lot of this out.
The long ball is all the rage in the MACJC this season. Brandon Parker of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College leads the nation’s Division II jucos with 10 home runs, and four other state players rank among the top seven. Parker, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound freshman out of West Harrison High, belted No. 10 on Saturday against Baton Rouge CC at MGM Park in Biloxi. He is batting .500 with 29 RBIs (tied for the national lead) for the 13-1 Bulldogs. Northwest’s Brant Blaylock has six bombs in his last seven games and seven on the year in 10 games. Gulf Coast’s Dylan Menhennett and East Mississippi’s Anthony Hickman have hit six homers apiece, and Meridian’s Blake Morris has five, tied for seventh in the country. … Itawamba and Holmes lost over the weekend, meaning there are no unbeatens left in the state. ICC is 11-1, as is top-ranked Jones County. East Central and Pearl River are 9-1. Conference play, which has not yet begun, promises to be a wild ride.
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.
There figures to be plenty of interest in the Jones County Junior College coaching job, which came open Monday when Christian Ostrander was named pitching coach at Louisiana Tech. JCJC sits in the heart of an area with many strong prep programs. It has a first-rate facility in Community Bank Park. And Ostrander built a winning tradition, going 255-109 in seven seasons with two state championships and a national runner-up finish in 2011. Among the players returning from last year’s 30-16 club is NJCAA Division II second-team All-America catcher Mason Irby, a Southern Miss signee. JCJC officials hope to have Ostrander’s replacement named at the December Board of Trustees meeting, according to a school release. Ostrander is a Monroe, La., native who played at Delta State when current LaTech coach Greg Goff was the pitching coach there. P.S. Kudos to former Jackson Mets star Dave Magadan, who is expected to be named hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Potent pitching performances popped up all over the place in the opening round of the MACJC postseason as the top four seeds survived and advanced. Third-ranked Hinds Community College, the regular season champion, swept Southwest Mississippi to earn the host role for the four-team state tournament that begins Thursday at Moss Field in Raymond. The Eagles’ Randy Bell moved to 10-0 on the year with a complete-game (seven innings) effort in a 14-3 win in Game 1 on Friday. Houston Case (7-1) allowed just one hit in four innings of a 13-3 win in Game 2 on Saturday. East Mississippi completed a sweep of Mississippi Delta behind Andrew Crane’s four-hitter in a 4-0 victory. Austin Towles buoyed Northwest with seven strong innings in the 7-3 clincher in Game 2 against Jones County. And in the only series that went the full three games, Meridian’s Austin Harrison allowed one run in seven innings as the Eagles run-ruled East Central 11-1 in the decisive contest. The bracket for the double-elimination state tournament has yet to be set, though it figures that Hinds will open with 4-seed Meridian and EMCC would play Northwest. P.S. Former Mississippi Gulf Coast CC standout Joey Butler was called up to the big leagues today by Tampa Bay, replacing injured Desmond Jennings, an Itawamba CC alum, on the active roster.
The defending MACJC Tournament champion is Jones County Junior College, which enters the 2015 postseason as the league’s No. 6 seed. The Bobcats might qualify as a sleeper. They were once ranked No. 8 in the country and have won 30 games, one of only three teams in the league to reach that number. They open postseason play at third-seeded Northwest Mississippi CC in an intriguing best-of-3 series that starts today. The Bobcats’ top hitter is Mason Irby, who is batting .390 with 50 RBIs. But Irby might play a bigger role on defense; the freshman out of Southeast Lauderdale High is JCJC’s catcher. He’ll face a Northwest team that swiped 111 bases this year, including Dalton Dulin’s nation-leading 42. Jamell Newson got 19, LeeMarcus Boyd 15 and Clay Casey 11. … In the other opening series, No. 8 seed Southwest Mississippi is at No. 1 Hinds, No. 7 Mississippi Delta visits No. 2 East Mississippi and No. 5 East Central is at No. 4 Meridian. Hinds slipped from No. 1 (with LSU-Eunice) to No. 3 in the NJCAA Division II poll released Wednesday. Meridian is ranked 15th, East Mississippi 16th. … Itawamba CC missed out on the postseason but did sweep MACJC individual honors from the last week of the regular season. The Indians’ Tanner Poole went 15-for-27 with 12 RBIs, 10 runs and four stolen bases in six games and T.J. Watson won twice and posted a 1.42 ERA in his two outings.