Here are a few names to know heading into the weekend: Cameron Baranek, Dominick Cammarata and Wes Degener. … Baranek is the leading hitter for Hope International, which is William Carey University’s first-round opponent on Friday in the NAIA World Series at Lewiston, Idaho. Baranek is batting .356 with 13 homers for a Royals team that is playing just its second season. The California-based Royals (35-16) can mash (66 homers) and dash (101 steals), but their pitching staff has a 4.48 ERA. … Cammarata is the hitting star for Pitt (N.C.) Community College, which is Hinds CC’s first-round foe on Saturday in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla. Cammarata has put up a .349 average, 17 homers and 69 RBIs for a Bulldogs team that is 41-7 with 16 straight wins. … Degener is the catalyst for Lindenwood (Mo.) University, which is Delta State’s first-round opponent on Saturday in the NCAA Division II World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas. Degener is hitting .399 with 21 steals and 54 runs for the Lions (39-18), who won the Central Region title in their first regional appearance. … But enough about those guys. Here are some picks to click for the home boys: Adrian Brown, Quinton Logan and Clay Casey. … Brown, Carey’s senior center fielder from McComb, does a lot of things in a loaded lineup that also features James Land and a band of Tylers (Graves, Odom, James). Brown is hitting .300 with four homers, 16 doubles, five triples, 44 RBIs, 60 runs and 36 steals. If the Crusaders make a run in Lewiston, Brown will be in the thick of things. … Logan, a sophomore from Natchez, is not Hinds CC’s best hitter – that’s Jackson Mitchell (.385, six homers) — and he’s not the Eagles’ ace – that’s Caleb Morgan (8-1, 2.23). Logan is a two-way threat for Hinds, posting a 1.19 ERA and seven saves and a .333 batting average with 11 doubles, 47 RBIs and 42 runs. Somehow, someway, he’ll be a factor in any success in Enid. … Casey, a transfer from Houston (by way of Northwest CC and DeSoto Central), has had a big year for Delta State that has been largely overshadowed by the ginormous year enjoyed by Zack Shannon. Casey is batting .346 (.673 slugging) with 17 bombs, 62 RBIs and 58 runs. If Shannon gets pitched around in Grand Prairie, Casey is certainly capable of picking up any slack.
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.
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.
The Governor’s Cup is a big deal. There will be a big crowd tonight at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Mississippi State’s surprising sweep of Ole Miss in Oxford last month will be a big topic of conversation. Fans will ooh and ahh as rival sluggers Brent Rooker and Colby Bortles take big swings for the fences. But in the grand scheme, tonight’s non-conference clash doesn’t mean a whole lot. There are much bigger things just ahead for both schools. For State, that would be Auburn. For UM, Arkansas. State, enjoying a remarkable first year under Andy Cannizaro, has the best record in the SEC at 13-5, including those three one-run wins over Alabama last week. The Bulldogs (28-14) have jumped into the top 10 in some of the polls. But State’s seat atop the league is about to be threatened: Here comes Auburn for an SEC series that starts Friday in Starkville. The Tigers, coached by former Bulldogs assistant Butch Thompson, are 30-12, 12-6 SEC and also highly ranked. It’s a series that will garner national attention. Ole Miss, meanwhile, will be at Arkansas this weekend (Thursday-Saturday) to face a nationally ranked Razorbacks team (32-10, 12-6) that is 24-3 at Baum Stadium. Mike Bianco’s Rebels (25-15) are just 9-9 in the SEC and fighting to stay in the picture for an NCAA regional bid. The winner of tonight’s game at the TeePee gets a fine feather in its cap, but both teams will move on with some urgency. P.S. Belated props to Cole Marsh, a freshman right-hander at Mississippi Delta Community College, and Bubba Stockstill, a sophomore lefty for East Mississippi CC. Marsh pitched a six-hit shutout against No. 1-ranked Jones County JC on Friday in Moorhead. The 3-0 loss was just the second of the season for JCJC (36-2, 18-2 MACJC), which is averaging nine runs a game. Delta is 24-14, 11-9. The 6-foot-7 Stockstill threw a six-inning no-hitter with 10 strikeouts against Pearl River CC in a 10-0 victory on Sunday in Scooba. He was named MACJC pitcher of the week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Top-ranked Jones County Junior College has rolled out to an 8-0 start and is the only Mississippi juco still unbeaten. The defending NJCAA Division II national champion plays host to Kaskaskia (Ill.) today in Ellisville. Fred Franklin is batting .346 (.485 on-base percentage) with 11 runs and four steals for Chris Kirtland’s Bobcats, and Ben Stiglets is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. … Coahoma started 6-0 but lost a doubleheader on Wednesday to the Rhodes College JV. Latalo Newson was batting .667 with three homers and 15 RBIs through six games for the Tigers, and Hunter Wilson, a star from Star, was at .472 with two bombs and 12 RBIs. … East Central’s Cole Gray, a freshman from Meridian, was named the NJCAA D-II pitcher of the week on Thursday after earning MACJC honors earlier in the week. Gray went six innings, allowing one run on two hits with 10 strikeouts in a win last week against Coastal Alabama. The Warriors, ranked eighth in preseason, are 5-1. … Hinds, ranked No. 17 in the NJCAA preseason poll, is 4-4. … Southwest’s “T Tez” Cole was the MACJC hitter of the week after going 4-for-7 with five RBIs and five runs. The freshman from Monticello is 8-for-16 on the season for the 5-1 Bears. … Gulf Coast, sparked by Tyler Evans (.381, four RBIs, eight runs) is 5-1 with five straight wins. The Bulldogs, playing exclusively on the road while Farris Field in Perkinston undergoes renovation, take on Dyersburg (Tenn.) State and Kaskaskia in d’Iberville on Saturday. … Mississippi Delta is 4-2 under first-year coach Dan Rives, the longtime Hinds assistant, and Pearl River, under new coach Michael Avalon, is 0-2 heading into a twinbill today against Dyersburg.
With college classes having begun, it’s time for those “what I did on my summer vacation” stories. Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington and Jake Mangum showed out in the Cape Cod League, earning recognition from Baseball America as top 30 prospects from the prestigious summer circuit. Pilkington, a left-hander from Hurley and East Central High, was 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA in seven games for Brewster. He also made the All-CCBL team, as chosen by the league. At State this past season, he was 3-1, 2.08 in 14 appearances. Mangum, a Jackson Prep product, hit .300 with nine RBIs and 11 steals in 35 games for Bourne. The Ferriss Trophy winner batted .408 for the Bulldogs as a freshman last spring. … Of the Ole Miss players who took part in summer league ball, none has more to boast about than Parker Ciracci, another Jackson Prep product who redshirted at UM last spring. Right-hander Ciracci posted an 0.78 ERA, five wins and seven saves in 21 games in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Fellow Rebel D.J. Miller had a fun time, too, batting .286 with 32 runs and 10 steals in the Cal Ripken League. UM’s Kyle Watson, a DeSoto Central alum, swiped 21 bags in the Alaska League. … Southern Miss’ Mason Irby, a transfer from juco national champ Jones County Junior College, played on the NJCAA National Team that went 3-1 in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. Golden Eagles J.C. Keys and Matthew Guidry were Texas Collegiate League All-Star Game picks. Guidry finished at .331 with 14 RBIs and 24 runs in 40 games for Acadiana, and Keys put up a 4.13 ERA in 13 games for the same club. … Mississippi College’s Hunter Lacefield, a lefty transfer from Northwest CC, went 4-1 with a 0.76 ERA for the North Delta Dealers, the best team in the New Albany-based Cotton States League this summer. … Alcorn State has a new pitching coach, David Duncan, a former Florida A&M pitcher who has some pro experience. The Braves had a staff ERA of 8.03 in 2016, so Duncan has some work to do. … New head coaches are settling in at jucos Pearl River and Mississippi Delta. Michael Avalon left Delta to replace Josh Hoffpauir at PRCC, and longtime Hinds assistant Dan Rives filled the vacancy at Delta, where he played.