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.
Talk about dialed in. Itawamba Community College’s Tyreque Reed went 11-for-12 in four games last week. The sophomore from Houlka hit four home runs, drove in 10 runs, scored eight times, stole three bases and walked four times to boot. A 6-foot-1, 260-pound third baseman/outfielder, Reed helped the Indians sweep doubleheaders from Blue Mountain’s JV team and Snead State, improving to 11-3 on the season. Reed is batting .512 overall with five homers and 19 RBIs. … For the record, Reed is not the MACJC’s top hitter. According to the NJCAA Division II stats page, Coahoma’s Zachary Gilder, a freshman from Olive Branch (Center Hill), is batting a robust .577 through 11 games. Not far behind Reed is East Central’s Luke Yancey, a sophomore from Morton (East Rankin Academy) who is at .500 through 14 games.
Cody Reed’s promotion to Cincinnati – the left-hander is scheduled to start Saturday against Houston – brings to six the number of Mississippi junior colleges currently represented in the big leagues. Reed played at Northwest Mississippi Community College. The other MACJC products are Tim Anderson (East Central), Corey Dickerson (Meridian), Jarrod Dyson (Southwest), Desmond Jennings (Itawamba) and Tony Sipp (Gulf Coast). That’s kinda cool. … Former Ole Miss standout Chris Ellis is slated to make his Triple-A debut on Saturday for the Gwinnett Braves against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Ellis was promoted today from the Double-A Mississippi Braves. The right-hander was 8-2 with a 2.75 ERA for the M-Braves and had been selected for next week’s Southern League All-Star Game. Lucas Sims, another pitching prospect who had been scuffling at Gwinnett, returned to the M-Braves’ roster. … Tyler Moore has played just one game since late April for Gwinnett. The Mississippi State alum, batting .242 with one homer in 16 games, is on the disabled list – his second stint this season — with an undisclosed injury. … Oxford High, the MHSAA Class 5A champion, is ranked 19th in Baseball America’s final high school poll of 2016. The Chargers, led by Jason Barber and Grae Kessinger, went 28-8. Class 6A champ Madison Central (27-10) is ranked No. 42 in that poll.
Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson has been called up by the Chicago White Sox and likely will be in the lineup tonight against Kansas City. The highly rated shortstop prospect, 22, was batting .304 with four homers, 20 RBIs and 11 steals at Triple-A Charlotte. Anderson led ECCC to the MACJC championship in 2013 and was drafted in the first round that same year. He was a Southern League All-Star for Birmingham in 2015.
Big: Mississippi State beat Arkansas 5-1 on Friday in Starkville to keep pace with Texas A&M in the SEC. Both are 20-9, best in the West and overall with one game left in the season. State (39-14-1) last won a regular season title in the SEC in 1989. The Bulldogs go for the sweep of the Razorbacks today while also pulling for Ole Miss, which will try to salvage the series finale against Texas A&M at College Station. The Aggies are 5-0 against the Magnolia State this year.
Bigger: Delta State took down Tampa, ranked as high as No. 2 in NCAA Division II, on Friday to move to 2-0 in the South Region tournament at Tampa, Fla. There is still work to do, but DSU (40-15) is smelling what would be a 12th regional championship and a trip to the D-II World Series.
Biggest: East Central Community College topped Jones County Junior College 11-10 in the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament on Friday at Decatur. The Warriors, MACJC champs, are in the championship round, awaiting the winner of an elimination game between No. 2 JCJC and No. 1 LSU-Eunice. The region champ gets a berth in the NJCAA D-II World Series.
P.S. The season ended on Friday for Jackson State and Alcorn State in the SWAC Tournament and for Northwest CC in the Region 23 tourney. William Carey’s season ended Thursday in an NAIA regional. … If you haven’t seen the catch made by former Mississippi Braves star Jason Heyward on Friday night in San Francisco, find the highlight. Playing right field for the Chicago Cubs, Heyward tracked down a fly ball into deep right-center, making what the Giants announcers on XM radio were calling the best catch they had ever seen.
Brian Snitker, the manager of the first Mississippi Braves team in 2005 and a veteran of 40 years in the Atlanta organization, deserved the opportunity to manage in the big leagues. Just not sure if he deserved this: a 9-29 team that can’t seem to do anything right. It was difficult to watch on Tuesday night as the Braves, in Snitker’s debut as Fredi Gonzalez’s replacement, gave up seven runs to Pittsburgh in the first inning. Atlanta battled back – thanks in part to two homers by former M-Braves star Mallex Smith – but still lost 12-9. The Braves are last in MLB in runs, 25th in ERA and 29th in fielding percentage. How much difference can Snitker make? … Hunter Renfroe, the former Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs, homered for the third straight game with El Paso on Tuesday night. Renfroe, a right fielder, is batting .313 with eight bombs and 28 RBIs in 36 games for San Diego’s Triple-A club. The Padres, the worst hitting team in baseball, are last in the National League West. Seems like they could use some help. … Jackson State, which begins SWAC Tournament play today against Texas Southern, leads the SWAC in hitting and homers, but the Tigers do have some arms. While Alabama State’s pitching is far and away the best in the league, JSU’s ERA of 5.31 ranks second. Miguel Yrigoyen, an All-SWAC second-team pick, is 8-3 with a 5.16 ERA, and Jevon Jacobs (3.99), Jamal Wilson (4.42) and Vincent Anthonia (4.73) can get people out. … William Carey University faces an elimination game today in its NAIA regional at Santa Barbara, Calif. The Crusaders beat College of Idaho 7-6 (on Mitch Little’s two-run hit in the seventh) but lost to top-seeded Westmont (Calif.) 14-1 on Tuesday. … At the Clark/Gay Baseball Complex in Decatur on Thursday they can say with literal certainty that it gets no better than this: No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice vs. No. 2 Jones County Junior College in the first round of the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament. The undercard isn’t bad either: MACJC champion East Central, ranked 14th, and Northwest.
13 – Wins in 13 weekend series finales by Southern Miss, which beat Louisiana Tech 2-0 on Sunday to improve to 36-15 on the season, 20-7 (first) in Conference USA.
30 – Runs, on 45 hits, piled up by Mississippi State in its weekend sweep at Auburn, coached by former State pitching coach Butch Thompson. The Bulldogs are 37-14-1, 18-9 SEC.
26 – Home wins, in 32 games, for Ole Miss (39-13, 17-10 SEC), which finished a sweep of Kentucky with Henri Lartigue’s walk-off home run on Saturday.
4 – Delta State’s seed in the NCAA Division II South Region tournament at Tampa, Fla. The Statesmen, 38-15 and Gulf South Conference champs, play 5-seed Lynn University on Thursday.
3 – Consecutive years William Carey has earned an NAIA regional bid. The Crusaders (37-19) play College of Idaho on Tuesday in Santa Barbara, Calif.
60 – Runs, leading the SWAC, by Jackson State’s Cornelius Copeland, who also is batting a league-high .421 for the Tigers (32-24) heading into the SWAC Tournament.
84 – Runs in five postseason games by East Central Community College, which won its fourth MACJC championship and will host the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament this week in Decatur.