Starkville’s Dudy Noble Field is a hot spot in the state this weekend — weather permitting, as always — with Mississippi State hosting SEC foe Florida as part of Super Bulldog Weekend. At Braddy Field in Jackson, Jackson State faces a SWAC showdown with Alabama A&M. Down in Hattiesburg at Taylor Park, Southern Miss has a big C-USA series against Florida Atlantic. Up in Cleveland, Ferriss Field will fill up for Delta State’s Gulf South Conference battle with Shorter. Mississippi Valley State will host Belhaven in Itta Bena today and then travel to Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium on Saturday for a twinbill against the Blazers. And on Sunday at Smith-Wills, perhaps the most compelling matchup of the weekend will see NJCAA Division II No. 1-ranked Hinds Community College take on No. 16 Northwest Mississippi CC. The doubleheader begins at 2 p.m. Hinds dropped a pair to Southwest at Smith-Wills on Thursday, falling into a tie atop the MACJC standings with Northwest at 16-4. Hinds (29-4 overall) has gotten prolific production from Jonathan Washam (.402 entering the Southwest set), Madison’s Matt Jones (.394, 34 runs), Cleveland’s Marshall Boggs (.349) and Clinton’s Chase Lunceford (.353, five home runs). Randy Bell (7-0, 2.36 ERA) of Woodville and Houston Case (6-1) of Brookhaven are the top winners on the mound for the Eagles, and Madison’s Austin Sanders has nine saves. Northwest (25-8) has won 12 straight games, including a sweep of Northeast on Tuesday in which the Rangers scored 21 runs on 29 hits. Clay Casey, the former DeSoto Central star, has swung a mighty bat, with a .358 average, eight homers, 28 RBIs and 30 runs. Ole Miss transfer Dalton Dulin leads the Rangers with a .382 average and has a school-record 36 stolen bases. Coldwater’s LeeMarcus Boyd is batting .320 with 30 runs. Myrtle’s Colt Smith is Northwest’s ace, having posted a 6-0 record with a 0.54 ERA, and Tupelo’s J.G. Lipscomb is 4-1, 1.48.
Both Mississippi State and Ole Miss popped up in various national preseason polls. Then the games started. Since winning its first 13 (all at Starkville) and rising in some polls, State has gone 9-16, a tailspin that seemed to start with a home loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff on March 3. The Bulldogs are 6-9 in the SEC West, a game back of Ole Miss (7-8). State has won just one SEC series (South Carolina), UM two (Florida and Vanderbilt). The Rebels, playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, are just 18-18 overall, apparently missing the eight MLB draftees taken from last year’s College World Series club more than some people thought they would. There is, of course, lots of baseball still to be played in the SEC. But State and Ole Miss have lots of work to do to get back in the polls and, more importantly, back in the NCAA regionals. … Southern Miss is 20-12-1 (2-0 in the Trustmark Park College Series) and 8-6 (fifth) in Conference USA. The Golden Eagles, who have the league’s top hitter in Taylor Braley (.398), have won two straight C-USA series. … In the SWAC, Jackson State is 10-5 and third in the East, with Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State tied in the cellar at 3-14. JSU, the defending league tournament champ, is 21-14 overall. … Delta State is 17-13 and 12-8 (t-fifth) in the Gulf South Conference. The Statesmen celebrated Mike Kinnison’s 800th career win last week and then took two of three from Mississippi College in the renewal of their old rivalry. … MC, ineligible for the GSC title as it transitions to NCAA Division II, is 12-27, 4-22 in what will be coach Brian Owens’ final season in Clinton. … Millsaps, 25-7 and ranked 10th in NCAA D-III, is first in the Southern Athletic Association standings at 15-3. … In the NAIA Southern States Athletic Conference, William Carey (15-9) is third, Belhaven (10-16) seventh and Blue Mountain (7-18) 10th. Carey (24-19 overall) swept league foe Martin Methodist over the weekend. BU celebrated another Maloney Trophy Series championship by beating Millsaps last week, then got swept by No. 1-ranked Faulkner in the SSAC. … NAIA Tougaloo, under first-year coach Earl Sanders, is 5-30. … In the jucos, No. 1-ranked Hinds Community College (29-2) is tops in the MACJC at 16-2, having won its showdown with East Mississippi CC last Saturday. Northwest has moved to No. 2 in the league at 14-4, and EMCC is third at 13-5.
East Mississippi Community College finally stubbed its toe, and we now have a tie at the top of the MACJC standings as the 28-game schedule hits the halfway point for many of the 15 schools. The Lions moved to 11-0 in league play with a 9-7 win over visiting Meridian on Tuesday but fell short in Game 2 of the doubleheader, losing 8-7. Hinds (24-1 overall, 11-1 MACJC) caught EMCC by taking a pair from Pearl River in Poplarville. The Eagles’ Chase Lunceford had a three-homer game in the opener. Looking ahead, Hinds and EMCC will tangle on April 11 in Scooba. … In the new NJCAA Division II rankings out today, Hinds remains No. 1, while EMCC is up to No. 14. Also ranked are Jones County JC at No. 10 and Meridian at 19th. … East Central and Northwest are 10-4 in the league, Meridian is 9-5 and Jones is 8-6. (The North and South divisions have been abandoned.) … EMCC’s win over Meridian was fueled by four home runs, two by Taylor Stafford. The Eagles got a homer and four RBIs from Dustin Smith in their win. … Players of the week in the league were named on Tuesday: MCC’s Goose Yates (9-for-18, six runs, five RBIs) and Itawamba’s Nick Burns (two wins, including a one-hitter against Meridian). … Northwest’s Dalton Dulin, a reverse transfer from Ole Miss, leads the nation in stolen bases with 31. He is batting .354. Clay Casey, former DeSoto Central star who previously signed with Ole Miss, is batting .346 with five homers and 16 RBIs for the Rangers.
Delta State is moving in the right direction heading into a Gulf South Conference series against West Georgia this weekend in Cleveland. The Statesmen have won six of eight to climb to 7-10 overall. They are 6-5 in the GSC after taking two of three from NCAA Division II No. 6 Alabama-Huntsville last weekend. Jacob Swinney (8-for-13, five RBIs) and Jonathan Moody (10-strikeout complete game) were named GSC players of the week after their performance in the UAH series. Swinney, a Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer out of St. Martin, is hitting .370, second on the club to Brandon Cummins (.382). … Also riding a wave into the weekend is William Carey, which took two of three games from NAIA No. 2 Faulkner at Montgomery, Ala., last weekend. The Crusaders, who started slow this season, are 17-15 and 9-6 in the Southern States Athletic Conference with Blue Mountain coming to Hattiesburg for a three-game league series. In the rubber game of the Faulkner series — a 9-5 win against Eagles ace Kurt Lipscomb — Tyler Richardson scored four runs and Alex Buechler and Michael Wells drove in three apiece. Even bigger: Larson Barkum delivered seven strong innings in relief to get the win. … Melvin Rodriguez, a senior from Puerto Rico, has been a driving force for Jackson State, which has won three straight to move to 15-8. Rodriguez went 3-for-5 with three RBIs in a win over Southern University at Braddy Field on Tuesday night. For the year, the left-handed hitting second baseman is batting .444 with nine doubles, a homer and 30 RBIs. … Millsaps, 15-4 and on a seven-game win streak, hosts Southern Athletic Association rival Centre this weekend. … Either Alcorn State or Mississippi Valley State, both struggling, will get a lift when the rivals play a SWAC series in Itta Bena this weekend. The Braves, 7-19 and 2-6 in the league, took a 10-game losing streak into a Wednesday twinbill with Tougaloo, which the Braves swept. The losing skid started with 13-0 and 21-0 losses at Oklahoma State in early March. The Delta Devils, under first-year coach Aaron Stevens, are 4-14-1, 1-7 with six consecutive losses, including a couple to JSU. P.S. The outcome was predictable when East Mississippi CC met Coahoma on Wednesday in Scooba — the first-place Lions took two from the last-place Tigers — but there is a wow factor in the details. EMCC, now 10-0 in the MACJC, won by scores of 31-2 and 13-2. The Lions scored 14 runs in the first inning of the first game. Drew Standland drove in six runs in the opener, and Kyle Liberto and David Pimentel picked up seven RBIs apiece on the day. Coahoma dropped to 1-19, 1-9.
Former East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson has been rated the No. 10 shortstop prospect in the minors by mlb.com. Anderson also has received an invitation to the Chicago White Sox’s major league spring training camp next month. A first-round pick in 2013, Anderson batted .301 with nine homers and 40 RBIs in an injury-interrupted 2014, finishing the season in Double-A. He also played well in the Arizona Fall League. … Other Mississippians who have received non-roster invites to big league camps include Petal High alumnus and former Mr. Baseball Anthony Alford (Toronto), Mississippi State product Hunter Renfroe (San Diego), ex-Hattiesburg High star Robert Carson (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Mississippi Gulf Coast CC alum Joey Butler (Tampa Bay). … Also of note: Former Mississippi Braves catcher J.C. Boscan has signed a minor league deal with Kansas City and will report to the Royals’ big league camp. P.S. Hinds Community College is ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA’s preseason poll, and Jones County Junior College is slotted at No. 11. Hinds, 40-21 and a Division II World Series finalist last year, opens on Feb. 7 against Mineral Area (Mo.) in Raymond. Jones, 46-11 and MACJC state champion in 2014, starts Feb. 7 against Jeff Davis (Ala.) in Ellisville.
Two players on Mississippi junior college rosters for this season batted over .420 in 2014. At least three reached the 10-homer plateau. Another stole 20 bases. There were several pitchers who posted an ERA under 3.00. There was a 9-game winner and a few who notched eight, including a certain right-hander who also had 10 saves. Those are some of the numbers that grab your eye from the NJCAA’s lists of top returning players in Division II Region 23. With the season fast approaching — most of the state jucos start on or about Feb. 7 — here a few names (with numbers) to watch for from the MACJC: Trent Turner (Northeast Mississippi Community College), .423, eight homers, 50 RBIs; James Land (Gulf Coast), .422, 10 homers; Chase Hensley (Jones County JC), .373 and 8-1, 2.60 ERA; Marshall Boggs (Hinds), .366; Dalton Thomas (Meridian), .349, seven homers; Chad McNeil (Holmes), .341, 20 steals; Will Simon (Jones), 2.59 ERA; Goose Yates (Meridian), 6-2, 2.73; J’Daylin Jackson (East Mississippi), 8-1, 3.77; Austin Sanders (Hinds), 8-2, 2.95, 10 saves; Randy Bell (Hinds), 9-4; Brady Badon (Southwest), 3.18, seven saves.
Hinds Community College will start the 2015 season where it finished 2014 – and that’s not a bad place to be. The Eagles, who finished runner-up in the NJCAA Division II World Series last season, are ranked No. 2 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll. No. 1 is Mesa (Ariz.), the team that beat Hinds in the title game. The Eagles have 11 NCAA Division I signees on their roster. They return the top five hitters from 2014, led by Luke Reynolds (.376), Marshall Boggs (.366) and Quade Smith (.331). Also back are home run leaders Chase Lunceford and Matt Jones, who blasted 10 apiece. Austin Sanders (8-2, 10 saves) returns on the mound, along with Randy Bell (9-4) and Casey Sutton (8-3). “We should be good. We should at least get back to the World Series,” Lunceford said in an interview last summer. “I know that’s tough to do, but we’ll have high expectations.” Hinds certainly is a team to watch, and the watch will start on Feb. 7, when the Eagles open against Mineral Area (Mo.) at Moss Field in Raymond. … East Mississippi was No. 18 in the preseason poll and Northwest checked in at No. 20.
With nine NCAA Division I early signees on the roster, you’ve got to like Hinds Community College’s chances of earning some championship hardware in 2015. The Eagles went 40-21 in 2014, won the NJCAA Region 23 title and reached the NJCAA Division II title game. The group of D-I signees includes five players bound for Louisiana Tech in 2016, among them Cleveland’s Marshall Boggs (.366 in 2014) and Clinton native Chase Lunceford (.328, 10 home runs). Madison’s Austin Sanders, who posted a 2.95 ERA, 10 saves and eight wins as a freshman, is headed to Ole Miss. Brookhaven’s Houston Case, another standout pitcher, will move on to Southern Miss. And Sam Temple’s Eagles likely will have more players sign D-I offers in April. It’ll be interesting to see where HCC ranks in the NJCAA preseason poll. No. 1, perhaps? P.S. Former Ole Miss star Alex Presley reportedly has agreed to a $1 million deal for 2015 with Houston, his 2014 club. Presley batted .244 with six homers and 19 RBIs in an injury-interrupted season. The Astros picked up the veteran outfielder last spring as a waiver claim from Minnesota.
Hunter Renfroe mashed a grand slam in a televised Arizona Fall League game on Saturday. The former Mississippi State standout and San Diego prospect is batting .271 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in the AFL. … East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson, also playing in the AFL, had another three-hit game on Saturday and is batting .313 with two homers and five stolen bases. The Chicago White Sox prospect missed a big chunk of the 2014 season because of a broken wrist. “I definitely saw some things that helped me become a better ballplayer,” he told mlb.com about his downtime. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, understandably rusty, is 2-for-16 with eight strikeouts in the Australian Baseball League, where Toronto sent him to get some work in preparation for his return to the minors in 2015. … Belhaven University senior second baseman Paul Pickerrell has been named to the NAIA preseason All-America team. The Pearl River CC transfer batted .345 with 38 runs and 38 steals for the Blazers in 2014. … Preston Brown threw five scoreless innings and Reid Humphreys, the former Northwest Rankin High star, went 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs as the Maroon beat the Gray 8-0 in a Mississippi State fall scrimmage on Saturday. … Hinds CC, the NJCAA Division II runner-up in 2014, will open its 2015 season on Feb. 7 in Raymond against Mineral Area (Mo.) College. The Eagles will play 28 MACJC games next season. With Meridian re-joining the state association, every team in the league will play two games against every other team. There are still North and South divisions, but the playoff qualifying system has been altered slightly.
The search is on for a new coach at Southwest Mississippi Community College, where Lee Kuyrkendall resigned earlier this week after six seasons in Summit. One has to wonder if Kuyrkendall’s top assistant during his tenure, Ken Jackson, might be a logical candidate to replace him. Jackson is, like Kuyrkendall, a former Bears player and had a good track record as head coach at Parklane Academy. Southwest, which produced current Kansas City Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson, went 15-27 overall in 2014 and was 9-15 in the MACJC South Division, missing the postseason. Kuyrkendall previously coached at Mississippi College.