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.
Beyond that big SEC series going on in Oxford this weekend – and Game 1 certainly moved the needle on the drama meter – there are other games of interest scattered around the state. In Lorman, at Rat McGowan Field, Alcorn State hosts Alabama State, the SWAC leader, in a three-game set. The Braves, 3-6 in the league, have a chance to climb the standings by taking down the 7-2 Hornets, who feature the league’s leading hitter, Cage Cox from Cairo, Ga. In Hattiesburg, at Wheeler Field, NAIA No. 9 William Carey, which has lost three straight games, tries to get back on track in an SSAC series against Bethel, which comes in at 18-12, 5-4. Carey is 23-9, 9-3. They are two of the top hitting teams in a league known for hitting. In Jackson, at Twenty Field on the Millsaps campus, the Majors, needing to make a stand in the Southern Athletic Association race, face off against Hendrix, which is in a similar situation. Millsaps (11-15 overall) is 2-6 in the league, Hendrix (9-16) 3-6. In Fulton, at Cresap Field, ninth-ranked Itawamba Community College hosts MACJC leader Pearl River CC for a Saturday doubleheader. ICC is 18-4, 5-1 in conference. Unranked PRCC is 15-5, 6-0, and has won 10 straight. The Wildcats have four regulars batting .327 or better – Lucas Scott leads the way at .436 — and five pitchers with two wins, including Colby White, who also has three saves. At Oak Grove High’s R.A. Clinton Park, the Warriors, ranked No. 15 in MaxPreps’ latest Xcellent 25, will look to beef up their 15-1 record when they host Meridian today and Seminary on Saturday (before a trip to Purvis on Saturday night). Oak Grove is led by Drew Boyd, a Southern Miss signee who is hitting .396 with four bombs and boasts a 4-0, 0.00 pitching ledger.
It kinda figures that closers will play a significant role in this weekend’s Mississippi State-Ole Miss series in Oxford. The Rebels (16-9, 3-3 SEC) have been offensively challenged (.246) all season, but they’ll be up against a State staff that has the second-worst ERA in the SEC. The Bulldogs (16-10, 3-3), led by the mashing of Brent Rooker, are a .300-hitting team, but they’ll be up against a UM staff that ranks second in the league in ERA. All this points to close games and late-inning drama, which is what everybody – well, practically everybody – would like to see at Oxford-University Stadium. As a bonus, both teams are well-armed at the back of the bullpen. Ole Miss’ primary closer is Dallas Woolfolk, a sophomore right-hander out of DeSoto Central High. He has six saves, a 1-1 record and has yielded just two runs in 18 innings. Will Stokes, a junior right-hander out of West Lauderdale, also gets some save opps – as he did last year behind Wyatt Short. Stokes has four saves, a 1-0 mark and a 3.29 ERA in 13 2/3 innings. For State, Spencer Price, a Meridian Community College transfer from Olive Branch, has taken on the closer job. The big right-hander has six saves, a 2-1 record and a 1.93 ERA. Though neither has a save, Jacob Barton (2.00) and Riley Self (2.45) also have been effective out of the Bulldogs’ pen. … The first two games of the series will be televised: ESPNU has the Thursday game at 7 p.m. and SEC Network the Friday game at 6. P.S. The new NJCAA Division II poll has four Mississippi schools in the top 20. Ironically, Pearl River Community College, the only team with a spotless MACJC record, isn’t among them. PRCC moved to 6-0 (15-5 overall) with a doubleheader sweep at Gulf Coast on Tuesday. Jones County, which lost for the first time last week, is still No. 1. The Bobcats are 25-1 and 7-1 in the league after sweeping No. 6 East Central (20-6, 6-2) in Tuesday’s marquee showdown. Itawamba (18-4, 5-1), which hosts PRCC on Saturday, is ranked ninth, and Gulf Coast (15-9, 4-4), just swept by The River on Tuesday, is No. 20.
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.
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.