10 Aug

coming up

The NJCAA National Team, featuring five MACJC players, has made the semifinals of the National Baseball Congress World Series. The NJCAA stars, who rallied to win their quarterfinal 9-8 in a game that ended at 1:40 a.m. local time today, play the Wellington Heat tonight at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, Kan. Brant Blaylock, a Southern Miss signee out of Northwest Mississippi Community College, is hitting .294 with three RBIs and four runs. Hinds CC coach Sam Temple is an assistant on the team. … The get-off-my-lawn segment of traditionalists may cringe, but Players Weekend is back in the big leagues. “Bull,” “C-Dizzle,” “Bone” and “Juicy J” are nicknames that will adorn the distinctly non-traditional jerseys of Mississippians in the majors during the second annual event that starts Aug. 24. Brian Dozier is “Bull,” Corey Dickerson “C-Dizzle,” Billy Hamilton “Bone” and JaCoby Jones “Juicy J.” Mitch Moreland again will wear “2 Bags,” and Hunter Renfroe will be “Froe.” Lance Lynn will wear “Mia,” his daughter’s name. … Milwaukee visits Atlanta for a big weekend series that matches the parent clubs of the state’s two Double-A teams. The Braves have a much more homegrown roster, with 10 former Mississippi Braves among the 25 players. That tally includes five regulars: Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Johan Camargo and Ronald Acuna. There are four Biloxi Shuckers alums with the Brewers, none of them position regulars. Tonight’s starter, Freddy Peralta, is one of three pitchers who played in Biloxi. … Saturday is National Baseball Card Day, a reminder to search the attic one more time for those lost cardboard treasures. How much is a George Scott rookie worth, anyway? … Four Mississippians are on the East roster for Sunday’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego: Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy, Pearl River Central’s Hayden Dunhurst, George County’s Logan Tanner and Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, who attends IMG Academy in Florida.

07 Aug

around the horn

Two games into his New York Yankees career, ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn looks like a good fit. The big right-hander played stopper on Monday night, throwing 7 1/3 fairly brilliant innings to beat the Chicago White Sox 7-0 and end the Yanks’ five-game skid. He hasn’t allowed a run in 11 2/3 innings over two appearances since his trade from Minnesota. His ERA for the season is now 4.58. Lynn won 72 games in six years in St. Louis, pitched in 24 postseason games and won a World Series ring in 2011. And yet: “When playing for the Yankees, it’s a little different,” Lynn said in an mlb.com story. … Meanwhile, UM alum Bobby Wahl, pitching for that other New York club, notched his second hold on Monday night in his third appearance for the Mets, who beat Cincinnati 6-4. Wahl, acquired in a trade with Oakland, has three strikeouts among the five outs he has recorded in his three scoreless outings. … Though not all of his numbers are great, former Southern Miss ace Kirk McCarty does lead all low Class A pitchers in strikeouts with 132. The 5-foot-10 left-hander from Hattiesburg is 4-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 115 1/3 innings for Lake County in Cleveland’s system. He has won three of his last four decisions. … Joe Gray, drafted in the second round in June by Milwaukee, isn’t hitting much in the rookie Arizona League – .175 in 17 games – but the Hattiesburg High alum has shown a knack for drawing walks – 14, boosting his on-base percentage to .342. The 18-year-old outfielder has a homer, eight RBIs, 10 runs and six steals. … The NJCAA National Team, featuring several MACJC stars, is 1-1 in the National Baseball Congress World Series after a 6-3 loss to the San Antonio, TX Angels on Monday. Jones County JC’s Tyler Spring took the loss, though he allowed just one earned run in 5 1/3 innings. Northwest’s Brant Blaylock was 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI and Gulf Coast’s Brandon Parker 0-for-2 with two walks and a run. Blaylock went 3-for-6 with an RBI and Parker 1-for-4 with two walks and an RBI in a 7-6, 12-inning win vs. the San Diego, CA Force in the team’s opener on Saturday. Shermar Page of Pearl River pitched a scoreless inning in that game.

02 Aug

good old summertime

The NJCAA National Team, which includes five MACJC alums, begins play in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday against the San Diego, CA Force. Pitchers Shemar Page of Pearl River Community College and Tyler Spring of Jones County, catcher Tucker Childers of Northeast and outfielders Brandon Parker of Mississippi Gulf Coast and Brant Blaylock of Northwest are on the NJCAA team roster. Hinds coach Sam Temple is on the coaching staff. Parker, from Saucier and West Harrison High, was the NJCAA Division II player of the year as a freshman. … Southern Miss All-American Matt Wallner is hitting .250 with four homers, 11 RBIs and four steals in 80 at-bats for Falmouth in the Cape Cod League, which concludes its regular season today. Falmouth has clinched a playoff berth. Wallner, who did not make the final cut for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, has had a streaky tour in the CCBL. He had a seven-game hit streak that included three homers in mid-July. He is 6-for-13 with three RBIs over his last four games. … The Hattiesburg Black Sox, champions of the Mississippi Baseball Congress state tournament, are participating in the inaugural Bluegrass World Series in Louisville, Ky. The six-day, eight-team tournament, created by the owners of the minor league Louisville Bats, includes various amateur and semi-pro teams, most notably the Louisville Stars, a collection of former major leaguers. Managed by Johnny Bench, the Stars’ listed roster includes, along with Chipper Jones, Tim Hudson and Johnny Damon, former Holmes Community College star Roy Oswalt and Mississippi State alum Jonathan Papelbon. The Black Sox played the Stars on Wednesday; they lost 15-2. … The North Delta Dealers are the 2018 Cotton States League champions; they beat HillCountry 6-2 in the summer league’s title game in New Albany on Sunday. Collin McPherson, a Freed-Hardeman alum, homered, scored three times and pitched six innings for the Dealers. Northwest Mississippi CC’s Hunter White had a hit and scored twice and Southaven’s John Wesley Ray had two hits and an RBI for the Dealers. … Chad Girodo, ex-Mississippi State star and onetime big leaguer, is pitching for the Chicago Dogs of the independent American Association. (The Dogs’ bench coach is Jackson native Stan Cliburn.) Girodo was released from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization in June. Through 10 games with the Dogs, the 27-year-old lefty has a 3.17 ERA.

13 Jul

wichita-bound

Mississippi will be well-represented on the all-star team the NJCAA is sending to the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. The 26-man National Team roster, announced this week, includes five MACJC alums: pitchers Shemar Page of Pearl River Community College and Tyler Spring of Jones County, catcher Tucker Childers of Northeast and outfielders Brandon Parker of Mississippi Gulf Coast and Brant Blaylock of Northwest. Hinds coach Sam Temple is on the coaching staff, which is headed by Doug Wren of Tyler (Texas). It would have been a crime had Parker not been included. He was named the NJCAA Division II player of the year after batting .424 with 24 homers and a national-best 81 RBIs in 2018. The others are also well-credentialed. Page went 10-2 with a 2.73 ERA for state champion Pearl River, and Tyler Spring was 8-2, 2.90 for a Jones team that was ranked near the top of the D-II poll all season. Childers, an All-Star in the Cal Ripken League this summer, is a defensive stalwart who batted .352 with 13 homers at Northeast. Northwest’s Blaylock belted 18 homers and hit .385. The players report for a training camp in Texas on July 25. The NBC World Series starts July 27 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. … The tournament, which launched in 1935, brings together amateur/semi-pro teams from all over the country. Mississippi typically sends a team. The Hattiesburg Black Sox, who won the Magnolia Adult Baseball League championship earlier this summer, participated in 2017. Two different teams from the state have finished runner-up in the World Series: the Jackson Braves in 1968 and the West Point Packers in ’66.

19 May

tall order, but …

Here’s what Meridian Community College is up against: the No. 1 team in the nation, a five-time national champion, playing on its home field. LSU-Eunice has lost only five games all year, and MCC has to beat the Bengals twice to claim a berth in the NJCAA Division II World Series. Can it be done? Well, as the saying goes, that’s why they play the games. And MCC has been playing the game rather well of late. Dillon Sudduth’s Eagles whipped No. 2-ranked Jones County twice to end the regular season, then took a win-or-go-home Game 3 against Northeast in the MACJC playoffs. After losing their opener in the Region 23 Tournament at Bengal Field, the Eagles bounced back with big wins over Mississippi Gulf Coast and Pearl River to reach the championship round and today’s game against LSU-E. If the Eagles win, they’ll play a deciding game on Sunday. MCC’s hitting display against PRCC might have been enough to worry the host Bengals just a bit. The Eagles won 25-13, putting up eight runs in the second inning and, after blowing the big lead, 12 more runs in the sixth. Milton Smith homered and drove in six runs, Trace Jordan and Davis Bradshaw picked up four RBIs each and Sam McWilliams homered. It’s a team with many weapons. Bradshaw, from McLaurin, is a .450 hitter. Smith, from Starkville, bats .390 and has 34 steals. Jordan, from Sumrall, hits .380 and has 15 homers. McWilliams, from Magee, is a .400 hitter with 26 bags. Brandon’s Blake Morris has nine homers. If the Eagles — whose staff ERA is over 5.00 — can pitch a little bit the next two days, they could take down the giant.

17 May

clearing the bases

The contrast is striking. Delta State has won 96 postseason games, 68 in region play, and claimed 12 regional titles, including the 2017 NCAA Division II South Region, and one national crown. Mississippi College has been playing baseball a long time and had some good years, but the Choctaws had never played in an NCAA D-II regional before this season. The longtime rivals are meeting today in Lakeland, Fla., in the first round of the D-II South Region Tournament. Delta State is 40-9 and seeded third in a loaded field. MC, which won the Gulf South Conference Tournament for the first time ever, beating DSU along the way, is 33-15. This is MC’s best run since 2010, when it played in a Division III regional. The school left Division II and the GSC in the mid-’90s and returned in 2015. … What else is going on? Lots. In Pearl, at Trustmark Park, the MHSAA state finals continue today. … In New Orleans, Jackson State opened SWAC Tournament play on Wednesday with a 13-3 pounding of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Four Tigers drove in three runs, including Jesus Santana, who hit his ninth homer of the year. JSU moves into a winner’s bracket game today against defending SWAC champ Texas Southern. Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State both lost on Wednesday and face elimination games today. … In Hattiesburg, William Carey stayed alive in the NAIA Opening Round tourney with a 6-2 victory against Indiana-Southeast but then saw its season end with a loss against top-seeded St. Thomas. … In Eunice, La., in the opening round of the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College beat MACJC champ Pearl River, Itawamba topped Meridian and Hinds fell to No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice. The double-elimination event continues today. … MUW went 2-2, bowing out Wednesday, in something called the ASCAA World Series in Dubois, Penn. Matt Wolfenbarger’s Owls finished their inaugural season with a 21-15 record.

13 May

comes a time

The target is in plain sight now. Delta State, Mississippi College, William Carey University and five state junior colleges take aim this week on a spot in the World Series in their respective divisions. The state’s three SWAC schools are focused on the league’s tournament title and the NCAA regional bid — the only one the league will get — that goes with it. Delta State and Mississippi College — the Gulf South Conference Tournament champ — are bound for the NCAA Division II South Region tourney; they’ll find out tonight where they’re going and who they’ll play in the first round. It’s a good bet the event will be in Cleveland. The Statesmen won the regional in 2017 and went to the D-II World Series. Carey is hosting an NAIA Opening Round tournament — one of eight regionals — that begins Monday at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. The Crusaders, who made the NAIA World Series last year, open with LSU-Shreveport. Also in the five-team field are Westmont (Calif.), Indiana Southeast and top-seeded St. Thomas (Fla.). The NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament begins Wednesday at Eunice, La. A berth in the Junior College World Series is on the line. MACJC regular season champion Pearl River Community plays old rival Mississippi Gulf Coast in the first round, while Meridian hooks up with Itawamba and Hinds faces top-seeded and No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice. Hinds, the defending region champion, reached this year’s event by upsetting No. 3 Jones County in a best-of-3 playoff. Gulf Coast, Meridian and Itawamba also won playoff series last week to advance. The eight-team SWAC Tournament starts Wednesday in New Orleans. Jackson State plays Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State meets Grambling and Alcorn State takes on Texas Southern in the first round. Alcorn, which finished fifth in the East Division, made the eight-team field because Alabama A&M is ineligible for postseason play. P.S. Greenwood native and former Pillow Academy star Louis Coleman made his first big league appearance since 2016 on Saturday when he threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings for Detroit in a game against Seattle. The veteran right-hander has a career 3.49 ERA.

10 May

juco wars

Round 1 of the Battle Royale that is the junior college postseason begins today at four schools around the state. The best-of-3 playoffs feature Hinds at Jones County; Northeast at Meridian; Gulf Coast at Northwest; and Itawamba at East Central. Pearl River, which claimed the MACJC championship on the regular season’s final day, has clinched a spot in the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament, along with region host – and No. 1-ranked – LSU-Eunice. The other eight schools are battling for four spots in that double-elimination event set to begin on May 16. Jones County, ranked third in the nation, lost its grip on the state title when it was swept by Meridian – 16-8 and 13-12 – last Sunday. The Bobcats (37-9) are led by Luther Woullard (.427, five homers, 52 RBIs) and pitchers Cooper Brune (11-1, 3.69 ERA) and Tyler Spring (8-1, 2.52). Other players of note in the postseason include: Hinds’ Andrew Beesley (.488, seven homers), Northeast’s Colt Chrestman (.431), Meridian’s Davis Bradshaw (.444, eight homers), Gulf Coast’s Brandon Parker (.422, 20 homers, 71 RBIs) and Josh Lewis (8-1, 2.11), Northwest’s Brant Blaylock (.381, 17 homers, 58 RBIs), Itawamba’s LaBryant Siddell (.381) and East Central’s Wyatt Ball (.366, seven homers). … PRCC (37-9) is ranked sixth in the new NJCAA D-II poll, and Meridian is 19th. Other than Northeast, every other MACJC school still playing was ranked at one time this season. Hinds is the defending region champion.

06 May

watch for bobcats

The focus in the MACJC today should be on Meridian – with a glance toward Clarksdale. At Meridian Community College’s Scaggs Field, Jones County Junior College, first in the league at 22-4, takes on the third-place Eagles (19-7) in a doubleheader. The NJCAA Division II No. 2 Bobcats, who’ve won 18 in a row (18!), need one win to claim the regular season title. At Coahoma CC’s Smith Sportsplex, second-place Pearl River (21-5) plays CCC (11-15) needing a sweep and help from Meridian to usurp Jones for the crown. Jones beat PRCC twice last week. The Jones-Meridian matchup is particularly intriguing. Luther Woullard is having a big year with the bat — .420, five homers, 45 RBIs — for the Bobcats, but it’s their pitching that truly commands your attention. The staff ERA is 2.99, and they average more than 10 strikeouts a game. Cooper Brune is 11-0 with a 2.78, and Will Freeman, who had the 18-punchout game last week, is 6-1, 3.20 with two saves. Meridian, ranked 20th in the D-II poll, has relied more on its offense, in particular Trace Jordan (.381, 15 homers, 60 RBIs) and Davis Bradshaw (.448, eight homers). Hunter Stanley  (8-1, 4.73) is the ace of a staff that has a 4.69 collective ERA. … Northwest finished at 20-8 in the MACJC, winning 18 of its final 21 games. P.S. The start of the Gulf South Conference Tournament (see previous posts) in Cleveland was pushed back a day because of inclement weather. Both Mississippi College and Delta State are in action today.

04 May

worth noting

Blue Mountain and William Carey face elimination games today in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament in Montgomery, Ala. BMC plays Middle Georgia State in the first game of the day, while Carey gets Loyola (New Orleans) in the next game. BMC, which lost its opener on Wednesday, stayed alive with a 4-3 win over Martin Methodist on Thursday, getting a go-ahead RBI hit from Grayson Bowman in the eighth inning. Carey won its opening round game but was crushed by top seed – and NAIA No. 1 – Faulkner 17-2 Thursday. The Crusaders, 0-4 against Faulkner this year, committed six errors and allowed 13 hits and 11 walks. … The Gulf South Conference Tournament format offers a cool possibility: Delta State and Mississippi College will play at Ferriss Field on Monday, and the Pool A championship could be on the line. The four teams in each of two pools play a round-robin starting Saturday, with the two pool winners advancing to the league title game. MC (29-15) beat DSU (38-8) in Cleveland last week, one of only four home losses for the Statesman all year. DSU — seeded No. 1, ranked third in the nation and featuring conference player of the year Zack Shannon — should be favored to win a 15th conference title, but it won’t be a cakewalk. Four other teams in the field have 30 or more wins and six, including both DSU and MC, are ranked in the NCAA Division II South Region poll. … Jackson State still has a chance to win the SWAC East title but may need a little help this weekend from Mississippi Valley State. JSU has finished league play at 17-7. Alabama State is 15-6 heading into a league series at Itta Bena to face the Delta Devils, 9-12 in the league. JSU and ASU split six games in the regular season. The SWAC Tournament starts May 16 in New Orleans. … MUW named freshman pitcher/infielder Will Peters its Male Athlete of the Year at an awards ceremony this week. Peters went 7-2 on the mound and batted .349 as the Owls finished 19-13 in their inaugural campaign.