21 May

measuring stick

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.

18 May

here and there

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.

16 May

numbers to crunch

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.

15 May

moving on

Buckle up. Big week ahead on many fronts. East Central Community College, continuing its ’27 Yankees impression, beat Jones County Junior College 13-12 on Saturday to win the MACJC title and will host the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament in Decatur. No. 2-ranked Jones will be there, as well as No. 1 LSU-Eunice (50-4) and Northwest Mississippi. … William Carey University is off to Santa Barbara, Calif., for NAIA regional play. The 25th-ranked Crusaders (37-19), led by All-SSAC first-team picks Adrian Brown and Tyler Odom, take on College of Idaho on Tuesday in the five-team opening round tournament. The top seed there is Westmont (Calif.). … Jackson State and Alcorn State, the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds from the SWAC East, start play on Wednesday in the conference tournament at Barrow Stadium in New Orleans. Alabama State dominated the league with a 24-0 mark, but JSU (32-24 overall) certainly has the hitters (see Cornelius Copeland, Carlos Diaz, Jesus Santana) to make a run. … Delta State will learn tonight where it is heading for NCAA Division II regional play. The Statesmen (38-15) earned an automatic bid by winning their 13th Gulf South Conference championship last week. … And the MHSAA finals matchups are set: Madison Central-George County in Class 6A, Oxford-Hattiesburg in 5A, Houston-Newton County in 4A, Kossuth-St. Andrews in 3A, East Union-Loyd Star in 2A and Tupelo Christian Prep-Ethel in 1A. The games in the best-of-3 series begin Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl.

14 May

going batty

First of all, no, East Central Community College has not snuck former big league slugger Marcus Thames back into the lineup. But the amazing numbers the Warriors have been putting up in the MACJC postseason had to make you wonder. ECCC beat No. 2-ranked Jones County Junior College 14-13 in Ellisville on Friday to advance to the championship round of the state tournament. The Warriors, ranked 14th in NJCAA Division II, have now scored 71 runs – yes, 71! — in their last four games, including 19 in their first-round win over Meridian and 27 in their best-of-3 series clincher against Gulf Coast last week. Neal Holliman’s club was down 13-8 after seven innings against Jones on Friday, tied it with a five-run eighth and won it in the bottom of the ninth. Matt Mitchell led the Warriors’ attack with three hits that included a home run. Dylan Snypes, Billy Cameron and Nathan Roseberry all had two hits apiece. Cole Prestegard, the team’s best hitter (.367, eight homers, 38 RBIs in the regular season), had a quiet night, as did T.J. Lockett, who drove in four runs against Meridian on Thursday. The Warriors (35-16) won the state title in 2013, fueled by current Chicago White Sox prospect Tim Anderson. With a new cast of stars, they’ve got another clearly in their sights. Jones (44-6) and Northwest (29-18) play an elimination game today, with the winner then having to beat ECCC twice to claim the championship. They best be prepared to score some runs.

12 May

fear the bobcats

On paper, Jones County Junior College looks tough to beat. The second-ranked Bobcats, who are hosting the MACJC Tournament in Ellisville, are the third-best hitting team in the nation at .366. They can also pitch: Their 3.54 ERA ranks 11th among NJCAA Division II schools. And their defense? Well, they just happen to lead the nation with a .975 fielding percentage, having made just 37 errors in 48 games. Mason Irby, Tanner Huddleston, Erick Hoard, Clint Sasser, Ben Stiglets, Mason Strickland — the list goes on – all have taken star turns during a 43-5 romp through the 2016 campaign. JCJC won the MACJC regular season title in a walk and pounded Mississippi Delta 8-1 and 15-2 in the best-of-3 round. The other three teams, Meridian, East Central and Northwest, in the double-elimination state tourney are nationally ranked and sport some impressive stats, as well. And, of course, anything can happen between the white lines. But JCJC certainly looms as the tourney favorite – and wouldn’t be a bad bet in the Region 23 Tournament, which will feature No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice and three MACJC clubs. (The 0-2 team from the state tournament goes home.)

09 May

here and there

Dansby Swanson, Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect, is expected to make his home debut tonight when the Mississippi Braves host Mobile. Interested to see what kind of crowd they get at Trustmark Park. Swanson, hitless in his last three games, is batting .310 over his nine Double-A games. The shortstop out of Vanderbilt homered in his M-Braves debut on April 30 and had a four-hit game May 4. … Brett Phillips, Milwaukee’s No. 2 prospect, had a three-homer game for Biloxi on Saturday and is batting .260 with five bombs for the season. The Shuckers also open a homestand tonight. … Mississippi State is No. 3, Ole Miss No. 6 and Southern Miss No. 19 in the new Baseball America poll. State’s Dakota Hudson is listed as the No. 19 draft prospect in BA’s latest rankings. … After rallying to beat West Georgia 8-7 on Sunday, Delta State is 2-0 in the Gulf South Conference Tournament. Ace Tre Hobbs had an off day, but DSU got three RBIs from Trent Giambroni, a three-run homer from Ethan Gill and a clutch sac fly by Will Robertson to secure the W, its 36th of the year. … Jackson State, looking to gather some momentum for the SWAC Tournament, swept Mississippi Valley State in a three-game set at Braddy Field over the weekend. The Tigers are 14-10 in the league and 6-0 against MVSU. The tournament is slated to start May 18. … The MACJC final four is set. Jones County Junior College, the regular season champ, will host the double-elimination tournament starting Thursday. Also in are 3-seed East Central, which beat Gulf Coast 27-21 on Saturday to advance from the best-of-3 round; Meridian, the second seed; and 4-seed Northwest. … The Houston Astros optioned former M-Braves star Evan Gattis to Double-A? Reportedly, he was sent down just to brush up on his catching skills; he hasn’t caught in an MLB game since 2014.

07 May

crunch time

There was one “upset” on the first day of the MACJC playoffs, and what a wild one it was. Hinds Community College, the fifth seed, beat fourth-seeded Northwest 12-11 in 10 innings over 4 hours and 20 minutes on Friday at Miles Field in Senatobia. They’ll finish the best-of-3 today. The teams combined for 21 hits and nine errors, seven by the Rangers. Hinds, the defending state champ, won it on a single by Donte Peters that scored Trey Jolly. Elsewhere, Mason Irby and Tanner Huddleston drove in three runs apiece and Mason Strickland notched his ninth win as No. 1 seed Jones County beat Delta 8-1 in Ellisville; Jaylon Keys hit a two-run triple and then scored the winning run in the ninth as host Meridian beat Itawamba 5-4 at Scaggs Field; and East Central topped Gulf Coast 11-9 in Decatur. P.S. William Carey bowed out of the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament with an 8-2 loss to top-seeded and NAIA No. 3 Faulkner on Friday. The No. 23 Crusaders (37-19), who beat Mobile earlier in the day to stay alive, remain a strong candidate for an NAIA postseason bid. … Delta State’s quest for a 13th Gulf South Conference Tournament championship starts today at Pensacola, Fla. The second-seeded Statesmen (34-15) would appear to have the weapons to pull it off. GSC pitcher of the year Tre Hobbs (12-1, 2.85 ERA) fronts the rotation, which also features Dalton Moats (9-3, 3.10), and Will Robertson, the GSC’s top hitter at .475, leads a potent offense.

05 May

first step

The road to Enid, Okla., starts Friday at four locations in Mississippi. The MACJC postseason, the first step toward the NJCAA Division II World Series, begins with four best-of-3 playoff series. Top seed Jones County hosts Delta; No. 2 Meridian hosts Itawamba; No. 3 East Central hosts Gulf Coast; and fourth-seeded Northwest hosts Hinds. Jones fairly dominated the regular season, finishing 24-4, 4 games clear of the field. But three of the teams that beat the Bobcats are in the postseason: Meridian, Hinds and ICC. Even 8-seed Delta could be dangerous; the Trojans won their last five games, including a sweep of Hinds, to get into the postseason. Still, Jones, 41-5 overall and flush with talent, will be a tough out. The pitching staff is deep. Mason Irby is batting .434 with seven homers and 61 RBIs, and don’t overlook Clint Sasser, whose 44 steals rank No. 2 in the country. Other players to watch: Meridian’s Baylor Obert (.420); ECCC’s Cole Prestegard (.367, eight homers) and Channing Wall (11 saves, 1.87 ERA); Northwest’s LeeMarcus Boyd (.360, 39 runs); Hinds’ Chase Cockrell (.341, six homers) and Carlisle Koestler (9-3, 3.14); Gulf Coast’s Brian Lane (.391); ICC’s Timothy Rowe (.421, eight homers); and Delta’s Nathan Pilutti (.305, four homers, 11 steals). The four winners from the best-of-3 round meet in a double-elimination tourney for the state title, which Hinds won in 2015. The top three from the MACJC event advance to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament, which is the doorway to Enid.

26 Apr

next

Hinds Community College will try to join an exclusive club today. The Eagles will try to beat Jones County Junior College, something only three teams have managed in 2016. Hinds, the defending state champ, has a good club. The Eagles are 23-17 and 15-9 in the MACJC. Chase Cockrell is hitting .355 with six homers and 27 RBIs. Carlisle Koestler has nine wins and three saves. But Jones’ stuff dwarfs everyone else’s. The Bobcats, ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division II, are 37-3 and 20-2, 5 games up in the MACJC standings. (The losses: Arkansas Baptist, Itawamba and Southwest.) JCJC hits .379 as a team, slugs .583. The Bobcats average 9.4 runs a game, allow 3.5. Erick Hoard, a freshman from Brandon, has 13 homers and 56 RBIs. Mason Irby is hitting .472. Clint Sasser is at .434 with 42 steals in 45 attempts. Three pitchers have eight wins, led by Mason Strickland (8-0, 2.32 ERA, 57 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings). Today’s doubleheader is in Ellisville, where Jones has suffered two of its losses. A chink in the armor? Probably not. P.S. Hoard won MACJC player of the week honors after going 7-for-13 with two homers and eight RBIs in four wins last week. Gulf Coast’s Dylan Mills-Derouen, who threw a no-hitter against East Central on April 19, was named pitcher of the week.