22 Mar

hot spots

Keep an eye on Fulton on Saturday, and keep the other on Perkinston. Those are the hottest spots in MACJC play. Fourth-ranked Pearl River Community (17-2, 4-0 in the league) visits No. 13 Itawamba CC (16-3, 3-1) for a doubleheader, and Holmes CC (17-3, 2-2) travels to Mississippi Gulf Coast CC (12-4, 4-0) for a battle of Bulldogs teams that aren’t ranked but could be next week. Pearl River, which got one first-place vote in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, is coming off a monster performance against Copiah-Lincoln on Tuesday. Led by Dexter Jordan, among others, the Wildcats put up eight homers and 29 runs in a twinbill sweep. In one of Saturday’s games, PRCC is likely to face ICC ace Houston Harding, a sophomore lefty who is 5-0 with a 0.98 ERA. Holmes is coming off a Tuesday split against No. 2-ranked Jones County; in their win, the Goodman Bulldogs got a three-hit shutout from Nate Oswalt (apparently no relation to Holmes alum and ex-big leaguer Roy). They’ll run into a Gulf Coast club that has won 11 in a row. Perkinston’s Bulldogs feature reigning D-II player of the year Brandon Parker, who’s batting .347 with five homers and has yet to really heat up. (For the record, Meridian’s Kace Garner leads the state with eight homers.)

19 Mar

just rewards

Good week to be a hitter from a Mississippi college. Three – count ’em, three – won conference player of the week honors at three different levels. Hats off to Mississippi State’s Elijah MacNamee, Mississippi College’s Grant Barber and William Carey’s Sloan Dieter. MacNamee, who claimed the SEC award, went 9-for-17 (.529) with two homers (one a grand slam) and eight RBIs in four games last week, including a 2-1 weekend at Florida. MacNamee, a senior outfielder, is batting .380 with three homers and 22 RBIs for the 18-2 Bulldogs. Barber was named the NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference POW after a week that saw him bat .615 with four doubles, five runs and three RBIs, including a walk-off that capped a Choctaws sweep of Lee University. Barber, a junior second baseman, tops MC in batting at .369. (His teammate Blaine Crim could easily have won the GSC award; he hit .429 with two homers and nine RBIs last week.) Dieter, who won the NAIA Southern States Athletic Conference award, batted .636 with eight RBIs as Carey took two of three from Mobile. Senior first baseman Dieter, who also won the SSAC top player honor the week before last, is batting .375 with four bombs and 17 RBIs for the Crusaders. Worth noting: Southern Miss’ Hunter Slater didn’t get a C-USA award but certainly had an honors-worthy weekend in the Golden Eagles’ sweep of Louisiana Tech, batting .462 with two homers, six RBIs and five runs, and SWAC voters somehow passed over Alcorn State’s Travaris Cole. All he did was hit .389 with three homers, seven RBIs and four runs in a SWAC weekend series against Prairie View A&M. The NJCAA names its players of the week on Wednesday, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see an MACJC hitter earn the Division II award.

11 Mar

take a deep breath

League play, the main event for the state’s junior colleges, starts next Saturday. If the opening acts are any indication, we’re in for a wild ride. Jones County Junior College, which jumped into the NJCAA Division II poll at No. 4 last week after upsetting No. 1 LSU-Eunice, is 13-1. So is Holmes, which isn’t even ranked. Fifth-ranked Pearl River is 12-2 after beating LSU-Eunice 4-3 in 11 innings last Friday, getting a clutch hit from Dexter Jordan and clutch relief pitching from Shemar Page. “It was as good of a regular season game as I’ve ever been a part of,” Wildcats coach Michael Avalon said in a school release. Seventh-ranked Meridian is 8-2 with seven straight wins. No. 15 Itawamba is 11-2, and 20th-ranked Northwest is 11-3. Unranked Hinds, which swept Baton Rouge and Dakota State 15-0 and 12-0 over the weekend, is 10-3 with a seven-game streak. Copiah-Lincoln is 7-2 and Coahoma 12-4. Nothing any of those schools did over the weekend can quite compare, however, to what went down in Scooba on Friday between two MACJC schools with losing records. East Mississippi, under new coach Brett Kimbrel, won an 18-17 game that featured 34 hits and 21 walks before East Central bounced back to take Game 2 15-3 in five innings by recording 13 of the 15 outs via strikeout. Whew. In the opener of the non-conference twinbill, Austin Beech got the walk-off hit in the ninth for East (3-7), which also made use of home runs by Dillon Morgan (two), Tyler Miller and Phillip Martin. Ryan Cupit drove in four runs and Javian Stone fanned 10 batters in four innings to spark ECCC (5-7) in the second game. … ICC’s Houston Harding (4-0, 0.96 ERA) and Jones’ Lane Thomas (4-0, 1.23) rank second among the national leaders in wins, tied with 10 others.

28 Feb

who are those guys?

Pearl River Community College is off to a hot start – eight wins in nine games – and one of the hitters providing the fuel is Wiley Cleland. The former Columbia Academy star has four home runs and 15 RBIs – and is among quite a number of MACJC players showing up on the lists of national leaders. Cleland is tied for second in NJCAA Division II in homers and tied for 14th in RBIs. Wildcats teammate Dexter Jordan, from Hattiesburg, has three homers, tied for fifth with a group that also includes Blake Johnson (Gulfport) of Jones County JC and Ben Van Cleve (Indianola) of Northwest. Mississippi Delta’s Ty Richie, from Brandon and Northwest Rankin, has 12 steals, tied for fifth nationally. Cole Johnson of Holmes and Oak Grove alum Mack Pickering of Meridian are hitting .556, tied for eighth in the nation. Johnson has nine runs and five RBIs in six games. Tyler Lantz of MCC has pitched only 4 1/3 innings but has 10 strikeouts, a rate of 20.77 per nine that ranks third nationally. Northwest CC’s Jackson Smith, a Central Hinds product, has three saves, tied for second in D-II, plus a win for the 7-1 Rangers. P.S. Hinds and Southwest put up video game numbers on Wednesday, with both teams scoring 28 runs in doubleheader sweeps. The Eagles blew away Arkansas Baptist, while Southwest humbled Nunez. … New East Mississippi coach Brett Kimbrel is slated for his home debut on Friday, when Wallace State-Hanceville visits Scooba. The Lions won two of eight road games to start the season.

20 Feb

small talk

Busy schedule at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium (with its artificial surface) this weekend: Millsaps College will play Wisconsin-Platteville on Friday at 2, followed by a Belhaven University-UWP game. On Saturday at 10, Millsaps and UWP will meet again, followed by a doubleheader between Belhaven and Centenary. Millsaps and Centenary will hook up on Sunday at 11, followed by a doubleheader (at 2) between Mississippi College and Gulf South rival West Georgia. That series will conclude on Monday with a noon start. … Unbeaten Delta State bolted to No. 7 – up eight spots – in the new NCBWA Division II poll. The Statesmen are 9-0 heading into a three-game series vs. Union University this weekend at Cleveland’s Ferriss Field. Mississippi College (7-3), ranked as high as No. 7 in one preseason poll, is 18th in the writers poll. … MUW opened its second season with a doubleheader sweep, 10-2 and 12-6, of Lane College on Monday at Columbus High’s field. Owls leadoff batter Heath Ford went 3-for-8 with three RBIs in the two games, and Leon Petite had two hits, three runs and three RBIs. … Tougaloo College and Rust College faced off in a Gulf Coast Athletic Conference series over the weekend, with the host Bulldogs winning both games to improve to 2-5. Rust is a new member of the GCAC this season. … Pearl River Community College’s Shemar Page and Jones County JC’s O’Neil Burgos were named the MACJC pitcher and hitter of the week. Page, a sophomore right-hander from Raleigh, threw five hitless innings with 10 strikeouts in a win last weekend against St. Louis CC. Burgos, freshman out of Brookhaven Academy, went 7-for-13 with a homer and four RBIs in the Bobcats’ 4-0 week. … Meridian CC, ranked No. 4 in preseason by Collegiate Baseball, is off to a 2-2 start with a doubleheader slated for Sunday against Copiah-Lincoln CC at Hartfield Academy in Flowood, just down the highway from Smith-Wills.

08 Feb

on the juco watch

The bull’s-eye will be on Meridian Community College at the start of the juco season in Mississippi. The Eagles, who open Monday against Spring Hill JV in Mobile, are ranked No. 4 in the nation by the NJCAA and No. 9 by Collegiate Baseball. Dillon Sudduth’s Eagles finished 39-13 in 2018 and reached the Division II Region 23 Tournament final. Gone from that club are Milton Smith Jr., Davis Bradshaw and Trace Jordan, but a strong pitching staff led by David Dunn and Luke Wallner (both 6-game winners in 2018) fuels the cause for optimism this year. Houston Parker and Keegan Westbrook are among a small group of returning position players. … Defending state champion Pearl River CC, which opens Sunday at home against nationally ranked Jefferson College, is ranked eighth by the NJCAA and 13th by CB. PRCC features a pair of aces: Shemar Page, a 10-game winner in 2018, and Miles Smith, who won six times. Former Wildcats star Braxton Lee, who made his big league debut last spring, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for PRCC’s opener. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC is ranked 14th by the NJCAA. “Somebody thinks we’re pretty good, so we’ve got a lot to live up to,” Bulldogs coach Rodney Batts said in a school release. It helps that his team returns slugger Brandon Parker, the NJCAA D-II player of the year in 2018. Gulf Coast launches on Saturday at home against Jefferson College. … Jones County JC, ranked 15th in the Collegiate Baseball poll, hosts Coastal Alabama-East on Tuesday. The Bobcats’ sparkplug is Trace Henry, a .399 hitter who stole 39 bases and scored 60 runs in 2018. … Itawamba CC, which was ranked second in the nation early in 2018, isn’t currently ranked but shouldn’t be overlooked. The Indians return lefty Houston Harding, a nine-game winner and a Mississippi State signee, and top slugger LaBryant Siddell, who hit .348 with six homers. … Another player to watch in the MACJC is Southwest CC’s Michael Buck, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound sophomore who hit .387 with six homers last year. He is a Delta State signee.

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.