West Jones High will roll into Brandon on Thursday with a target on its back. The Mustangs moved into the top 10 in Baseball America’s new prep rankings, up to No. 9 from 16th on April 3. West Jones (22-1) is the only state school in the Top 25. MaxPreps ranks West Jones fourth in Mississippi, behind Madison Central, Northwest Rankin and Gulfport. Brandon (20-6) is No. 6. The Mustangs are led by dual threat Dustin Dickerson, who is batting .371 with three homers and 19 RBIs and is 6-0 with a 0.30 ERA as a pitcher. Evan Bynum is also 6-0 with a 0.81. Kris Riley leads the team with four bombs, Colson Harris with 19 RBIs and sophomore Sam Hill with a .411 average. The Mustangs’ only loss is to Hattiesburg, fifth in the MaxPreps poll. Brandon features state player of the year candidate J.T. Ginn, who is batting .460 with nine homers and carries a 4-0, 0.55 pitching ledger.
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.
Oxford High, the defending Class 5A champion off to a 5-0 start in 2017, is the only Mississippi school in Baseball America’s latest national prep poll. The Chargers, preseason No. 22, moved up to No. 17 in the first in-season poll. Houston was ranked No. 41 in the preseason Top 50; the Hilltoppers (3-4) didn’t make the new Top 25. Oxford is rated No. 15 in MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25, and Oak Grove (6-0) is 24th in that poll. Oxford lost several key players from the 2016 team – many of whom are now at Ole Miss – but still runs out a lot of talent. C.J. Terrell is raking at .667, Preston Perkins at .467 and Drew Bianco, son of UM coach Mike, at .429. Carson and Parker Stinnett are a combined 4-0 on the mound. Houston’s slow start can’t be pinned on Colton Peel. The junior is hitting .429 with two homers and has a 1.40 ERA.
Oak Grove High slipped out of this week’s MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national poll, leaving the Magnolia State without a team in that poll. Oxford, the preseason No. 1, tumbled out two weeks ago. The web site’s state poll has Kossuth ranked No. 1, followed by Oxford, Brandon, Oak Grove and Hattiesburg. … Showdown alert: Oak Grove (11-2) and Brandon (13-3) are scheduled to meet today at Brandon’s field. … Baseball America’s most recent prep poll (published March 23) has Oxford at No. 13 with a 9-4 record. The Chargers are now 12-5. … Kossuth is 14-2, led by Jacob Wilcher (.529, three homers, 20 RBIs) and Hunter Swindle (4-0, 0.30 ERA). … C. J. Hughes of Terry earned USA Baseball/MaxPreps Southeast Player of the Week honors on Monday. Hughes, a senior shortstop, went 12-for-14 with 12 RBIs, nine runs and four walks last week. … Oxford’s Thomas Dillard is the only Mississippi high school player in Baseball America’s most recent ranking of the top 100 draft prospects. The catcher is No. 82. A transfer to OHS this year, Dillard is batting .389 with seven homers and 19 RBIs. … George County’s Walker Robbins is another pro prospect of note. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound left-hander is batting .387 with two homers and owns a 2-1, 0.89 pitching ledger that includes a perfect game. His brother Mason is playing in the St. Louis system.
Oxford High, generally considered the best prep team in Mississippi, has crashed out of the new MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national poll. The Chargers, preseason No. 1 and seventh in last week’s poll, ran out of juice in the Perfect Game Showcase in Cartersville, Ga., losing twice to move their record to 8-3. Oxford went 35-1 in 2015 en route to a Class 5A championship. Next up for Oxford, which hasn’t lost to a Magnolia State school, is South Panola on Wednesday. Jason Barber, the state’s Gatorade player of the year in 2015, is off to another fine start, batting .429 with two homers, though he has lost a game on the mound. He was unbeaten with a 0.00 ERA in 2015. Grae Kessinger, like Barber an Ole Miss signee, is hitting .412, and Drew Bianco, son of UM coach Mike Bianco, has three home runs. Rest assured, the Chargers will power up again and contend for another MHSAA crown.