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.
Several stars emerged on Tuesday for Mississippi College, which upended Delta State 9-8 in 11 innings to reach the Gulf South Conference Tournament title game in Cleveland. To name a few: Ryan Lane threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win; Blaine Crim went 3-for-5 with a homer and five RBIs; and Kyle Smith had four hits and four runs, including the game-winner on a DSU error. MC (32-15) plays Lee University today for the championship. … At Trustmark Park in Pearl, four Mississippi Braves collected three or more hits in a 10-3 win against Mobile. Connor Lien got four knocks, including his first homer of the year, and Alay Lago went 3-for-5 with four RBIs for the Double-A M-Braves. … In Erie, Pa., former Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull tossed six shutout innings to record his first Double-A win as the Sea Wolves, a Detroit farm club, beat Harrisburg 3-0. Turnbull is 1-3 with a 4.80 ERA. Mississippi State alum Jake Robson had a hit and an RBI for Erie. … And in Chicago, Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson equaled a career-high with four hits and added two RBIs as Pittsburgh beat the White Sox 10-6. Dickerson, in his first year with the Pirates, is batting .400 over his last seven games and .333 (third in the National League) with five homers and 26 RBIs for the season.
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.
Walk-off bombs are exciting, yes, but a squeeze bunt for the win isn’t far behind on the thrill meter. Former Richton High star JaCoby Jones scored the clincher for Detroit on John Hicks’ perfect bunt as the Tigers took down Tampa Bay 3-2 Wednesday in the 12th inning. No one, including Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, was expecting Hicks to lay one down with no outs and Jones at third following a triple. “I wish I could’ve said I put a squeeze on,” Gardenhire, the onetime Jackson Mets shortstop, told mlb.com. Jones, a fast runner, scored easily as two Rays collided going for the ball on the right side of the infield. “When I saw the bunt down, it surprised the crap out of me,” Jones said. Jones, playing regularly and playing well for the Tigers, went 3-for-5 to boost his average to .280. … It was a good night, too, for Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout who notched his first win of 2018 as Boston, powered by Mookie Betts’ three homers, beat Kansas City 5-4. Pomeranz, making his third start after beginning the year on the disabled list, allowed eight hits, two walks and three runs in six innings. Reports said his velocity was much improved over his first two outings. … Pittsburgh took its lumps from Washington in a 9-3 loss, but Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College product, continued to shine for the Pirates. He was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and is at .318 with four homers and 20 RBIs for the year. He also stole his third base on Wednesday. P.S. Three former Mississippi Braves played key roles in Atlanta’s 7-0 win over the New York Mets, a victory that propelled the Braves (18-11) into first place in the National League East. Sean Newcomb (2-1) yielded just two hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts; Freddie Freeman ripped three hits to lift his average to .333 and drove in a run; and Johan Camargo, batting .316 in his limited chances, blasted a two-run homer, his fifth extra-base knock in 19 at-bats. Mickey Callaway, the former Ole Miss star now managing the Mets, saw his club, which started 11-1, drop to 17-11.
Highs: The No. 1 highlight for Mississippians in the majors on Thursday was provided by Corey Dickerson, whose first career walk-off home run gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 win over Detroit. The Meridian Community College product is batting .314 with two homers, 13 RBIs and 13 runs for the Pirates, who acquired the 2017 All-Star in a curious spring trade with Tampa Bay. … Jarrod Dyson, another McComb native and an ex-Southwest Mississippi CC star, went deep for surging Arizona, his new team, in a victory at Philadelphia. Dyson is 4-for-11 in his last three games and is at .197 with six RBIs and eight runs on the year. … Former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff is back in the big leagues with Milwaukee and may soon find his way back into the first-place Brewers’ rotation. The right-hander was 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three Triple-A starts after posting a 5.14 in three games for Milwaukee before being sent out. Lows: Ex-State star Kendall Graveman was sent to Triple-A Nashville by Oakland on Thursday. The A’s opening day starter, he is 0-5 with an 8.89 ERA after suffering a loss against Texas on Wednesday. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier went 0-for-4 on Thursday and was 1-for-16 in slumping Minnesota’s four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees. … MSU product Hunter Renfroe is eligible to come off the disabled list for San Diego this weekend but there has been no indication that will happen. Renfroe, batting .200 with two homers in 17 games, has been troubled by pain in his right arm. P.S. Four Magnolia State products appear in the top 58 in MLB Pipeline’s new list of the Top 100 draft prospects. Ole Miss left-hander Ryan Rolison is No. 12, Brandon High infielder/pitcher J.T. Ginn No. 36, MSU lefty Konnor Pilkington No. 57 and Hattiesburg High outfielder Joe Gray No. 58. The full chart was published on mlb.com Thursday.
Getting out of Tampa Bay, even though it came as a gut-punch, has worked out pretty darn well for Corey Dickerson. McComb native and Meridian Community College product Dickerson is batting .341 for Pittsburgh, which just beat the Chicago Cubs to improve to 9-3, tops in the National League Central. Tampa Bay, which jettisoned Dickerson – a 2017 All-Star – during spring training in an apparent salary dump, is 3-9 and last in the American League East. Dickerson went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks against the Cubs today and has a home run, nine RBIs and nine runs in 10 games this season. He’s not the only Mississippi connection enjoying the unexpected good times in Pittsburgh. Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier (2-for-5 with a homer today) is batting .292 with four runs and two RBIs, typically as the Pirates’ leadoff batter. The Bucs are managed by former Jackson Mets skipper Clint Hurdle, now in his eighth year with the club, and the hitting coach is Waynesboro native and ex-big leaguer Jeff Branson. The Pirates, by the way, lead the NL in batting.
The emotional rollercoaster passed through Detroit on Friday, taking the Tigers from elation to anger with a final stop at dejection. Richton High product JaCoby Jones was in the middle of the dogpile in the 10th inning after delivering what was first thought to be a game-winning knock against Pittsburgh. Replay said otherwise. Tigers runner Nicholas Castellanos was ruled out at the plate, with McComb native Corey Dickerson – in his Pirates debut – getting an assist on what was a pretty sad throw from left field. Former Jackson Mets star Ron Gardenhire – in his debut as Detroit manager – was ejected arguing the reversal. The game went on, and, as fate would have it, the Pirates won in 13 innings in just under 5½ hours. Football-like weather produced a football-like score – 13-10 – on opening day at Comerica Park. The Tigers blew a save in the ninth and fell behind 10-6 before scoring four in the bottom half to extend the game. Then came the soul-crushing 10th. Jones, who entered as a pinch runner in the seventh inning, had a good day: 2-for-2 with a walk and a run. Of course, he’d have felt a whole lot better about it if he’d also gotten that RBI. For the Pirates, ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier went 3-for-7 and scored twice. He was aboard in the 13th when Gregory Polanco hit the game-winning three-run homer. Dickerson, the Meridian Community College alum acquired from Tampa Bay in February, had one hit and an RBI in six trips. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout Braxton Lee from Picayune made his big league debut for Miami, going 0-for-4 in the 17-inning win against the Chicago Cubs. … Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton, batting ninth for Cincinnati, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts as the Reds opened their season with a loss to Washington.