Rodney Batts checked off wins Nos. 1 and 2 as Delta State coach over the weekend and, perhaps, relaxed a little bit. There are tough acts to follow, and then there’s the Delta State job. Batts took the reins from Mike Kinnison, recent American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee who won 981 games and a national championship at the NCAA Division II school in Cleveland. No. 2 on the DSU wins list is Dave “Boo” Ferriss, another ABCA Hall of Famer who won 639 games and is immortalized by a bronze statue that stands in front of the DSU playing facility that bears his name. No. 3 on the DSU wins list is the coach whose eight-year tenure bridged the Ferriss and Kinnison eras: Bill Marchant, who won 283 games, including a school record 53 in 1996, and made two trips to the College World Series. Batts played for Marchant. Batts’ first DSU team entered the season ranked as high as 11th nationally and pegged to win the Gulf South Conference. Go get ’em. After splitting a Saturday doubleheader with East Central (Okla.) in Cleveland, the Statesmen took Sunday’s rubber game 8-6 as Wyatt Pratt went 4-for-5 with three runs and Kevin Granger homered. In other opening acts: Mississippi College took a series from Harding in Clinton, getting quality starts from Luke Files and David Dunn in Saturday’s twinbill sweep and some hot hitting from Caleb Reese, who was 5-for-9 with a homer, four RBIs and two runs in the series. … William Carey took a pair from Missouri Baptist in Hattiesburg on Saturday, outscoring the visitors 18-2. Sloan Dieter and Jay Simpson picked up wins with dominant starts, and Quartez Brown went 5-for-8 with four runs. … Blue Mountain is 0-4 after losing two doubleheaders to visiting William Wood.
With Game 1 of the World Series on tap tonight, the time is right to highlight some significant anniversaries with a quick trip through Fall Classics past. Ten years ago, in the 2009 Series, Meridian Community College product Cliff Lee made two starts for Philadelphia and notched the only wins the Phillies managed against the New York Yankees. Left-hander Lee threw a complete game in Game 1, a 6-1 victory, and pitched seven-plus in Game 5, an 8-6 win. He had a 2.81 ERA with 13 strikeouts and three walks in 16 innings. Lee won 143 games in his career and went 7-3 in the postseason, though he never won a ring. Twenty years ago, a Mississippi native appeared in the box score of Game 1 of the Yankees’ sweep of Atlanta. Ocean Springs’ Howard Battle was announced as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning but was replaced (by Keith Lockhart) when New York changed pitchers (bringing in Mariano Rivera). That would be the final MLB “appearance” for Battle, who played a couple more years in the minors. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Earthquake Series, a sweep by Oakland vs. San Francisco that involved three Mississippi-connected players. Grenada native Dave Parker, at age 38, went 2-for-9 with a homer (in Game 1) for Oakland. Will Clark was 4-for-16 for the Giants, and his former Mississippi State teammate Jeff Brantley posted a 4.15 ERA in three relief appearances. Ten years prior, Parker had a big impact in the ’79 Series, helping Pittsburgh beat Baltimore in seven games. He had four hits in Game 1 – a Pirates loss – and finished with a .345 average, four RBIs and two runs. Sixty years ago, West Point native and former Southern Miss two-sport star Bubba Phillips went 3-for-10 for the Chicago White Sox as they fell in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Eighty years ago, in the ’39 Fall Classic, Harry Craft, an Ellisville native and Mississippi College alum, went 1-for-11 for Cincinnati in a four-game sweep at the hands of the mighty Yankees. Craft would win a ring with the Reds the next year but got only one at-bat in that Series. In the 1929 Series, Guy Bush, the Mississippi Mudcat from Aberdeen, started and won Game 3 for the Chicago Cubs, who lost in five games to the powerful Philadelphia A’s. Bush also made a relief appearance in that series and finished with an 0.82 ERA. Two Mississippi natives – Fulton’s Brian Dozier, a second baseman for Washington, and Brookhaven’s Lance Barksdale, an umpire – will be suited up tonight in Houston. Something significant involving one or both seems almost bound to happen.
A couple of Mississippi products took star turns on Tuesday night in Boise, Idaho, when the Pioneer League and Northwest League All-Stars faced off in the annual clash of rookie-level circuits. Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and earned Top Star honors for the NWL squad. He was upstaged a bit by Sam McWilliams, a Meridian Community College alum from Magee who hit a two-run homer, one of the four homers mashed by Pioneer stars in their 11-7 victory. “It was great to be here with the best guys around the league and just have fun for a night,” Crim told milb.com. “Definitely worth the trip.” Crim, the Gulf South Conference player of the year in 2019, was a 19th-round pick by Texas in June and is having an excellent season at Spokane. The first baseman/DH is hitting .341 with four homers and 24 RBIs. McWilliams, a 19th-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 off a loaded MCC club, is batting .291 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs at Ogden. A second baseman, he hit .276 in the Arizona League last season. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, both promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday, made smashing debuts on Tuesday, Waters going 3-for-5 with an RBI and Pache 2-for-5 with an RBI. Pache is the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, Waters No. 2.
4 – Runs accounted for by Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland, who had two RBIs and scored twice for Boston, which scored its most runs ever against the New York Yankees in a 19-3 romp on Thursday night.
9 – Holds this season by Tony Sipp, the ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star; his Washington team ultimately lost to Colorado 8-7 on Thursday.
5 – Hits in two games by East Central Community College product Tim Anderson in his rehab stint at Triple-A Charlotte in the Chicago White Sox’s system.
7 – Consecutive strikeouts by Mississippi Braves right-hander Ian Anderson, who collected nine K’s all told in the Double-A M-Braves’ win at Jackson (Tenn.); Anderson leads the Southern League with 138 strikeouts.
4 – Hits in 25 at-bats (.163) for Gulfport native Bobby Bradley since he returned to Triple-A Columbus following a big league stint with Cleveland.
3 – Saves in his last three appearances for Petal’s Demarcus Evans, who has a 1.21 ERA for Double-A Frisco in the Texas system.
5 – Hits in Thursday’s game by Mississippi College alum Blaine Crim, who is batting .340 with four homers for short season Class A Spokane in the Texas system.
1 – Career minor league homers by Grae Kessinger, the Ole Miss product – and second-round draftee — who went yard Thursday for Class A Quad Cities in Houston’s chain.
1 – Minor league appearances to date by ex-MSU star Ethan Small, drafted in the first round last month by Milwaukee; he worked a clean inning with two strikeouts on July 19 for a Brewers rookie club.
2 – Scoreless innings pitched Thursday by former State standout Jacob Lindgren in his first appearance for Class A Winston-Salem in the White Sox’s system; Lindgren, a one-time big leaguer, is trying to come back from two elbow surgeries.
12 – Current hitting streak by Cole Zabowski, the Ole Miss alum who is batting .344 with a Detroit rookie league team.
A showdown between the top two teams in the Cotton States League turned into a run-rule rout, with the North Delta Dealers beating the Tippah Tribe 16-3 in four innings Sunday at BNA Bank Park in New Albany. Both are now 10-6 with three games left in the college summer league’s regular season. Tripp Benson, a Belhaven University alum, went 3-for-3 with a homer and five RBIs in Sunday’s game. Connar Gardner (Itawamba Community College) and Ian Biblioni (Lakeland native) drove in three runs each, and Markarius Lee (Mississippi College) scored twice. Lee, batting .373, leads the league in runs with 19, and Benson (.346) is tied for the lead in RBIs with 17. Biblioni (.378) and Gardner (.348) also rank among the top 12 in batting. The Dealers play again tonight against the Golden Triangle Jets. The Tribe is back in action Thursday against the Tallahatchie Rascals. … Sam Williams, a Magee High product, leads the Tribe in hitting at .359, and teammate Braden Quesinberry tops the CSL in wins with four and sports a 1.85 ERA. … The league’s top hitter is Nathan Herron (Belhaven) of the GT Jets at .419. Klay Houston, a Fulton native who pitches for Angelo (Texas) State, has an impressive 38 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings for Tallahatchie. P.S. Mississippi State’s Jordan Westburg extended his hitting streak Monday to seven games for Hyannis in the Cape Cod League. Westburg is 23-for-63 (.365) with three homers and 11 RBIs in 15 games.
After getting cut from USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team roster, Mississippi State infielder Jordan Westburg has taken the Cape Cod League by storm. Playing for Hyannis in the prestigious summer league, Westburg notched his fifth straight multi-hit game on Tuesday and is batting .600. He has three homers – two in his July 5 debut – and eight RBIs in five games. Westburg hit .294 for State during its College World Series run this season. Also on the Hyannis roster are State’s Rowdey Jordan (.098 in 12 games) and Ole Miss’ Anthony Servideo (.164 in 17 games). UM’s Tyler Keenan has swung a hot bat for Harwich: .300, a homer, four RBIs in 10 games. … The Collegiate National Team, with State’s Tanner Allen and Justin Foscue and the Rebels’ Doug Nikhazy in tow, is currently playing a series in Taiwain after taking four of five games from Cuba last week in North Carolina. Allen is batting .368 for Team USA and Foscue, 2-for-4 with an RBI in Tuesday’s loss to Chinese Taipei, is at .300 with four RBIs. Both were .300 hitters for the Bulldogs in 2019. Nikhazy, the Rebels’ star freshman lefty, pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings against Cuba on Saturday. … Ole Miss shortstop Justin Bench and Mississippi College third baseman Dylan Duplechain recently were named as starters in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League’s All-Star Game, set for July 16 in Saugerties, N.Y. … Closer to home, in the New Albany-based Cotton States League, Belhaven’s Nathan Herron is leading the loop in hitting at .432 with a homer and 11 RBIs for the Golden Triangle Jets. Herron, from Batesville, hit .241 as a freshman at BU this season. Former Hinds Community College and MSU player Trey Jolly, currently on Southeastern Louisiana’s roster, is at .410 with two homers, 11 RBIs and 11 steals for the Tupelo Thunder. The Tippah Tribe leads the league with an 8-4 record, sparked by the pitching of Harding (Ark.) alum Braden Quesinberry, who is 3-1 with a 1.00 ERA.
Awards season has begun for the colleges. To recap what’s happened so far: Mississippi State’s Ethan Small has been named the College Baseball Foundation’s national pitcher of the year. J.T. Ginn, the State star from Brandon, was named Perfect Game’s freshman of the year and a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American. Ole Miss’ Grae Kessinger was named the nation’s top shortstop, winning the Mizuno-sponsored Brooks Wallace Award. Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner and State’s Small were tabbed first-team All-Americans by Baseball America, which also honored Bulldogs Jake Mangum and Justin Foscue as second- and third-teamers, respectively. That MSU trio made Collegiate Baseball’s All-America list, as well. Delta State’s Jake Barlow and Hunter Riggins have earned NCAA D-II All-America honors, and Mississippi College’s Blaine Crim, the Gulf South Conference player of the year, was named a D-II Academic All-American. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Brandon Parker was an NJCAA Division II first-team All-America, Northwest CC’s Ben Van Cleve made the second team and Itawamba’s Houston Harding and Pearl River’s Wiley Cleland were on the third team. … Former Mississippi Braves are getting a lot of respect from voters in the early returns from the MLB All-Star Game ballots. Ozzie Albies led National League second basemen and Tommy La Stella, now with the Los Angeles Angels, led the AL at the same position. Brian McCann was second among NL catchers and Dansby Swanson second on the shortstop list. Freddie Freeman (first base) and Ronald Acuna (outfield) came in third at their respective positions. (Unfortunately, Austin Riley is not on the ballot.) East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, who has been at or near the top of the AL batting race all season, was fourth in the shortstop voting. … Former Mississippi State standouts Brandon Woodruff and Dakota Hudson likely will get consideration for the NL pitching staff, while Madison Central product Spencer Turnbull and Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn could be candidates in the AL. Pitchers are chosen by a vote of fellow players. … The current Mississippi Braves are slated to send seven players – five pitchers plus outfielders Drew Waters and Cristian Pache — to next week’s Southern League All-Star Game at MGM Park in Biloxi. Nine Shuckers – yes, nine — are on the South roster.
The stakes are higher now for Delta State and many others in the state. Fresh off another Gulf South Conference Tournament championship, DSU will host an NCAA Division II South Sub-Regional starting Thursday at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. The Statesmen (39-12), who won the GSC title for the 15th time last week, will play Embry-Riddle in their opener. Eckerd and Valdosta State meet in the other game. Tampa is hosting the other sub-regional with West Florida, Nova Southeastern and Spring Hill also in the field. Mississippi College, which went 2-and-out in the GSC tourney, did not get a regional bid. MC’s season ends at 28-17, and GSC player of the year Blaine Crim’s career ends, as well. He hit .379 with 11 homers in 2019. … Jackson State, 30-22 and a 2-seed in the SWAC Tournament, plays Texas Southern on Wednesday at New Orleans, while Alcorn State (14-29 and a 3-seed) meets Grambling. The tourney winner gets an NCAA bid, likely the only one the SWAC will receive. … The NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament begins Wednesday at Fulton, with host and MACJC champ Itawamba Community College playing Mississippi Gulf Coast, Jones meeting Pearl River and Northwest drawing No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice. The region winner goes to the Juco World Series. Gulf Coast, powered by Brandon Parker and Cullan O’Shea, swept Meridian in their best-of-3 playoff, but the other three series went three games. Northwest beat Northeast, Jones topped Hinds (behind Coleton Ausburn’s Game 3 shutout) and Pearl River whipped East Central (thanks in part to another big homer by Dexter Jordan in the rubber game). … MUW, 16-11 in its second year of competition, opens play today in the non-scholarship USCAA Small College World Series at DuBois, Penn. … The MHSAA Tournament finals begin Wednesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. DeSoto Central hosts Northwest Rankin today for a berth in the Class 6A finals against St. Martin, which is coached by former Ole Miss and Jackson Generals star Kary Bridges.
The all-time series is rather lopsided between Delta State and Mississippi College. The Statesmen lead 122-44-2. More telling about the rivalry is the recent history: 5-5 over the last 10 games, 3-3 in 2018. And MC won the two biggest games last year, eliminating DSU in both the Gulf South Conference Tournament and NCAA Division II South Regional. The schedule brings them together again in Clinton on Saturday (doubleheader) and Sunday to conclude the regular season. Buckle up. MC, ranked No. 4 in the South Region, is 19-5 in the GSC and first in the standings. DSU, No. 3 in the South Region, is 18-8 and third. Delta State’s pitching (see Dalton Minton, Hunter Riggins, Melvin Frazier, et al.) has been outstanding; the Statesmen lead the league (by a wide margin) in ERA with a 2.50. Can MC’s hurlers (Chris Crosby, Garrett Hollinghead, Ryan Lane, et al.) keep pace? … Blue Mountain College and William Carey University get their final tuneups this weekend for next week’s Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, with BMC playing a three-game set at Bethel (Tenn.) and Carey hosting Loyola of New Orleans. The Toppers are 25-21-1 and 14-9 in the SSAC, third behind NAIA powerhouses Faulkner and Middle Georgia State. The Crusaders are 20-24 and 12-11, seventh in the league. … A tough year for Millsaps College will likely end this weekend in Conway, Ark., where the Majors will play in one of the Southern Athletic Association’s two four-team tournaments that decide the championship series teams. The Majors (9-31) are the 8-seed overall and face No. 1 Hendrix in Friday’s opening round. Rhodes and Centre, the 4- and 5-seeds, are also in this bracket. Hendrix (28-12) swept the Majors three straight by a cumulative score of 28-5 during the season. Pitching (7.28 ERA) has been Millsaps’ biggest issue, though the defense (102 errors) has been shaky, as well. But, upsets do happen in postseason baseball. Teams go on improbable runs. Millsaps has done it before. … MUW’s second season ended on Tuesday with a pair of losses to Stillman in Columbus. The Owls are 16-11 and may get an invitation to the USCAA championships as they did in 2018. MUW, a non-scholarship program, went 3-1 vs. Rust, 2-0 vs. Tougaloo and 1-3 vs. Blue Mountain. … Belhaven University hired Kyle Palmer, formerly director of baseball operations at California Baptist University in Riverside, as the retired Hill Denson’s replacement for 2020. The Texas Lutheran graduate will be a first-time head coach. BU, completing its transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III, is expected to be eligible for the American Southwest Conference championship next season.
The great home run race in Mississippi last season involved just one player. Delta State’s Zack Shannon chased and ultimately broke the record for homers in a single season by a state collegian in any division. Shannon’s 31 bombs eclipsed the previous record of 29 shared by ex-Mississippi State stars Rafael Palmeiro and Bruce Castoria. No one is threatening Shannon’s record in 2019, but there is quite a battle for the state long ball lead. State’s Justin Foscue and Mississippi College’s Blaine Crim have hit 11, and Ole Miss’ Tyler Keenan and Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner have 10. At nine are UM’s Thomas Dillard and Cole Zabowski, with State’s Dustin Skelton and Delta State’s Jake Barlow sitting on eight. Foscue hit his 11th against Arkansas on Friday; it was his only hit in the series in which the Bulldogs were swept. Crim, having a monster year, homered in both of MC’s wins at West Alabama; he drove in seven runs in the Friday game. Wallner, starting to heat up for USM, hit three homers over the weekend as the Golden Eagles swept Charlotte; with 45 career bombs, Wallner is tied with Fred Cooley for fourth on USM’s all-time list. UM’s Keenan hit his 10th in the Rebels’ lone win in a three-game set at Auburn. Zabowski also went yard in that game. Barlow leads a Delta State team that has 30 homers, one fewer than Shannon hit in 2018. P.S. Ex-State standout Mitch Moreland leads Mississippians in the majors in home runs with seven. Interestingly enough, McComb native Jarrod Dyson, whose outstanding tool is speed, has the same number – three – as Brian Dozier, the Southern Miss product and a more noted slugger.