A dreadful start is becoming a distant memory for Mississippi College. After losing 17 of their first 19, the Choctaws have slugged their way to seven victories in their last eight games, including winning three straight Gulf South Conference series. They swept West Georgia at Frierson Field in Clinton this weekend, taking Saturday’s doubleheader 15-11 and 10-1. Hunter Austin and Will Elliott drove in three runs each in the first game, though the overshadowed hero may have been pitcher Jake Fraze, who delivered 4 1/3 innings of stellar relief as MC held off the Wolves. In Game 2, Hunter Mullis tossed a four-hitter, and Blaine Crim and Casey Echols delivered big hits. Led by Chance Whitten (.330, seven homers, 19 RBIs), Echols (.364) and Elliott (.286, three homers, 18 RBIs), MC’s hitting has been productive most of the season, Jeremy Haworth’s second as coach. What the Choctaws need is more pitching along the lines of what Fraze and Mullis provided on Saturday. The staff ERA is 6.38. MC faces an interesting showdown against William Carey on Tuesday at Frierson Field. The Crusaders are 23-7 (with a game against Mobile today) and ranked ninth in NAIA. And Carey hitters can rake: .313 average, 9.2 runs per game. P.S. Delta State is also on a roll, moving to 21-7 with a sweep of GSC foe North Alabama on Saturday. The Statesmen, who’ve won seven straight, scored 26 runs in those two wins, 18 in Game 2, in which Clay Casey went 4-for-4 with four RBIs and four runs and Josh Russell knocked in five runs.
It’s a road trip weekend for the state’s small colleges. The only one slated for a home game is Tougaloo, which will start its three-game series against Loyola-New Orleans in Biloxi today before returning to Jackson on Saturday. … Delta State (15-7, 7-5 Gulf South) travels to Alabama-Huntsville. The Statesmen lost a home conference series against West Georgia last weekend, then bounced back with an 8-1 win over Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday. Zack Shannon, batting .442, hit his fourth homer of the year in that win. … Mississippi College is hoping to ride some momentum from a twinbill sweep at Union last Sunday as it takes on Christian Brothers in Memphis in a GSC series. Casey Echols (.393) continues to sizzle for the Choctaws, now 4-17, 2-9. … William Carey, ranked 12th in the new NAIA poll, takes its 19-5 record to Brewton-Parker for a Southern States Athletic Conference series. The Crusaders, 5-1 in league play, will look for more big things from Tyler Graves, batting .427 with 38 RBIs. … Blue Mountain (16-10, 2-4), which got a one-hitter this week from Jonas White against Crowley’s Ridge, travels to Bethel for an SSAC series. … Belhaven (10-7, 2-4) and slugging Stephen Sexton (.361, six homers) head to Texas to tangle with American Southwest Conference foe McMurry. … Millsaps takes on longtime rival Rhodes in a Southern Athletic Association series. The Majors are just 8-10 (0-2 SAA) but are one of just two teams to beat Emory, the No. 1-ranked team in NCAA Division III.
The state’s college teams have played enough games to where the stats are starting to be meaningful. Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum, the 2016 SEC batting champ and Ferriss Trophy winner, isn’t experiencing any apparent symptoms of a sophomore slump. The Jackson Prep product currently leads the SEC in hits with 26; he’s second in runs (20) and fifth in hitting (.456). Brent Rooker sits third in the league with 18 RBIs. … Ole Miss pitcher Will Ethridge ranks second in the league in batting average against (.082) and fourth in strikeouts (26), while teammates Dallas Woolfolk and Will Stokes are tied for second with two saves apiece. … Southern Miss’ Taylor Braley is second in C-USA in on-base percentage (.542) and first in walks (12), while Mason Irby leads the loop in sacrifices with five. Hayden Roberts’ 25 strikeouts ranks second among C-USA pitchers. … Lamar Briggs is crushing it for Jackson State, leading the SWAC in batting (.429) and slugging (.571). The Tigers’ C.J. Newsome ranks first in runs (15), Jonathan Aponte first in wins (three) and Jose Tirado t-first in saves (two). … Alcorn State’s Jason Sanez is No. 2 in SWAC hitting at .375, and Mississippi Valley State’s Jackson Webb is second in slugging (.563). Webb and teammate Arrington Smith have two homers each, ranking second in the SWAC. … Delta State, 12-4 and ranked as high 18th in NCAA Division II, is led by Zack Shannon, whose 20 RBIs rank fifth in the Gulf South Conference; his .403 average is ninth. With four homers, Clay Casey is tied for fifth. Tre Hobbs’ 29 strikeouts is sixth-best in the league. … Mississippi College’s Casey Echols (son of former State star Tracy Echols) is seventh in the GSC with a .404 average while leading the Choctaws in hits and runs. … William Carey’s Tyler Graves tops SSAC hitters with a .443 average and is No. 2 in RBIs with 32. Adrian Brown is first in runs (28), Tyler James in stolen bases (19) and Lane Fazende in ERA (0.81). James Land’s four homers rank fourth. … Blue Mountain’s Miciah Heard is third in the SSAC with 17 steals, while teammate Caleb Leach, having a big year, is eighth in batting at .368. … Millsaps’ Jacob Mardick, a junior left-hander, leads the Southern Athletic Association with 31 K’s and is third in ERA at 2.28. He is 3-0 for an 8-8 team. … Belhaven’s Terrell Hodges is third in the American Southwest Conference with a .735 slugging average, and Daniel Ammirati is tied for second with seven doubles.
William Carey University, yet to play a true home game, has won eight in a row and will take a 12-4 record into its first games at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg this weekend. Tyler Graves leads the Crusaders’ attack with a .442 average and 26 RBIs, and Adrian Brown also has been stuffing the box scores. The son of the former big leaguer of the same name is batting .385 with three homers, 15 RBIs, 22 runs and 10 steals. Lane Fazende, working out of the Carey bullpen, has three wins, a save and an 0.89 ERA. … Going the other way is Mississippi College, reeling from three straight one-run losses at West Alabama over the weekend. UWA scored four in the ninth to win 5-4 on Sunday. The NCAA Division II Choctaws, who play Spring Hill on Wednesday, are 2-13 and 0-6 in the Gulf South Conference. Casey Echols is batting .368 and Chance Whitten has four home runs, but the MC pitching staff has a 7.64 ERA. … Millsaps and Belhaven will battle on Tuesday at Twenty Field in a Maloney Trophy Series game; the Majors won the first meeting of the D-III rivals 6-3 at Smith-Wills Stadium last week. Millsaps is 6-6 but coming off what could be a springboard victory, rallying from a 7-0 first-inning deficit to beat Webster 13-11 in Memphis on Sunday. Jon Dale Dieckman had a big two-run hit in a four-run eighth inning that propelled the Majors. Seth Trulock and Jimmy Fondren also had two RBIs in that game. Belhaven took a series from American Southwest Conference foe Hardin-Simmons over the weekend. Tyler Wolfe (3-0, 1.53 ERA) notched a complete game in the 13-3 victory in the rubber match on Saturday, and Stephen Sexton had a homer and four RBIs. He is batting .355 with three homers on the year. Terrell Hodges is at .406 with two bombs and 11 RBIs. … Delta State won the rubber game of its GSC series at Lee University and moved to 10-3, 4-2. Juwan Burney, batting .406, led the Statesmen in the 13-5 clincher with a pair of homers. DSU will play D-I rival Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena on Wednesday. Valley is 1-4, having beaten Arkansas State 10-9 last Wednesday in its last game. … Caleb Leach (.433) and Dustin Allen (4-1, 2.81 ERA) have led Blue Mountain to a 12-6 record. … Tougaloo has dropped six straight to fall to 4-10. Correction: The Carey-MC game is scheduled for March 28 in Clinton.
With a new-look lineup but familiar expectations, Delta State is humming along this season. DSU takes an 8-2 record – with only one appearance to date at Ferriss Field in Cleveland – into a big Gulf South Conference series at Lee University this weekend. The Statesmen took two of three at West Alabama last weekend in their GSC opening series. Lee is 10-2 and 2-1. Both schools are ranked in various polls. DSU won the conference tournament last season, earning yet another bid to the NCAA Division II postseason, and was pegged to finish second in the league in the preseason poll. Newcomers are all over the DSU lineup, and many have settled in quite nicely. Zack Shannon, a junior college transfer from Illinois, is batting .410 with 10 RBIs and Emil Ellis, an East Mississippi Community College transfer, is at .359 with nine runs. Division I transfer Clay Casey, a former DeSoto Central and Northwest Mississippi CC standout, has just six hits but two have left the park, and he’s got five RBIs. The pitching staff also lost some key players from 2016 but returned a solid core. Oddly enough, Tre Hobbs, the senior All-America candidate, owns both of the team’s losses. The left-hander is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA. That number is sure to drop. Corey Beard, who has been the No. 1 starter, is 2-0, 4.76. Zach Osbon has been an ace out of the bullpen: 2-0, two saves, no runs allowed and 12 punchouts in 9 2/3 innings. DSU coach Mike Kinnison has averaged 42.6 wins over his 20 seasons. That’s a high standard – but one the 2017 Statesmen appear capable of reaching. P.S. Mississippi College, the state’s other D-II program, heads into a GSC road series this weekend still tuning its engine. The Choctaws thumped Arkansas-Monticello 10-5 earlier this week for just their second win. They are 2-10 and 0-3 GSC as they take on West Alabama in Livingston. MC went 17-30, 8-25 in 2016. Bettering those numbers in Jeremy Haworth’s second season might be tough.
0 – Runs yielded in seven innings by Tre Hobbs, whose two-hitter on Saturday capped Delta State’s season-opening three-game sweep at Harding over the weekend.
4 – Home runs by the Statesmen, each by a different player.
4 – Hits by true freshman Grant Barber, who also scored three runs and drove in two as Mississippi College went 1-3 against Florida Tech.
5 – Wins in five games to date for Blue Mountain College, which got a combined 18 hits from Peyton Callahan and Josh Whitaker in those wins.
7 – RBIs by BMC’s Callahan over those five games.
8 – Strikeouts by MC’s Jake Fraze, who allowed two runs in seven innings to get the one W for the Choctaws.
8 – RBIs by Larson Barkurn as William Carey opened with two wins in four games played at three different locations.
9.28 – ERA posted by Carey’s pitching staff in those four games.
24 – Runs scored by Millsaps College in winning two of three at Huntingdon.
Impressive start for William Carey University on Thursday night. Displaced from their storm-damaged home field, the Crusaders took on Cumberland at Southern Miss’ Taylor Park and rolled to a 16-6 win. The Crusaders, ranked 23rd in the NAIA preseason poll, scored in each of the six innings they batted. Larson Barkurn went 3-for-4 with five RBIs, and James Land homered. Carey plays again today at Jones County Junior College’s field in Ellisville. … Mississippi College, starting year two under coach Jeremy Haworth, faces a challenging opening day today in Clinton. The Choctaws, 17-30 in 2016, play a doubleheader against Florida Tech, 32-14 last year. MC returns leading hitter Hunter Bolin (.380) and top pitcher Jake Fraze. … Millsaps, coming off a rare losing season (20-21) under Jim Page, goes on the road to start 2017, playing Huntingdon today in Montgomery, Ala. Having lost all-conference slugger Isaac Glenn to graduation, the Majors now look to Lee Ogletree (.310, three homers, 34 RBIs) to carry their offense. … Blue Mountain, which got the 2017 season started with an 8-3 win at Christian Brothers on Wednesday, is back in action today with a doubleheader against William Woods in New Albany. Peyton Callahan swung the big bat in the Toppers’ opener with three hits and two RBIs. … Name of note on Delta State’s roster: Clay Casey. The former DeSoto Central High and Northwest Mississippi Community College star transferred to DSU from Houston and could be a key figure on a rebuilding team. Casey hit five homers for the Cougars in 2016 and 12 for Northwest the year before. DSU opens Saturday at Harding in Searcy, Ark. … Mississippi State (10th), Ole Miss (18th) and Southern Miss (24th) finished in Baseball America’s final Top 25 in 2016, with all three making the NCAA Tournament. None of the Big 3 made BA’s 2017 preseason Top 25 (though Ole Miss does appear in a couple of other polls). There’s some motivation in there somewhere. D-I opening day is Feb. 17.