Talk about dialed in. Itawamba Community College’s Tyreque Reed went 11-for-12 in four games last week. The sophomore from Houlka hit four home runs, drove in 10 runs, scored eight times, stole three bases and walked four times to boot. A 6-foot-1, 260-pound third baseman/outfielder, Reed helped the Indians sweep doubleheaders from Blue Mountain’s JV team and Snead State, improving to 11-3 on the season. Reed is batting .512 overall with five homers and 19 RBIs. … For the record, Reed is not the MACJC’s top hitter. According to the NJCAA Division II stats page, Coahoma’s Zachary Gilder, a freshman from Olive Branch (Center Hill), is batting a robust .577 through 11 games. Not far behind Reed is East Central’s Luke Yancey, a sophomore from Morton (East Rankin Academy) who is at .500 through 14 games.
Top-ranked Jones County Junior College has rolled out to an 8-0 start and is the only Mississippi juco still unbeaten. The defending NJCAA Division II national champion plays host to Kaskaskia (Ill.) today in Ellisville. Fred Franklin is batting .346 (.485 on-base percentage) with 11 runs and four steals for Chris Kirtland’s Bobcats, and Ben Stiglets is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. … Coahoma started 6-0 but lost a doubleheader on Wednesday to the Rhodes College JV. Latalo Newson was batting .667 with three homers and 15 RBIs through six games for the Tigers, and Hunter Wilson, a star from Star, was at .472 with two bombs and 12 RBIs. … East Central’s Cole Gray, a freshman from Meridian, was named the NJCAA D-II pitcher of the week on Thursday after earning MACJC honors earlier in the week. Gray went six innings, allowing one run on two hits with 10 strikeouts in a win last week against Coastal Alabama. The Warriors, ranked eighth in preseason, are 5-1. … Hinds, ranked No. 17 in the NJCAA preseason poll, is 4-4. … Southwest’s “T Tez” Cole was the MACJC hitter of the week after going 4-for-7 with five RBIs and five runs. The freshman from Monticello is 8-for-16 on the season for the 5-1 Bears. … Gulf Coast, sparked by Tyler Evans (.381, four RBIs, eight runs) is 5-1 with five straight wins. The Bulldogs, playing exclusively on the road while Farris Field in Perkinston undergoes renovation, take on Dyersburg (Tenn.) State and Kaskaskia in d’Iberville on Saturday. … Mississippi Delta is 4-2 under first-year coach Dan Rives, the longtime Hinds assistant, and Pearl River, under new coach Michael Avalon, is 0-2 heading into a twinbill today against Dyersburg.
Smith-Wills Stadium, approaching its 42nd birthday, will crackle to life again today for Belhaven University’s season opener. BU takes on Berry College at 4 p.m. at the Jackson ballpark, which opened in April of 1975 as the home of the Double-A Jackson Mets. The Blazers have called Smith-Wills home since 2006 – after the last pro tenant departed — and the big yard with the artificial surface has been a good fit. They went 12-7 at home in 2016 en route to a disappointing 20-18 overall record. Two key players return from that team: Terrell Hodges, a former Northwest Rankin High and Holmes Community College star, and Tanner Cable, an ex-Delta State pitcher. Both made the American Southwest Conference preseason watch list. Hodges, an outfielder, had a monster year in 2016, batting .397 with seven homers, 26 RBIs, 43 runs and 30 stolen bases in 38 games. Cable, a right-hander, was 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA in an injury-shortened campaign. Also back is third baseman Daniel Ammirati, a .331 hitter last year. Belhaven is still in transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III and is not yet eligible for the ASC Tournament or D-III postseason play. P.S. Jones County Junior College also opens today with a considerable target on its back. The defending NJCAA Division II national champs were ranked No. 1 by the NJCAA and Collegiate Baseball magazine and were pegged as the team to beat in D-II by Baseball America. The Bobcats, 54-9 in 2016, return a wealth of talent, featuring the power of Erick Hoard and Tanner Huddleston, the speed of Shelton Wallace and Fred Franklin and an armada of arms. JCJC starts with a twinbill today against Southwest Tennessee at Community Bank Park in Ellisville.
The best performance by a state college in 2016 was delivered by Jones County Junior College, which won its first national championship. Do the Bobcats have an encore in them? The editors of Collegiate Baseball magazine apparently think so. CB’s comprehensive 2017 preseason issue is out, and it’s got JCJC ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II. Chris Kirtland’s Bobcats lost a few key players from last season (most notably Mason Irby, now at Southern Miss) but return a strong core from a 54-win squad. Mason Strickland, Ben Stiglets and Logan Robbins were a combined 28-0 on the bump. Erick Hoard batted .409 with 19 homers, Tanner Huddleston .392 with 12 homers and Fred Franklin .378 with 22 steals. The Bobcats may be challenged for state supremacy by Meridian CC, ranked 18th in CB’s poll. … Ole Miss is ranked No. 22 in the NCAA Division I poll. The Rebels, 43-19 and a regional host in 2016, return the likes of Tate Blackman, Colby Bortles and Will Stokes, and Mike Bianco reeled in what CB ranked as the No. 2 recruiting class in the country. Mississippi State, which won the SEC regular season title and hosted a regional and Super Regional last year, is picked fifth in the SEC West. New coach Andy Cannizaro has some rebuilding to do, as does Southern Miss’ Scott Berry. USM, which won the Conference USA Tournament in 2016, is pegged for a third-place finish in the league. … In the SWAC, Jackson State is picked second, Alcorn State third and Mississippi Valley fifth in the five-team East Division. JSU’s Cornelius Copeland emerged last year as one of the league’s best players. … In NAIA, William Carey checks in at No. 23. The Crusaders won 40 games last year, made the postseason and welcome back top hitters Tyler Odom and Adrian Brown, slugger James Land and pitcher Devin Smith. Believe it or not, Carey opens Feb. 3.
Junior college teams in the state have played in the considerable shadow of the big schools this season. For one day at least, Jones County Junior College owns the spotlight. The Bobcats won the NJCAA Division II national championship on Saturday night, beating GateWay College of Arizona 7-1 in Enid, Okla. Ben Stiglets, a freshman from Gulfport, threw an eight-hitter with eight strikeouts, and World Series MVP Erick Hoard, a freshman from Brandon, led a 15-hit attack with a 3-for-6 effort as the third-ranked Bobcats (54-9) rolled to their first national title. Jones reached the championship round in 2011. Jones got homers from Mason Irby, Tanner Huddleston and Shelton Wallace in the clincher, its second win of the day. Stiglets (10-0) was knocked around by GateWay in the Bobcats’ loss on Monday but bounced back with a sterling outing on Saturday, continuing a string of such performances by Bobcats hurlers in Enid. “It kinda helped to get slapped in the face,” first-year coach Chris Kirtland told the Enid News & Eagle. Calder Mikell, Mason Strickland and Will Brand also stepped up as JCJC won its last four games in Enid by a 40-11 count. P.S. Elsewhere, Mississippi State is in fine shape for a regional title, Southern Miss faces an uphill battle and Ole Miss is done. The Rebels bowed out in shocking fashion Saturday in the Oxford Regional, when Will Stokes gave up a two-run homer in the ninth inning against Tulane. USM, after a 7-2 loss to Florida State in the Tallahassee Regional, will have to beat South Alabama today and then take down FSU twice to win the region crown. State is 2-0 in the Starkville Regional, needing only one win to advance to a Super Regional.
There’s baseball in Starkville and Oxford today, and in Tallahassee, Fla., too, where Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss begin the chase for regional championships. The fourth Magnolia State school still playing also gets back on the field in Enid, Okla. It will be a battle-tested but well-rested Jones County Junior College team that plays tonight in the NJCAA Division II World Series. The third-ranked Bobcats (51-9) haven’t played since Tuesday, when they beat Brunswick (N.C.) in an elimination game. JCJC now faces GateWay (Ariz.) College, 3-0 in the tournament, following an elimination game between Mercer County (N.J.) and Sinclair (Ohio). The Bobcats were in fine form in the 11-3 victory against Brunswick: Erick Hoard (a .402 hitter with 18 homers) drove in three runs and Clint Sasser (.382 with 84 runs) scored three, Calder Mikell earned his 11th win with a strong start and Brunswick pitchers contributed 11 walks and five HBPs. For tonight’s game, pitching-rich Jones likely will bring back Mason Strickland (11-0), the starter from its Game 1 victory last Saturday.
Based on their numbers, the Scots of McHenry County College have fast legs and power arms. The team that Jones County Junior College will face in its opener Saturday in the NJCAA Division II World Series has swiped 140 bases in 57 games and rolls out three starting pitchers who average 10 or more strikeouts per game. McHenry, located in Illinois, is 44-13 and won the Region 4 championship to advance to Enid, Okla. JCJC, the Region 23 champ, is 49-8. This is the first World Series appearance for McHenry, the second for Jones. The Scots are led offensively by the speedy duo of Riley Richarz (35 steals, .406) and Nick Vasic (31, .413). Clay Brinkman (.373, six homers, 64 RBIs) and Brett Stratinsky (nine homers) supply some thunder. The pitching staff, which has a collective 3.42 ERA, features Andrew Reisinger (10-0), Jack Granath (8-0) and Reilly Peltier (7-2). Third-ranked Jones, which took out No. 1 LSU-Eunice and No. 10 East Central in its regional, can also run and pitch a little, among other things. Top players for the Bobcats are Mason Irby (.410, seven homers, 72 RBIs, 30 steals), Erick Hoard (.397, 17 HRs, 72 RBIs), Clint Sasser (.389, 47 steals), Mason Strickland (10-0, 2.85) and Calder Mikell (9-1). The 10-team World Series field includes No. 2-ranked Mercer County from New Jersey and No. 5 Sinclair of Ohio as well as teams from New York to North Carolina to Arizona.