Buckle up. Big week ahead on many fronts. East Central Community College, continuing its ’27 Yankees impression, beat Jones County Junior College 13-12 on Saturday to win the MACJC title and will host the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament in Decatur. No. 2-ranked Jones will be there, as well as No. 1 LSU-Eunice (50-4) and Northwest Mississippi. … William Carey University is off to Santa Barbara, Calif., for NAIA regional play. The 25th-ranked Crusaders (37-19), led by All-SSAC first-team picks Adrian Brown and Tyler Odom, take on College of Idaho on Tuesday in the five-team opening round tournament. The top seed there is Westmont (Calif.). … Jackson State and Alcorn State, the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds from the SWAC East, start play on Wednesday in the conference tournament at Barrow Stadium in New Orleans. Alabama State dominated the league with a 24-0 mark, but JSU (32-24 overall) certainly has the hitters (see Cornelius Copeland, Carlos Diaz, Jesus Santana) to make a run. … Delta State will learn tonight where it is heading for NCAA Division II regional play. The Statesmen (38-15) earned an automatic bid by winning their 13th Gulf South Conference championship last week. … And the MHSAA finals matchups are set: Madison Central-George County in Class 6A, Oxford-Hattiesburg in 5A, Houston-Newton County in 4A, Kossuth-St. Andrews in 3A, East Union-Loyd Star in 2A and Tupelo Christian Prep-Ethel in 1A. The games in the best-of-3 series begin Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
Only two Mississippi college teams are still standing after a generally rough weekend. Hinds Community College, the No. 1-ranked team in NJCAA Division II, was eliminated Saturday night in the Region 23 championship round by No. 2 LSU-Eunice. The Eagles (43-7) lost twice to the host Bengals in the regional. East Mississippi Community College went 2-and-out in the tournament, and Northwest Mississippi was flushed in its third game, losing an elimination game to Hinds on Saturday. Meanwhile, Mississippi State’s season ended with a whimper as the Bulldogs lost three straight to Tennessee, which claimed the 12th and final berth in the SEC Tournament. Jackson State and Alcorn State bowed out Friday in the SWAC Tournament, where both went 1-2. Millsaps, after winning its opener on Thursday, went down (and out) twice on Friday in the NCAA Division III West Regional. Still playing are Southern Miss, which will take a 13-game winning streak into its Conference USA Tournament opener against UAB on Wednesday at Taylor Park in Hattiesburg, and Ole Miss, which has won six of seven heading into an SEC Tournament clash with Alabama on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala.
This should be good. Hinds Community College and LSU-Eunice, ranked 1-2 in the NJCAA Division II poll, will meet tonight in a winner’s bracket game in the Region 23 Tournament at Eunice, La. The Eagles (42-5) clubbed East Mississippi 12-1 on Thursday, and LSU-E (42-9) routed Northwest Mississippi 12-0. Hinds and LSU-E did not meet in the regular season, though the Bengals did play a couple of MACJC schools. Randy Bell got the win against EMCC and moved to 12-0 for Hinds. Jonathan Washam went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs, and Tyler Cox belted a two-run homer. LSU-E was powered by Steven Sensley, who hit his 18th homer, and Madison Nickens, who had three hits. The Bengals threw ace Mitch Sewald (12-1) on Thursday, so the Eagles might face lefty Ben Braymer, who has 113 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. P.S. Jim Page notched his 700th win as Millsaps coach on Thursday when the Majors held off Whitworth 7-6 in the first round of the NCAA Division III West Regional. Annon Etheridge and Andy Page had two RBIs apiece for Millsaps. The Majors’ next game is today against old rival Trinity (Texas) in the weather-plagued tournament at Tyler, Texas. … Omar Johnson got win No. 300 at Jackson State when the Tigers beat Prairie View 10-1 in a SWAC Tournament elimination game. Jevon Jacobs threw a six-hitter with 13 strikeouts. The Tigers play Alabama State today. Alcorn State also stayed alive on Thursday, beating Alabama A&M 13-3 behind Cedric Walker’s complete game. The Braves earned a rematch with Texas Southern, which beat them on Wednesday. … Northeast Mississippi CC announced that assistant Richy Harrelson will replace Kent Farris as head coach. Farris is now the school’s athletic director. Harrelson was a legendary prep player at Iuka and Tishomingo County before going on to star at Ole Miss. He also worked as an assistant at Southern Miss.
While undefeated Oxford High is the highest ranked Mississippi school in two different national polls, Northwest Rankin definitely rates attention. The Cougars, also ranked in the Top 25 by both MaxPreps and Baseball America, are 29-2 headed into the MHSAA Class 6A North championship series against DeSoto Central. The Cougars, coached by Jeff McClaskey, feature Shelton Wallace (.464, 25 steals), Ian Ladner (.409, five homers, 38 RBIs) and Hunter Smith (9-0, 0.96 ERA). They are 4-0 in the postseason and have won eight straight overall. Both of NWR’s losses were by one run. DeSoto Central (24-9) is led by the highly touted Austin Riley, hitting .456 with 11 homers and 6-2 with a 2.75 ERA as a pitcher. Keegan James hits .336, and Dallas Woolfolk is 7-1, 2.07. In the 6A South finals, defending state champion Oak Grove (24-7) meets Biloxi (21-11) in the best-of-3. The Warriors have the 1-2 pitching punch of Drew Boyd (9-0, 1.04) and J.C. Keys (8-0, 1.01) and a hot hitter in Matthew Guidry (.426). Biloxi counters with the arms of Austin Creel (7-1, 2.01) and Blake Johnson (7-2, 2.00) and the bat of Darrell Montiforte (.296, three homers). In 5A, Oxford puts its unblemished mark (32-0) on the line against New Hope in the North finals. P.S. The SWAC Tournament begins Wednesday in New Orleans. Jackson State, the two-time defending champion, meets Southern University and Alcorn State plays West Division winner Texas Southern in the opening round of the eight-team event. The tourney winner earns an automatic NCAA Tournament bid (though Southern is ineligible). With probable league MVP Melvin Rodriguez (.444, seven homers, 72 RBIs) in its lineup, JSU certainly has a shot at a three-peat. … In Tyler, Texas, on Wednesday, third-seeded Millsaps faces 4-seed Whitworth in the first round of the NCAA Division III West Regional. … At Eunice, La., on Thursday, Hinds Community College meets East Mississippi and Northwest Mississippi plays LSU-Eunice in the first round of the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament. No. 1-ranked Hinds is the defending region champ.
The state championship is a nice catch, to be sure, but the four junior colleges participating in the MACJC tournament in Raymond might have one eye on a bigger prize: the region crown. The double-elimination state tourney starts today at Moss Field with East Mississippi Community College playing Northwest Mississippi and host Hinds meeting Meridian. Three of the four – the team that goes 2-and-out is done — will advance to the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament at Eunice, La., from May 14-17. The region winner goes to the juco World Series. Hinds did not win the state title last year but did win the region and then went all the way to the championship game of the World Series. The Eagles, 38-5 and back up to No. 1 in the country, are loaded again. Jordan Washam (.385, six homers, 33 RBIs) leads a lineup full of mashers, and the Eagles have arms (Randy Bell, Houston Case, Austin Sanders, et. al) in abundance. EMCC, Northwest and Meridian finished 2-3-4 in the regular season standings, and all are now ranked in the Top 20. But they were a collective 0-6 against HCC. P.S. Waiting in the wings for the three surviving Mississippi schools is No. 2 LSU-Eunice. The Bengals are 41-9, 24-3 at Bengal Stadium. Freshman Steven Sensley is batting .373 with 17 homers and 63 RBIs. Mitch Sewald is 11-1 with a 2.04 ERA, and lefty Ben Braymer is 6-1, 2.51 with 113 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. Beating that bunch at their place for the region championship could be a tall order.
Two players on Mississippi junior college rosters for this season batted over .420 in 2014. At least three reached the 10-homer plateau. Another stole 20 bases. There were several pitchers who posted an ERA under 3.00. There was a 9-game winner and a few who notched eight, including a certain right-hander who also had 10 saves. Those are some of the numbers that grab your eye from the NJCAA’s lists of top returning players in Division II Region 23. With the season fast approaching — most of the state jucos start on or about Feb. 7 — here are a few names (with numbers) to watch for from the MACJC: Trent Turner (Northeast Mississippi Community College), .423, eight homers, 50 RBIs; James Land (Gulf Coast), .422, 10 homers; Chase Hensley (Jones County JC), .373 and 8-1, 2.60 ERA; Marshall Boggs (Hinds), .366; Dalton Thomas (Meridian), .349, seven homers; Chad McNeil (Holmes), .341, 20 steals; Will Simon (Jones), 2.59 ERA; Goose Yates (Meridian), 6-2, 2.73; J’Daylin Jackson (East Mississippi), 8-1, 3.77; Austin Sanders (Hinds), 8-2, 2.95, 10 saves; Randy Bell (Hinds), 9-4; Brady Badon (Southwest), 3.18, seven saves.
Kudos to Hinds Community College coach Sam Temple, who has been named NJCAA Region 23 coach of the year. Temple, a former Hinds and Delta State catcher in his ninth season in Raymond, led the Eagles to the MACJC Tournament title game, then to the Region 23 championship and ultimately to the NJCAA Division II World Series title game. Hinds finished 40-21. “It was so enjoyable, so much fun,” Temple said of the postseason run. “One of the biggest things for me was spending all that time with my guys. … I cherished that time.” The Eagles did not have any players named NJCAA All-America but did see freshman pitcher Casey Sutton make the Region 23 first team. Sutton, Matt Jones, Chase Lunceford and Luke Reynolds were MACJC first-team picks, and eight other Eagles made second team. Included was Marshall Boggs, who won the Best Hitter award at the juco World Series.