The bull’s-eye will be on Meridian Community College at the start of the juco season in Mississippi. The Eagles, who open Monday against Spring Hill JV in Mobile, are ranked No. 4 in the nation by the NJCAA and No. 9 by Collegiate Baseball. Dillon Sudduth’s Eagles finished 39-13 in 2018 and reached the Division II Region 23 Tournament final. Gone from that club are Milton Smith Jr., Davis Bradshaw and Trace Jordan, but a strong pitching staff led by David Dunn and Luke Wallner (both 6-game winners in 2018) fuels the cause for optimism this year. Houston Parker and Keegan Westbrook are among a small group of returning position players. … Defending state champion Pearl River CC, which opens Sunday at home against nationally ranked Jefferson College, is ranked eighth by the NJCAA and 13th by CB. PRCC features a pair of aces: Shemar Page, a 10-game winner in 2018, and Miles Smith, who won six times. Former Wildcats star Braxton Lee, who made his big league debut last spring, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for PRCC’s opener. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC is ranked 14th by the NJCAA. “Somebody thinks we’re pretty good, so we’ve got a lot to live up to,” Bulldogs coach Rodney Batts said in a school release. It helps that his team returns slugger Brandon Parker, the NJCAA D-II player of the year in 2018. Gulf Coast launches on Saturday at home against Jefferson College. … Jones County JC, ranked 15th in the Collegiate Baseball poll, hosts Coastal Alabama-East on Tuesday. The Bobcats’ sparkplug is Trace Henry, a .399 hitter who stole 39 bases and scored 60 runs in 2018. … Itawamba CC, which was ranked second in the nation early in 2018, isn’t currently ranked but shouldn’t be overlooked. The Indians return lefty Houston Harding, a nine-game winner and a Mississippi State signee, and top slugger LaBryant Siddell, who hit .348 with six homers. … Another player to watch in the MACJC is Southwest CC’s Michael Buck, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound sophomore who hit .387 with six homers last year. He is a Delta State signee.
The long ball is all the rage in the MACJC this season. Brandon Parker of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College leads the nation’s Division II jucos with 10 home runs, and four other state players rank among the top seven. Parker, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound freshman out of West Harrison High, belted No. 10 on Saturday against Baton Rouge CC at MGM Park in Biloxi. He is batting .500 with 29 RBIs (tied for the national lead) for the 13-1 Bulldogs. Northwest’s Brant Blaylock has six bombs in his last seven games and seven on the year in 10 games. Gulf Coast’s Dylan Menhennett and East Mississippi’s Anthony Hickman have hit six homers apiece, and Meridian’s Blake Morris has five, tied for seventh in the country. … Itawamba and Holmes lost over the weekend, meaning there are no unbeatens left in the state. ICC is 11-1, as is top-ranked Jones County. East Central and Pearl River are 9-1. Conference play, which has not yet begun, promises to be a wild ride.
He hit one home run last season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and says he never hit one in high school. But there sits Dylan Menhennett, leading all NJCAA Division II batters with five homers. “I’ve been working out non-stop, just getting better,” he said in a release by the school. “I’ve been swinging every night, coming up here (to Farris Field) and getting extra work.” The third baseman from Biloxi is 11-for-18 with 12 RBIs for the undefeated Bulldogs, who have pounded their opponents 74-12. Gulf Coast is among three MACJC teams off to a 6-0 start. … Jones County JC, preseason No. 1 in the NJCAA poll, is also 6-0 and has outscored its opposition 51-17. Luke Hudson, one of several freshmen in the Bobcats lineup, is 9-for-16 with two homers and seven RBIs. … Itawamba CC moved to 6-0 with a sweep of Columbia State on Tuesday, notching career wins No. 501 and 502 for longtime coach Rick Collier. The former Delta State player has one Juco World Series appearance, two region titles and two state titles on his ICC resume. … East Central CC is 4-0 after sweeping Bevill State on Tuesday. The Warriors won their first two games last weekend on walk-off hits by Kenneth Scott and Hunter Harper. Harper homered on Tuesday. … Hinds CC, the defending Region 23 champion, is 5-1 after rolling over Bishop State 13-2 and 9-4 on Tuesday.
First of all, no, East Central Community College has not snuck former big league slugger Marcus Thames back into the lineup. But the amazing numbers the Warriors have been putting up in the MACJC postseason had to make you wonder. ECCC beat No. 2-ranked Jones County Junior College 14-13 in Ellisville on Friday to advance to the championship round of the state tournament. The Warriors, ranked 14th in NJCAA Division II, have now scored 71 runs – yes, 71! — in their last four games, including 19 in their first-round win over Meridian and 27 in their best-of-3 series clincher against Gulf Coast last week. Neal Holliman’s club was down 13-8 after seven innings against Jones on Friday, tied it with a five-run eighth and won it in the bottom of the ninth. Matt Mitchell led the Warriors’ attack with three hits that included a home run. Dylan Snypes, Billy Cameron and Nathan Roseberry all had two hits apiece. Cole Prestegard, the team’s best hitter (.367, eight homers, 38 RBIs in the regular season), had a quiet night, as did T.J. Lockett, who drove in four runs against Meridian on Thursday. The Warriors (35-16) won the state title in 2013, fueled by current Chicago White Sox prospect Tim Anderson. With a new cast of stars, they’ve got another clearly in their sights. Jones (44-6) and Northwest (29-18) play an elimination game today, with the winner then having to beat ECCC twice to claim the championship. They best be prepared to score some runs.
Hinds Community College will try to join an exclusive club today. The Eagles will try to beat Jones County Junior College, something only three teams have managed in 2016. Hinds, the defending state champ, has a good club. The Eagles are 23-17 and 15-9 in the MACJC. Chase Cockrell is hitting .355 with six homers and 27 RBIs. Carlisle Koestler has nine wins and three saves. But Jones’ stuff dwarfs everyone else’s. The Bobcats, ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division II, are 37-3 and 20-2, 5 games up in the MACJC standings. (The losses: Arkansas Baptist, Itawamba and Southwest.) JCJC hits .379 as a team, slugs .583. The Bobcats average 9.4 runs a game, allow 3.5. Erick Hoard, a freshman from Brandon, has 13 homers and 56 RBIs. Mason Irby is hitting .472. Clint Sasser is at .434 with 42 steals in 45 attempts. Three pitchers have eight wins, led by Mason Strickland (8-0, 2.32 ERA, 57 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings). Today’s doubleheader is in Ellisville, where Jones has suffered two of its losses. A chink in the armor? Probably not. P.S. Hoard won MACJC player of the week honors after going 7-for-13 with two homers and eight RBIs in four wins last week. Gulf Coast’s Dylan Mills-Derouen, who threw a no-hitter against East Central on April 19, was named pitcher of the week.
Finally, there is a new NJCAA Division II poll. Fittingly, Mississippi jucos, three of them, populate the top 20. Jones County Junior College, which has distanced itself from the field in the MACJC standings, is No. 4 in the national poll, the first one released since before the season began. JCJC is 33-3 and 16-2 after sweeping Pearl River Community College 20-1 and 8-3 on Wednesday, the day the poll came out. The Bobcats are one of the highest scoring teams in the country, led by Mason Irby, who leads the state with a .472 average and 45 RBIs. With seven homers, Irby trails only teammate Erick Hoard and PRCC’s Zack Clark, who have 11. Tanner Huddleston, a .425 hitter for JCJC, has driven in 44 runs and Hoard 42. The Bobcats’ Clint Sasser leads the state and ranks No. 2 nationally with 34 steals. Oh, and ace Mason Strickland is 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA. Meridian CC is ranked No. 7 and East Central is No. 20. They are in a pack of four schools sitting in a virtual tie for second place in the MACJC standings. The Eagles (27-7, 12-6) and Warriors (25-13, 13-7) split a twinbill in Decatur on Tuesday; Will Kennedy’s bases-clearing triple sparked the Warriors’ Game 2 win after they had blown a ninth-inning lead in the opener. Northwest, also 12-6 in the league, got some poll votes. The Rangers (20-12) had an eight-game win streak stopped by Dyersburg (Tenn.) State on Tuesday. Hinds, which was ranked No. 9 in the NJCAA preseason poll, started slowly but has picked it up of late. The Eagles (20-14, 12-6) swept Copian-Lincoln on Tuesday — with the aid of 11 errors. If the postseason started today, Northeast, Gulf Coast and Holmes would join Jones and the four second-place teams in the chase. But certainly, much could change between now and the start of the best-of-3 round on May 6.
2,326 – Announced attendance for Wednesday’s South Alabama-Southern Miss game at MGM Park in Biloxi. The Golden Eagles (7-2) were a hospitable host, losing to the Jaguars 4-2, their second straight loss to USA.
.563 – Jack Kruger’s batting average in nine games for Mississippi State. The California juco transfer also leads the 7-2 Bulldogs with 12 runs, 13 RBIs, two homers and a 1.000 slugging percentage.
5 – Hits by Errol Robinson, Ole Miss’ preseason All-America shortstop who is hitting just .217 over seven games. The Rebels, ranked in several polls, are 7-1 despite slow starts by veterans Robinson, Colby Bortles and Will Golsan.
7 – Steals in seven attempts by Jackson State’s Bryce Brown, whose speed nicely complements the power of Jesus Santana (four bombs) in the 5-3 Tigers’ lineup.
0 – Home runs in 10 games by Alcorn State’s Collin Carroll, picked by some as the SWAC’s preseason player of the year. The ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star from Ridgeland hit 12 homers in 2015.
10.70 – Mississippi Valley State’s staff ERA. The 2-7 Delta Devils (both wins came against Tougaloo) are hitting .233 and have made 30 errors.
11 – Consecutive wins by Delta State against Union, the 9-5 Statesmen’s opponent in this weekend’s Gulf South Conference road series.
9 – Pitchers used, one in each inning, by Millsaps in a 5-2 win against Adrian at Twenty Field on Wednesday. The nine combined for a seven-hitter with eight strikeouts for the 4-6 Majors.
.621 – Timothy Rowe’s batting average for Itawamba Community College. That leads the state and ranks fifth in NJCAA Division II. Jones County JC’s Mason Irby and Pearl River’s Zachary Clark are tied for the state and national lead with six homers each. Irby’s 24 RBIs tops the state and ranks fourth in the country. Jones’ Clint Sasser has an MACJC-best 20 steals, tied for most in the nation.
As the curtain closes on February, only one Mississippi junior college remains unbeaten. Jones County JC, under first-year coach Chris Kirtland, moved to 12-0 on Sunday by sweeping a twinbill from Kaskaskia (Ill.) in Ellisville. Mason Irby and Erick Hoard had big hits for the Bobcats on Sunday, which is what they’ve been doing all along for a team averaging over 10 runs a game. Irby, an All-America candidate, is batting .590 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. Hoard is at .436 with three homers and 15 RBIs. Seven regulars are hitting over .400, including Clint Sasser at .581 with 15 steals. The pitching staff is topped by Ben Stiglets (3-0, 0.75 ERA), Mason Strickland (1-0, one save, 0.79) and Will Brand (2-0, 3.75). Kirtland, a longtime JCJC assistant and former Southern Miss player, took the reins this year from Christian Ostrander, who had quite a nice run with the Bobcats, including an NJCAA Division II World Series appearance four years ago. “This is the kind of place that sets you up for success,” Kirtland said when he was introduced as the new coach back in December. To his credit, he has pushed all the right buttons so far. … There are four one-loss teams remaining in the MACJC (Meridian, Itawamba, Southwest and Northwest) and one with two losses (Delta). Hinds, the only state team ranked in preseason, is off to a 4-6 start. Conference play, which starts in mid-March, promises to be a lot of fun, as usual.
Pearl River Community College is not among the six unbeaten Mississippi jucos, but the Wildcats’ offensive output has been perhaps the most impressive. PRCC, off to a 9-3 start, is averaging 10 runs a game with a .426 average, a .663 slugging percentage and 15 home runs. George Teer is batting .528, Carter Hankins .515 with four homers and 21 RBIs and Zack Clark .450 with four bombs and 12 RBIs. Hankins was named the NJCAA Division II national player of the week on Thursday. .… Jones County Junior College improved to 6-0 by outscoring Baton Rouge CC 41-5 in a twinbill on Wednesday. Mason Irby, a Southern Miss signee, had two homers and six RBIs in a 27-5 win and three more hits in a 14-0 victory. … Timothy Rowe is batting .636 and Mississippi State transfer Delvin Zinn .545 (with six RBIs and eight runs) for 4-0 Itawamba. … Northwest’s 4-0 start has been fueled by, among others, LeeMarcus Boyd, a USM signee who is batting .429 with a homer and seven RBIs. … Nationally ranked Hinds is 2-2, having played all its games against Bossier Parish (La.). Chase Cockrell had a four-hit, five-RBI game in a 13-2 win on Wednesday. … East Mississippi has started sluggishly at 1-7, though freshman Marcus Ragan is batting .400 with three RBIs and seven runs. … Meridian CC’s Hunter Mullis was the MACJC’s pitcher of the week after throwing a complete-game five-hitter with 13 strikeouts against Wallace-Selma (Ala.) last week. The Eagles are 5-1.
It might be the answer to a great trivia question someday. Who did Sarah Hudek beat for the first win of her college career? The answer is … Hinds Community College. Happened Wednesday night at Moss Field in Raymond. Hudek, the only female playing college baseball and reportedly the first to get a scholarship in the sport, worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings for Bossier Parish (La.) CC in a 5-4 victory over the Eagles, ranked ninth in NJCAA Division II. Hudek, a lefty and the daughter of former big leaguer John Hudek, yielded three infield hits and recorded three strikeouts in her first career appearance. As her coach says, “This is not a gimmick.”