At Oxford-University Stadium, Ole Miss plays Georgia in a three-game SEC set Friday-Sunday. At Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, Mississippi State gets Arkansas. At Taylor Park in Hattiesburg, it’s Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee State in C-USA. At Braddy Field in Jackson, Jackson State hosts Alabama State in a SWAC East showdown. Here’s some quick takes on the big weekend upcoming for the state’s Big 4 Division I schools: Even after last weekend’s breakdowns at Vanderbilt, Ole Miss has to feel pretty good about the bullpen troika of Will Ethridge (16 appearances, 4.10 ERA, two saves), Parker Caracci (15, 1.73, six) and Dallas Woolfolk (14, 2.77, six). … Jake Mangum is having another standout year at State (.345, 31 runs, 12 steals), but the Bulldogs’ overall lack of punch (SEC-lows of 189 runs and 18 homers) is wasting some very good pitching. … The meat of USM’s order is pretty imposing: Luke Reynolds (.370, seven homers, 36 RBIs), Matt Wallner (.362, 10, 45) and Hunter Slater (.329, seven, 32). The 3-4-5 hitters combined for seven hits and six RBIs vs. Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday. … JSU’s Raul Hernandez is making a strong bid for SWAC player of the year, batting a league-best .406 with six homers, 14 doubles and 36 RBIs. The junior from Puerto Rico is first in the league in total bases (90) and second in slugging (.629). P.S. Division II Delta State also faces a big series this weekend, going on the road to play North Alabama in a battle of the top two teams in the Gulf South Conference standings. As crazy as Zack Shannon’s individual numbers (.453, 25 homers, 76 RBIs) are, the team’s offensive output is equally as jaw-dropping: 21 games with 10 or more runs, including slow-pitch softball sounding totals of 26, 25, 21, 19, 16 (twice), 15 and 13 (thrice).
Catching up on many fronts in pro ball: Chris Coghlan, the ex-Ole Miss star and veteran big leaguer, signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs earlier this month but has not yet been assigned to a club. Coghlan, who played for the Cubs during their championship run in 2016, was released by Toronto last summer. … UM product Drew Pomeranz is expected to be activated from the disabled list by Boston on Friday; the Red Sox will be at Oakland, facing former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman of the A’s. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, is 4-for-14 in five games on a rehab assignment with Class A Dunedin in the Toronto system. Alford, who made his big league debut last year, was injured in spring training. … Southern Miss alum Scott Copeland, Starkville native Julio Borbon and Hattiesburg’s Robert Carson have signed with teams in the independent Atlantic League. Copeland and Borbon, both ex-big leaguers, are with Somerset, Carson with York. A number of former Mississippi Braves also have signed on in the league, which opens next weekend. … Southwest Mississippi Community College product Kade Scivicque, released by Atlanta last week, signed with Detroit, the club that drafted him out of LSU in 2015. Scivicque, who played for the M-Braves in 2016-17, had just four at-bats with Triple-A Gwinnett this season. The Tigers sent him to Double-A Erie. … Rehabbing big leaguer Luiz Gohara, expected to be a key rotation piece in Atlanta, worked 3 1/3 innings (62 pitches) for the M-Braves against Pensacola on Tuesday night and yielded five hits, three walks and five runs (one earned). … Former M-Braves star Ronald Acuna hit his first homer and picked up his first two RBIs of 2018 for Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday. Acuna is batting just .175 after having a huge spring with the big league Braves. … Jacob Nottingham became (by unofficial count) the 18th Biloxi Shuckers alum to advance to the big leagues when he debuted with Milwaukee on Monday. … Former Jackson Generals ace and ex-big leaguer Freddy Garcia, at age 41, is pitching for Yucatan in the Mexican League; he’s 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA. The right-hander has logged more than 3,000 innings in a pro career that started in 1995.
Aside from nasty weather, what’s the biggest story in the big leagues to date? It’s a tough call. Shohei Ohtani and the surging Los Angeles Angels? The red-hot Boston Red Sox? The amazin’ New York Mets? A case could be made for any of the three first-place teams – and it’s interesting to note that there’s a Mississippi connection on each club. Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart has had an impact as a newcomer with the 13-3 Angels, batting .273 with two homers and seven RBIs. In Boston (13-2), which travels to Anaheim for a three-game set beginning Tuesday, former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland is batting .292 in his sporadic calls to duty. And ex-UM star Drew Pomeranz should be joining the Red Sox rotation soon. The Mets, managed by former Ole Miss pitcher Mickey Callaway, have the best ERA in the majors and the best record (12-2) in the National League. They host NL East rival Washington in a big series starting tonight. For the record, the other first-place teams also have Mississippi ties: Southern Miss product Brian Dozier (.289, four homers) and Ole Miss’ Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.00 ERA) with Minnesota; Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson (.358, 12 RBIs) and ex-State star Adam Frazier (.250) with Pittsburgh (where Clint Hurdle is the manager); and Southwest CC product Jarrod Dyson (.176) with Arizona.
Tuesday was a test of resilience for three college programs that endured serious disappointment over the weekend. Ole Miss, William Carey and Millsaps all showed a little something. The No. 4-ranked Rebels, coming off an SEC series loss to scuffling Mississippi State, bounced back with an 11-3 win against No. 12 Southern Miss before a crowd of 5,772 at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Chase Cockrell and Thomas Dillard drove in three runs each and Houston Roth improved to 5-0 for the Rebels (28-6), who’ll take a 7-5 conference record to Vanderbilt this weekend. Carey, ranked 11th in the latest NAIA poll, was swept at home by top-ranked Faulkner in a big Southern States Athletic Conference series last weekend. The Crusaders rebounded Tuesday with a 7-1 win in the opener of a doubleheader at LSU-Alexandria behind the bat of Marcus Buckley and the arm of Lake Robertson. WCU lost Game 2 7-4. The Crusaders (26-14, 10-5 SSAC) travel to Loyola (La.) for their next league series this weekend. Millsaps, hoping to make a late push in the Southern Athletic Association standings, was swept at home by Sewanee over the weekend, falling to 8-10 in the conference. Fueled by the hitting of Christian Cooper and six innings of stellar relief from Chris Guerin, the Majors responded Tuesday with a 6-4 victory at East Texas Baptist. NCAA Division III Millsaps (20-16) finishes SAA play at Centre this weekend. P.S. On the day he was named to the Golden Spikes Award Watch List, Delta State’s Zack Shannon smacked his nation-leading 23rd home run in an 8-3 win vs. Harding. Shannon is batting .445 with 70 RBIs for DSU, 29-6 and ranked as high as fifth in Division II.
Four Magnolia State four-year schools sit at the head of the class, sporting Superior marks, as the college season barrels into April. Ole Miss, ranked third in the country by Baseball America, tops the SEC West at 6-3 and is 25-4 overall. Jackson State leads the SWAC East at 9-3 (17-10 overall). Delta State leads the NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference at 14-3 (24-6), and William Carey is tied for first in the NAIA Southern States Athletic Conference at 10-2 (25-10). Both are nationally ranked. The Crusaders are knotted with NAIA No. 1 Faulkner (33-3, 10-2), which comes to Hattiesburg this weekend. In the Satisfactory category we have nationally ranked Southern Miss (6-2, second in C-USA), Mississippi Valley State (6-6 SWAC), Mississippi College (11-6 GSC), Blue Mountain (7-5, fifth in SSAC), Millsaps (8-7, fourth in the D-III Southern Athletic Association) and unclassified independent MUW (14-9 in its inaugural campaign). That leaves the Needs Improvement group. Alcorn State is 3-9 and last in the SWAC East. Belhaven (7-18 overall) is 4-11 against D-III American Southwest Conference competition, and NAIA Tougaloo (12-15) is 0-6 in Gulf Coast Athletic Conference play. And then there’s Mississippi State, a team that was ranked in preseason but is now 14-15 overall, 2-7 and last in the SEC West. Ready or not, the Bulldogs get Ole Miss this weekend in Starkville. … In the MACJC, Pearl River Community College swept Itawamba CC last Friday to move to 8-0 in the league, alone in first place. ICC was ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll last week. It’ll be interesting to see just how high PRCC, ranked 18th last week, jumps in the new poll that comes out today.
Brian Dozier’s power plays at the top of Minnesota’s lineup. The former Southern Miss star hit his 28th career leadoff home run on Sunday, then added a second homer in the sixth inning to propel the Twins to a 7-0 win at Baltimore. The leadoff bomb came on the first pitch, the fourth time in his career Dozier has done that, according to mlb.com. “There’s a process behind it,” he said. Dozier is 5-for-14 as one of a handful of Mississippians in the majors who came out clicking in the opening series of 2018. Ole Miss product Zack Cozart is 7-for-19 with a homer and three RBIs as the leadoff batter for his new club, the Los Angeles Angels. The converted shortstop has moved from third base to second – another position he had not played previously – following an injury to Ian Kinsler. Ex-Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier, also batting leadoff, is 4-for-10 for Pittsburgh and scored the only run in the Pirates’ Game 1 victory against Detroit on Sunday. Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson is 3-for-8 with two homers – on opening day – three RBIs and a steal in two games for the Chicago White Sox. P.S. Sad to hear about the passing of Jerry Moses, the Yazoo City native who played parts of nine seasons in the big leagues. He died March 27 at age 71. Moses is the youngest Boston Red Sox player to hit a home run, going deep at age 18 against Jim “Mudcat” Grant on May 25, 1965, at Fenway Park. Moses hit .251 with 25 homers for his career and made the 1970 All-Star Game for the Red Sox.
Fifty years ago this season, Jim Miles made his big league debut. The Grenada native did not make much of an imprint, appearing in just 13 games for the Washington Senators over two years in The Show. Miles, of course, is much better known for what he did after pro ball: coaching at Northwest Mississippi Community College, his alma mater, for 20 years. The Rangers’ field in Senatobia now bears his name. Also in 1968, Bill Melton, a Gulfport native, debuted with the Chicago White Sox and went on to make quite a dent. Melton, sometimes called “Beltin’ Bill,” hit 160 career homers in 10 seasons and won an American League home run crown with 33 in 1971. If Melton isn’t the best third baseman from the Magnolia State, Charlie Hayes is. The Hattiesburg native made his MLB debut 30 years ago and went on to bat .262 with 144 homers over 14 years. Hayes won a World Series ring with the 1996 New York Yankees. Among the first Mississippians to play in the majors was Dode Criss of Sherman; he broke in 110 years ago – 1908 – with the St. Louis Browns and hit a sweet .341 in 82 at-bats that year. Morton native Atley Donald came along 80 years ago, playing the first of his eight seasons with the Yankees in 1938. “Swampy” won 65 games all told and a World Series in 1941. Hard to believe, but it has been 20 years since Byram’s Chad Bradford – he of Moneyball fame — arrived in the big leagues. The Hinds Community College and Southern Miss alum, known for his submarine-style delivery, posted a 3.26 ERA in 561 games – and a 0.39 in 24 postseason appearances. Time marches on: Bradford’s son Keller now pitches for USM.