The target is in plain sight now. Delta State, Mississippi College, William Carey University and five state junior colleges take aim this week on a spot in the World Series in their respective divisions. The state’s three SWAC schools are focused on the league’s tournament title and the NCAA regional bid — the only one the league will get — that goes with it. Delta State and Mississippi College — the Gulf South Conference Tournament champ — are bound for the NCAA Division II South Region tourney; they’ll find out tonight where they’re going and who they’ll play in the first round. It’s a good bet the event will be in Cleveland. The Statesmen won the regional in 2017 and went to the D-II World Series. Carey is hosting an NAIA Opening Round tournament — one of eight regionals — that begins Monday at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. The Crusaders, who made the NAIA World Series last year, open with LSU-Shreveport. Also in the five-team field are Westmont (Calif.), Indiana Southeast and top-seeded St. Thomas (Fla.). The NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament begins Wednesday at Eunice, La. A berth in the Junior College World Series is on the line. MACJC regular season champion Pearl River Community plays old rival Mississippi Gulf Coast in the first round, while Meridian hooks up with Itawamba and Hinds faces top-seeded and No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice. Hinds, the defending region champion, reached this year’s event by upsetting No. 3 Jones County in a best-of-3 playoff. Gulf Coast, Meridian and Itawamba also won playoff series last week to advance. The eight-team SWAC Tournament starts Wednesday in New Orleans. Jackson State plays Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State meets Grambling and Alcorn State takes on Texas Southern in the first round. Alcorn, which finished fifth in the East Division, made the eight-team field because Alabama A&M is ineligible for postseason play. P.S. Greenwood native and former Pillow Academy star Louis Coleman made his first big league appearance since 2016 on Saturday when he threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings for Detroit in a game against Seattle. The veteran right-hander has a career 3.49 ERA.
Several stars emerged on Tuesday for Mississippi College, which upended Delta State 9-8 in 11 innings to reach the Gulf South Conference Tournament title game in Cleveland. To name a few: Ryan Lane threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win; Blaine Crim went 3-for-5 with a homer and five RBIs; and Kyle Smith had four hits and four runs, including the game-winner on a DSU error. MC (32-15) plays Lee University today for the championship. … At Trustmark Park in Pearl, four Mississippi Braves collected three or more hits in a 10-3 win against Mobile. Connor Lien got four knocks, including his first homer of the year, and Alay Lago went 3-for-5 with four RBIs for the Double-A M-Braves. … In Erie, Pa., former Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull tossed six shutout innings to record his first Double-A win as the Sea Wolves, a Detroit farm club, beat Harrisburg 3-0. Turnbull is 1-3 with a 4.80 ERA. Mississippi State alum Jake Robson had a hit and an RBI for Erie. … And in Chicago, Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson equaled a career-high with four hits and added two RBIs as Pittsburgh beat the White Sox 10-6. Dickerson, in his first year with the Pirates, is batting .400 over his last seven games and .333 (third in the National League) with five homers and 26 RBIs for the season.
Walk-off bombs are exciting, yes, but a squeeze bunt for the win isn’t far behind on the thrill meter. Former Richton High star JaCoby Jones scored the clincher for Detroit on John Hicks’ perfect bunt as the Tigers took down Tampa Bay 3-2 Wednesday in the 12th inning. No one, including Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, was expecting Hicks to lay one down with no outs and Jones at third following a triple. “I wish I could’ve said I put a squeeze on,” Gardenhire, the onetime Jackson Mets shortstop, told mlb.com. Jones, a fast runner, scored easily as two Rays collided going for the ball on the right side of the infield. “When I saw the bunt down, it surprised the crap out of me,” Jones said. Jones, playing regularly and playing well for the Tigers, went 3-for-5 to boost his average to .280. … It was a good night, too, for Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout who notched his first win of 2018 as Boston, powered by Mookie Betts’ three homers, beat Kansas City 5-4. Pomeranz, making his third start after beginning the year on the disabled list, allowed eight hits, two walks and three runs in six innings. Reports said his velocity was much improved over his first two outings. … Pittsburgh took its lumps from Washington in a 9-3 loss, but Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College product, continued to shine for the Pirates. He was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and is at .318 with four homers and 20 RBIs for the year. He also stole his third base on Wednesday. P.S. Three former Mississippi Braves played key roles in Atlanta’s 7-0 win over the New York Mets, a victory that propelled the Braves (18-11) into first place in the National League East. Sean Newcomb (2-1) yielded just two hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts; Freddie Freeman ripped three hits to lift his average to .333 and drove in a run; and Johan Camargo, batting .316 in his limited chances, blasted a two-run homer, his fifth extra-base knock in 19 at-bats. Mickey Callaway, the former Ole Miss star now managing the Mets, saw his club, which started 11-1, drop to 17-11.
While Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw are hooking up in a marquee MLB matchup in Los Angeles tonight, there’s a Mississippi-flavored clash up the coast in Oakland that also bears watching. Boston, which has roared from the starting gate with a 16-2 record, welcomes former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz back from the disabled list. A 17-game winner in 2017, Pomeranz will oppose ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman, the A’s opening day starter who has struggled to a 9.87 ERA through four outings. (For the record, they did not cross paths in college.) Pomeranz, who suffered a forearm strain in spring training, made two rehab starts — one in Triple-A, the other in Double-A — and posted a 3.72 ERA over 9 2/3 innings. Graveman, who has yielded six homers this season, gets to face a scorching-hot Red Sox lineup (27 runs in three wins against the Angels) that may include State product Mitch Moreland. He has two bombs against Graveman in 12 career at-bats. P.S. JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High star, hit his first career walk-off homer — his first of 2018 — to propel Detroit to a 3-2 win in 10 innings against Kansas City today. Jones is batting .300 in 13 games.
Stuart Turner, the former Ole Miss standout, is catching at Triple-A Louisville in the Cincinnati system. He is 3-for-13 in four games. Turner spent 2017 in the big leagues after the Reds took him as a Rule 5 pick from Minnesota’s minor league system. He hit .134 with two homers in 37 games. He was designated for assignment by the Reds late in spring training, passed through waivers and was outrighted to Louisville. … Louis Coleman, the Greenwood native and ex-Pillow Academy star, is pitching at Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit organization. He has a 3.38 ERA and two saves in four appearances. The 32-year-old right-hander has a 3.15 ERA in 213 MLB games, the last with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016. … T.J. House, the Picayune High product, is pitching at Triple-A Charlotte in the Chicago White Sox’s system. The left-hander is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in two starts. House has a 4.44 ERA in 29 big league games with Cleveland and Toronto. The White Sox signed him as a minor league free agent in the off-season.
On this date in 2005, opening day at Comerica Park in Detroit, Vicksburg native Dmitri Young achieved a feat managed by only three others on an opening day in baseball history. He belted three home runs for the Tigers in an 11-2 win against Kansas City. The Chicago White Sox’s Matt Davidson did it last week, joining Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and George Bell (1988) as the other members of this exclusive club. Young was 4-for-4 with five RBIs on his big day. Young was in the 10th of his 13 big league seasons in ’05. He hit 171 career home runs, including 29 in one season. Nicknamed “Da Meat Hook” during his playing days, Young was more than just a slugger, however. He batted .292 and made two All-Star Games, including the one in 2007, when he would go on to win National League comeback player of the year honors with Washington.
The emotional rollercoaster passed through Detroit on Friday, taking the Tigers from elation to anger with a final stop at dejection. Richton High product JaCoby Jones was in the middle of the dogpile in the 10th inning after delivering what was first thought to be a game-winning knock against Pittsburgh. Replay said otherwise. Tigers runner Nicholas Castellanos was ruled out at the plate, with McComb native Corey Dickerson – in his Pirates debut – getting an assist on what was a pretty sad throw from left field. Former Jackson Mets star Ron Gardenhire – in his debut as Detroit manager – was ejected arguing the reversal. The game went on, and, as fate would have it, the Pirates won in 13 innings in just under 5½ hours. Football-like weather produced a football-like score – 13-10 – on opening day at Comerica Park. The Tigers blew a save in the ninth and fell behind 10-6 before scoring four in the bottom half to extend the game. Then came the soul-crushing 10th. Jones, who entered as a pinch runner in the seventh inning, had a good day: 2-for-2 with a walk and a run. Of course, he’d have felt a whole lot better about it if he’d also gotten that RBI. For the Pirates, ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier went 3-for-7 and scored twice. He was aboard in the 13th when Gregory Polanco hit the game-winning three-run homer. Dickerson, the Meridian Community College alum acquired from Tampa Bay in February, had one hit and an RBI in six trips. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout Braxton Lee from Picayune made his big league debut for Miami, going 0-for-4 in the 17-inning win against the Chicago Cubs. … Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton, batting ninth for Cincinnati, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts as the Reds opened their season with a loss to Washington.