There’s a lot on the line this weekend when Mississippi College hosts old rival Delta State to finish the regular season at Frierson Field in Clinton. MC (19-23) is 14-15 and in seventh place in the Gulf South Conference standings. The top eight teams make the GSC Tournament. DSU (35-10), ranked No. 1 in the South Region and as high as third overall in NCAA Division II, is first (23-7) in the league and trying to nail down the top seed in the tournament. The top seed hosts. After a terrible start, MC has won 17 of its last 23, including a clutch series win at Lee University last weekend. Led by Casey Echols (.347), the Choctaws have seven regulars batting .307 or better. But MC’s pitching (6.07 ERA) will need to step up. DSU is the GSC’s best offensive club, batting .323 with 44 homers. Zack Shannon has been amazing: .461, 13 homers, 71 RBIs. And the pitching quartet of Seth Birdsong, Corey Beard, Tre Hobbs and closer Zach Osbon makes taking a series from the Statesmen a tall order. DSU leads the all-time series 106-29-1. The teams play one game today and doubleheader on Saturday. … Millsaps begins Southern Athletic Association postseason play against Hendrix at Memphis today. Millsaps (17-22) is the sixth overall seed and is playing in the four-team bracket hosted by Rhodes, the No. 2 seed. Andy Page (.397), Lee Ogletree (.303, five homers, 34 RBIs) and Jacob Mardick (8-2, 2.59) have had all-conference type seasons for the Majors. … Blue Mountain finishes an SSAC series against Brewton-Parker at home today after sweeping a twinbill on Thursday. With Caleb Leach (.368, five homers, 35 RBIs) and Dustin Allen (8-3, 3.04) leading the way, the Toppers (30-23, 11-12) already had clinched a spot in next week’s conference tourney at Montgomery, Ala. William Carey (17-7 SSAC) also will be there. The NAIA nationally ranked Crusaders (34-15) are finishing up a non-conference series against Stillman College in Hattiesburg today. James Land hit his 15th bomb in a 16-6 win on Thursday. … Tougaloo finished its regular season 10-42, including a pair of home losses to Miles on Wednesday. Earl Sanders’ Bulldogs lost 18 of their last 19 and went 0-6 against GCAC competition. … Belhaven (26-14) is awaiting word on a bid to the NCCAA Tournament; regionals begin the week of May 15.
William Carey University, yet to play a true home game, has won eight in a row and will take a 12-4 record into its first games at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg this weekend. Tyler Graves leads the Crusaders’ attack with a .442 average and 26 RBIs, and Adrian Brown also has been stuffing the box scores. The son of the former big leaguer of the same name is batting .385 with three homers, 15 RBIs, 22 runs and 10 steals. Lane Fazende, working out of the Carey bullpen, has three wins, a save and an 0.89 ERA. … Going the other way is Mississippi College, reeling from three straight one-run losses at West Alabama over the weekend. UWA scored four in the ninth to win 5-4 on Sunday. The NCAA Division II Choctaws, who play Spring Hill on Wednesday, are 2-13 and 0-6 in the Gulf South Conference. Casey Echols is batting .368 and Chance Whitten has four home runs, but the MC pitching staff has a 7.64 ERA. … Millsaps and Belhaven will battle on Tuesday at Twenty Field in a Maloney Trophy Series game; the Majors won the first meeting of the D-III rivals 6-3 at Smith-Wills Stadium last week. Millsaps is 6-6 but coming off what could be a springboard victory, rallying from a 7-0 first-inning deficit to beat Webster 13-11 in Memphis on Sunday. Jon Dale Dieckman had a big two-run hit in a four-run eighth inning that propelled the Majors. Seth Trulock and Jimmy Fondren also had two RBIs in that game. Belhaven took a series from American Southwest Conference foe Hardin-Simmons over the weekend. Tyler Wolfe (3-0, 1.53 ERA) notched a complete game in the 13-3 victory in the rubber match on Saturday, and Stephen Sexton had a homer and four RBIs. He is batting .355 with three homers on the year. Terrell Hodges is at .406 with two bombs and 11 RBIs. … Delta State won the rubber game of its GSC series at Lee University and moved to 10-3, 4-2. Juwan Burney, batting .406, led the Statesmen in the 13-5 clincher with a pair of homers. DSU will play D-I rival Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena on Wednesday. Valley is 1-4, having beaten Arkansas State 10-9 last Wednesday in its last game. … Caleb Leach (.433) and Dustin Allen (4-1, 2.81 ERA) have led Blue Mountain to a 12-6 record. … Tougaloo has dropped six straight to fall to 4-10. Correction: The Carey-MC game is scheduled for March 28 in Clinton.
The state’s small colleges will roll out the welcome mats this weekend, with Delta State, Mississippi College, Belhaven and Millsaps hosting out-of-state guests for conference series. Also on the agenda are two matchups of in-state rivals: Rust at Tougaloo and Blue Mountain at William Carey. Tougaloo just beat Rust twice (13-0 and 15-1) in Holly Springs on Thursday; they’ll play another twinbill on Saturday. The BMC-Carey series (single game today, two on Saturday at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg) should be more competitive. Maybe. Carey is 18-8 and 4-2 in the Southern States Athletic Conference. The visiting Toppers are 13-13 and 0-6. Led by Tyler Odom (.416), Carey is batting .319 as a team. The Crusaders’ pitching also has been very good, posting a 2.81 ERA. Coach Bobby Halford has a stable of starters to choose from, including Devin Smith (3-0, 1.64 ERA) and J.D. Little (4-1, 3.50). For BMC, All-SSAC first baseman Seth Davis has scuffled (.227), but Miciah Heard has been hot (.325) and Caleb Leach has four homers in 33 at-bats. The key for Curt Fowler’s Toppers might be how well their pitching staff (6.90 ERA) handles Odom and Co. P.S. In juco land, the state’s two big dogs will be on home turf on Saturday. Jones County Junior College (19-1, 2-0 MACJC) will host East Mississippi Community College (4-14, 0-2). Mason Irby and Erick Hoard have combined for 13 bombs for the Bobcats; Hoard hit a grand slam and a three-run shot in a sweep of East Central on Wednesday. Meridian CC (17-1, 2-0) welcomes Copiah-Lincoln (5-10, 1-1). Jones and Meridian were rained out of their big showdown last weekend; it has been rescheduled for May 2, the end of the regular season.
Mississippi College, which stopped a five-game losing streak with a win at Spring Hill on Tuesday, makes its first Gulf South Conference road trip this weekend, facing Shorter at Rome, Ga. It could be a telling series for the Choctaws, 7-7 overall and 1-5 GSC under new coach Jeremy Haworth. He said before the season that the pitching staff might be in for some growing pains, and that has held true. MC has a 5.73 ERA, though sophomore Jake Fraze (3-1, 3.77) and senior Tyler Scholl (0.77 in nine relief outings) have been stoppers. The defense, which Haworth was banking on for slick play, has endured some rough patches. The Choctaws have committed 27 errors with a cost of 20 unearned runs. Can’t afford that. The hitters have held up their end, with a .314 average. Logan Ferrell is off to hot start in his senior campaign, batting a team-best .418 with 19 runs. Hunter Bolin is hitting .393, Toler Robinson .348, Blaine Crim .333 and Caleb Upton .255 with 11 RBIs. MC lost 14 of its final 15 games last year under a lame-duck coach and limped to a 12-34 finish, 4-28 in the GSC in its return to the NCAA Division II conference. With a new coach in charge, the Choctaws figure to be more energized for the stretch run this spring. P.S. Delta State (9-5 and 8-4 at home) is 4-2 in the GSC and faces its first conference road series at Union this weekend. Will Robertson tops the Statesmen with a .491 average; Tre Hobbs is 4-0, 1.71. … Most of the other small colleges will open conference play this weekend. William Carey (11-5 with five straight wins) is at Martin Methodist in Southern States Athletic Conference play. The Crusaders have been led by Tyler Odom (.451) and J.D. Little (3-1, 2.08). … Blue Mountain (12-4) opens SSAC play at Mobile. … Belhaven, yet to play a home game at Smith-Wills Stadium, has won five of six after the 25-0 loss in its opener and hosts Sul Ross State in an American Southwest Conference series on Friday and Saturday. Adam Kowalczyk is hitting .385, and Tanner Cable is 2-0, 2.57. … Millsaps, off since Feb. 21, will take a sub-.500 mark into its first Southern Athletic Association series at Oglethorpe. Isaac Glenn was hot before the break, batting .406. … Tougaloo, after starting 0-16, has won its last two and will play its first Gulf Coast Athletic Conference series at Talladega.
14 – Pitchers used by Millsaps College in going 1-2 in the Millsaps Invitational over the weekend. Daniel Ross went 5 1/3 innings against LaGrange on Friday to get the lone win.
13 – RBIs by Pearl River Community College’s Carter Hankins in six games over the weekend. The Wildcats (8-2) won five of the six.
11 – Runs in six games this season by Mississippi College’s Logan Ferrell.
10 – RBIs in seven games for Delta State’s Will Robertson.
9 – Losses to start the season for Tougaloo College.
8 – Road games scheduled to start the season for Belhaven University, which opens today against Huntingdon in Montgomery, Ala.
4 – Wins in four games to start Chris Kirtland’s coaching career at Jones County Junior College.
2 – Wins in two starts for William Carey University’s J.D. Little, who has a 1.38 ERA.
1 – Home run on Friday by Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s Brian Lane, the first at Biloxi’s MGM Park for the Bulldogs.
No one had a better opening weekend than Mississippi College’s Hunter Bolin. The junior from Starkville went 9-for-13 with five RBIs and five runs as the Choctaws launched the Jeremy Haworth era with a three-game sweep of Tougaloo at Frierson Field in Clinton. MC outscored the Bulldogs 32-14, and its pitchers posted a 2.63 ERA. If there was a downside, the Choctaws committed seven errors; Haworth is counting on defense to be a strength of this club, which is entering its second season of NCAA Division II play. … Jasper James, a junior from Wiggins, had eight hits and five RBIs in three games for Tougaloo. … Blue Mountain College took three of four from Judson College in New Albany, capping the weekend with a brilliant performance by Collin McCrory, who threw a one-hitter in a 5-0 victory. The junior from Amory was one out away from a seven-inning no-hitter. … Will Robertson, a senior from Falkner coming back from a 2015 injury, went 5-for-12 with two homers and four RBIs to help Delta State sweep Harding in a three-game series at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. … Nick Lowe and James Land each hit a homer and the pair combined for 10 RBIs but William Carey went just 1-2 on its trip to Ave Maria in Florida. … Millsaps put up 20 runs but won only once in three outings at the Firehouse Classic at Montgomery, Ala. Lee Ogletree, a 2015 transfer from Hinds Community College, had six hits and four RBIs for the Majors. He picked up three of his RBIs in an 11-7 win over Southwestern on Saturday. P.S. Worth noting: Pearl River CC scored in every inning of both games of a doubleheader sweep of Mineral Area CC on Saturday in Poplarville. The Wildcats won 14-7 and 16-8. After losing the season opener to Mineral Area on Friday by a 20-9 count, PRCC won Game 2 of that twinbill 14-4. Carter Hankins, a sophomore from Purvis, banged out nine hits and drove in six runs for the weekend.
The Southern States Athletic Conference is one of the best leagues in NAIA, having sent at least one team to the NAIA World Series for five straight years. William Carey University figures to be among the SSAC teams chasing postseason glory in 2016. “We return a ton of experience from last season and have added a deep and talented recruiting class,” veteran coach Bobby Halford said in a school release. Carey, which opens today at Ave Maria in Florida, returns seven regulars, topped by All-SSAC pick Tyler Richardson, who batted .385 and scored 50 runs in 50 games; Nick Lowe, who hit six homers and drove in 40 runs; and SSAC freshman of the year Tyler James, who stole 30 bases. Added to the mix are the likes of James Land, a slugging first baseman from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and Adrian Brown, an outfielder with speed and pop from Copiah-Lincoln CC. The Crusaders will miss ace Gavin Culpepper, who went 9-2 for a 30-23 club. Senior Mason Woodrow (3-4, 6.39 ERA in 2015) will be among the pitchers counted on to step up. Carey was pegged to finish tied for third in the league’s preseason poll. P.S. Blue Mountain, pegged eighth in the SSAC, opens today against Judson College in New Albany. Millsaps, coming off a 29-win season that ended in the NCAA Division III regionals, plays Randolph-Macon in Alabama today. The Jeremy Haworth era at Mississippi College will begin on Saturday, when the Choctaws host Tougaloo for a doubleheader. The opener was pushed back from today.