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.
Delta State junior Jacob Swiney was named to the Preseason All-Gulf South Conference squad announced on Wednesday. The Biloxi native, also cited as a top player in NCAA Division II by Collegiate Baseball, batted .396 with three home runs and 35 RBIs last season, making All-GSC first team. Junior college transfer pitchers Dalton Moats and Jacob Howell were listed on the GSC’s top newcomer list. The Statesmen were pegged for a third-place finish in the league. … Mississippi College’s Will Elliott and Perry Turner also made the list of top newcomers in the GSC. Elliott, a junior outfielder from Oxford, is a transfer from Alabama. Turner, a junior pitcher, came in from Jones County Junior College. MC, still in transition to D-II, is not yet eligible for the GSC championship. … Millsaps College outfielder Isaac Glenn was an honorable mention pick on the d3baseball.com preseason All-America team. The junior from Madison hit .436 with 17 doubles and 45 RBIs in 2015. He led the Southern Athletic Association last year in slugging and on-base percentage. … Jackson State had three players named to the Black College Nine preseason All-America team. Third baseman Jesus Santana and DH Sam Campbell were named to the first team and outfielder Lamar Briggs to the second team. Santana led the Tigers and the SWAC with 12 home runs in 2015. … Former USM and MLB standout Chad Bradford will be the keynote speaker at the Southern Miss Dugout Club Banquet on Feb. 6. Bradford played at Byram High School and Hinds Community College before signing with USM. He went 5-4 with a 3.59 earned run average and three saves in 1996, his only season with the Golden Eagles. The submarine-style right-hander, featured in “Moneyball,” pitched for 12 years in the majors, posting a 36-28 overall record with a 3.26 ERA. He served as pitching coach at Hinds CC in 2014-15. … Tougaloo, one of three GCAC schools that play baseball, will be eligible to compete for the Association of Independent Institutions Baseball Championship this year. A total of 15 teams will vie for eight spots and a chance to play for one of the three NAIA Tournament bids given to the tournament champion, runner-up and third-place finisher. The Bulldogs went 7-40 in 2015 in the first year of coach Earl Sanders’ second stint with the program. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves third baseman Wes Timmons is the new coach at Shorter University, which plays in the Gulf South Conference.
1 — Career wins for Aaron Stevens, the new Mississippi Valley State coach who notched his first on Saturday, an 8-7 defeat of Illinois-Chicago in the Delta Devils’ second game of the year.
2 — Career wins for Earl Sanders, the new Tougaloo coach whose Bulldogs swept Rust on Friday after dropping their first seven games.
2 — Wins shy of 1,000 career for William Carey coach Bobby Halford, whose Crusaders have won six straight after an 0-5 start. They play a doubleheader today against Saint Joseph in Hattiesburg.
3 — Hits in each of Southern Miss’ first three games, all wins, by Dylan Burdeaux, who is batting .692.
4 — RBIs apiece by Jackson State’s Tilur Smith, Dylan Parker and Jovany Felipe in the Tigers’ 20-10 win over UT-Martin on Saturday.
5 — RBIs apiece by Millsaps’ William Chenowith and Isaac Glenn in a 16-3 victory over Schreiner on Saturday.
7 — Home runs by Belhaven hitters in 12 games, matching the Blazers’ total from all of 2014.
8 — Strikeouts, in six innings of work, by Ole Miss’ Brady Bramlett, in a 16-2, series-clinching victory over William and Mary on Saturday.
9 — Hits in four games, all wins, by Mississippi State’s Seth Heck, who is batting .563.
12 — Hitting streak for Belhaven’s Adam Kowalczyk, a junior transfer from Delaware Tech.
14 — Runs, in eight games, scored by Mississippi College’s Colton Johnson, a freshman from West Jones High.
The lawnmower doesn’t always crank the first time for that first mow of the season. Some sputtering and stalling out can occur. Delta State’s baseball team knows the feeling. The Statesmen’s engine didn’t turn over for the start of their season. They scored just five runs (and stranded 24 baserunners) in three straight losses to Nova Southeastern in Florida over the weekend. Next up is Arkansas-Monticello today. Look for DSU to rev it up against the Boll Weevils. William Carey also got off to a sluggish start, losing its first five games before finally notching a victory. But there were no such problems for Belhaven, Mississippi College and Hinds Community College, to mention a few. BU is 6-2, including a win over NAIA defending national champion Cumberland, and winds up its nine-game season-opening homestand today against winless Tougaloo. Emilio DeSilva and Joey Harris are both humming along at .400 for the Blazers and have combined to drive in 24 runs. MC mowed over Tougaloo three straight by a 51-9 cumulative score and then chewed up equally outmanned Lemoyne-Owen 21-1 and 7-0 on Tuesday. Former Starkville Academy star Hunter Bolin is batting an eye-popping .588 with eight RBIs and nine runs for the Choctaws. Hinds, ranked No. 2 in the juco polls, beat Mineral Area (Mo.) in a pair of doubleheaders last weekend as Chase Lunceford cranked out six hits in 10 at-bats with a homer, two RBIs and five runs.