“Play ball” time arrives for NCAA Division III schools Belhaven University and Millsaps College this weekend, with the Blazers set to open on Friday at Smith-Wills Stadium and the Majors on Saturday at Twenty Field as part of a round-robin tournament. Belhaven coach Hill Denson has announced that this will be the final season of his long and heralded career. The swan song begins against LeTourneau, a D-III school from Texas. The Blazers, 12-27 in 2018, a rare losing season for Denson, were pegged to finish 11th in the 12-team American Southwest Conference. The team had two players get recognition on the league’s preseason Watch List: second baseman Evan Moore, who hit .297 with 23 runs and 14 steals as a freshman, and right-hander David Hall, who posted a 3-6 record and 4.71 ERA last year. Pitching was a 2018 sore spot for BU, which put up a 6.53 staff ERA. Millsaps will play LeTourneau on Saturday, launching coach Jim Page’s 31st year with the purple and white. He topped 750 career wins in 2018 as the Majors went 25-19. The team returns outfielder Jimmy Johnstone, a .361 hitter and second-team All-Southern Athletic Association pick in 2018; outfielder Brennan Ducote, who batted .374 with four homers and 33 RBIs; and right-hander Conner Haynes, 4-1, 3.22 ERA. … Belhaven and Millsaps will play the first of three Maloney Trophy Series games on March 6 at Smith-Wills.
With nine wins in its first 12 games and three straight blowout victories, Millsaps College heads into its first conference series of the year riding a wave of positivity. The Majors, who host Rhodes in Southern Athletic Association play at Twenty Field this weekend, have scored at least 11 runs in their last three games, including an 11-2 win against local rival Belhaven University on Tuesday. Brennan Ducote, a junior from Lafayette, La., has been the main masher, with a .500 average, two homers, 14 RBIs and 11 runs. He hit .279 with one homer last year. Jimmy Johnstone is batting .429 and former Northwest Rankin High star Chase Callaway .386 for the Majors, hitting .314 as a team. Connor Haynes is 3-0 with a 0.73 ERA on the bump. The Majors went 19-23 in 2017 after a 20-21 finish the year before, uncharacteristic campaigns for an NCAA Division III program that has won 64 percent of its games since Jim Page became the coach in 1989.