The start of William Carey’s season will have a very different feel than a year ago. The Crusaders, ranked sixth in the NAIA preseason poll, open Friday against Georgetown College at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. They’ll also play Ave Maria University later that day. Those are the first of 18 straight home games. Carey didn’t get to play a game at home in 2017 until the end of February – 16 games into the season – because of tornado damage on its campus. No matter, Bobby Halford’s resilient crew went 45-20 last year and made it to the NAIA World Series for the first time since 1978. Right-hander Cole Edgens (10-1, 4.13 ERA last year), outfielder Christian Smith (.322, 18 stolen bases) and shortstop Wes Brown lead a small group of returnees. … Also opening on Friday – on the road — are Delta State, the No. 1-ranked NCAA Division II team by Collegiate Baseball; D-III Millsaps; and NAIA Tougaloo. DSU returns decorated slugger Zack Shannon – plus just about every other lineup regular – and 10-game winner Seth Birdsong from a CWS participant. The Statesmen open at Lynn (Fla.) University. Millsaps, coming off a rare losing (19-23) year, plays at Huntingdon in Alabama, and Tougaloo visits Talladega. … D-II Mississippi College will host Lindenwood, a Missouri school, for a doubleheader on Saturday in Clinton. P.S. USA Baseball has announced the 16-team field for the 2018 National High School Invitational, and Hattiesburg High and star outfielder Joe Gray are in it. The seventh edition of the tournament will be held at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., from March 28-31.
Brandon High’s J.T. Ginn struck out the last batter in the ninth inning on Sunday as Team USA claimed gold in the Under 18 World Cup in Canada. Ginn pitched a perfect ninth in the 8-0 victory over Korea, calling it the “best moment of my life” on Twitter. A prep All-American in 2017 and a Mississippi State commit, Ginn worked 3 1/3 innings in four appearances in the tournament and allowed no hits and no runs with six strikeouts and two walks. Team USA went 9-0 in the World Cup, which it won for the fourth straight time.
Ready or not, MLB’s Players Weekend arrives today, complete with alternate uniforms, funky accessories and, for some players, nicknames on their backs. Many traditionalists will be cringing. Here’s a sampling of what Mississippians will be wearing: Billy Hamilton is “Bone,” Zack Cozart is “Coach,” Drew Pomeranz is “Big Smooth,” Tim Anderson is “B. Moss” (in honor of a childhood friend killed earlier this year), Mitch Moreland is “2-Bags,” Kendall Graveman is “Digger,” Brian Dozier is “Doz,” and Tyler Moore is “T-Mo.” Jarrod Dyson was slated to wear “Zoombiya” (from his twitter handle) but is on the disabled list, as is Bobby “Peanut” Wahl. Seth Smith, whose unofficial nickname is “Dad” (after the character on American Dad), is sticking with “Smith.” Good call. P.S. Amidst all the shouting and brawling and ejecting at Comerica Park on Thursday, JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High, had a good day for Detroit: 2-for-4, two RBIs and a stolen base. … Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland homered twice for Boston in its loss to Cleveland and now has 17 on the season, three in the last two days. … Ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson went deep for Tampa Bay in a win against Toronto. Dickerson has 24 homers. … J.T. Ginn, a pitcher/infielder at Brandon High, made the 20-man roster for USA Baseball’s Under-18 World Cup team. The team will compete in the tournament in Thunder Bay, Canada, from Sept. 1-10. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray was among the 40 finalists invited to the national trials. Ginn, 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, a Mississippi State commit, was 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings for Brandon in 2017. He also hit .483 with 16 homers.
The Hattiesburg Black Sox, making their first trip to the National Baseball Congress World Series, play their second game in the storied amateur event tonight against the Great Bend (Kan.) Bat Cats in Wichita, Kan. Jaylyn Williams had a couple of hits and scored the game-winning run for the Black Sox in their opener on Sunday, a 5-4 win against the Inland Empire (Calif.) Golden Bears. Hattiesburg was held without a hit for the first six innings, according to the NBC website. Nathan Stewart got the save for the Black Sox, champions of the Magnolia Adult Baseball League and the Mississippi Semi-Pro State Tournament. … Playoffs get underway in the Cotton States League this week, starting with the Tupelo Thunder against the North Delta Dealers tonight in New Albany. The Golden Triangle Jets and Tippah County Tribe play Thursday. The Tallahatchie Rascals and HillCountry Generals, the top two in the regular season standings, await the winners in the Saturday semifinals. The Generals’ Luke Miller leads the college summer league in batting at .453. The Dealers’ Alan Rickman is the top pitcher, with a 5-0 record and 1.42 ERA. … Brandon High’s J.T. Ginn and Hattiesburg High’s Joe Gray are on the roster for Saturday’s Under Armour All-America Game, to be played at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The duo also was picked for the Perfect Game All-American Classic on Aug. 13 at Petco Park in San Diego. Both games will be televised by MLB Network. … Three Mississippians were selected for USA Baseball’s 14U National Team Development Program, which is being held this week in Cary, N.C. Logan Forsythe of Biloxi, Easton Hood of Tupelo and Collin Reuter of Olive Branch made the 40-man roster. (Noah Foster of Tupelo and Drew Tucker of Laurel were on the alternate list.) The program includes “skill development sessions, off-field education seminars and intrasquad games,” according to the USA Baseball website. … Dallas Woolfolk of Ole Miss registered four saves and a 0.87 ERA in 10 games for the Collegiate National Team, which went 15-5 this summer. Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington had a 2.65 ERA in five games (four starts).
One has to wonder if the Minnesota Twins are considering a promotion for Brent Rooker, who is wearing out the rookie-level Appalachian League. The ex-Mississippi State star – the 35th overall pick last month — has 12 hits in his last seven games for Elizabethton and is at .323 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in 16 pro games. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Rooker has been playing left field; he played mostly first base at State this year. … Rehabbing big leaguer Sean Rodriguez went 1-for-5 with four strikeouts for the Mississippi Braves in an 8-7 loss to Jackson (Tenn.) on Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The M-Braves fanned 11 times all told and dropped to 4-14 in the second half of the Southern League season. They play the Generals again tonight at the TeePee. … Blake Anderson, the former West Lauderdale High star catcher, is now listed as a pitcher on the roster of the Gulf Coast League Marlins. Anderson, widely hailed for his defensive abilities, was a supplemental first-round pick by Miami in 2014. Injuries have limited him to 58 pro games (one in 2016), and he carries a .173 average. He has not appeared in a game this season. … None of the four high school players drafted out of the state this year signed to play pro ball. Myles Christian of Olive Branch, the highest prep pick (18th round, Seattle), is bound for Middle Tennessee State. C.J. Dunn of Center Hill, a Toronto pick, is going to Texas Tech; Ocean Springs’ Garrett Crochet, a Milwaukee pick, is off to Tennessee; and McLaurin’s Davis Bradshaw, another Brewers draftee, will play at Meridian Community College in 2018. The state’s Gatorade player of the year, Trey Shaffer, a left-hander from Biloxi, wasn’t drafted. The Southeastern Louisiana signee went 8-1 with a 1.20 ERA for the Indians. He also hit .380. … The only other 2017 draftees who didn’t sign were Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum, Ole Miss’ Brady Feigl and East Mississippi Community College’s Marcus Ragan, who is bound for Arkansas-Little Rock. State’s Cody Brown (New York Yankees) and Southern Miss’ Tracy Hadley (Chicago White Sox) signed as non-drafted free agents. … The Mississippi Semi-Pro State Tournament is scheduled for Thursday through Sunday at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium. Among the participants will be the Hattiesburg Black Sox, who won the Magnolia Adult Baseball League title. … USA Baseball has unveiled the 40-man group that will go to Minneapolis in August to take part in the 18U National Team Trials. Pitcher J.T. Ginn of Brandon and outfielder Joe Gray of Hattiesburg made the cut. The team trials begin on Aug. 19 and the final 20-man roster will be announced on Aug. 24. The 18U National Team will compete in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 World Cup in Thunder Bay, Canada, from Sept. 1-10.
Ole Miss product Zack Cozart, eligible to come off the disabled list (thigh strain) on Wednesday for Cincinnati, could be activated today, according to reports. The Reds host the Chicago Cubs this weekend at Great American Ballpark. Cozart is batting .320 with nine homers and 33 RBIs and led the voting for National League All-Star shortstop at last look. The rosters will be announced on Sunday on ESPN. … McComb native and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson was leading the vote for American League DH in the most recently released results. He is batting .330 with 17 homers and 39 RBIs for Tampa Bay. … Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High standout, was passed by Trea Turner for the MLB stolen base lead on Thursday, but with Turner now on the disabled list (broken wrist), Hamilton is the leading active thief with 33 bags. Turner has 35, Miami’s Dee Gordon 29. … Former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe hit his first home run in 13 days on Thursday, helping San Diego beat Atlanta. Renfroe has 16 homers – a record for a Padres rookie before the All-Star break – though he is batting just .225. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Freddie Freeman is expected to make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday. He could return to the Braves – at third base – next week. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out. M-Braves alum Johan Camargo has played fairly well at third for Atlanta and is batting .293 with 12 RBIs and 10 runs in 31 games all told. … Current M-Braves Mike Soroka and Ronald Acuna have been chosen for the World team in the All-Star Futures Game, set for July 9 in Miami. Former Biloxi Shuckers shortstop Mauricio Dubon, now in Triple-A, is also on the World roster. … Jake Mangum is off to a sizzling start in the Cape Cod League. The MSU star out of Jackson Prep is batting .359 with hits in nine of the 10 games he has played for Hyannis. Mangum had two hits in each of his first five games in the summer league. He was drafted in the 30th round by the New York Yankees as an eligible sophomore but is expected to return to Starkville for the 2018 season. … Brandon’s John “J.T.” Ginn and Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray have been participating in the Tournament of Stars this week in Cary, N.C. They are among the 80 prep players invited to the USA Baseball complex to compete for spots on the Under-18 National Team.