Just 62 days to get through until the first pitch is thrown in the 2019 college season. William Carey University, an NAIA member, will get it started on Jan. 31 with a home game against Missouri Baptist at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Delta State lifts the lid on its season on Feb. 1 at home against East Central University, and fellow NCAA Division II member Mississippi College starts on Feb. 2 at Harding in Arkansas. Division III Belhaven University opens Feb. 8 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson against LeTourneau, and D-III Millsaps welcomes LeTourneau to nearby Twenty Field on Feb. 9. The D-I start date is Feb. 15: Mississippi State launches the Chris Lemonis era at renovated Dudy Noble Field against Youngstown State, Ole Miss hosts Wright State and Southern Miss opens at home with Purdue. SWAC school schedules have not been posted.
As the Arizona Fall League season winds down, two former Delta State players have clearly stepped up as the best of the Mississippi contingent in the highly regarded off-season loop. Second baseman Trent Giambrone, a Chicago Cubs prospect, and left-hander Dalton Moats, a Tampa Bay farmhand, have put up nice numbers on the heels of their first Double-A campaign. The 5-foot-8 Giambrone is hitting .348 with two home runs and six RBIs for Mesa and has had two three-hit games. At Tennessee in the Southern League in 2018, he batted .251 with 17 homers and 20 steals. Moats (see previous post) has a 0.84 ERA in seven appearances for Peoria, which will play in the AFL Championship Game on Saturday on MLB Network. (Several Atlanta and Milwaukee prospects are also on that Peoria club.) Moats put up a 5.34 ERA in 41 games at Montgomery in the SL last season. Ex-Petal High star Demarcus Evans (Texas) has a 6.30 ERA as a late-inning reliever in the AFL and George County product Justin Steele (Cubs) is 1-1, 5.79 in six starts. Both have shown flashes of good stuff. Former Ole Miss standout Errol Robinson (Los Angeles Dodgers) is batting .186 with eight runs in 12 games. P.S. The NAIA’s preseason coaches poll is out, and William Carey University is not ranked for the first time in three years. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders entered the 2018 season ranked No. 6 and finished 36-25 (and unranked). … In some way-too-early recruiting rankings for the Class of 2019 (and the 2020 college season), Pearl River Community College’s 16-player haul is listed at No. 4 among all jucos by Perfect Game. Jones County JC checked in at No. 12. Mississippi State is No. 6 and Ole Miss No. 10 in the NCAA Division I rankings.
Tyler James, whose speed helped William Carey University reach the NAIA World Series in 2017 and helped him get drafted into pro ball, has not slowed down. James led the rookie Pioneer League in stolen bases this season with 38 and now has 69 bags in two years in the Kansas City Royals’ system. The 5-foot-10 outfielder/second baseman also batted .312 with 55 runs in 47 games for Idaho Falls. One of his two homers came against former Mississippi State ace Konnor Pilkington, leading off a game on Aug. 11. James, a Louisiana native, batted .282 with 111 stolen bases in three years at Carey. The Royals drafted him in the 25th round in 2017. James is now in Instructional League in Surprise, Ariz., with a bevy of other Royals minor leaguers who are getting some extra work before calling it a season. … Other Mississippi-connected players on IL rosters in either Arizona or Florida include: Austin Riley with Atlanta; Taylor Braley, Davis Bradshaw and Milton Smith, Jr., with Miami; Joe Gray with Milwaukee; Zack Shannon with Arizona; Ryan Rolison, Will Golsan and Hunter Stovall with Colorado; Simon Landry with the Los Angeles Dodgers; Steffon Moore with Tampa Bay; Brent Rooker and Willie Joe Garry are with Minnesota; Jacob Billingsley with Houston; Jack Kruger with the LA Angels; Dallas Woolfolk with Oakland; and Demarcus Evans with Texas.
One big rally was all the William Carey Crusaders had in them on Monday. After overcoming an eight-run deficit to beat LSU-Shreveport 11-10 in 10 innings, the Crusaders were whipped by St. Thomas 8-2 in the final game of the day in the NAIA Opening Round tournament in Hattiesburg. Carey (34-25), seeking a return to the NAIA World Series, faces an elimination game today. The Crusaders got key hits from Wes Brown, J.T. Wright and Caleb Ledet in their victory, which came on a walk-off HBP, but also rode the stellar relief work of Lake Robertson and Dylan Spiers (a combined five shutout innings). In their second game, the Crusaders ran into a buzzsaw in top-seeded St. Thomas. Orlando Rodriguez scattered seven hits over eight innings to improve to 14-0 and Jackie Urbaez and Mississippi State transfer Elih Marrero combined for seven RBIs for the Bobcats, who matched a school record with their 54th win. P.S. On the MLB front, former state prep stars Anthony Alford and Hunter Renfroe have been optioned to the minors. Alford, from Petal, went 2-for-14 in seven games for Toronto, which shipped him back to Triple-A Buffalo. Former Mississippi State star Renfroe, from Crystal Springs, was optioned to Triple-A El Paso by San Diego. He was hitting .200 with two homers in 17 games when he went on the disabled list with an arm injury in mid-April. He hasn’t played since.
Tuesday was a test of resilience for three college programs that endured serious disappointment over the weekend. Ole Miss, William Carey and Millsaps all showed a little something. The No. 4-ranked Rebels, coming off an SEC series loss to scuffling Mississippi State, bounced back with an 11-3 win against No. 12 Southern Miss before a crowd of 5,772 at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Chase Cockrell and Thomas Dillard drove in three runs each and Houston Roth improved to 5-0 for the Rebels (28-6), who’ll take a 7-5 conference record to Vanderbilt this weekend. Carey, ranked 11th in the latest NAIA poll, was swept at home by top-ranked Faulkner in a big Southern States Athletic Conference series last weekend. The Crusaders rebounded Tuesday with a 7-1 win in the opener of a doubleheader at LSU-Alexandria behind the bat of Marcus Buckley and the arm of Lake Robertson. WCU lost Game 2 7-4. The Crusaders (26-14, 10-5 SSAC) travel to Loyola (La.) for their next league series this weekend. Millsaps, hoping to make a late push in the Southern Athletic Association standings, was swept at home by Sewanee over the weekend, falling to 8-10 in the conference. Fueled by the hitting of Christian Cooper and six innings of stellar relief from Chris Guerin, the Majors responded Tuesday with a 6-4 victory at East Texas Baptist. NCAA Division III Millsaps (20-16) finishes SAA play at Centre this weekend. P.S. On the day he was named to the Golden Spikes Award Watch List, Delta State’s Zack Shannon smacked his nation-leading 23rd home run in an 8-3 win vs. Harding. Shannon is batting .445 with 70 RBIs for DSU, 29-6 and ranked as high as fifth in Division II.
MGM Park in Biloxi would be a nice place to post up today. The home of the Southern League’s Shuckers is hosting a college doubleheader: Mississippi College-William Carey University at 1 p.m., Mississippi State-Southeastern Louisiana at 6:35. The Bulldogs are 10-6, having recovered – apparently – from their 0-3 start at Southern Miss and the dismissal of their head coach for off-field issues. This will be their final tuneup for SEC play, which starts Friday against Vanderbilt in Starkville. Unsung Southeastern Louisiana, which always seems to have a good team, is 11-6. The Lions’ roster includes several Mississippians, notably Trey Shaffer, last year’s state Gatorade Player of the Year at Biloxi High, and ex-Hinds Community College star Kyle Schimpf. No less intriguing is the MC-Carey game, which could evolve into an annual rivalry. Both are nationally ranked, MC (15-3) in NCAA Division II, Carey (18-5) in NAIA. The resurgent Choctaws claimed two walk-off wins last weekend, one on a homer by Blaine Crim. Crim, at .351, is one of six regulars batting .350 or better, topped by Billy Cameron, a former Mendenhall High and East Central CC standout, at .464. He has four homers and 17 RBIs. This will be just the fourth game away from home for Carey, which went to the NAIA World Series in 2017. Christian Smith, from Carriere, has been the Crusaders’ sparkplug, batting .329 with 21 runs and 20 steals, leading a team that has 55 bags. David Pimentel adds pop with three homers and 16 RBIs.
Both Delta State and William Carey University play on in elimination games again today in their respective World Series brackets. DSU (45-12) plays Colorado Mesa (49-11) in the NCAA Division II College World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas, while Carey (45-19) gets Lewis-Clark State (38-13) in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. … The Statesmen, upset in their CWS opener last week, stayed alive on Monday with a 4-0 win against North Georgia as senior left-hander Tre Hobbs threw a dazzling two-hitter. DSU is ranked No. 1, Colorado Mesa No. 2. DSU won the national title in 2004; Colorado Mesa reached the title game in 2014. … Carey beat Missouri Baptist 12-3 on Tuesday in its second straight must-win game. The Crusaders (45-19), averaging eight runs a game through four series contests, got four-RBI efforts from Tyler Graves and Larson Barkurn in Tuesday’s win. Graves has three homers in Lewiston, Barkurn two — his only two of the year. Carey won an NAIA title back in 1969. Lewis-Clark, which is playing on its home field, has won 18 national titles.
Here are a few names to know heading into the weekend: Cameron Baranek, Dominick Cammarata and Wes Degener. … Baranek is the leading hitter for Hope International, which is William Carey University’s first-round opponent on Friday in the NAIA World Series at Lewiston, Idaho. Baranek is batting .356 with 13 homers for a Royals team that is playing just its second season. The California-based Royals (35-16) can mash (66 homers) and dash (101 steals), but their pitching staff has a 4.48 ERA. … Cammarata is the hitting star for Pitt (N.C.) Community College, which is Hinds CC’s first-round foe on Saturday in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla. Cammarata has put up a .349 average, 17 homers and 69 RBIs for a Bulldogs team that is 41-7 with 16 straight wins. … Degener is the catalyst for Lindenwood (Mo.) University, which is Delta State’s first-round opponent on Saturday in the NCAA Division II World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas. Degener is hitting .399 with 21 steals and 54 runs for the Lions (39-18), who won the Central Region title in their first regional appearance. … But enough about those guys. Here are some picks to click for the home boys: Adrian Brown, Quinton Logan and Clay Casey. … Brown, Carey’s senior center fielder from McComb, does a lot of things in a loaded lineup that also features James Land and a band of Tylers (Graves, Odom, James). Brown is hitting .300 with four homers, 16 doubles, five triples, 44 RBIs, 60 runs and 36 steals. If the Crusaders make a run in Lewiston, Brown will be in the thick of things. … Logan, a sophomore from Natchez, is not Hinds CC’s best hitter – that’s Jackson Mitchell (.385, six homers) — and he’s not the Eagles’ ace – that’s Caleb Morgan (8-1, 2.23). Logan is a two-way threat for Hinds, posting a 1.19 ERA and seven saves and a .333 batting average with 11 doubles, 47 RBIs and 42 runs. Somehow, someway, he’ll be a factor in any success in Enid. … Casey, a transfer from Houston (by way of Northwest CC and DeSoto Central), has had a big year for Delta State that has been largely overshadowed by the ginormous year enjoyed by Zack Shannon. Casey is batting .346 (.673 slugging) with 17 bombs, 62 RBIs and 58 runs. If Shannon gets pitched around in Grand Prairie, Casey is certainly capable of picking up any slack.
What can Brown do for you? Well, William Carey University’s Wes Brown delivered a single to score Adrian Brown from second base with the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth as the Crusaders beat Southeastern (Fla.) University 10-9 to claim a berth in the NAIA World Series. The event starts May 26 in Lewiston, Idaho. Carey last made the series in 1978 and won it in 1969. The Crusaders (42-18) rallied from an 8-3 deficit to beat Southeastern in the Opening Round tournament’s winner-take-all game at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. The Crusaders also beat the Fire on Wednesday to force the decisive game.
There were two huge stunners in the opening round of the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament in Ellisville and upsets of considerable weight in Hattiesburg and Pearl, as well, on Wednesday. To wit: NJCAA Division II No. 1 Jones County Junior College squandered a four-run lead and fell to Pearl River 5-4 in the regional, and Hinds upended second-ranked LSU-Eunice 6-2. John Moore and Lucas Scott got clutch hits for PRCC and Colby White did the clutch mound work. Jones lost for just the third time all season and first time at home. The Wildcats and Hinds will play in a winner’s bracket game today. Jones meets East Central in an elimination game. … William Carey University won twice to stay alive in the NAIA Opening Round tourney at Wheeler Field. In their second game of the day, the Crusaders rallied to beat top-seeded and ninth-ranked Southeastern (Fla.) University 6-4, forcing a winner-take-all game today for a berth in the NAIA World Series. Carey scored twice in the ninth to tie the score, then went ahead in the 10th on a Christian Smith two-run single. Closer Lane Fazende worked the last three innings to get the win. … West Lauderdale High entered the MHSAA state finals at Trustmark Park with a 31-2 record and is the only Mississippi school ranked by Baseball America at No. 10. But Corinth (29-8) jumped on the Knights for three runs in the first inning and Kyle Crigger made the lead stand up with a complete game effort in a 5-3 win in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Class 4A series. P.S. There also was an upset of note in the SWAC Tournament in New Orleans as Alcorn State, the 4-seed from the East, beat West No. 1 Grambling State 7-6 in 11 innings.