29 Apr


Meridian Community College’s Tyler Vick isn’t a big guy at 5 feet 11, 210 pounds. In fact, his nickname is “Tick.” But he carries some kind of big stick for the Eagles. Vick, a former West Lauderdale High standout, has hit 37 home runs in his two years at MCC, including 22 this season. He has broken both the single-season and career homer records at a school that has produced more than its share of boppers. “He’s got a ton of juice,” MCC coach Chris Rose said. “As much as I’ve seen. He’s just so strong. He’s got good hands and a short, compact swing. He doesn’t like to lift (weights). He’s just naturally strong.” Vick, playing third base this year, is the cleanup batter in a power-packed lineup that also includes Corey Dickerson. Brent Tanner and Wesley Thigpen. They have led the Eagles to a 34-16 record entering the NJCAA Region 23 Division I tournament this weekend at Baton Rouge. MCC has some good arms, too, making this a team capable of a Juco World Series trip — and possibly a run at the national title.
P.S. Former Itawamba CC and University Christian star Jonathan Van Every, back with Boston, beat Cleveland tonight with a two-out solo homer in the top of 10th inning off Jensen Lewis. It was Van Every’s first major league home run.

27 Apr

seeing clearly now

The dust has settled following the big weekend in Mississippi baseball. And the Mississippi schools came out good, save for Millsaps, which may get another chance in an NCAA Division III regional. Ole Miss ace Scott Bittle lived up to his billing, beating Georgia on Sunday in the rubber game of a compelling SEC series in Oxford. Bittle likely moved a little closer to winning a second straight Ferriss Trophy. In Hattiesburg, Belhaven beat William Carey two of three, but the Crusaders’ one win was enough to secure the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular season title. Carey edged out LSU-Shreveport by a half game. The GCAC Tournament, which will determine the league’s automatic NAIA bid, is this weekend at Carey’s Wheeler Field. Delta State took two of three at Southern Arkansas, the No. 1 team in Division II, and won the Gulf South Conference West championship. The Statesmen will be the top seed heading into this weekend’s GSC Tournament in Millington, Tenn. Mississippi College, playing its best ball at the right time, swept past Mary Hardin-Baylor in a best-of-3 playoff series and will host the American Southwest Conference Tournament this weekend at Frierson Field in Clinton. And the field is set for the MACJC best-of-3 playoffs this weekend: Mississippi Gulf Coast CC won the South title and will host Holmes. Jones County JC played its way in and will visit Northeast. North champ Itawamba, the No. 5 team in the NJCAA Division II, hosts Pearl River; and Hinds will host Northwest. Meridian CC, meanwhile, had the weekend off but will start Division I Region 23 play this weekend at Baton Rouge.

26 Apr

well-deserved honor

Congratulations go out to Bob Braddy, the former Jackson State coach who now serves as the school’s athletic director. JSU named its field after Braddy in a ceremony on Saturday. They did the right thing (aside from not winning the game against Mississippi Valley). Braddy is the all-time winningest coach in Southwestern Athletic Conference history. His JSU program has produced some outstanding players, including former big leaguers Dave Clark, Marvin Freeman and Wes Chamberlain. And he is also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Braddy Field sounds good.

25 Apr

purple haze

Two and out for Millsaps in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament. That’s a shocker for the people in the purple. The Majors, ranked No. 1 in one NCAA Division III poll, may still get a D-III Tournament bid — and maybe they’ll have regained their mojo by then. But is that possible after what just happened? The Majors, playing in their hometown if not on their home field (Smith-Wills Stadium is the SCAC site) lost their tourney opener Thursday to a Centre team that had won just nine games all year. Then Millsaps fell to Hendrix on Friday afternoon, losing back-to-back games for the first time all season. It would be a shame for such a grand season to end in such a fizzling fashion. All the Majors can do now is sit and wait to see if a D-III bid comes their way. Stomachs are churning already.

22 Apr

taking a sipp

Tony Sipp, long a highly regarded prospect in the Cleveland Indians’ organization, made his big league debut tonight and pitched a perfect inning in a 2-0 loss to Kansas City. Sipp, a left-hander out of Moss Point High by way of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, was called up earlier in the day, and the Indians wasted no time letting him get his feet wet. Sipp had Tommy John surgery in 2007 and may just now be back to full strength. Sipp relieved former Meridian CC standout Cliff Lee, who took the loss and fell to 1-3.
P.S. Marcus Thames, the former Louisville High and East Central CC standout, could be lost for up to a month with a strained ribcage muscle, the Detroit Tigers announced today. Thames, who was also hurt during spring training, was off to a 4-for-18 start. He has been a big power source for the Tigers in recent years, and they figure to miss that bat.

21 Apr

it’s all happening

Big week for the small colleges. It actually started on Monday when Mississippi College beat Texas-Tyler to win the American Southwest Conference East Division title. MC will host Mary Hardin-Baylor in a best-of-3 this weekend in the opening round of the ASC playoffs. Delta State, nationally ranked in Division II, takes on NAIA Belhaven tonight at Smith-Wills Stadium in the renewal of an old rivalry, and NAIA William Carey hosts NCAA Division II No. 1 Southern Arkansas in Hattiesburg today. Carey, trying to lock up the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular season title, hosts Belhaven in a three-game series this weekend. Delta State, meanwhile, will travel to Southern Arkansas for a big Gulf South Conference West clash. Not to be forgotten, Millsaps, ranked No. 1 in one Division III poll, is hosting the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament this week at Smith-Wills. The Majors play the third game (7 p.m.) on Thursday against Centre. The six-team tournament runs through Sunday. The junior colleges will wind up their regular season this week, settling some playoff berths before next week’s best-of-3 opening round series in the MACJC Tournament. Buckle your seatbelts, seamheads.
P.S. Former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Tim Corcoran, a onetime big leaguer, will start tonight for the Chattanooga Lookouts against the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park. First pitch is 7:05.

20 Apr

memory lane

Baseball America publishes a list every spring (see the April 6-19 issue) of all the minor league managers and coaches in every organization. It never ceases to amaze the number of familiar names that come jumping off the page. Former Jackson Generals manager Rick Sweet, who ran the first two Gens clubs in 1991 and ’92, is still managing; he’s with the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A club. Gary Allenson (Orioles) and Jim Pankovits (Astros), also former Generals managers, remain in the game as skippers. Ex-Generals outfielder Joe Mikulik is still running a club in the Rockies’ system, and ex-Gens third baseman Chris Truby will manage at the short-season level for the Phillies this summer. Former Gens pitching coach Charley Taylor is still teaching in the Astros’ system, now at the Class A level. Mississippi natives Chris Maloney, Stan Cliburn, Bob Didier and Bobby Dickerson are managing. Stan Cliburn, Larry Herndon and Jeff Branson are coaching. So is former Mississippi State star Bobby Thigpen. Alan Zinter, the last active ex-Jackson Met, is a coach for the Diamondbacks now. Greg Pavlick, who was on the very first Jackson Mets team in 1975 and later coached in the organization, is coaching the Yankees’ high-A team. Former Jackson Diamond Kats manager Steve Dillard, an Ole Miss alumnus who lives in Saltillo, is managing in the Cardinals’ system. And Jeff Ware — remember that name, Senators fans? — is a pitching coach in the Yankees’ system. Ware pitched and coached for the first Senators team in 2002, helping that club reach the Central League championship series. Trivia questions are beginning to boil.

19 Apr


Former Brandon High (and Delta State) standout Brent Leach is on the roster of the Chattanooga Lookouts, who start a five-game Southern League series at Trustmark Park in Pearl on Monday. Leach, 26, isn’t a Top 10-type prospect, but he has to be a pitcher on the parent Los Angeles Dodgers’ radar. He was protected on their 40-man roster over the winter. Leach is a 6-foot-5 left-hander who throws fairly hard. In four games this season, he has a 1.23 ERA and 9 strikeouts (6 walks) in 7 1/3 innings. The Lookouts, a Dodgers affiliate now after so many years with Cincinnati, have another Mississippi-connected player on the club in veteran right-hander Tim Corcoran, a Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product. There should be a good chance to see both relievers over the course of the five-game series with the Mississippi Braves.

17 Apr

trophy hunting

The season-ending injury suffered by Southern Miss shortstop Brian Dozier this week not only takes a key player out of the Eagles’ lineup but also knocks him out of the race for the Ferriss Trophy. Dozier would have been a leading candidate for the state’s top amateur baseball award; he led USM in RBIs and runs and was hitting close to .400 when he went down. Out of sight the rest of the season, he’ll likely be out of mind when the voting takes place in the coming weeks. Ole Miss pitcher Scott Bittle, the 2008 Ferriss winner, may be the odds-on favorite to win again now. At last look, Bittle had three wins, three saves, a sub-2.00 ERA and was blowing away hitters again on a regular basis. Jordan Henry leads the Rebels in hitting, runs and steals, but his numbers don’t have the sizzle of Bittle’s. USM’s Bo Davis is hitting .450 with pop, and Mississippi State’s Connor Powers has some good power numbers, as well. They’ll warrant some consideration. Jackson State’s top hitter is Marvin McWhorter, who’s hovering at .400, and pitcher Ajammi Davis is 7-0 with a save as a starter and reliever. There are some viable candidates in the small school ranks. Bo Bell is raking at a record pace at Mississippi College. Sluggers Will Hawkins and Hunter Owen and lights-out reliever Boomer Hudson have led Millsaps to the No. 1 ranking in Division III. Belhaven has a two-way star in Craig Westcott and a big bopper in Timmy Foster. Derek Thompson’s arm has helped William Carey surge into first place in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. But Bittle will be starting so many big games for the Top 25-ranked Rebels down the stretch, he’ll get ample attention from the scouts who vote for the Ferriss Trophy. If he produces as he has to this point, he’ll win the award again.
P.S. Whatever Cliff Lee does for the rest of his career, it’s unlikely it’ll top the significance of his accomplishment on Thursday. The former Meridian Community College star, pitching for Cleveland, beat the New York Yankees in the first game in the new Yankee Stadium. Baseball people remember stuff like that. Forever.

14 Apr


Opening day last week at Trustmark Park — which finished on quite a high note for the Mississippi Braves, who won 4-3 on Concepcion Rodriguez’s RBI pinch single in the ninth inning — brought to mind two significant anniversaries of the old Jackson teams at Smith-Wills Stadium. On opening day 25 years ago, perhaps the best team the Jackson Mets or Generals ever put on the field beat Tulsa 6-0. It was the first step on an impressive march to the 1984 Texas League championship, the second in the franchise’s history. Eight future major leaguers played for the JaxMets that day, including Lenny Dykstra, Greg Olson, Mark Carreon, Jay Tibbs, Al Pedrique and Billy Beane. That team, managed by Sam Perlozzo, was a pleasure to watch. The other anniversary isn’t such a happy one. Ten years ago this month, the Jackson Generals began their final season at Smith-Wills with a humbling 9-2 loss to Arkansas. Gov. Kirk Fordice threw out the first pitch, bounced it and things went downhill from there. Rick Ankiel, then a pitching prospect, got the win for the Travelers and also hit a home run. The disappointing opener was a portent of a frustrating season, one which marked the end of 25 years of Texas League ball on Lakeland Drive. The final season ended at Smith-Wills that September. A win over Tulsa would have clinched the second-half East Division title and put the Generals in the playoffs. It was 3-3 going to the seventh, when Tulsa’s Juan Piniella hit a grand slam that was a dagger to the hearts of the some 4,400 who had turned out. The Gens, who suited up the likes of Julio Lugo and Chris Truby that night, lost 9-4. Double-A ball wouldn’t return to the Jackson area until 2005, when the M-Braves arrived at the TeePee in Pearl.
P.S. What’s in a name, take two: Mississippi College pitcher Tyler Seaman, who has thrown two — yes, two — no-hitters this season, is the son of former Jackson Met and big league pitcher Kim Seaman. The apple never falls far …