30 Apr

going independent

Fred Lewis is playing in the States again, currently with the Lancaster Barnstormers in the independent Atlantic League. Lewis, a Stone County High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product, spent last year in Japan after a his six-year major league tour ended with the New York Mets in 2012. Lewis, 33, is career .266 hitter in MLB with 27 homers and 53 stolen bases. He had a good year in Japan but apparently found no interested parties among major league clubs. … Also with Lancaster is former Ole Miss star Bobby Kielty, another ex-big leaguer. Other Mississippians in the Atlantic League — the best of the indy loops — include Delta State product Edwin Maysonet and ex-UM pitcher Matt Maloney with Somerset, Gulf Coast CC alum Roy Corcoran with Sugar Land and former Rebels star Cody Overbeck with Bridgeport.

30 Apr

no doubt about it

We have replay confirmation: It left the yard. Actually, there wasn’t any doubt about Billy Hamilton’s first major league home run. “It wasn’t one of those wall-scrapers,” the former Taylorsville High star said of Tuesday night’s blast, which landed fairly deep in the right-field seats at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Without seeing it, one would have been justified in assuming that the wispy Hamilton’s first homer was an inside-the-parker. He is considered the fastest man in baseball. And for the record, two of his three hits on Tuesday were of the infield variety. He also stole his 10th base, drew a walk, scored twice and made a diving catch in center field as the scrambling Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2. Hamilton has lifted his average to .244 with a recent hot streak. Also of note: Hamilton hit 13 homers in his minor league career. … Meanhwile, Mississippi’s other homegrown speed demon in MLB, Jarrod Dyson, went 2-for-4, stole his fifth bag and scored a run to help Kansas City beat Toronto 10-7 and climb over .500 (13-12). Dyson, from McComb and Southwest Mississippi Community College, is batting .375 in limited playing time in center field for KC. … Unfortunately, the Reds and Royals don’t play this season. It would be fun to see Hamilton and Dyson on the same field. A stopwatch would be a required accessory.

29 Apr

at the present time

It must be a little disheartening to be a shortstop in Atlanta’s minor league system. After all, Andrelton Simmons, the former Mississippi Braves star, figures to have a grip on the big league job for a long time. Nevertheless, Braves brass see something they like in Elmer Reyes, the current M-Braves shortstop. He was invited to the big league spring camp in 2013 and made the protected 40-man roster this past off-season. And he is off to a great start in his Double-A debut. In 11 games for the M-Braves — he began the season on the disabled list with an oblique injury — Reyes is batting .372 with six doubles, a triple, nine RBIs and five runs. If there is a troublesome number, it’s his four errors. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Reyes, from Nicaragua, was signed by the Braves in 2009 and has moved steadily through the system. He batted .285 with 39 extra base hits (five homers) and 60 RBIs at high Class A Lynchburg last season. It’s unlikely that Reyes will challenge Simmons for his job anytime soon, but who knows what the future holds? Reyes is doing fine in the present. The M-Braves are back in Pearl on Wednesday to start a five-game homestand. P.S. Whatever happened to former Braves prospect William Beckwith? Well, the former West Lowndes High star from Crawford recently signed with the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things of the independent Frontier League. About this time last year, Beckwith was in Lynchburg and projected to be the M-Braves’ first baseman in 2014. After batting .291 with 15 homers and 78 RBIs at low-A Rome in 2012, Beckwith played for the Future Stars team against the big league club in last year’s exhibition game at Trustmark Park. But his Braves career was derailed by some off-field issues last summer. He was suspended for a time, then demoted and finally released in the off-season.

28 Apr

finishing touches

Old rivals Belhaven and William Carey will meet in the first round of the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament on Wednesday in Montgomery. Fourth-seeded BU (38-17) took two of three from 5-seed Carey (31-24) in the regular season series at Smith-Wills Stadium in February. The Mississippi schools are in the same side of the bracket as NAIA second-ranked and tourney top seed Faulkner (42-12). Belhaven, as host of an NAIA regional, is assured of life after the SSAC event; Carey is going to have to play its way into a bid. … Millsaps, bounced from the Southern Athletic Association postseason by top-seeded Birmingham-Southern on Sunday, plays Mississippi College in a makeup game on Tuesday in Clinton. That might be the end of the road for the Majors (23-18), who would seem to be a longshot for an NCAA Division III at-large bid. … D-II No. 7-ranked Delta State, which claimed first place in the Gulf South Conference regular season by sweeping No. 4 West Florida in Cleveland over the weekend, will open GSC Tournament play on Friday at Birmingham. The top-seeded Statesmen (35-9) meet 8-seed Christian Brothers in the first round.

27 Apr

juco postseason glance

The junior college postseason qualifiers appear to be set. The unofficial matchups: Holmes at Jones County; Northwest at Hinds; East Central at East Mississippi; and Pearl River at Northeast. JCJC, ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II, won the South Division and East Mississippi, ranked seventh, won the North (for the first time since 1998). The best-of-3 series begin Friday. The four winners move on to the double-elimination state tournament May 8-10 at a site to be determined.

27 Apr

kings of swing

Nomination for Understatement of the Year, College Edition: “We swung the bats well today.” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco made that comment today moments after the No. 12 Rebels produced 17 hits and beat nationally ranked Kentucky 18-5 in Lexington. Yes, 17 hits and 18 runs qualifies as swinging the bats well. Auston Bousfield, having an amazing season, went 5-for-6 with a home run, six RBIs and three runs. For the year, the junior from Florida is at .363 with five homers, 34 RBIs and 38 runs. The Rebels got three more homers in today’s win, from Will Allen, J.B. Woodman and Sikes Orvis. Orvis homered for the second straight day and now has 11 bombs for the year. Yes, the Rebels also swung the bats well on Friday, getting 15 hits in a 12-4 victory. They are 32-12, 12-8 SEC, heading into Sunday’s series finale. Chances are they’ll swing the bats well again. P.S. Former Ole Miss star Seth Smith, now with the San Diego Padres, missed a second straight game today because of a groin injury. Smith has been swinging the bat well, so to speak, hitting .313 over his last 10 games before the injury. He’s at .277 for the year. Smith homered in his first at-bat as a Padre back on March 31 but has hit just one since.

25 Apr

juco madness

Division titles — and more — will be determined on Saturday as the MACJC regular season concludes. East Mississippi Community College, ranked seventh in NJCAA Division II, hosts Northeast in a doubleheader showdown for the North crown. The Lions are 17-5, the Tigers 16-6. No. 1-ranked Jones County JC (17-5) will try to wrap up the South championship when it visits last-place Copiah-Lincoln (7-13). Hinds is 16-6, a game back of JCJC, heading into a twinbill against visiting East Central (9-13). Mississippi Gulf Coast, behind James Land’s monster day (8-for-9, two homers, six RBIs), split with Jones on Wednesday to stay in contention for a playoff berth in the South. Gulf Coast is 9-13 with Pearl River (11-11) coming to Perkinston on Saturday. Elsewhere, Holmes (10-12 North) hosts Coahoma (0-22) and Northwest (14-8 North) hosts Itawamba (9-13). Southwest (9-15 South) and Delta (12-12 North) have finished division play. The juco postseason is a long and winding road. The top four teams in each division begin the postseason on May 2-3 with a best-of-3 series (North 1 hosts South 4, etc.). The four series winners advance to the state tournament (May 8-10). The NJCAA Region 23 Tournament is May 15-18. The winner there goes to the D-II World Series.

25 Apr

welcome home — sorta

Delta State is finally playing at home again, but the Statesmen can’t get too comfortable. Greeting DSU today in its first game at Ferriss Field in Cleveland since April 5 is West Florida, the No. 4 team in the country in NCAA Division II and the No. 1 team in the Gulf South Conference standings. DSU is seventh in the Collegiate Baseball poll and second in the GSC, a game back of West Florida. This three-game series (single game today at 6 p.m, doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m.) will decide the regular season title. The Statesmen lead the all-time series 25-23. Yes, this should be good. DSU (32-9, 21-5 GSC) went 8-2 (with one cancellation) on its extended road trip. The Statesmen are 13-3 at Ferriss Field. They feature five of the top 10 hitters in the league, led by Will Robertson, No. 2 at .392. And their pitching is pretty good, too. P.S. William Carey qualified for next week’s Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament with a 12-7 win at Bethel on Thursday. J.C. Cassidy led Carey with a 4-for-4 effort, including a home run and four RBIs. The Crusaders are 30-23, 16-12 SSAC.

23 Apr

ready or not

In a much different position than it was in a year ago, Millsaps College starts postseason play on Friday. The fourth-seeded Majors (21-16 after scoring 27 runs in a two-game sweep at Oglethorpe over the weekend) play 5-seed Hendrix in one of the two four-team pods in the Southern Athletic Association Tournament. Also in Millsaps’ bracket are No. 1 seed (and pod host) Birmingham-Southern and 8-seed Sewanee. The survivors from the double-elimination pods meet in a best-of-3 series for the conference title. Millsaps won both the regular season and postseason championships in 2013 en route to the NCAA Division III World Series. Keith Shumaker beat Birmingham-Southern in the title clincher at Twenty Field last May. The preseason All-American is still around, sporting a 5-1, 2.39 pitching ledger and a .344 batting average. But Shumaker and the Majors have their work cut out for them in their quest to repeat as league champs and return to the D-III regionals.

23 Apr

blazing a trail

Belhaven University’s 2-1 win Tuesday over Mississippi College, which wrapped up the Maloney Trophy for the Blazers, was punctuated by yet another Tyler Akins save. Here are the key numbers on the impressive season being registered by the senior from Madison: 17-for-17 on save opportunities; 0.92 ERA; 36 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings; .351 batting average; and a team-leading three home runs and 43 RBIs. Sounds like Ferriss Trophy kind of stuff. Akins, a Hinds Community College and Madison Central High product, is just two saves shy of the NAIA single-season saves record, according to the school. The Blazers play a three-game series at Auburn-Montgomery this weekend and then will enter postseason play.