Beyond that big SEC series going on in Oxford this weekend – and Game 1 certainly moved the needle on the drama meter – there are other games of interest scattered around the state. In Lorman, at Rat McGowan Field, Alcorn State hosts Alabama State, the SWAC leader, in a three-game set. The Braves, 3-6 in the league, have a chance to climb the standings by taking down the 7-2 Hornets, who feature the league’s leading hitter, Cage Cox from Cairo, Ga. In Hattiesburg, at Wheeler Field, NAIA No. 9 William Carey, which has lost three straight games, tries to get back on track in an SSAC series against Bethel, which comes in at 18-12, 5-4. Carey is 23-9, 9-3. They are two of the top hitting teams in a league known for hitting. In Jackson, at Twenty Field on the Millsaps campus, the Majors, needing to make a stand in the Southern Athletic Association race, face off against Hendrix, which is in a similar situation. Millsaps (11-15 overall) is 2-6 in the league, Hendrix (9-16) 3-6. In Fulton, at Cresap Field, ninth-ranked Itawamba Community College hosts MACJC leader Pearl River CC for a Saturday doubleheader. ICC is 18-4, 5-1 in conference. Unranked PRCC is 15-5, 6-0, and has won 10 straight. The Wildcats have four regulars batting .327 or better – Lucas Scott leads the way at .436 — and five pitchers with two wins, including Colby White, who also has three saves. At Oak Grove High’s R.A. Clinton Park, the Warriors, ranked No. 15 in MaxPreps’ latest Xcellent 25, will look to beef up their 15-1 record when they host Meridian today and Seminary on Saturday (before a trip to Purvis on Saturday night). Oak Grove is led by Drew Boyd, a Southern Miss signee who is hitting .396 with four bombs and boasts a 4-0, 0.00 pitching ledger.
One imagines a bit of panic swept through Red Sox Nation when the news first broke. Drew Pomeranz will start the season on the disabled list, joining fellow pitchers David Price and Tyler Thornburg. Oh, wait … there’s more. Reportedly, former Ole Miss star Pomeranz has only a flexor strain in his left arm and might still be able to start on April 9, the first time Boston will need a fifth starter. Surely a big sigh of relief rippled through Boston when that was revealed. Pomeranz looms as an important piece for the Red Sox, especially with Price’s status for the season up in the air. Pomeranz, who had a stem cell shot in his elbow in the off-season, has had an uneven spring. He is 0-2 with an 8.25 ERA in 12 innings. He also had an uneven 2016, going 3-5, 4.59 for Boston after coming over in a trade with San Diego. He was 8-7, 2.47 and an All-Star for the Padres. A first-round pick by Cleveland out of UM in 2010 and a tantalizing talent, Pomeranz has been traded four times. Boston, pegged as a World Series contender, is hoping he can settle in and bolster the back end of its rotation.
Only one small college player has won the Ferriss Trophy over its 13 years: Belhaven University’s Craig Westcott in 2009. The 2017 coronation is a long ways off, but there are a couple of NAIA players whose hitting exploits this season bear notice. James Land, a senior first baseman at William Carey, belted three home runs at Mississippi College on Tuesday, running his season total to 11. He leads the Southern States Athletic Conference in slugging at .807 and ranks near the top in homers, batting average (.404) and RBIs (38). Land, a former Harrison Central and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, was named the SSAC’s player of the week last week (after batting .591 with 11 RBIs in five games). The reigning SSAC player of the week is Caleb Leach of Blue Mountain. A junior infielder/outfielder from Florida, Leach batted .600 with a pair of homers, five RBIs and eight runs last week and is at .397, five homers and 27 RBIs for the year. He leads the Toppers in slugging (.612) and runs (33). It should help the cases for Land and Leach that both Carey and BMC are having strong years. The nationally ranked Crusaders are 23-9, 9-3 SSAC, and the Toppers are 23-15, 6-6, easily the best start in their short history.
Chris Coghlan will get a World Series ring next month. He’s looking for a uniform to wear. The Ole Miss alum was released by Philadelphia in a bit of a surprise move on Tuesday. Trying to make the lowly Phillies as a non-roster invitee, Coghlan, 32, didn’t have a great spring (.231, five RBIs) but did offer a left-handed bat and the versatility to play several positions. Coghlan batted .250 with six homers last year, which he split between Oakland and the champion Chicago Cubs. Over an eight-year career interrupted by injuries, Coghlan batted .260 with 52 homers. He hit .321 with Florida in 2009 when he won rookie of the year honors but never came close to that figure again. … Catching up on other roster news: Former Rebels star Stuart Turner apparently will make Cincinnati’s big club as a backup catcher, and lefty Cody Reed out of Northwest Mississippi Community College is going to stick in the Reds’ bullpen. However, Greenwood native Louis Coleman, a relief pitcher, was sent to the minor league camp, as was ex-Itawamba CC star Desmond Jennings, who reportedly can choose to be a free agent. … JaCoby Jones – who, it should be noted, did play a little football at Richton High – appears to have won Detroit’s center field job after batting .333 this spring. He debuted with the Tigers last summer. Former Ole Miss standout Alex Presley, despite batting .452 in a bid to win an outfield spot, was sent down by the Tigers. … Ex-Mississippi State star Jonathan Holder, who made his MLB debut last summer, appears to have claimed a job in the New York Yankees’ bullpen. He has had a strong spring (3.00 ERA). … MSU product Chad Girodo was sent out by Toronto. The lefty had a 2.08 ERA this spring after posting a 4.35 as a rookie last season.
It kinda figures that closers will play a significant role in this weekend’s Mississippi State-Ole Miss series in Oxford. The Rebels (16-9, 3-3 SEC) have been offensively challenged (.246) all season, but they’ll be up against a State staff that has the second-worst ERA in the SEC. The Bulldogs (16-10, 3-3), led by the mashing of Brent Rooker, are a .300-hitting team, but they’ll be up against a UM staff that ranks second in the league in ERA. All this points to close games and late-inning drama, which is what everybody – well, practically everybody – would like to see at Oxford-University Stadium. As a bonus, both teams are well-armed at the back of the bullpen. Ole Miss’ primary closer is Dallas Woolfolk, a sophomore right-hander out of DeSoto Central High. He has six saves, a 1-1 record and has yielded just two runs in 18 innings. Will Stokes, a junior right-hander out of West Lauderdale, also gets some save opps – as he did last year behind Wyatt Short. Stokes has four saves, a 1-0 mark and a 3.29 ERA in 13 2/3 innings. For State, Spencer Price, a Meridian Community College transfer from Olive Branch, has taken on the closer job. The big right-hander has six saves, a 2-1 record and a 1.93 ERA. Though neither has a save, Jacob Barton (2.00) and Riley Self (2.45) also have been effective out of the Bulldogs’ pen. … The first two games of the series will be televised: ESPNU has the Thursday game at 7 p.m. and SEC Network the Friday game at 6. P.S. The new NJCAA Division II poll has four Mississippi schools in the top 20. Ironically, Pearl River Community College, the only team with a spotless MACJC record, isn’t among them. PRCC moved to 6-0 (15-5 overall) with a doubleheader sweep at Gulf Coast on Tuesday. Jones County, which lost for the first time last week, is still No. 1. The Bobcats are 25-1 and 7-1 in the league after sweeping No. 6 East Central (20-6, 6-2) in Tuesday’s marquee showdown. Itawamba (18-4, 5-1), which hosts PRCC on Saturday, is ranked ninth, and Gulf Coast (15-9, 4-4), just swept by The River on Tuesday, is No. 20.
A gem of an outing by Jarod Wright of Northwest Mississippi Community College has shaken up the pecking order in the MACJC standings. Wright threw a four-hitter against previously undefeated, No. 1-ranked Jones County JC in Senatobia on Saturday as the Rangers took an 11-1 win. Jones (23-1, 5-1) bounced back to win Game 2 14-2 behind Logan Robbins’ strong start and a grand slam by Shelton Wallace. But first place in the league now belongs to East Central, which improved to 6-0 (and 20-4) with a jaw-dropping sweep of Holmes in Goodman on Saturday. The Warriors, ranked seventh in NJCAA Division II, won 30-1 and 11-2. They hit seven homers on the day, six in Game 1, including a Wyatt Ball grand slam. Cole Prestegard went deep in both games, and pitchers Dylan Marsh and Tanner Elders weren’t too bad either. As fate would have it, JCJC and ECCC hook up Tuesday in Decatur. Could be classic. … Pearl River is also unbeaten in the league at 4-0 (13-5 overall) after a sweep of Northeast in Poplarville on Saturday. New coach Michael Avalon’s Wildcats, who’ve won eight straight, are at Gulf Coast on Tuesday and at Itawamba next Saturday. … ICC moved to 5-1 in the league (18-4 overall) by battering Meridian 17-2 and 5-2 on Sunday. Keith Stepter hit three homers and Tyreque Reed two in the first game of that twinbill. … Sitting at 3-1 in the MACJC is Mississippi Delta, under first-year coach Dan Rives.
Well, that could’ve gone better. Cody Reed, the former Horn Lake High and Northwest Mississippi Community College star, gave up 10 hits, four walks, an HBP and 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings for Cincinnati vs. San Francisco on Monday. The left-hander is vying for a spot in the Reds’ rotation and had pitched fairly well before Monday’s outing, which jacked his Cactus League ERA to 7.08. Reed had a tough rookie season with the Reds in 2016, going 0-7, 7.36 in 10 starts, but is considered one of the club’s better pitching prospects. He had strong minor league numbers (3.66 ERA) coming up first in the Kansas City system and then with the Reds after a 2015 trade. Reed was a second-round draft pick by the Royals in 2013 out of NWCC. … Ole Miss alum Stuart Turner homered for the Reds in Monday’s loss; he is hoping to make the roster as a backup catcher (see previous posts). Itawamba CC product Desmond Jennings, a non-roster invitee, went 0-for-2 to drop his spring average to .195. P.S. Ex-Gulf Coast CC star Tony Sipp, who has been bothered by a stiff back, threw 28 pitches to three batters for Houston on Monday, yielding a hit and a walk with one strikeout. The only lefty expected to make the Astros’ bullpen, Sipp has a 5.06 ERA this spring and is coming off a down year. Still, he told mlb.com, “I feel like I’m ready for the season.” … St. Louis optioned ex-UM standout Mike Mayers to Triple-A. The lefty, who got knocked around a bit in his MLB debut last season, posted a 1.64 ERA over 11 innings in the Grapefruit League. He’ll be back.
An injury may play a role in Tyler Moore’s chances of making Miami’s opening day roster. Moore, the ex-Mississippi State star from Brandon, is fine. It’s the injury to Martin Prado that could open a spot for Moore, who is in the Marlins’ camp as a non-roster invitee. Prado, the former Mississippi Braves standout, will start the season on the disabled list, with Derek Dietrich manning third base. Moore, a first baseman/outfielder, is batting .295 with five homers this spring and has made a strong case for being the right-handed hitting half of a platoon at first with Justin Bour. … Ole Miss product Stuart Turner might also benefit from an injury. Cincinnati’s No. 1 catcher, Devin Mesoraco, will start the season on the DL as he recovers from two surgeries last year. Tucker Barnhart will be the starter, with the Reds deciding between Turner and Rob Brantly for the backup job. Turner, hitting .414 in 29 at-bats this spring, was a Rule 5 draft pick from Minnesota who’ll likely return to the Twins — and the minors — if he doesn’t make the Reds’ 25-man roster. … Yet another injury, this one in Detroit’s camp, may enhance JaCoby Jones’ chances of opening the year with the Tigers. J.D. Martinez will start on the DL, opening the door for another outfielder. Richton High alum Jones, battling two others for the center field job this spring, is batting .341 with two homers. Former UM standout Alex Presley, a non-roster invitee who is hitting .414, might also have a shot if the Tigers want to keep Jones, a top prospect, playing regularly in the minors. … Ex-UM star Lance Lynn reportedly will start Thursday’s Grapefruit League game for St. Louis after leaving Saturday’s contest with “upper back stiffness.” Lynn, coming off Tommy John surgery, has a 1.20 ERA in five starts this spring. … Picayune’s T.J. House, in Toronto’s camp as a non-roster player, has not yet returned to the mound since getting struck in the head by a batted ball on March 10. … Entering the last week of spring training, Seth Smith hasn’t gotten much work with Baltimore, his new team. The Ole Miss product was out for roughly two weeks with a hamstring problem. He returned to go 2-for-3 on Saturday – he is 3-for-14 this spring – then sat again Sunday. “At-bats are great, and I’d like to get them, but being 100 percent going into the season is No. 1,” Smith told mlb.com. … Philadelphia was expected to make some roster decisions on Sunday, but there was no immediate word on Chris Coghlan’s status. The ex-Rebels star, who won a ring with the Chicago Cubs last fall, is in Phillies camp as a non-roster invitee. The versatile veteran is batting .243.
A dreadful start is becoming a distant memory for Mississippi College. After losing 17 of their first 19, the Choctaws have slugged their way to seven victories in their last eight games, including winning three straight Gulf South Conference series. They swept West Georgia at Frierson Field in Clinton this weekend, taking Saturday’s doubleheader 15-11 and 10-1. Hunter Austin and Will Elliott drove in three runs each in the first game, though the overshadowed hero may have been pitcher Jake Fraze, who delivered 4 1/3 innings of stellar relief as MC held off the Wolves. In Game 2, Hunter Mullis tossed a four-hitter, and Blaine Crim and Casey Echols delivered big hits. Led by Chance Whitten (.330, seven homers, 19 RBIs), Echols (.364) and Elliott (.286, three homers, 18 RBIs), MC’s hitting has been productive most of the season, Jeremy Haworth’s second as coach. What the Choctaws need is more pitching along the lines of what Fraze and Mullis provided on Saturday. The staff ERA is 6.38. MC faces an interesting showdown against William Carey on Tuesday at Frierson Field. The Crusaders are 23-7 (with a game against Mobile today) and ranked ninth in NAIA. And Carey hitters can rake: .313 average, 9.2 runs per game. P.S. Delta State is also on a roll, moving to 21-7 with a sweep of GSC foe North Alabama on Saturday. The Statesmen, who’ve won seven straight, scored 26 runs in those two wins, 18 in Game 2, in which Clay Casey went 4-for-4 with four RBIs and four runs and Josh Russell knocked in five runs.
Jackson State has won six of seven to put an 18-8 shine on its record. The Tigers lead the SWAC standings and lead the SWAC stats by a wide margin in batting average, scoring and ERA. Three Tigers – Lamar Briggs, Bryce Brown and Wesley Reyes – are hitting .360 or better. Briggs, Cornelius Copeland and Jesus Santana have scored 22 runs apiece. Santana leads the league in RBIs with 29, and Briggs has 23. On the bump, Miguel Yrigoyen is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA, and closer Jose Tirado has a 1.15. But this is no time for strutting. A stern test is at hand — a challenge and an opportunity. The Tigers are in Fort Myers, Fla., this weekend to face perhaps the best team on their schedule, one they’ve never met before. Florida Gulf Coast is 19-3 and ranked 12th by Baseball America. The Eagles beat then-No. 1 Florida State last week and then-No. 2 Florida twice the week before that. The Eagles can hit (7.4 runs per game) and pitch (3.18 ERA), too. DH Nick Rivera is coming off a nine-RBI game against Rutgers. It’s a trip to the coast for Omar Johnson’s Tigers, but it’s certainly no day at the beach.