06 Mar

home at last

It might feel a little like homecoming at Delta State this weekend. A month into the season, the Statesmen will play their first home games, hosting West Alabama in a three-game Gulf South Conference series at Ferriss Field. Coach Rodney Batts’ second edition of Statesmen is 4-5, overall and in the GSC. They are coming off a series win against West Georgia, a series that was moved from Cleveland to Carrollton because of weather concerns. Anticipation is no doubt building among DSU fans. Batts’ first season as the replacement for the ultra-successful Mike Kinnison was halted after 23 games because of the pandemic. The club was a lackluster 13-10 and 6-6 in the conference. The 2021 team was picked to finish third in the 13-team league by GSC coaches, so perhaps the slow start is an aberration. Led by Hayden White and Jake Barlow – the reigning GSC player of the week – the Statesmen have shown some power, with 16 home runs. White, from MRA by way of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, has four bombs and 10 RBIs. Patrick Hodges (.450) and Chad Ragland (.368) also have been hot at the plate. Hunter Riggins, All-GSC in 2019, is a legit ace on the bump. He is 1-1, 3.32 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 19 innings. Otherwise, the pitching has been inconsistent (5.14 ERA). UWA is 6-4, 4-3, but the Statesmen have dominated this series over the years and have beaten the Tigers eight straight times. The circumstances appear ripe for a launch. P.S. There are two Mississippi high schools ranked in the latest Collegiate Baseball prep Top 30, and they are located just a few miles apart. Madison-Ridgeland Academy (MRA) is No. 23 and its Madison County neighbor Madison Central is No. 27. And, no, they aren’t scheduled to play each other this season.