Leather popping. Bats, uh, clanking. Infielders chattering. Yes, college baseball is what’s goin’ down this weekend around the Magnolia State. While Mississippi State is hosting Kentucky in an SEC showdown at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, there are notable games also in Itta Bena, Cleveland, Clinton, Blue Mountain, Jackson, Columbus and Holly Springs. Jackson State (14-7, 9-0 SWAC) visits Mississippi Valley State (0-9, 0-6). The Delta Devils dodged a likely beatdown from MSU when Tuesday’s game was rained out, but they figure to take some lumps from the Tigers, who outscored Alabama A&M 36-5 in a series last weekend. Delta State (12-10, 10-10 Gulf South) takes a six-game win streak into a league series against Valdosta State at Ferriss Field, and Mississippi College (8-13, 5-11 GSC) rides a four-game wave into its series against West Georgia at Frierson Field. Up at Blue Mountain, the Toppers (11-8, 2-4 SSAC) welcome in-state rival William Carey (16-7, 1-5) in a key conference series. Carey leads the all-time series 22-4, but BMC’s program is on the rise. At Twenty Field in Jackson, Millsaps (6-16, 4-8 SAC), recovering from a disastrous start, welcomes D-III nationally ranked Birmingham-Southern, always a power in their conference. At Columbus High today, MUW, 12-3 with seven straight W’s, takes on Tougaloo (2-15) in a twinbill. The Owls then play two against Rust College in Holly Springs on Saturday. Matt Wolfenbarger has put together a solid D-III program in short order at The W, which is 3-1 against Tougaloo and 2-0 vs. Rust, both NAIA schools.
Nate Lowe became, on Thursday, the latest in a long line of former Mississippi State sluggers to suit up for the Texas Rangers. Acquired in an off-season trade with Tampa Bay, the lefty-hitting first baseman/DH went 2-for-6 and drove in four runs in his Texas debut. Ex-Bulldogs Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark, Jon Shave and Mitch Moreland also played in Texas. The Rangers-Mississippi connection goes way back — to the club’s second year in the Lone Star State. Donny Castle was the eighth overall pick in the 1968 MLB draft, taken out of Coldwater High by the Washington Senators, who moved to Arlington, Texas, in 1972. Castle, perhaps best known from his time as the coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College, was a Kokomo, Ind., native who grew up in Coldwater. He played pro ball for 11 years, getting a cup of coffee (four games) with the Rangers in 1973. A lefty-hitting first baseman/DH, Castle hit .268 with 115 homers in the minors. He coached at NWCC from 1998-2005, winning 271 games and a state title. P.S. The first hit by a Mississippian in 2021 was delivered by JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High who stroked an RBI double in his first at-bat for Detroit. The first win by a Mississippian went to Ole Miss alumnus Mike Mayers, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Los Angeles Angels, who beat the Chicago White Sox. … A couple of former Mississippi State stars are closing in on significant milestones in their MLB careers. Hunter Renfroe, whose Boston debut was delayed by rain, needs three homers to reach 100. Moreland, who went 0-for-2 in his Oakland debut, needs 32 hits to reach 1,000.