So many proverbial big games to track this weekend. The regular season rolls toward a climax for the NCAA Division I programs. Mississippi State is at South Carolina and Ole Miss at Texas A&M in the SEC, Southern Miss hosts Middle Tennessee State in C-USA and Jackson State (shooting for an unbeaten SWAC season) hosts Mississippi Valley State (shooting for its first win). (Note: Valley, 0-17, hasn’t played since April 18, when the Delta Devils blew a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth and lost 8-7 to Alabama A&M.) The small colleges are in postseason play. Today, in the NAIA SSAC Tournament at Mobile, Ala., fifth-seeded William Carey (30-10) plays 4-seed Mobile and 7-seed Blue Mountain (14-18) gets 2-seed Faulkner in the first round. In NCAA Division III, Belhaven (20-16) meets East Texas Baptist today in the first round of the ASC Tournament at Marshall, Texas. Division II Delta State (24-15) opens play Friday in the GSC Tournament in Oxford, Ala. The fifth-seeded Statesmen, who have won 15 GSC tourney titles, meet 4-seed Valdosta State in the opening round. And the state junior college playoffs begin Friday with the best-of-3 series that will send four teams to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament next week. Third-ranked Pearl River Community College has clinched its regional berth and will host the tourney. The high school playoffs are under way, with the series opener of several MHSAA Class 6A heavyweight bouts set for tonight: MaxPreps No. 2-ranked Madison Central is at South Panola; No. 9 Tupelo hosts No. 12 Oxford; No. 4 Germantown visits No. 14 DeSoto Central; and No. 7 Lewisburg visits Starkville. In MAIS 5A, MaxPreps No. 1 Jackson Prep, up 1-0 in the series, plays Jackson Academy on Friday.
The key for Matt Wallner, as it is for many power-hitting prospects, is making enough contact for the power to play. The former Southern Miss standout made contact in three of his four at-bats on Wednesday night for High-A Cedar Rapids – and the results were very good. Wallner, Minnesota’s No. 13-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, went 3-for-4 with two home runs and a career-best six RBIs. He has 10 homers – and 82 strikeouts — over his 67-game pro career. The 6-foot-5, left-handed-hitting outfielder tied the USM single-season record for homers in 2019 with 23 and finished his three years in Hattiesburg with a school-record 58. … It was a big night for big flies among Mississippians in the minors. Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker, back in Triple-A for Minnesota, hit one out for St. Paul. The Twins’ No. 12 prospect is 3-for-29 with one homer in eight big league games this season. Ex-Ole Miss star Grae Kessinger homered for Double-A Corpus Christi in Houston’s system. Columbia High product Ti’Quan Forbes went deep for Birmingham (Chicago White Sox) in its season-opening win over Biloxi in the Double-A South. He also stole a base and committed an error at third base. And at the White Sox’s Low-A Kannapolis club, former Loyd Star standout James Beard, known more for his speed than his power, hit a grand slam. … Also of note: Ole Miss alum Nick Fortes, in his Double-A debut, had two hits for Pensacola (Miami Marlins) in its 2-1 win against Mississippi in the M-Braves’ home opener. Former Ole Miss standout Anthony Servideo and ex-State star Jordan Westburg made their pro debuts for Low-A Delmarva (Baltimore Orioles) in a doubleheader against Salem. Servideo was 1-for-5 with four walks, Westburg 2-for-8 with an RBI.