27 Feb

mr. 800

Congratulations are in order for Jim Page, who earned his 800th win as Millsaps College coach on Saturday. How fitting that his son Case went 2-for-2 with two RBIs, two runs and two walks in the Majors’ 14-0 victory against Eureka College at Twenty Field in Jackson. Page, a good man as well as a good coach, is essentially synonymous with Millsaps baseball, having coached the Majors for 34 years following a stellar career there as a player in the early 1980s. He still holds the school record for batting average in a season at .487. Page has directed the Majors to eight NCAA Division III regional appearances and a berth in the 2013 College World Series. After a couple of down years, the purple-and-white appears resurgent in 2022, off to a 9-3 start. The Majors are slated to host MUW today, then welcome Centre College next weekend for the start of their Southern Athletic Association schedule.

25 Feb

putting up numbers

Millsaps College is off to a hot start that reached its greatest intensity last Sunday, when the Majors routed the University of Dallas 22-1 at Twenty Field. The Majors are 7-3 heading into another three-game tournament at home this weekend that will conclude with an interesting game against MUW on Sunday. Mark Petkovsek Jr. and freshman Bradley Pelle are batting .372 each, and Ryan Erwin is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in four appearances.
Other numbers of note at the state’s small schools:
8.36: Delta State’s staff ERA through eight games. The Statesmen (3-5) surrendered 36 runs while getting swept in a three-game Gulf South series at Shorter last weekend. On the positive side, freshman transfer Hayden Cooper has three homers in 17 at-bats. DSU hosts GSC foe Montevallo at Ferriss Field this weekend.
16: Ken Scott’s RBI total through 11 games for Mississippi College. The senior outfielder from Meridian, by way of East Central Community College, is batting .341 with three homers and six stolen bases for the Choctaws (3-8, 1-2 GSC). They host league opponent Christian Brothers this weekend.
.301: William Carey’s team batting average. Led by R.J. Stinson at .467, the Crusaders are off to a 9-3 start (all home games) and play Bryant & Stratton-Albany at Wheeler Field this weekend. Note, too, that Carey pitchers have 111 strikeouts in 90 innings.
16: Runs by Blue Mountain in a 16-6 win against a good Freed-Hardeman team on Wednesday. Dylan Hale, a DeSoto Central product, went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs for the Toppers (5-5), who host Culver-Stockton this weekend.
.140: Belhaven’s team batting average. Caleb Whittle, a senior from Fulton via Itawamba CC, is hitting .389; no other player is above .200. The Blazers (2-4 overall and in the American Southwest Conference) are at Concordia-Texas for a league series this weekend.
P.S. Reggie Williams, the ex-big leaguer, is slated to make his Alcorn State coaching debut this weekend at McNeese State. … Mississippi Valley State, which didn’t win a game in 2021, blasted Rust College twice on Sunday in Stanley Stubbs’ debut as coach but faces a sterner test this weekend at Nicholls State.

24 Feb

firmly in the mix

There are more heralded players in the New York Mets’ minor league camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., but Jake Mangum is commanding his share of attention. “(N)obody is going to outwork him,” Mets director of player development Kevin Howard recently told the New York Post. “He’s got a lot of natural ability.” Mangum, 25, the former Mississippi State and Jackson Prep star, had a breakout 2021 season, using a rebuilt swing to bat .285 with nine homers and 47 RBIs (plus 14 steals) at the High-A and Double-A levels. He is also an excellent defensive outfielder. Howard suggested Mangum may have been underestimated by the folks who do the prospect rankings. The switch-hitter, coming off a tremendous career at State, had a sluggish start to his pro career, batting .247 with no homers in 2019 after being drafted in the fourth round. Last season appears to have been a sea change. Mangum told the Post he is excited about having another ex-MSU star now in charge of the Mets’ big league team. “Buck Showalter is a legend,” Mangum said. “His name just speaks for itself.” P.S. Disappointing to see that John Rhys Plumlee, the ex-Oak Grove and Ole Miss two-sport star, won’t be allowed to play baseball at Central Florida this season. The NCAA denied a waiver asking that the recent transfer be immediately eligible for the spring sport. Plumlee, a highly regarded prep player, batted .224 in 60 games over a couple of seasons with the Ole Miss team.

22 Feb

making camp

While major league players remain locked out of spring training camps, minor leaguers are or soon will be working out and playing games in Florida and Arizona. This group includes a bundle of Mississippians at various stages of their pro careers, all trying to make an impression on the big league managers and coaches who are in camp. Here’s a sampling: In Detroit’s camp, former Mississippi State pitcher Zac Houston, 27, drafted back in 2016, is bouncing back from a shoulder injury that limited him to seven games in the low minors in 2021. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound right-hander reached Triple-A in 2018 and seemed on the cusp of a big league call. He has a career 2.35 ERA and strikeout stuff when he’s healthy. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones, cut loose by Detroit last year, is in Kansas City’s camp on a minor league deal, trying to resurrect his career. The outfielder, 29, batted .212 over six injury-marred seasons with the Tigers. … Former DeSoto Central High star Blaze Jordan might be the top power prospect in Boston’s system, but former Itawamba Community College standout Tyreque Reed has some pop that also has caught the eye of Red Sox brass. A right-handed hitting first baseman, the 24-year-old Reed has averaged 18 homers over the past three seasons and reached the Double-A level in 2021, his fourth pro year. … Will Bednar is in his first spring camp with San Francisco. The 14th overall pick last summer out of MSU, where the right-hander was a College World Series hero, he was impressive in four appearances in the low minors last season. … In the Texas Rangers’ camp, there’s Blaine Crim, a Mississippi College product who isn’t rated among the team’s top prospects but has done nothing but rake over his two pro seasons. A righty-hitting first baseman, he has a .314 career average with 37 homers and reached Double-A in 2021. He batted .402 in Puerto Rico this winter. … Colby White figures to get a lot of attention in Tampa Bay’s camp. The right-hander, 23, a 2019 draftee out of MSU, rose through four levels last summer, topping out at Triple-A, and finished with a 1.44 ERA. … Ex-Bulldogs ace Ethan Small, a Milwaukee farmhand, is also very close to making The Show, whenever that show might open. A first-round pick in 2018, he made it to Triple-A in 2021 and put up a 2.06 ERA in nine games there. … In Minnesota’s camp, ex-Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner, coming off an injury-interrupted 2021 season, hopes to build on a strong finish that carried into the Arizona Fall League. The lefty slugger, the 39th overall pick in 2019, hit 15 homers in High-A ball last summer and six more in the AFL. … In Baltimore’s camp, there are three Mississippi college products, each a rated prospect: MSU alum Jordan Westburg, USM’s Reed Trimble and Ole Miss’ Anthony Servideo.

19 Feb

highs and lows

Opening Day for the state’s big schools produced a mixed bag. Ole Miss and Southern Miss notched comfy wins Friday, but there was no joy in Starkville, where defending national champ Mississippi State got blanked, or for Jackson State, which took one on the chin in New Orleans against Grambling State. Tim Elko homered, Jacob Gonzalez drove in two runs and Derek Diamond sparkled over five innings in Ole Miss’ 9-3 win against Charleston Southern. Ben Ethridge allowed a lone, unearned run in six innings and Dustin Dickerson picked up three RBIs as USM whipped North Alabama 8-1. At State, where an announced crowd of 10,000-plus turned out in the cold, Long Beach State limited the Bulldogs to one hit in a 3-0 win. Landon Sims struck out 13 in seven innings but gave up a home run and was a tough-luck loser for the Bulldogs; in his first college game, Hunter Hines, out of Madison Central High, got the Dogs’ lone knock. JSU lost 10-1 in the Andre Dawson Classic, shut down by former Pearl River Community College ace Shemar Page, a grad transfer from Louisiana Tech. Chenar Brown drove in JSU’s run with one of its two hits. JSU plays Southern University today in a game to be televised (1 p.m.) by MLB Network. Worth noting: Madison Central product Braden Montgomery, the top high school player in the state last season, got a save for Stanford in a 1-0 win against Cal State Fullerton, fanning two in a clean inning.

17 Feb

prime position

College baseball aficionados, please direct your attention to the patch of dirt behind home plate, more specifically to the masked man squatting in front of the ump. This promises to be the year of the catcher on the Mississippi major college scene. Mississippi State’s Logan Tanner and Ole Miss’ Hayden Dunhurst, highly skilled backstops who can also hit a little, are among the top-rated MLB draft prospects in the state. Both are on the Golden Spikes Award watch list. And for the record, Southern Miss has a fine catcher, too, in Blake Johnson, and Jackson State features a pair of returnees from its dominant 2021 team: Marshal Luiz and Jefrey Rodriguez. Tanner, a junior out of George County High, drew raves from scouts and analysts for his arm strength last season while helping the Bulldogs charge to the national championship. MLB Pipeline rates Tanner the 19th-best prospect in the 2022 draft, a solid first-rounder. He batted .287 with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs last year. Dunhurst, a junior from Pearl River Central, won a college Gold Glove in 2021 and is rated No. 41 among ’22 draft prospects. He hit .280 with seven bombs and 43 RBIs for an Ole Miss team that reached a Super Regional. The Bulldogs and Rebels, both highly ranked in various polls, are rebuilding their pitching staffs for 2022 and are fortunate to have experienced players behind the dish. At USM, Johnson, from Gulfport via Jones College, had a strong debut season and showed out in the Oxford Regional, going 5-for-14 with two homers and a double as the Golden Eagles reached the final. He was a .300 hitter in two seasons at Jones and hit .246 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 47 games for USM in 2021. At JSU, Luiz, from Canada, and Rodriguez, from Miami, shared catching duties last year, with each batting .259. They’ll be counted on again as the Tigers shoot for the SWAC title that so cruelly eluded them in 2021. P.S. NCAA Division I schools open Friday. State hosts Long Beach State, Ole Miss welcomes Charleston Southern, USM brings in North Alabama and JSU takes on Grambling State in the Andre Dawson Classic in New Orleans.

16 Feb

juco jottings

Based on the linescore, some wacky stuff happened in Fulton on Tuesday. Itawamba Community College put up a 10-run inning for an 11-3 lead after three, then surrendered 11 runs in the seventh and lost to Snead State (Ala.) 23-16 in Game 1 of a doubleheader. Perhaps in a state of shock, the Indians lost Game 2 6-1. The Indians (3-3) are ranked No. 17 in the NJCAA Division II preseason poll; they figure to tumble when the first regular season poll is released. … Jones College, under new coach Wes Thigpen, moved to 3-1 with a sweep of Coastal Alabama-East on Tuesday, winning both games 10-0. Kade Keeton, from Brandon, got the win with six shutout innings and went 3-for-3 with two runs and an RBI in the opener at Ellisville. … Preston Ratliff had a day, hitting two home runs and notching the victory on the mound in Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s split with Baton Rouge. The Bulldogs, under new coach Bob Keller, are off to a 2-4 start. … Led by Brock Butler (.667, a homer, seven RBIs), seventh-ranked Meridian CC is 5-1 heading into a Saturday twinbill against visiting Hinds, which is 4-2 in Dan Rives’ first season as Eagles head coach. … No. 4 Pearl River, the defending state champion, and No. 14 East Central are off to 4-0 starts. The Wildcats have been paced by John Griffin Bell (.500) and Tate Parker (.467, two homers, seven RBIs). Coleton Smith has two homers and four RBIs for the Warriors.

14 Feb

changing of guard

The Mississippi Braves will defend their Double-A South championship with a new manager this season. Atlanta announced today that Bruce Crabbe, a longtime manager and coach in the Boston system, will take the reins in Pearl. Dan Meyer, who replaced Wyatt Toregas in midseason in 2021 and was named the league’s manager of the year, took a job as a pitching coach in another organization. Bo Henning is the M-Braves’ new pitching coach and Mike Bard the hitting coach. Angel Flores also was named to the staff. Crabbe will be the 10th manager of the M-Braves, who have played at Trustmark Park since 2005. The team has won two pennants, the other coming in 2008 under Phillip Wellman. The 2022 season starts April 8. … Mike Guerrero returns for a sixth season as skipper of the Biloxi Shuckers, who also play in the Double-A South’s South Division.

14 Feb

small world

Catching up on the small colleges while bemoaning the state of affairs in the big leagues: Delta State went 2-1 on its swing through Florida, completing the trip on Sunday with a 7-5 win against Palm Beach Atlantic. The Statesmen (3-2 overall) got key home runs from Hayden Cooper and Blayke Dendy in Sunday’s win; they scored 32 runs in the three games. … William Carey went 4-0 in the Carey Classic over the weekend and is 6-1 on the season. R.J. Stinson is batting .519 for the Crusaders, and Pascagoula native Patrick Lee is at .520. Both have driven in nine runs and scored nine. … Millsaps went 2-1 in its big weekend event, notching a 5-4 win over Huntingdon on Sunday behind the pitching of Ryan Erwin (2-0) and the bat of Bradley Pelle, who is hitting .545 for the Majors (4-2). MUW opened its season in the Millsaps tournament and went 0-3. … Mississippi College dropped the rubber game of a series at Young Harris (Ga.) 6-5 on Sunday and slipped to 2-5 on the year. Caleb Reese is batting .370 for MC. … Blue Mountain split four games at Texas A&M-Texarkana over the weekend and is now 4-2. Anthony Lipsey leads the Toppers with a .412 average. … Belhaven went 0-3 in its season-opening series at East Texas Baptist, scoring just five runs all told. … Rust is off to a 2-3-1 start and Tougaloo stands 2-7, including two losses last week to Blue Mountain. … Pearl River Community College, the highest ranked state juco at No. 4 in the NJCAA Division II poll, is 4-0 and averaging over 10 runs a game.

11 Feb

on bright side

Former Southern Miss standout and onetime big leaguer Cody Carroll signed a minor league contract with San Francisco on Thursday, which means the 29-year-old right-hander knows what he’ll be doing later this month. Reporting to the Giants’ minor league spring training camp in Arizona. While major league players — 40-man roster members — remain in limbo during the lockout that threatens to stall the opening of big league camps and possibly even the 2022 season, it’ll be business as usual for minor leaguers, a small chunk of good news for baseball fans. There will be minor league exhibition games in March and regular season games in April. (The Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers both open on April 8.) There are 24 Mississippians on MLB 40-man rosters, including three who made the list for the first time this off-season: Ryan Rolison, Konnor Pilkington and James McArthur. The shutdown, if it drags on, is most unfortunate for them, as well as free agents seeking major league jobs such as Corey Dickerson and Mitch Moreland. Minor league deals might be the way to go for some free agents. Erstwhile big leaguers JaCoby Jones (signed with Kansas City) and Jonathan Holder (Chicago Cubs) have, like Carroll, gone that route. Others such as Billy Hamilton, Jarrod Dyson and Chris Ellis might follow suit, especially if Saturday’s negotiations don’t produce anything substantive. P.S. The Atlanta Braves’ World Champions Trophy Tour will hit Trustmark Park in Pearl on May 6; the M-Braves play that night. The tour will visit Dudy Noble Field in Starkville on May 7.