For the second straight year — and fifth time overall — Pearl River Community College owns the state championship. The Wildcats, ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division II, clinched the MACCC crown with a 12-3 whipping of Northeast on Friday in Poplarville. The pitching of Dakota Lee and two homers from Alex Perry were key for PRCC, which will host the Region 23 Tournament at Dub Herring Park starting May 16. PRCC finishes the regular season 34-10, 22-6 MACCC. Northeast, which won the second game Friday, heads into a best-of-3 series next week with a berth in the region tourney at stake. The Nos. 2-9 seeds in the league face off in the four best-of-3 series. … Millsaps College won for the second straight day in the Southern Athletic Association Tournament and plays Rhodes today for the championship of its pod. The Majors, 23-18 with six straight wins, need to win once to advance to the SAA title series. Sam Pitre was 5-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs in the Majors’ 16-10 win against Centre on Friday. … William Carey pounded out 32 runs in a twinbill sweep of overmatched Talladega and heads to next week’s Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament as the 3-seed with a 33-15 overall record. Jake Lycette drove in seven runs in the two games for the Crusaders. Also headed to the SSAC tourney in Columbus, Ga., is 7-seed Blue Mountain (27-24), which lost its regular season finale Friday at Mobile. … Belhaven split a doubleheader at UT-Dallas on Friday, winning Game 2 8-0 behind the pitching of ace Brett Sanchez, and clinched the No. 3 seed in next week’s American Southwest Conference Tournament. The Blazers are 25-14, 18-11, heading into today’s season finale. … Most NCAA Division I Tournament projections don’t include Mississippi State or Ole Miss, but both helped their cause with wins on Friday. State (25-18) beat Missouri and Ole Miss (24-17) took down highly ranked Arkansas. Southern Miss, a favorite to host a regional at this stage, saw its 15-game win streak end at UAB. The Golden Eagles, a consensus top 10 team, are 33-9. Jackson State, coming off a disheartening 21-3 loss to Alabama State at home last Sunday, beat Alabama A&M 3-2 on Friday on a walk-off balk at Braddy Field. It was win No. 501 for coach Omar Johnson, whose erratic Tigers are 20-21, 8-11 SWAC. … Mississippi College (13-33, 7-21 Gulf South) stumbled to its eighth straight loss, 12-1 vs. Union. The Choctaws are going to miss the GSC Tournament; Delta State (27-13, 17-7), which didn’t play Friday, is vying for the No. 1 seed.
Will Bednar, one of the heroes of Mississippi State’s national title run last year, has made a smooth transition to pro ball. The right-hander, the 14th overall pick in the July draft, threw five no-hit innings Wednesday night for San Jose in the San Francisco system. “I don’t try to get too high or too low, but it’s definitely a confidence booster …,” he told milb.com after Wednesday’s outing. Bednar has yet to get a win in four starts for the Low-Class A club but has a 1.62 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 16 2/3 innings. He was limited to seven innings last summer after signing with the Giants as the top draft pick from the state. Among the other 2021 draftees: Gunnar Hoglund — taken 19th overall by Oakland out of Ole Miss — is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. … Ole Miss product Doug Nikhazy is 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA in three starts for High-A Lake County in the Cleveland system. … Reed Trimble, taken by Baltimore out of Southern Miss, is on the injured list (shoulder surgery) and has yet to play this season. He batted .200 in 22 games in his pro debut lat season. … Tanner Allen, SEC player of the year and Ferriss Trophy winner at MSU, is batting .255 with a homer and seven RBIs for Miami’s High-A Beloit team. … Eric Cerantola, MSU alum, is 1-1, 4.76 at Low-A Columbia in the Kansas City organization. … Ex-Bulldogs standout Christian MacLeod, a Minnesota draftee, is on the 60-day injured list at Low-A Fort Myers and hasn’t pitched in 2022. … Taylor Broadway, Ole Miss’ closer in 2021, is pitching at Double-A Birmingham, where he has made three appearances after a recent promotion. He has a 9.45 ERA overall in six outings. … USM product Ryan Och has worked nine innings and yielded one run for San Diego’s High-A Fort Wayne club. … Will Warren, a Jackson Prep alum drafted out of Southeastern Louisiana, is 1-1, 2.65 in four starts at High-A Hudson Valley in the New York Yankees’ chain. P.S. Former State standout Kendall Graveman got his first save for the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, working two perfect innings as the ChiSox stopped an eight-game skid with a 7-3 win against Kansas City. Graveman, primarily a set-up reliever, has a 1.74 ERA in nine games. … Recent transactions of note: Chris Ellis went on the 10-day IL in Baltimore, Pittsburgh designated Anthony Alford for assignment, and Cleveland demoted both Konnor Pilkington and Kirk McCarty to Triple-A.
There were times a few years back when Travis Demeritte looked like a budding star in the Atlanta system. Those who follow the Mississippi Braves would remember. With the Double-A M-Braves in 2017 and ’18, Demeritte belted 32 home runs, stole 11 bases and made a Southern League All-Star Game appearance. He was versatile enough to play second base, third and the outfield. But he was prone to slumps, struck out a lot and batted just .227 over those two seasons. In 2019, three years after he was acquired in a minor league trade with Texas, Demeritte was traded away to Detroit. In February of 2021, the Braves got him back as a waiver claim. On Tuesday night, in his third game for Atlanta, he finally took a star turn for the Braves. Demeritte homered — his first in the big leagues in three years — and made a great catch in right field, sliding into foul territory, as the Braves beat the visiting Chicago Cubs 3-1. Demeritte didn’t hit much in his 66 games with the Tigers in 2019 and ’20 but batted .282 with 21 homers at Triple-A Gwinnett last year and was swinging it well when Atlanta called him up last week. Once Ronald Acuna returns to the Braves’ active roster, Demeritte’s opportunities likely will diminish. But the former first-round pick — 30th overall by Texas out of Winder-Barrow High in Georgia in 2013 — showed what he is capable of on Tuesday night. It was good to see. P.S. For the current M-Braves, Drew Lugbauer hit his fifth homer — second-most in the SL — and Michael Harris II extended his on-base streak to 16 games (out of 16) in a 6-3 win at Montgomery.
As the junior college regular season winds down, Pearl River Community College holds on as the top-ranked team in the state and the first-place team in the MACCC standings. The Wildcats are ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll with a 31-9 mark and have a 2-game lead in the conference at 19-5 with two doubleheaders left. Meridian is No. 8 at 27-11, Northeast 18th at 34-11 and East Central 20th at 27-13. Hinds and East Mississippi are tied for second in the state standings at 17-7, with Meridian fourth at 15-7. Among individuals, PRCC’s Tate Parker, a sophomore from Gulfport, leads the state in home runs with 14, ranking third in the nation, and in RBIs with 49. East Central’s Trey Lewis leads the state in batting at .478 and in steals with 23. Parker is batting .465, followed by Meridian’s Bo Gatlin at .434 and Hinds’ Vantrel Reed at .432. Northwest’s Ryan Lee has 13 homers and 46 RBIs, second to Parker on both charts. Just as Parker has been the best all-around hitter in the state, Northeast’s Colby Holcombe has emerged as a dominant pitcher. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound freshman from Alabama leads the nation in strikeouts with 104 (16.5 per nine innings) and ranks 11th with a 1.91 ERA, best among MACCC pitchers. He is 6-2 for Tigers. East’s Blayze Berry has a 2.22 ERA, also in the top 20 nationally.
The unquestioned top story in Mississippi college baseball in 2022 has been the steady rise of Southern Miss, ranked No. 6 in the country in the new Baseball America poll. Also high on the list: the struggles of Mississippi State and Ole Miss; and the resurgence of NCAA Division III schools Belhaven University and Millsaps College. To wit: USM swept Rice over the weekend, holding the once-mighty Owls to five runs in three games as starters Tanner Hall, Hunter Riggins and Hurston Waldrep took turns at dominance. The Golden Eagles (32-8, 16-2 C-USA) have won 14 straight games and can set a school record for consecutive W’s by beating Southeastern Louisiana on the road Tuesday. USM’s staff has a 2.80 ERA and 460 strikeouts in 363 innings. That kind of pitching is hard to beat. … Defending national champion MSU and Ole Miss, briefly ranked No. 1 this season, had fallen to the bottom of the SEC West standings when they met in Oxford over the weekend. Who saw that coming? But the outcome at Swayze Field was fairly predictable: The Bulldogs won their sixth straight series over the Rebels, with coach Chris Lemonis improving to 8-2 vs. UM. Rebels coach Mike Bianco is 38-48 vs. State. They meet again Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl in the Governor’s Cup (nee Mayor’s Trophy) game with a huge crowd expected. Has the rivalry begun to wane, as some wonder? Not hardly. “I grew up hating those guys. This is awesome,” Brad Cumbest, who hit the game-winning homer for State in Saturday’s rubber game, told 247sports.com. … Millsaps swept Sewanee at home over the weekend to improve to 21-18 and 11-10 in the Southern Athletic Association. Jim Page’s Majors are the 6-seed in the conference tournament slated for Georgia later this week and will meet old rival Rhodes in the opening round. Belhaven took two of three from Ozarks (at Frierson Field in Clinton) over the weekend and is 24-13, 17-10 in the American Southwest Conference. Under third-year coach Kyle Palmer, the Blazers are currently third in the league with one series remaining before the tournament, which will be the team’s last in the ASC. BU moves to the Collegiate Conference of the South next season.
For Michael Harris II, it was a minor milestone along what’s expected to be his route to the major leagues. For at least some of the smallish crowd at Trustmark Park on this lazy Sunday afternoon, it was one for the memory banks. Harris, Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect, hit his first Double-A home run on Sunday, a towering, pull-side shot that landed in the Farm Bureau Grill behind the right-field wall. Over the 17 years the Mississippi Braves have played in Pearl, fans have been treated to memorable moments from a long list of touted hitting prospects who made The Show: Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis, Austin Riley and Ronald Acuna, to name a few. Now there is Harris. The 21-year-old outfielder is batting .317 with 13 RBIs, eight runs and six stolen bases, one of the few bright spots for a scuffling (4-11) M-Braves club. Braves fans be advised: Get out to the TeePee to see him soon. He might not be there very long. P.S. In other long-ball news: Riley, the former DeSoto Central High standout, hit his second homer since becoming a dad in Atlanta’s loss to Miami on Sunday, and East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson hit his 14th career leadoff bomb for the Chicago White Sox in a loss to Minnesota. … Former Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty made his big league debut Sunday for Cleveland, giving up two homers and four runs all told in relief in a loss to the New York Yankees. McCarty, a Hattiesburg native, becomes the 19th USM product to play in the majors. … Ex-George County High standout Justin Steele also had a tough day on the bump, yielding four hits, four walks and three runs in three innings in the Chicago Cubs’ loss to Pittsburgh. Steele is 1-2, 5.40 in three starts. … Faring even worse on Sunday was Ole Miss alum Chris Ellis, who faced five batters, retired none and left with shoulder discomfort in Baltimore’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Charged with five runs, Ellis saw his ERA climb to 10.38 in two appearances.
Maybe it was good timing, but maybe it was also a good sign for Dakota Hudson, who looked like his old self on Saturday when he pitched St. Louis past Cincinnati. Former Mississippi State star Hudson, not sharp in his first two starts of 2022, threw 6 2/3 shutout innings against the Reds, who lost, 5-0, for the 11th straight time. Hudson (1-1) allowed just two hits, walked four and fanned four at the Great American Ball Park, typically a hitter’s paradise. “It’s big,” he told mlb.com. “I feel like it’s the first of many (wins) to go down the road.” Hudson was the 34th overall pick by the Cardinals out of State in 2016, reached the big leagues in 2018 and was an emergent star before an arm injury — and Tommy John surgery — derailed him in late 2020. He was 23-10 at the time, including a 16-7, 3.35 ERA effort in 2019. He battled back from the injury to make two appearances for the Cards last summer in the heat of the playoff chase. He allowed six runs in seven innings in his first two outings this season. Saturday’s results were much more encouraging. … Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, off to a sluggish start (.182) with St. Louis, drove in one of the runs on Saturday. Expect his production to pick up. P.S. Miguel Cabrera joined the exclusive 3,000-hit/500-homer club on Saturday, becoming one of only seven players to reach both of those milestones. Former MSU standout Rafael Palmeiro is one of the seven.
In case you missed it, Laurel native Shemar Page, now pitching for Grambling State, threw a seven-inning perfect game Friday against visiting Alcorn State. It is reported to be just the 34th perfecto in NCAA Division I history going back to 1959. Page struck out 13 of the 21 batters he faced. The Tigers run-ruled the Braves 16-0. It’s been that kind of year for Alcorn, 2-24 after that loss. Right-hander Page has followed a long and winding road to Grambling. He was a two-way player at Raleigh High, an ace pitcher at Pearl River Community College — which won state and region titles while he was there — and primarily a hitter in two seasons at Louisiana Tech. As a grad transfer at Grambling, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Page has posted a 5-4, 2.67 ledger in 10 starts on the mound and is batting .359 in 78 at-bats.
The anticipation was high. Kirk McCarty, the ex-Southern Miss star from Hattiesburg, was scheduled to make his big league debut today, starting on the bump against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It’s not happening. Cal Quantrill has come off the COVID-19 list and will get the ball for Cleveland. McCarty, brought up from Triple-A earlier in the week, might still get in the game as a reliever, of course, but a start against Aaron Judge and Co. would have been so much cooler. (In Friday’s game, a Cleveland loss, Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington threw two scoreless innings in relief for the Guardians in his third big league game. He has yet to yield a run.) … In other MLB news: Former State standout Nathaniel Lowe extended his hit streak to eight games, raised his average to .412 — tops in the American League — and belted his first home run in Texas’ win against Oakland. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, made his 2022 debut for Pittsburgh, coming off a rehab assignment, and went 0-for-3 as the leadoff batter at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Pirates won the game over the Cubs 4-2, with ex-State star Chris Stratton getting the save. … Ex-East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson was handed a one-game suspension for flipping off the Cleveland crowd in a game on Wednesday. Anderson issued an apology, then appealed the suspension and played Friday. He went 0-for-4 and his eighth-inning throwing error — his sixth E in three games — proved costly in the Chicago White Sox’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota. MSU alum Kendall Graveman suffered the blown save and took the loss in that game.
Jackson State has a chance to ease the pain of a rough season this weekend when Alabama State comes to Braddy Field for a three-game SWAC series. A year after dominating the league (24-0 in the regular season), the Tigers are just 6-9 and fourth in the SWAC East. Alabama State leads the division at 11-2 and swept the Tigers at its home field earlier this month. The 17-2 loss at Mississippi State on Tuesday notwithstanding, JSU has showed signs of a resurgence, winning five of its last six conference contests. JSU (18-19 overall) has gotten consistent offense from Ty Hill (.385, 37 runs), Jatavis Melton (.319, 41 runs, 20 steals) and Devontae Rhodes (.313, 22 RBIs) but not much from the rest of the lineup. The pitching staff, so strong last year, has been knocked around frequently. Only one regular starter, Juan Maruland (5-4, 3.73 ERA), has an ERA under 4.00. Last year’s closer, Steven Davila, has missed most of the season. So, too, has slugger Chenar Brown, the league’s freshman of the year in 2021. Others need to step up. On the positive side, the Tigers are 12-4 at home. And a good showing against Alabama State would go a long way toward building confidence heading into the SWAC Tournament, where the Tigers have a demon to exorcise. P.S. Rust College has finished its regular season with a six-game win streak and a 16-13-1 record under first-year coach John Bates.