24 Feb

spotlight on …

Compelling series begin today in Oxford (Maryland vs. Ole Miss in a clash of nationally ranked foes), Hattiesburg (Illinois vs. unbeaten Southern Miss), Starkville (4-0 Arizona State vs. Mississippi State) and New Orleans (Jackson State in the MLB Andre Dawson Classic). But the spotlight is trained on Cleveland, where Delta State, off to an uneven start, begins Gulf South Conference play against Valdosta State (one game tonight, a doubleheader on Saturday). The Statesmen are 4-5 and coming off a series loss at Eckerd College. DSU won the GSC regular season title — for the 22nd time — in 2022 en route to making the NCAA Division II postseason and finishing 32-17. Valdosta comes to Ferriss Field with an 8-3 mark, 2-1 in conference after taking a series from Mississippi College. Kirkland Trahan, a Madison Central High and Jones College product, has swung a big bat for DSU, hitting .400 with two homers and seven RBIs. Cleveland native Brett Burrell is batting .387. But those two haven’t gotten a lot of help, with the Statesmen stuck at .241 as a team. This weekend would be a good time for leadoff batter Carson Clowers (.194) to click. The pitching has been good (staff ERA: 3.19). Three of the four starters have sub-4.00 ERAs, led by Hammer Franks with a 1.64 in two outings. The outlier is Harrison Haley, a Madison Central alum of whom big things were expected. He has been knocked around (0-1, 11.42 ERA) in three starts. DSU’s pitchers will be challenged this weekend; Valdosta, led by Miami transfer J.P. Gates (.432, 14 RBIs), is averaging 6.5 runs per game. P.S. There is concern about ace lefty Hunter Elliott in Oxford. The Tupelo native, a key component of last year’s national title team, has been shut down at least for this weekend because of elbow soreness.

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