20 May

trophy time

The Ferriss Trophy has been around since 2004, and it’s become kind of a big deal to be named the best college player in a state where baseball is quite a big deal. The list of winners is impressive. Nine of them are still active in the pro game, four of them currently playing in the big leagues, two of them owning World Series rings. The 2024 award — honoring former Delta State coach Boo Ferriss and presented by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum — will be given out today at a ceremony at the Pearl River Resort in Philadelphia. The finalists are Brett Sanchez (Belhaven), Dakota Jordan (Mississippi State), Ethan Lege (Ole Miss), Dalton McIntyre (Southern Miss) and R.J. Stinson (William Carey). The oldest active winner is Drew Pomeranz, the 2010 recipient from Ole Miss. Currently pitching in Triple-A with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the big left-hander was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft and has made 289 MLB appearances, winning a World Series with Boston in 2018. Nick Sandlin (Cleveland), Brent Rooker (Oakland), Hunter Renfroe (Kansas City) and Chris Stratton (KC) are in The Show. Stratton won a ring with Texas last year; Rooker was an All-Star in 2023; Renfroe has 180 career home runs; and Sandlin has a career ERA of 2.99 over four seasons. Two-time Ferriss winner Jake Mangum, the former MSU star, probably should have been in the big leagues by now; he is batting .329 in Triple-A for Tampa Bay and has a .290 career average. Last year’s winner, Kemp Alderman of Ole Miss, a second-round draft pick last July, is currently on the injured list in A-ball in Miami’s system. Tanner Hall, the 2022 winner from USM, has spent most of this season on the shelf, having made just three appearances in Minnesota’s system. Tanner Allen, the 2021 winner at MSU, is in Double-A in Miami’s chain and batting .250 as a regular outfielder. Among the 2024 finalists, Jordan is the highest rated MLB draft prospect, checking in at No. 24 on the latest mlb.com list. Each of the five is well-credentialed.

12 May

in other news …

It wasn’t the debut everyone was talking about on Saturday, but it was significant just the same. J.T. Ginn, the former Mississippi State standout from Brandon, struck out 10 batters and allowed one run in six innings in his first start for Triple-A Las Vegas in the Oakland system. The 24-year-old right-hander, in his fourth pro season, threw 99 pitches, allowed just four hits and two walks and finished his outing with a punchout. The lone run scored with two outs in the sixth, when former Mississippi College star Blaine Crim delivered an RBI knock for Round Rock, which went on to win the game 4-3. Ginn was 4-1 with a 4.15 ERA in six Double-A starts this season. Drafted by the New York Mets in the second round in 2020 (and later traded to Oakland), Ginn has been limited by injuries to 45 pro games. It appears he has regained the form that made him such a prized amateur prospect. (BTW: Ginn’s alma mater, Brandon High, knocked out Northwest Rankin on Saturday and advanced to the MHSAA Class 7A championship series.) P.S. Kudos to the state’s Big 4 Division I schools: Southern Miss walloped Arkansas State 19-3 as Slade Wilks hit two big homers; Mississippi State whipped third-ranked Arkansas (and ex-Lewisburg High star Brady Tygart) 8-5 with Dakota Jordan homering again; Ole Miss crushed No. 2 Texas A&M 10-2 behind the arms of Liam Doyle and Josh Mallitz; and Jackson State knocked off Bethune-Cookman 5-0 as Erick Gonzalez and two relievers combined on a five-hitter. … Belhaven University bowed out of the CCS Tournament in Tennessee with a pair of losses on Saturday. The Blazers, who finished second in the league in the regular season, are 25-17. The NCAA Division III Tournament selections will be made on Monday.

10 May

noteworthy

Belhaven University is sitting pretty in the CCS Tournament. The NCAA Division III Blazers won their opener Thursday and have ace Brett Sanchez primed to go today against LaGrange (Ga.) in a winners bracket game at Maryville, Ky. With Colton Sylvester (7-1) tossing a six-hitter and Eli Britt and Hunter Harrell combining for six RBIs, second-seeded Belhaven whipped Huntingdon (Ala.) 8-1 Thursday. … William Carey University is the No. 2 seed behind Mid-America Christian (Okla.) in the four-team NAIA Opening Round tournament the Crusaders are hosting next week at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Blue Mountain Christian is the fifth seed in the five-team Shreveport Bracket hosted by LSU-Shreveport. The top-seeded Pilots feature several Mississippi juco players, including Hinds Community College alum Vantrel Reed, their top hitter at .393 with eight homers and 58 RBIs. … Jackson State’s Myles White was named the SWAC co-hitter of the week after going 9-for-15 with eight RBIs and four runs in the Tigers’ sweep of Mississippi Valley State last weekend. White, who went 0-for-4 in a 5-0 loss at nationally ranked Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday, is batting .346 with 31 RBIs and 36 runs for the 30-17 Tigers. … MUW’s season ended Tuesday with an upset loss to Westminster (Mo.) in in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament at Fulton, Mo. The Owls finished 22-15. … The New York Yankees have claimed ex-Mississippi State pitcher Colby White on waivers from Tampa Bay. White had a 17.61 ERA in nine appearances at Triple-A Durham; the right-hander, whose career ERA is 2.83, missed all of 2022 and a chunk of 2023 after arm surgery. … MSU product J.P. France, recently demoted to Triple-A by Houston, reportedly has a shoulder injury that may sideline him for a lengthy period. An 11-game winner in 2023, he was 0-3 with a 7.46 this season when the Astros sent him down. … Former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner, sent to the minors after a 2-for-25 start with Minnesota, hit his fifth homer for Triple-A St. Paul on Thursday. The lefty slugger is batting .353 with four homers in May. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Jacob Gonzalez, the first player drafted — 15th overall — out of the state in 2023, went 2-for-4 Thursday to boost his average to .306 for High-Class A Winston-Salem in the Chicago White Sox’s chain. Gonzalez, a shortstop, has three homers, 12 RBIs and five steals.

08 May

fully charged

A well-rested Belhaven University team begins play today in the Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament at Maryville, Tenn. The second-seeded Blazers, who haven’t played an actual game since April 27, meet Huntingdon (Ala.) at the wonderfully named Scotland Yard, home of the top-seeded Maryville Scots. (Game time is 10 a.m. CDT.) Under first-year coach Andrew Gipson, the Blazers are 23-15 and took two of three from Huntingdon on the road last month. BU is led by the bat of Owen Abney, the arms of Brett Sanchez and Colton Sylvester and the legs of, well, a host of players. Former Jackson Prep star Abney is batting .345 with 10 homers and 55 RBIs. Sanchez is a preseason NCAA Division III All-America pick and a finalist for the state’s Ferriss Trophy. The fifth-year right-hander, who has 33 wins in his BU career, is 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 2024. Sylvester, who moved into the rotation late in the season, is 6-1 with a 2.43. The Blazers have stolen 137 bases — fourth in the country — led by Noah Foster with 26. Five others have nine or more, including Abney with eight bags. The six-team, double-elimination CCS Tournament will conclude on Saturday. P.S. Delta State mashed five homers in a 9-8 win against West Florida on Tuesday but ran out of juice in the second game of the GSC Tournament finals against the Argonauts, falling 9-2 at Oxford, Ala. DSU (32-22) hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA D-II Tournament when the field is announced on Sunday. … Belhaven’s Sanchez is joined as a Ferriss Trophy finalist by Dakota Jordan (Mississippi State), Ethan Lege (Ole Miss), Dalton McIntyre (Southern Miss) and R.J. Stinson (William Carey). The winner will be announced May 20.

01 May

big wednesday

The Mississippi Braves play an 11 a.m. matinee today at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the pro game against Pensacola serving as an appetizer of sorts for tonight’s Ole Miss-Mississippi State clash at the same venue. The televised non-conference game (6:30 p.m./ESPN2) between the Rebels (23-20, 27th in ncca.com’s RPI) and Bulldogs (29-15, 28th in RPI) could have implications for their NCAA Tournament chances. UM took two of three from State in their SEC series last month. … Meanwhile, in Jackson, Tenn., William Carey University and Blue Mountain Christian will begin play today in the SSAC Championship. Carey (30-14) is the No. 2 seed and will open Pool B play against Thomas U. BMC (29-19) is the 8-seed and draws top-seeded Faulkner to start Pool A play. The winners of the two four-team pools will meet for the championship, with both getting bids to the NAIA Tournament. … The Belhaven University-MUW game originally scheduled for tonight in Clinton has been cancelled. The Blazers (23-15) have finished their regular season and will compete in the CCS postseason next week. P.S. The pairings are set for the MACCC’s best-of-3 play-in series, which begin Friday: East Central, ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II, hosts Northeast; No. 12 Northwest hosts Hinds; No. 13 Jones hosts East Mississippi; and Meridian hosts Copiah-Lincoln. The series winners advance to the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament next week in Poplarville, home of regular season champion Pearl River, ranked No. 2 nationally. … Eli Huebner of Meridian was named the MACCC hitter of the week after batting .500 with three homers, including two grand slams in one inning, in four games, while PRCC’s Caleb Dyess earned pitcher of the week honors following his six-hitter in the championship-clinching 7-1 win against Northwest on Saturday.

21 Apr

numbers of note

1,000 — Career wins for Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, who has notched 900 of those W’s with the Rebels. The milestone came in Game 2 of a Saturday doubleheader at Georgia, which the Rebels won 3-2 to salvage a game in the SEC series. Ethan Lege homered and Brayden Jones delivered some clutch relief work for UM (21-8, 6-12).
20 — Wins for Belhaven University in coach Andrew Gipson’s first season. The Blazers split a CCS twinbill at Huntingdon (Ala.) on Saturday, getting win No. 20 in Game 1 behind the pitching of Colton Sylvester, who is 6-1 with a 3.13 ERA in 14 games. Staff ace Brett Sanchez (5-2, 2.86) won the series opener on Friday for BU (20-14, 9-5).
1 — All-time series wins for Blue Mountain Christian against SSAC rival William Carey University. After pounding the 25th-ranked Crusaders 19-5 in Friday’s series opener in Hattiesburg, the Toppers rallied to win Game 1 of a Saturday doubleheader 11-9. Ammon Murphy threw 5 1/3 innings of stellar relief for BMC (27-18, 11-16). Carey (27-14, 17-10) won the series finale 10-7 and leads the all-time series 33-8.
13 — Losses in the last 14 games for Millsaps College, which was swept in three games this weekend at Birmingham-Southern in its last SAA series of the season. Millsaps (14-24, 4-17) has one regular season game left — at home Tuesday vs. LeTourneau — before meeting top-seeded Centre next weekend in the opening round of the SAA playoffs. Centre swept the Majors in a three-game set last weekend at Twenty Field.
32 — Runs allowed by Delta State pitching in a three-game sweep at the hands of conference foe Lee University (Tenn.). The Statesmen are 25-19, 16-11 Gulf South, despite a negative run differential (286 scored, 292 allowed). The team’s staff ERA is 5.83, which actually ranks middle-of-the-pack in the heavy-hitting GSC.

31 Mar

have a week

Belhaven University’s road show this past week was a rousing success. The NCAA Division III Blazers went 3-1, clinching the Maloney Trophy Series with a blowout win against Millsaps and then taking two of three from conference foe Piedmont. Under first-year coach Andrew Gipson, a former Blazers player, Belhaven is 13-10 and 3-2 in Collegiate Conference of the South. The week started on Tuesday with a 19-6 victory at Millsaps’ Twenty Field, a game that featured a stellar hitting performance by Eli Britt and a jaw-dropping 11 stolen bases by the Blazers. Britt, from Petal by way of Meridian Community College, was 4-for-5 with six RBIs and five runs. Tristan Pearson, from Biloxi and Jones College, homered and drove in three for BU. On Thursday, the Blazers dropped the opener at Piedmont 10-5 despite a four-RBI game from Jackson Prep product Owen Abney. But the staff stopper, senior Brett Sanchez, stepped up on Friday with a four-hitter in a 4-1 victory. Sanchez (3-1), a Golden Spikes Award candidate, struck out 14 and walked none in the complete game. Hunter Harrell, a Southwest CC transfer, homered for the Blazers. In Saturday’s rubber game, Harrell rapped two doubles and drove in a pair of runs in a 7-4 win. The bigger star of the day was reliever Kade May (from Florence via Copiah-Lincoln CC), who worked the final seven innings and yielded just two runs. The road show goes on next week: Belhaven visits Millsaps again on Tuesday, then travels next weekend to play a CCS series against Covenant. The Blazers have stolen 92 bases, a big reason they are averaging 5.7 runs a game despite hitting just .263.

18 Mar

heat check

Among the five players with Mississippi ties who made the preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, all but one have gotten off to great starts. Dakota Jordan, Mississippi State’s right fielder, is on a tear of late and is batting .408 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs, leading the Bulldogs into the national rankings this week. The Canton native already has matched his home run total from his freshman season. Former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery, now playing outfield at Texas A&M, is hitting .368 with nine homers and 35 RBIs for the nationally ranked Aggies. Montgomery was a two-time All-Pac-12 selection at Stanford before transferring to the SEC. Jordan and Montgomery will meet when A&M hosts State this week in College Station. Brett Sanchez, the NCAA Division III pitcher of the year at Belhaven University in 2023, is 1-1 with a save and a 2.38 ERA for the Blazers this season. The right-hander has struck out 44 batters in 34 innings and has twice been named the CCS pitcher of the week. Jackson Prep senior Konnor Griffin, regarded by many as the best prep player in the nation, is outclassing his competition, batting .696 with eight doubles, five homers and 49 stolen bases, per MaxPreps. The LSU signee has been walked 26 times in 20 games. He is also 4-0, 0.00 ERA, as a pitcher. Shane Lewis, a former Warren Central High standout now playing at Troy, has scuffled, hitting .188 with four homers to date. The Sun Belt player of the year in 2023, he hit a school-record 27 bombs and drove in 77 runs for the Trojans last year. … Ex-MSU standout Will Clark won the 1985 Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur player in the country each year.

13 Mar

steal this base

There’s a whole lot of thievery going on in Mississippi. Jackson State, which stole six bases in a win over Grambling State on Tuesday, leads NCAA Division I in stolen bases with 59 (in 63 attempts) in its 17 games, of which the Tigers have won 13. Belhaven University has swiped 63 bags (in 16 games), which is second-most in NCAA Division III. Rust College has 86 steals, ranking No. 3 in NAIA, and Blue Mountain Christian has 79 bags, fifth in NAIA. (Not sure what this says about the quality of catching at the NAIA or D-III levels.) At JSU, there is a team-wide emphasis on stealing bags, with three regulars having nine or more and two others bagging four each. Jordan McCladdie leads the Tigers with 13, followed by Rodney Hibler Jr. with 12 and Joseph Eichelberger — the .483 hitter — with nine. Rust is running with even more abandon, having attempted 105 steals in 25 games (7-18 record). Malik Berrien ranks second in NAIA with 24. Hayden Redding has 17 and Bryland Skinner (used most often as a pinch runner) 14 for Blue Mountain, which has bolted to an 18-5 start. Cole Fletcher leads Belhaven with 12. At NAIA William Carey, which has swiped 37 bases, Jerod Williams has 11. … The state’s Big 3 D-I schools haven’t caught the running bug. Southern Miss has just 12 steals, Ole Miss 22 and Mississippi State 23. No individual has more than six bags at any of the three. P.S. Blue Mountain’s Arderrius “Peeko” Townsend has been named the NAIA national player of the week after batting .500 with five homers and 12 RBIs last week. Note: Townsend, more slugger (15 homers in 2024) than sprinter, has swiped eight bases for the Toppers.

22 Feb

here and there

Delta State, pegged for a sixth-place finish in the Gulf South Conference this season, opens league play this weekend with a 6-5 record. The Statesmen will take on Union University for a three-game set (Friday-Saturday). DSU was the preseason favorite in the league poll in 2023 and finished eighth before reaching the championship round in the league tournament. Go figure. DSU is batting .323 as a team with a staff ERA of 6.00. The Statesmen are led by Brett Burrell, batting .444 with 11 RBIs, and Brendan McCauley, .391 with a homer and seven RBIs. … Mississippi College (8-3, 2-1 GSC) plays on the road for the first time this weekend, visiting league foe Auburn-Montgomery. … Blue Mountain Christian (11-3) has 19 home runs, seven by Arderrius Townsend, a former Northwest Mississippi Community College star. … Belhaven University is 3-3 heading into its first home games, a three-game set this weekend against St. Thomas at Trustmark Park in Pearl. … Mississippi Valley State will play its first games under new coach C.J. Bilbrey when the Delta Devils meet Jackson State (4-1) in a non-conference series, games at Braddy Field on Friday and Sunday and one in Itta Bena on Saturday. Joseph Eichelberger is batting a crazy .714 for JSU. … Southern Miss’ Nick Monistere was 0-for-10 heading into Wednesday’s game at New Orleans, then put up a 3-for-4 with a homer, five RBIs, four runs and two walks in the 4-1 Golden Eagles’ 15-10 victory. … Mississippi State is 13th and Ole Miss 14th in the Nashville Tennessean‘s latest SEC power rankings — and that was before both lost midweek games. MSU is 2-2, UM 2-3. The Rebels are batting .181 and have a 5.23 ERA. P.S. Pencil former East Central CC standout Tim Anderson in as Miami’s starting shortstop. The former All-Star and batting champ reportedly has signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Marlins on the heels of a disappointing 2023 season (.245, one homer) with the Chicago White Sox. Jon Berti was in line for the Miami shortstop job.