Next year is already under way at Mississippi State, which has begun practice for the 2024 season, aiming to put the disappointments of 2023 in the rearview mirror. The first intrasquad game of fall ball for Chris Lemonis’ Bulldogs was scheduled for today. With a refurbished roster, including a highly rated 2024 recruiting class, following last season’s 27-26 finish, the 2021 national champions will play exhibition games at Louisiana Tech on Oct. 14 and against UAB at Dudy Noble Field on Oct. 21. The Fall World Series is set for Oct. 5-8 and a final scrimmage for Oct. 20. Southern Miss, under new coach Christian Ostrander, begins formal practice on Sept. 15. The Golden Eagles, 46-20 and an NCAA Super Regional participant in 2023, have some key players to replace from last year’s club. USM has not scheduled any outside exhibition games. Ole Miss has begun individual workouts and will play its first intrasquad game on Sept. 21. The 2022 national champs tumbled to 25-29 last season and also lost several standouts but reportedly have a strong class of recruits coming aboard. Mike Bianco’s team will play home exhibitions against Jacksonville State on Oct. 14 and Memphis on Oct. 29. (Memphis’ new coach is former Pearl River Community College star Matt Riser, a longtime coach at Southeastern Louisiana.) The Rebels’ annual Pizza Bowl intrasquad will be played on Oct. 31. P.S. Mississippi Valley State enters the fall with a new coach, CJ Bilbrey, and Jackson State has hired a new pitching coach: Justin Thomas, a former head man at NCAA Division III Bethany College. … Delta State will host an Alumni Weekend Sept. 22-23, with a scrimmage by the 2024 team set for Sept. 22 at Ferriss Field and an alumni game the next day. … D-III Belhaven University also has a new coach, Andrew Gipson, a former Blazers standout.
Putting a cap on a remarkable year, Belhaven University pitcher Brett Sanchez got the win in the Northwoods League championship game on Friday night. Sanchez’s Green Bay Rockers beat St. Cloud 4-3 to win the college summer league title. Sanchez earned league pitcher of the year honors after posting a 6-2 record with a 3.23 ERA in 10 starts. The sidearming right-hander from Louisiana previously was named the NCAA Division III Collegiate Conference of the South’s pitcher of the year and d3baseball.com’s national pitcher of the year for 2023. He went 5-2 with a save and a CCS-best 1.91 ERA and 102 strikeouts. Sanchez has 26 wins over four years at BU and was a Ferriss Trophy finalist in 2022. He apparently has eligibility remaining with the Blazers, who will have a new coach for the 2024 season. Andrew Gipson, who played and coached for the Blazers under Hill Denson, has replaced Kyle Palmer. Gipson previously worked as an assistant at D-I Southeastern Louisiana.
Behind the dominant pitching of Brett Sanchez, Belhaven University beat Covenant 2-1 Thursday in the first round of the Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament at LaGrange, Ga. Sanchez (6-2), an NCAA Division III All-American, allowed four hits with eight strikeouts over nine innings. The Blazers, seeded second, play a winners bracket game today. … Top-seeded William Carey, upset by Blue Mountain Christian on Wednesday, bounced back with a 14-1 rout of Middle Georgia on Thursday to stay alive in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament in Hattiesburg. Jake Lycette homered and drove in four runs for the Crusaders, Kris Jones notched three RBIs and Andrew Shirah (8-1) threw all seven innings and punched out 11. Carey gets a rematch with Blue Mountain in an elimination game today. BMC was thumped 14-2 Thursday in a winners bracket game against Loyola of New Orleans. … Millsaps was run-ruled 11-1 by Birmingham-Southern, the No. 9 team in NCAA D-III, in the Southern Athletic Association Tournament at Birmingham. The Majors play an elimination game today against Centre. … In the MACCC playoffs, the home team won in each of the openers in the best-of-3 series: Meridian Community College beat East 15-1; Pearl River beat Southwest 23-1; Itawamba beat Hinds 8-4; and Northeast beat Jones 14-8. The four series winners go to the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament at Eunice, La. East Central, the MACCC champion, and LSU-Eunice are already in the field. … Delta State opens play today in the Gulf South Conference Tournament against West Florida, the No. 1 seed, in Oxford, Ala.
Rust College made an impressive run to the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular season title. Run is the operative word here. The Bearcats (21-21 overall, 14-4 GCAC) have stolen 200 bases as they charge into the league tournament, slated to begin today at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. Rust has nine players with 10 or more steals, led by Jesse Burton III with 31 and Malik Berrien with 29. The top hitters are Jalin Thomas, raking at .379 with eight homers, and Khalil Robinson, .357 with 11 bombs. The pitching hasn’t been as sharp (7.31 staff ERA), but Xavier Campbell emerged as a weapon out of the bullpen with four wins and a save in 11 appearances. Second-year coach John Bates has quickly built a competitive team with players from all over the South; last year’s club ended a streak of 17 straight losing seasons. The Bearcats are the top seed in the six-team GCAC tourney and are hopeful of an NAIA Tournament bid. The team already has been invited to the Black College World Series in Montgomery, Ala., in mid-May. Tougaloo (9-32, 6-11), coached be ex-Jackson State star Earl Sanders, is also in the GCAC field and opens today against Philander Smith, with the winner meeting Rust on Friday. P.S. The MACCC regular season concludes on Friday. The top four teams in the standings are ranked in the NJCAA Division II Top 20. First-place and 15th-ranked East Central (22-4 in the league) finishes with East Mississippi; No. 5 Meridian (20-6) hosts Mississippi Delta; No. 3 Pearl River (19-7) is at Northwest; and No. 18 Itawamba (19-7) is at Jones College. The postseason begins next week. … Belhaven University has finished its regular season and is awaiting its assignment in the Collegiate Conference of the South postseason. The Blazers went 20-16, 12-5 (second) in the new NCAA Division III conference. Brett Sanchez and Dawson Albin were named the CCS pitcher and player of the week on Monday.
One of the most disappointing MLB teams in 2022, the Chicago White Sox needed to get off to a good start this season. With the aid of Mississippi products Tim Anderson and Kendall Graveman, they did exactly that on Thursday, beating the world champion Houston Astros 3-2. Anderson, former East Central Community College star, went 2-for-4 with a walk and a run — both in a ninth-inning rally — and Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman earned the win after throwing a scoreless eighth inning. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, like Anderson and Graveman a star in the WBC, gets the start for the ChiSox today at Minute Maid Park. Elsewhere on Opening Day, MSU alum Adam Frazier, in his Baltimore debut, went 2-for-4 with three runs and a stolen base as the Orioles beat Boston 10-9. Ex-Bulldogs standout Nathaniel Lowe had a hit, an RBI and a run, all in a nine-run fourth inning that propelled Texas past Philadelphia 11-7. Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, went 0-for-2 with three walks and an RBI in Atlanta’s 7-2 victory against Washington. Meridian CC product Corey Dickerson was 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter in his Nationals debut. Hunter Renfroe was 0-for-4 (with a nice catch in right field) for the Los Angeles Angels and fellow former State standout Brent Rooker 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter for Oakland in the A’s 2-1 surprising win. P.S. The exhibition game between the Double-A Mississippi Braves and Jackson State scheduled for April 5 has been cancelled, reportedly due to concerns about field conditions at Trustmark Park in Pearl. (Tuesday night’s Southern Miss-Ole Miss game was cancelled in the fourth inning because recently installed infield sod was not holding up, and Belhaven University’s weekend series against Covenant College has been moved to Holmes Community College’s field in Goodman.) The M-Braves-JSU game — billed as the Hank Aaron Tribute Game by the Hank Aaron Sports Academy — was originally slated for Smith-Wills Stadium, home of the Double-A Jackson Mets and Generals from 1975-99. It would have been the first such contest between JSU and a Jackson-area pro team since 1991, when the Generals — a Houston affiliate — beat Jackson State 6-3 in an April exhibition at Smith-Wills. The M-Braves, Atlanta’s Double-A club now in its 19th year at Trustmark Park, open their Southern League season April 7 at home against Biloxi. The Shuckers, Milwaukee’s Double-A club, have slated an exhibition vs. Pearl River Community College on April 5 at MGM Park.
Scoring four runs in a wild ninth inning, Belhaven University rallied to beat Millsaps 8-7 Tuesday night at Twenty Field and retained the Maloney Trophy. There was drama of a different sort at Trustmark Park in Pearl, where the Southern Miss-Ole Miss game was cancelled in the fourth inning due to unplayable field conditions. Recently installed sod on the infield at the home of the Double-A Mississippi Braves was not holding up. Both coaches reportedly agreed with the decision to halt the rivalry game but were obviously disappointed not to get it in, as were thousands of fans who packed the park. Meanwhile, over at Twenty Field on the Millsaps campus, before a listed crowd of 190, Belhaven players and fans celebrated their 11th straight win, which moved the Blazers’ record to 14-9. Millsaps is 14-12. BU has won the series between the NCAA Division III rivals four straight seasons. P.S. The next scheduled event at Trustmark Park would appear to be the April 5 exhibition between the M-Braves and Jackson State, a game originally slated for Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium. The M-Braves open their Southern League season with a three-game home set against Biloxi April 7-9. The annual Governor’s Cup game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State at the TeePee is April 25. … JSU plays local rival Tougaloo tonight at Braddy Field.
Belhaven University started play in its new conference with a three-game sweep at Maryville (Tenn.) College last weekend that stretched its win streak to seven. What do the Blazers do for an encore in a home-away-from-home conference series against Piedmont this weekend? The NCAA Division III Blazers (10-9, 3-0 in the Collegiate Conference of the South) host Piedmont (13-6, 0-0 CCS) today-Saturday at Mississippi College’s Frierson Field. BU’s pitching was brilliant against Maryville. Coleman Harris and Logan Goodreau combined on a four-hitter in a 5-2 win; All-America right-hander Brett Sanchez tossed a six-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 2-0 victory; and seven pitchers notched a six-hitter in a 5-3, 10-inning win, with Will Swift working the last two shutout frames. Caleb Whittle had some big hits in the Saturday twinbill and Nathan Herron knocked in the deciding runs in the series finale. But these Blazers don’t hit a lot, just .257 as a team with only three homers. Coach Kyle Palmer does like to run: 44 steals, led by Kyle McLaughlin, who is 12-for-12. After a slow start (1-8) to this season, the Blazers are picking up speed.
Millsaps College is 2-4 and has lost four straight, the last two against teams ranked in the top four nationally in NCAA Division III. Belhaven University is 0-5, including two one-run losses and a pair of two-run defeats. One of the two will have its spirits lifted tonight at Trustmark Park in Pearl, where the D-III rivals will meet in the first Maloney Trophy Series game of the season. Belhaven holds the trophy, having swept the three-game series last year, including a 29-13 rout in the finale. The Blazers, an NAIA program until just a few years ago, lead the all-time series 29-17 and have won the last seven. Another high-scoring affair could be in the offing in tonight’s 6 p.m. contest, despite the TeePee’s reputation as a pitcher’s park. Jim Page’s Majors have a staff ERA of 7.02. (Wil Wood, a first-team all-conference pick in 2022, has an 8.10 ERA in two starts.) Kyle Palmer’s Blazers have posted a 6.21. (Preseason All-America pick Brett Sanchez has a 5.25.) Millsaps brings a .297 team batting average into the game, led by Case Page at .440 and Chris Hart at .360 (with six RBIs). Kyle McLaughlin leads Belhaven with a .500 average and six runs, and Dawson Albin is at .294. The Blazers are hitting just .244 as a unit. Mississippi offers up an abundance of in-state rivalry games at the various levels every season. Millsaps-Belhaven, with a trophy on the line, is one of the best. P.S. Former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery, now at Stanford, had an eventful game on Sunday. He hit a three-run double in the top of the ninth to put the Cardinal ahead, gave up a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth, scored a run as part of the Cardinal’s eight-run 10th and pitched a scoreless bottom half (with two strikeouts) to get the win in a wild 21-13 victory at Cal State Fullerton.
Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College star from McComb, reportedly has found a good home for 2023, reaching agreement with Washington on a 1-year, $2.25 million contract. The rebuilding Nationals, who have a need for lefty-hitting outfielders (among other things), will be Dickerson’s fourth team in three seasons. He spent 2022 with St. Louis, batting .267 with six homers (and a 0.0 WAR) in 96 games on a 1-year, $5M deal. Dickerson, 33, who broke in with Colorado in 2013, is a .281 career hitter with 134 homers, 27 of those during his All-Star season with Tampa Bay in 2017. He joins Mississippi State alum Adam Frazier (Baltimore) and Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (Chicago White Sox, minor league deal) as Mississippi-connected MLB free agents to sign this off-season. A handful of minor league free agents also have inked for 2023. The start of spring training is just a few weeks away. P.S. Jackson Prep junior Konnor Griffin has been named the top high school prospect in the 2024 draft by Baseball America. Griffin, an LSU commit who goes 6 feet 3, 180 pounds, batted .472 with six homers as a shortstop/outfielder and went 6-2 with a 1.64 ERA on the mound in 2022. BA’s new Top 100 list for the ’24 draft includes seven players committed to Mississippi State and four Ole Miss commits. … Belhaven University opens its season Feb. 7 against Rhodes College at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the Blazers’ new home field. BU and fellow NCAA Division III member Millsaps will play two their three Maloney Trophy games at the TeePee on Feb. 21 and March 7. The third game is March 28 at Millsaps’ Twenty Field. Belhaven’s first Collegiate Conference of the South game is March 17 at Maryville (Tenn.). (The CCS is a group of schools that recently broke away from the USA South.)
Nathan Herron put up what might just be the hitting performance of the year among Mississippi college players, belting two grand slams Friday to power Belhaven University to an 11-4 win against Hardin-Simmons in the American Southwest Conference Tournament. Herron, a sophomore third baseman out of South Panola High, hit five homers with 32 RBIs during the regular season. The Blazers (27-14) play UT-Dallas today in the second round of their double-elimination bracket at Richardson, Texas. In other postseason play: Delta State got a grand slam and eight RBIs all told from Blayke Dendy in a 13-0 run-rule win over Shorter in the Gulf South Conference Tournament at Oxford, Ala. Dendy’s eighth homer of the year backed the stellar pitching of Harrison Haley, now 10-1. DSU, the top seed, takes a 31-13 record into today’s game against Lee University. … Blue Mountain’s season ended with an 11-9 loss to Loyola-New Orleans in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament at Columbus, Ga. The Toppers lost despite a seven-run first inning. Loyola moves on to play William Carey today; the Crusaders are 2-0 in the tournament. … A walk-off two-run homer by Justin Williams gave Hinds Community College an 11-10 win over Mississippi Gulf Coast and puts the Eagles in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament at Poplarville next week. The Eagles, under first-year coach Dan Rives, swept the MACCC best-of-3 series. Williams, a freshman out of Madison-Ridgeland Academy, went 4-for-5 in the clincher. Sean Smith had a grand slam and seven RBIs for Gulf Coast. … Jones College, under first-year coach Wes Thigpen, also advanced to the six-team region tourney by run-ruling host Northeast 11-1 to sweep that series. … Northwest is at Meridian and East Mississippi hosts East Central in winner-take-all games today.