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.
The “preseason” is over for William Carey University and Blue Mountain Christian, NAIA schools who are already heading into Southern States Athletic Conference play. Carey, ranked No. 4 in NAIA, takes a 5-2 record into a three-game series starting today at Point University in Georgia. The Crusaders are hitting just .227 as a team, though R.J. Stinson has come out hot, batting .409 with a homer, seven RBIs and five runs. BMC is 7-1 but will face tougher opposition in a three-game set beginning Friday at Brewton-Parker in Georgia. Brewton-Parker is 7-6 overall but 5-0 at home in Mt. Vernon. For the Toppers, Arderrius Townsend is raking at .577 with three homers and 14 RBIs. Townsend, from Pontotoc, is a Northwest Mississippi Community College alum who was on Jackson State’s roster in 2023. … East Central CC, defending state and region champ, is off to an 8-0 start. Led by slugger Mo Little — who hit a dramatic ninth-inning grand slam in an extra-inning win on Tuesday — the 10th-ranked Warriors have scored 92 runs. They play Southeastern (Iowa) and Kirkland (Mo.) on Saturday in Decatur. … Hinds CC is 7-2 with six straight victories heading into a pair of games today at Meridian; the Eagles will play Northwest Florida State and 13th-ranked MCC (4-4). Lincoln Sheffield, a sophomore out of Hartfield Academy, is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 12 innings for Hinds. … Belhaven University goes into a weekend series at Hardin-Simmons in Texas looking for new coach Andrew Gipson’s first win. The NCAA Division III Blazers went 0-3 in a round-robin event in Conway, Ark., last week.
A long wait is over for Spencer Turnbull. The ex-Madison Central High standout, cut loose (non-tendered) by Detroit in November, reportedly has signed with Philadelphia, a one-year, $2 million contract with incentives. Right-hander Turnbull became, on May 18, 2021, the first Mississippian (native or school alum) to throw a no-hitter in the big leagues. He was 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA when he went down with an arm injury in June of that season. Since then, he has rarely been healthy. He missed the rest of the ’21 season and all of ’22 after Tommy John surgery and posted a 7.26 ERA for the Tigers in seven games in an injury-plagued 2023 season. Now 31, Turnbull is 12-29, 4.55, in 61 career appearances. He is expected to get a crack at the Phillies’ rotation in camp — which opens in Florida on Wednesday — but more likely will start the year in Triple-A. P.S. Five players with Mississippi ties are on USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award preseason Watch List: Konnor Griffin of Jackson Prep; Dakota Jordan of Mississippi State; Shane Lewis, a Warren Central alum now at Troy; Braden Montgomery, a Madison Central product now at Texas A&M; and Brett Sanchez of Belhaven University. The award goes to the top amateur player in the country. Former MSU star Will Clark won it in 1985.
Kendall Williams, an Olive Branch native and Los Angeles Dodgers minor leaguer, made an appearance on MLB Network’s Hot Stove show today and spoke some words of wisdom about his chances of someday cracking the loaded Dodgers’ pitching staff. “If I do my job, there’ll be a job for me,” said the 23-year-old right-hander, who also talked about his rise to Triple-A in 2023 and about meeting Shohei Ohtani recently at Dodger Stadium. The 6-foot-6 Williams posted a 4-7 record and 3.73 ERA over four levels in 2023 and made the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game. He’s not on the 40-man roster and didn’t receive a non-roster invite to spring training, but he figures to get a look there at some point. Williams transferred from Olive Branch to IMG Academy in Florida during his sophomore year and was drafted in the second round in 2019 by Toronto, which traded him to LA the next fall. … Among the Mississippians to receive non-roster invites thus far are ex-Southern Miss standout Hurston Waldrep (Atlanta), Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington (Arizona), ex-Bulldogs standout Jonathan Holder (Texas), Ole Miss product Chad Smith (New York Mets) and UM alum Jacob Waguespack and ex-MSU stars Jake Mangum and Zac Houston (all with Tampa Bay). P.S. Ethan Small, a former first-round draft pick out of MSU, was designated for assignment by Milwaukee after the Brewers acquired two prospects from Baltimore in the Corbin Burnes trade. Left-hander Small likely will wind up with a new team. Also DFA’d on Thursday was Columbus native Michael Rucker by the Chicago Cubs, who signed free agent Hector Neris. Rucker, 2-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 35 MLB games in 2023, grew up in Washington and was drafted out of BYU. … William Carey University, ranked No. 4 in NAIA, lost its opener on Thursday, 5-3 to visiting Missouri Baptist, a 44-win team last year. Andrew Shirah, 10-1 for the Crusaders in 2023, yielded four hits, three walks and four runs in his three innings and took the loss. Preseason All-America pick R.J. Stinson went 1-for-5. … Belhaven University has scheduled an alumni game for Saturday (noon) at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the NCAA Division III Blazers’ home field for 2024. Andrew Gipson has taken the reins as BU coach. … Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley went 0-for-4 in Mexico’s 6-5 loss to Curacao on Thursday in the Caribbean Series in Miami. Mexico plays again tonight vs. Puerto Rico. Former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. did not appear in Venezuela’s 3-1 victory over the Dominican Republic on Thursday. Acuna played for the Venezuelan Winter League champion Tiburones de La Guaira this season and was listed on the preliminary roster for the CS.
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.