11 May

friday snapshots

Ole Miss upended second-ranked Texas A&M 4-3 in Oxford as Jackson Ross delivered a game-tying double in the eighth inning and scored the go-ahead run on an Ethan Groff sac fly. Wes Mendes and Connor Spencer shut the Aggies out on one hit over the last three innings. … Carson Paetow capped a pivotal three-run eighth with a two-run homer and Billy Oldham threw seven strong innings as Southern Miss beat Arkansas State 5-2 on the road. … Brett Sanchez threw a three-hitter and Belhaven batters, led by Owen Abney and Hunter Harrell, pounded out 14 hits in an 11-2 win over LaGrange (Ga.) in the CCS Tournament. The Blazers get top-seeded Maryville (Ky.) today in a winners bracket game. … On the high school front, Jackson Prep whipped visiting MRA 11-1 to advance to the MAIS 6A finals and, down the road on Lakeland Drive, Brandon beat host Northwest Rankin 6-3 in Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 7A South State series. … In the minors, Ian Mejia tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings with nine strikeouts to pace the Double-A Mississippi Braves to an 8-0 win at Rocket City. Mejia is 3-0 with a 2.02 ERA. … In MLB, ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier’s first homer of the year, a two-run shot in the ninth inning, lifted Kansas City to a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Angels. … Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet worked six shutout innings and fanned a career-high 11 with no walks as the Chicago White Sox beat Cleveland 6-3. … MSU product Jordan Westburg drove in the first run of the game with a double and Baltimore went on to beat Arizona 4-2.

09 May

ouch

Having a rough week? Can’t be much worse than what the Ole Miss team is enduring. On Sunday, the Rebels squandered a ninth-inning lead and lost 10-9 at Auburn on a walk-off passed ball. On Wednesday, back in Oxford, they squandered a sixth-inning lead — for the first time all season — and lost 12-9 in 15 innings to Murray State. And now the Rebels get a day to recover before Texas A&M, 41-8 and ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation, comes to Swayze Field for a three-game SEC series. The Rebels (25-23) used 10 pitchers against Murray State — a 31-win team — and they combined to allow 12 hits with eight walks and two HBPs in the 5-hour, 40-minute marathon. To their credit, UM relievers hung up zeroes from innings 10-14, but a grand slam — the Racers’ third bomb — spelled doom in the 15th. Ole Miss’ staff ERA is 6.06, and they have allowed double-digit runs in four of their last eight games. A&M’s hitters, who have 113 homers (fourth in the nation), must be licking their chops. Former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery, a Golden Spikes finalist, has 24 of those 113 and is batting .342 with 76 RBIs. P.S. The Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament at Maryville, Tenn., was pushed back a day because of weather. Second-seeded Belhaven plays Huntingdon (Ala.) today in the tourney opener. … The NAIA Tournament field will be announced today. SSAC champion William Carey is hosting an Opening Round (regional) at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Blue Mountain Christian, SSAC runner-up, has earned an at-large invite.

08 May

turn the beat around

If you’re looking for a defining moment in Southern Miss’ resurgent season, zoom in on April 22, when the Golden Eagles were smacked around 20-7 at Coastal Carolina, their second straight blowout loss there. How would USM respond? By bouncing back for a 15-7 win on April 23 that ignited a win streak that reached 10 games on Sunday. “The biggest turnaround is the attitude and the purpose we have when we go to the plate …,” USM coach Scott Berry told Hattiesburg’s WDAM. “Our guys have been able to cool the storm down a little bit.” Indeed. After beating South Alabama 6-1 on Sunday at Taylor Park, USM is 32-15 and 17-7 in the Sun Belt Conference, tied with Coastal for the league lead. The win streak is the longest in the nation. The national polls will surely take notice again. All nine batters in the USM lineup got at least one hit on Sunday, and three pitchers combined on a five-hitter, with Nikko Mazza working the last five and striking out nine. Dustin Dickerson leads the Eagles’ offense with a .322 average. Slade Wilks has provided big power with 18 homers and 52 RBIs, and Matthew Etzel has swiped 16 bases while batting .300. The pitching hasn’t been as formidable as in 2022; the staff ERA is 4.98. But there are reliable arms. Tanner Hall, a preseason All-America pick, has pitched like the ace he is with a 9-3 record and 2.71 ERA. Justin Storm has eight saves, and Mazza is 5-1 with two saves. Will Armistead has pitched to a 2.33 ERA in 11 appearances. How far will this surge carry the Eagles? Two more conference series await, then the SBC Tournament at Montgomery, Ala., then an NCAA Tournament berth. Stay tuned. P.S. Delta State plays on today in the GSC Tournament, taking on Valdosta State in Oxford, Ala. After an opening loss, the eighth-seeded Statesmen have won two straight in the double-elimination event. … William Carey apparently ran out of pitching in Sunday night’s GCAC Tournament title game, surrendering 17 hits and 12 walks in a 22-10 loss to Mobile in Hattiesburg. Carey (44-9) is expected to receive an NAIA Tournament bid on Thursday. … Belhaven bowed out of the CCS Tournament in LaGrange, Ga., with a pair of losses on Saturday.

03 May

names to know

The postseason, always good for some chills and thrills, rolls on this week for the state’s small colleges. Here are some names to know:
Stinson, either R.J. or A.J., William Carey University: The Stinsons, not related, have led the Crusaders to a 40-7 record, a league title and the host role for the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, which starts today in Hattiesburg. Carey opens tonight against Blue Mountain Christian at Wheeler Field. R.J. Stinson is hitting .421 with 10 homers and 64 RBIs. A.J. Stinson, a Hattiesburg High product, is 5-2 with a 3.83 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings.
Austin Beech, Blue Mountain: The Pascagoula native is batting .323 with 10 homers and 49 RBIs for the Toppers, 25-23 and seeded eighth in the SSAC tourney.
Brett Sanchez, Belhaven: The NCAA Division III All-America right-hander is 5-2 with a 1.91 ERA, one save and four complete games for the Blazers, the 2-seed in the Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament. BU (20-16) opens with Covenant on Thursday at LaGrange, Ga.
Sam Pitre, Millsaps: Pitre is hitting .360 with three homers, 29 RBIs and 39 runs for the Majors (21-21), who meet top-seeded Birmingham-Southern on Thursday in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament at Birmingham.
Kirkland Trahan, Delta State: The Madison Central High alum is batting .320 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs for the Statesmen (24-24), who made the Gulf South Conference Tournament field by winning two one-run games at Mississippi College on Sunday. The eighth-seeded Statesmen (24-24) tackle No. 1 seed West Florida in Friday’s first round at Oxford, Ala.
Trennis Grant, Dillard: The Canton native coached Dillard, in its first year with a team, to the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament title and an NAIA Tournament berth. The Bleu Devils beat Rust College twice on Sunday at Smith-Wills Stadium to claim the GCAC crown.

28 Mar

battle lines drawn

Before the season began, Southern Miss-Ole Miss gleamed as a Top 25 matchup. Both schools, coming off highly successful seasons, appeared in various national preseason polls. Collegiate Baseball Magazine had USM at No. 18 and Ole Miss, the reigning national champ, at 24, plus Mississippi State at 22. Sadly, the Big 3 have fallen out of the CB poll and most of the others, though UM still shows up in a couple. Even if some of the luster is gone from tonight’s USM-UM game (6 p.m.) at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the crowd will be large and the intensity high. USM comes in with a 14-9 record, 3-3 in the Sun Belt Conference. After a hot start to 2023, Ole Miss has slipped to 15-9 and is 0-6 in the SEC. The Rebels beat the Golden Eagles 11-5 in Oxford on March 7. The two schools clashed in a drama-filled Super Regional in Hattiesburg last year. … A few miles from the TeePee tonight, NCAA Division III rivals Belhaven and Millsaps will meet at the Majors’ Twenty Field in a game that will decide the Maloney Trophy Series winner for 2023. Millsaps is 14-11 with five straight wins, Belhaven 13-9 with a 10-game win streak. P.S. Poll news: William Carey University (23-6 with seven straight wins) is No. 20 in the current NAIA coaches poll. Pearl River Community College is No. 3 in the NJCAA Division II poll, with Meridian at 6 and Jones at 9. The Bobcats are in first place in the MACCC standings.

08 Mar

special delivery

Stepping up in a rivalry game is something special. Here’s a tip of the cap to three players who did so in three intra-state clashes on Tuesday night. In Oxford, senior Peyton Chatagnier went 2-for-3 with a homer and three runs to drive Ole Miss to an 11-5 win over Southern Miss in a matchup of nationally ranked rivals. Chatagnier is batting .400 with four homers, 11 RBIs and 14 runs for the 11-2 Rebels, who are ranked as high as No. 4. USM slipped to 8-4. At Lorman, freshman Victor Figueroa went 3-for-4 with five RBIs as Mississippi Valley State whipped Alcorn State 8-4. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Figueroa is hitting .359 with 12 RBIs for the Delta Devils (6-6). Alcorn fell to 1-11. At Pearl’s Trustmark Park, Stewart Bonnecaze was the leader of a pack of four Millsaps pitchers who combined on a three-hitter to propel the Majors to a 4-2 victory against Belhaven that evened the Maloney Trophy Series at 1-1. Bonnecaze, a freshman, worked four hitless innings, allowing just an unearned run and fanning five, to improve to 1-1 with a 4.66 ERA for the 8-7 Majors. Belhaven is 3-9. … Jones College, Itawamba Community College and Mississippi Delta CC will play a round-robin today at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson, an event originally scheduled to be played in Cleveland. Jones-Delta is at noon, Jones-ICC at 2:30 and ICC-Delta at 5. Tickets are $10.

19 May

the final five

The most familiar name on the list of finalists for the 2022 Ferriss Trophy is Tim Elko, who is enjoying a monster fifth year in the Ole Miss program. The other four have put up numbers impressive enough to separate themselves from a huge field of candidates and merit recognition from the coaches and scouts who pick the final five. The Ferriss Trophy, named for legendary coach Boo Ferriss and first awarded in 2004, goes to the most outstanding four-year college player in the state. The winner will be announced in a ceremony on Monday at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. Joining Elko on the list are R.J. Yeager of Mississippi State, Southern Miss’ Tanner Hall, Delta State’s Harrison Haley and Brett Sanchez of Belhaven. Elko is batting .301 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs for the resurgent Rebels, who have seemingly recovered from a midseason slump. Yeager, in his first season at MSU as a grad transfer from Mercer, has been a consistent hitter for an inconsistent club, batting .328 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs. Hall is a sophomore right-hander who emerged as an ace in 2022 on a strong USM pitching staff that carried the team into the top 10 earlier this season; he is 7-2 with a 2.60 ERA. Haley, a former Hinds Community College standout from Madison, is in his first year at Delta State after transferring from Southeastern Louisiana. He is 10-1 with a 3.84 ERA for an NCAA Division II regional team. Sanchez has been at Belhaven for three seasons after starting his career at Dakota State. The right-hander went 8-1 with a 2.01 for the Division III Blazers, who went 28-16, most wins for the program in seven years. In 2009, Belhaven two-way star Craig Westcott won the Ferriss Trophy and remains the only winner from a school other than the “Big 3” D-I programs; BU was NAIA at the time. State’s Tanner Allen was the 2021 winner. Previous winners include current big leaguers Drew Pomeranz, Hunter Renfroe, Chris Stratton and Nick Sandlin.

10 May

next!

Eliminated on Monday from the Gulf South Conference Tournament, Delta State awaits a bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The regional fields will be announced on Sunday. The Statesmen (32-15), regular season champs in the GSC under coach of the year Rodney Batts, lost to Alabama-Huntsville 7-3 on Monday in Oxford, Ala. DSU went 2-2 in the tournament. The Statesmen got a South Regional bid in 2021, Batts’ first full season at the helm, but went 2-and-out at Pensacola, Fla. … Also awaiting its postseason destination is William Carey, champion of the Southern States Athletic Conference. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders will take a 37-15 record into an NAIA regional. … Millsaps’ season ended Monday with a second straight loss to top-seeded Birmingham-Southern in the Southern Athletic Association championship series. Jim Page’s Majors won 10 of their last 14, including a pod title, to finish 24-21. … Belhaven’s season ended Sunday with two losses to UT-Dallas in a pod championship showdown in the American Southwest Conference Tournament. Kyle Palmer’s Blazers went 28-16, most wins for the program in seven years. … Rust College, under first-year coach John Bates, plays Edward Waters on Wednesday in the NAIA bracket of the Black College World Series at Montgomery, Ala. The double-elimination pod winner will meet the NCAA Division II bracket champ in a title game. … In the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament on Monday in Poplarville, MACCC champ Pearl River Community College plays Northwest, East Mississippi takes on Jones and Hinds gets LSU-Eunice. The winner of the double-elimination event gets a trip to the juco World Series.

08 May

championship stuff

For the second straight year, William Carey University wears the crown in the Southern States Athletic Conference. Behind a brilliant pitching performance by Chris Williams, the Crusaders beat Faulkner 7-0 Saturday, completing a 4-0 run through the double-elimination tournament at Columbus, Ga. R.J. Stinson hit a pivotal home run in a 13-6 win against Loyola-New Orleans earlier Saturday and drove in two more runs in the title-clincher. Carey (37-15) earns an automatic bid to the NAIA nationals at a regional site to be determined. Under coach Bobby Halford, in his 37th season, the Crusaders have won 18 conference titles (GCAC or SSAC) and been to eight NAIA tournaments. … Behind the brilliant pitching of Brett Sanchez, Belhaven University beat UT-Dallas 7-1 and moved into the championship round of its pod in the American Southwest Conference Tournament at Richardson, Texas. BU (28-14) plays UT-Dallas again today, needing one win to advance to the ASC title series. Sanchez (8-1) threw a complete-game six-hitter with nine strikeouts. Caleb Whittle homered for the Blazers. … Top-seeded Delta State lost to Lee University 9-3 and dropped into the losers bracket of the Gulf South Conference Tournament at Oxford, Ala. DSU (31-14) plays Montevallo today in an elimination game. … Wesley Lester’s 10th-inning grand slam boosted Northwest Mississippi Community College past Meridian 14-11 and into the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament. East Mississippi also won a Game 3 on Saturday, beating East Central 11-1, and joins Northwest, Hinds, Jones, LSU-Eunice and host Pearl River in the region tourney at Poplarville starting May 16. The region winner moves on to the NJCAA Division II World Series.

06 May

winner, winner …

In a showdown of in-state rivals on foreign soil, William Carey University beat Blue Mountain College 12-8 Thursday in a winners bracket game of the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament. Carey (35-15), the defending tourney champion, now gets a day off in the double-elimination event at Columbus, Ga., while BMC (28-25) faces Loyola-New Orleans for the right to play Carey again on Saturday. BMC upset 2-seed Loyola in the first round. Wiley Cleland drove in three runs and Branson Sharpley and Jordan Szush hit home runs to power Carey on Thursday. … Game 1 winners in the MACCC best-of-3 series were East Mississippi, Hinds, Jones College and Meridian. Jones was the only road team to win, beating Northeast in Booneville. The Game 2’s are set for today. The four series winners advance to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament starting May 16 in Poplarville. … Rust College received one of the four bids to the NAIA bracket of the Black College World Series. The Bearcats (16-13) will play Edward Waters on May 11 in their double-elimination pod. The pod winner will meet the Division II bracket champ in a title game. P.S. Delta State and Belhaven open today in their respective conference tournaments, with the Statesmen meeting Shorter in Oxford, Ala., in the Gulf South and the Blazers taking on Hardin-Simmons in Richardson, Texas, in the American Southwest.