16 May

developing situations

Suddenly, Ole Miss looks like a juggernaut. Again. Buried at the bottom of the SEC standings a couple weeks ago, the Rebels have won seven in a row, including their first (as in ever) sweep at nationally ranked LSU over the weekend. Three home runs and clutch pitching by closer Brandon Johnson carried UM (31-19, 13-14 SEC) to an 8-5 win Sunday. Ole Miss was a consensus top 10 team at the season’s outset.
It was bombs away in Hattiesburg as Southern Miss, in dire need of a big win, blasted six homers — three by Christopher Sargent — and got clutch pitching from closer Landon Harper in a 9-5 victory against Texas-San Antonio that clinched the weekend series. The Golden Eagles (38-14, ranked No. 18 by Baseball America) are 2 games up in first place in C-USA with a 20-7 record. An NCAA regional host role may still be in play.
The stunning freefall by Mississippi State continues, as the Bulldogs’ losing streak stretched to nine after a sweep at the hands of nationally ranked Texas A&M. MSU pitching yielded 8, 9 and 8 runs in the three losses. The defending national champion Bulldogs, at 9-18 in the SEC, are in real danger of missing the conference tournament.
Jackson State, seeking to right a listing ship, swept Florida A&M at Braddy Field over the weekend, winning the finale 13-2 as Jaelen Williams went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. The Tigers climbed back over .500 at 26-25 and are 13-14 in the SWAC with a road series at fading Mississippi Valley State (on a 12-game losing streak) remaining before the league tournament.
William Carey’s “reward” for winning the SSAC Tournament is a trip to Lawrenceville, Ga., to meet defending national champion Georgia Gwinnett today in an NAIA Opening Round game. Gwinnett is 42-14, Carey 37-15. Hope International (Calif.) is the top seed in this four-team regional. The winner of the double-elimination tourney goes to the NAIA World Series, which WCU won way back in 1969.
Delta State is off to Saint Leo, Fla., for an NCAA Division II South Regional matchup on Thursday against Rollins College. DSU, making its 35th regional appearance, is 32-15. The winner of this four-team bracket moves into a Super Regional series to play for a berth in the World Series. The Statesmen won the D-II national title in 2004.
The NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament starts today in Poplarville with MACCC champ Pearl River Community College playing Northwest, East Mississippi taking on Jones and Hinds tangling with LSU-Eunice. PRCC (36-10) is ranked No. 1 in the nation. LSU-E, the defending national champion, is No. 4. The winner of the double-elimination event gets a trip to the juco World Series.

12 May

here and there

Beyond the score — Ole Miss 4, Southern Miss 1 — three numbers jump out of the box from Wednesday night’s game in Hattiesburg: 1 — hits allowed by the Rebels’ bullpen over the last four innings of the game, backing up a strong start by Drew McDaniel; 15 — strikeouts by Golden Eagles batters, most in a game this season; 6,346 — the attendance, a record, at Taylor Park. (Can any other state match Mississippi’s passion for college baseball?) … Congratulations to Millsaps’ Jim Page, named coach of the year in the Southern Athletic Association. The Majors, 10-24 in 2021, went 24-21 and reached the league championship series. Page also won his 800th game in purple-and-white this season. … Christian Yelich hit for the cycle for Milwaukee on Wednesday, his third cycle since 2018. The last Mississippian to accomplish this neat feat was Fred Lewis, a Stone County High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product who did it on May 13 — Mother’s Day — in 2007 for San Francisco. … Orlando Arcia’s first career walk-off home run boosted Atlanta past Boston on Wednesday night. Biloxi Shuckers fans will remember Arcia as one of the stars of the inaugural team back in 2015. He was Milwaukee’s No. 1 prospect at the time and was one of the first Shuckers alums to make the majors. … Left-hander Joey Wentz became the latest former Mississippi Braves standout to make the big leagues; he started and took a loss for Detroit. Wentz joins Bryce Elder and William Woods as M-Braves alums to debut in 2022; the list is approaching 160 all told. … Former Mississippi State standout — and Shuckers alum — Ethan Small, the International League’s pitcher of the month for April when he had an 0.77 ERA in four starts, makes his second May start tonight for Triple-A Nashville. The left-hander, Milwaukee’s No. 7 prospect, took a loss in his first May outing and is 2-1, 1.98 with 37 K’s in 27 1/3 innings. His MLB debut can’t be far off. … Harrison Central High alum Bobby Bradley, reassigned to the minors by Cleveland earlier this month, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his first game with Triple-A Columbus. … Blaze Jordan, the ex-DeSoto Central star, is heating up at Low-Class A Salem in Boston’s system. A nine-game hit streak (13-for-34) has lifted the young slugger’s average to .235; he hit his second homer of the year Wednesday night.

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.

07 May

slam dances

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.

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.

04 May

may madness

Tournament baseball, with its air of finality, rarely fails to produce great drama. We’ve already seen it: Millsaps College, pushed into a winner-take-all game after a crushing 25-10 loss to Rhodes last Saturday, responded hours later with a 7-2 win to advance to the Southern Athletic Association championship series. Ryan Erwin and Wil Wood, both on very short rest, stepped up on a combo nine-hitter and Avery Brock hit a big home run for the 6-seeded Majors (24-19). They’ll meet top-seeded Birmingham-Southern (36-8) in a best-of-3 in Birmingham this coming weekend (Sunday-Monday) for an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament. Expect more drama this week. On tap today: William Carey, defending champion of the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, plays Mobile and Blue Mountain meets Loyola-New Orleans in the first round of the event at Columbus, Ga. The winner of the double-elimination tourney gets an automatic bid to the NAIA nationals. Third-seeded Carey (33-14) placed three players on the all-conference first team: outfielders R.J. Stinson and Chris Williams and pitcher A.J. Stinson, 9-0 this season. Alex Frilliman and Dylan Hale made the team for BMC (28-23), seeded seventh. On Thursday: The MACCC best-of-3 series begin. East Central Community College is at East Mississippi, Mississippi Gulf Coast is at Hinds, Jones College is at Northeast and Northwest is at Meridian. Regular season champion Pearl River, ranked No. 2 in the nation, clinched a berth in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament, which starts May 16 in Poplarville. The four playoff winners will advance to the six-team bracket, which will also include LSU-Eunice. On Friday: Delta State begins play in the Gulf South Conference Tournament as the No. 1 seed, meeting 8-seed Shorter in the first round at Oxford, Ala. The Statesmen (30-13) won their 22nd GSC regular season title last weekend and will be seeking a 16th tournament crown. The winner of the eight-team double-elimination tourney gets an automatic bid the NCAA D-II Tournament. Belhaven (26-14) plays Hardin-Simmons at Richardson, Texas, in the first round of double-elimination pod play in the D-III American Southwest Conference Tournament.

30 Apr

what’s in a game

For the second straight year — and fifth time overall — Pearl River Community College owns the state championship. The Wildcats, ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division II, clinched the MACCC crown with a 12-3 whipping of Northeast on Friday in Poplarville. The pitching of Dakota Lee and two homers from Alex Perry were key for PRCC, which will host the Region 23 Tournament at Dub Herring Park starting May 16. PRCC finishes the regular season 34-10, 22-6 MACCC. Northeast, which won the second game Friday, heads into a best-of-3 series next week with a berth in the region tourney at stake. The Nos. 2-9 seeds in the league face off in the four best-of-3 series. … Millsaps College won for the second straight day in the Southern Athletic Association Tournament and plays Rhodes today for the championship of its pod. The Majors, 23-18 with six straight wins, need to win once to advance to the SAA title series. Sam Pitre was 5-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs in the Majors’ 16-10 win against Centre on Friday. … William Carey pounded out 32 runs in a twinbill sweep of overmatched Talladega and heads to next week’s Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament as the 3-seed with a 33-15 overall record. Jake Lycette drove in seven runs in the two games for the Crusaders. Also headed to the SSAC tourney in Columbus, Ga., is 7-seed Blue Mountain (27-24), which lost its regular season finale Friday at Mobile. … Belhaven split a doubleheader at UT-Dallas on Friday, winning Game 2 8-0 behind the pitching of ace Brett Sanchez, and clinched the No. 3 seed in next week’s American Southwest Conference Tournament. The Blazers are 25-14, 18-11, heading into today’s season finale. … Most NCAA Division I Tournament projections don’t include Mississippi State or Ole Miss, but both helped their cause with wins on Friday. State (25-18) beat Missouri and Ole Miss (24-17) took down highly ranked Arkansas. Southern Miss, a favorite to host a regional at this stage, saw its 15-game win streak end at UAB. The Golden Eagles, a consensus top 10 team, are 33-9. Jackson State, coming off a disheartening 21-3 loss to Alabama State at home last Sunday, beat Alabama A&M 3-2 on Friday on a walk-off balk at Braddy Field. It was win No. 501 for coach Omar Johnson, whose erratic Tigers are 20-21, 8-11 SWAC. … Mississippi College (13-33, 7-21 Gulf South) stumbled to its eighth straight loss, 12-1 vs. Union. The Choctaws are going to miss the GSC Tournament; Delta State (27-13, 17-7), which didn’t play Friday, is vying for the No. 1 seed.

25 Apr

three things, college edition

The unquestioned top story in Mississippi college baseball in 2022 has been the steady rise of Southern Miss, ranked No. 6 in the country in the new Baseball America poll. Also high on the list: the struggles of Mississippi State and Ole Miss; and the resurgence of NCAA Division III schools Belhaven University and Millsaps College. To wit: USM swept Rice over the weekend, holding the once-mighty Owls to five runs in three games as starters Tanner Hall, Hunter Riggins and Hurston Waldrep took turns at dominance. The Golden Eagles (32-8, 16-2 C-USA) have won 14 straight games and can set a school record for consecutive W’s by beating Southeastern Louisiana on the road Tuesday. USM’s staff has a 2.80 ERA and 460 strikeouts in 363 innings. That kind of pitching is hard to beat. … Defending national champion MSU and Ole Miss, briefly ranked No. 1 this season, had fallen to the bottom of the SEC West standings when they met in Oxford over the weekend. Who saw that coming? But the outcome at Swayze Field was fairly predictable: The Bulldogs won their sixth straight series over the Rebels, with coach Chris Lemonis improving to 8-2 vs. UM. Rebels coach Mike Bianco is 38-48 vs. State. They meet again Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl in the Governor’s Cup (nee Mayor’s Trophy) game with a huge crowd expected. Has the rivalry begun to wane, as some wonder? Not hardly. “I grew up hating those guys. This is awesome,” Brad Cumbest, who hit the game-winning homer for State in Saturday’s rubber game, told 247sports.com. … Millsaps swept Sewanee at home over the weekend to improve to 21-18 and 11-10 in the Southern Athletic Association. Jim Page’s Majors are the 6-seed in the conference tournament slated for Georgia later this week and will meet old rival Rhodes in the opening round. Belhaven took two of three from Ozarks (at Frierson Field in Clinton) over the weekend and is 24-13, 17-10 in the American Southwest Conference. Under third-year coach Kyle Palmer, the Blazers are currently third in the league with one series remaining before the tournament, which will be the team’s last in the ASC. BU moves to the Collegiate Conference of the South next season.

23 Apr

better than most

In case you missed it, Laurel native Shemar Page, now pitching for Grambling State, threw a seven-inning perfect game Friday against visiting Alcorn State. It is reported to be just the 34th perfecto in NCAA Division I history going back to 1959. Page struck out 13 of the 21 batters he faced. The Tigers run-ruled the Braves 16-0. It’s been that kind of year for Alcorn, 2-24 after that loss. Right-hander Page has followed a long and winding road to Grambling. He was a two-way player at Raleigh High, an ace pitcher at Pearl River Community College — which won state and region titles while he was there — and primarily a hitter in two seasons at Louisiana Tech. As a grad transfer at Grambling, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Page has posted a 5-4, 2.67 ledger in 10 starts on the mound and is batting .359 in 78 at-bats.