07 Oct

on campus

Mississippi State — make that defending national champion Mississippi State — starts its Fall World Series today at Dudy Noble Field. Game 2 of the annual intrasquad showdown is Friday and Game 3 Monday. The Bulldogs, who beat Samford last Saturday in the first of their two fall games, return Kamren James, Logan Tanner and Landon Sims from the championship club and national coach of the year Chris Lemonis added what Baseball America rates as the 10th-best recruiting class in the nation. State plays Alabama in Starkville on Oct. 15. … Southern Miss begins fall practice on Friday with the first of three intrasquad scrimmages set for the weekend at Taylor Park. Coach Scott Berry, who has 435 wins and is 34 shy of the school record, got a contract extension in the off-season after guiding the Golden Eagles to their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance. They lost in the Oxford Regional final. … Ole Miss, which started fall ball on Oct. 1, has games slated for Oct. 16 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock and Oct. 30 vs. Alabama, both at Swayze Field. The Pizza Bowl, the Rebels’ annual intrasquad showdown, is set for Nov. 12. Ole Miss is coming off a Super Regional appearance, a loss in three games at Arizona. … Three of the state’s HBCUs have new coaches this fall, including Reggie Williams, a former major leaguer, at Alcorn State and Stanley Stubbs, previously Rust College’s coach, at Mississippi Valley State. John Bates was promoted from Stubbs’ staff to replace him at Rust. … The NCAA Division I start date for 2022 is Feb. 18. Ole Miss will host Charleston Southern that day. State, USM and the SWAC schools have not released their full schedules.

01 Jul

affirmation

Baseball means a lot in Mississippi. If you live here, you know that already. After what transpired in Omaha this week, it should be apparent to any- and everyone who follows the game. Mississippi State’s national championship is a source of pride for the state, regardless of whether you’re a Bulldogs fan. Having made 12 trips to the College World Series, four in the last nine years, State is firmly established as one of the nation’s best programs. The first national title is merely an affirmation that outsiders will notice. Hats off to Chris Lemonis and crew for getting it done. Ron Polk transformed the MSU program into a beast, and other state schools have followed that wave. Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Jackson State, Delta State and William Carey have been consistent winners led by a succession of great coaches — Bianco, Denson, Berry, Braddy, Johnson, Ferriss, Kinnison, Halford, to name a few. DSU (2004) and Carey (1969) have won national titles. Millsaps, Belhaven, Mississippi College and even the fledgling programs at Blue Mountain and MUW have had shining moments in recent seasons. The state’s junior college league ranks with the best in the nation and produced a national champ (Jones College) in 2013. Kids in Mississippi high schools yearn to play on the state’s grand stages, Dudy Noble Field, Taylor Park, Ferriss Field, Dub Herring Park, et al. Youth league opportunities and training facilities seemingly abound, including the new Hank Aaron Sports Academy at Smith-Wills Stadium. Mississippi produces, per capita, more major league players than practically every other state. A Baseball America survey in 2018 put Mississippi fourth behind only Florida, California and Georgia in the relative number of pros produced from 2011-17. This season, 29 Mississippians (natives, prep or college alums) have appeared on a major league roster. Eleven of those are MSU products. The Bulldogs’ national title should compel folks outside the state to notice. Yes, baseball means a lot here.

17 Jun

awards season

The awards keep rolling in for Mississippi college products in what has been another banner year in the Magnolia State. Mississippi State’s Tanner Allen and Landon Sims and Ole Miss’ Doug Nikhazy have been named to Baseball America’s first-team All-America squad. Those three are also semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which will be announced in July. Ole Miss’ Taylor Broadway was a second-team All-America pick by BA. A boatload of other honors already have come down. To wit: Allen, the SEC’s player of the year (and Ferriss Trophy winner), and Nikhazy were also first-team A-A picks by Collegiate Baseball Magazine. Southern Miss’ Reed Trimble was a first-team Freshman All-America choice by the NCBWA, and Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez was a second-teamer. Those two along with Jackson State’s Chenar Brown made Collegiate Baseball’s freshman honor roll. Delta State’s Jake Barlow was named a D2CCA first-team All-America, in addition to several other national accolades. Mississippi College’s Caleb Reese was a D2CCA All-South Region first-teamer; William Carey’s Sloan Dieter was a second-team NAIA All-America pick; and Belhaven’s Brett Sanchez made first-team All-West Region in NCAA Division III. Pearl River Community College’s Landon Gartman and Tate Parker made the NJCAA Division II first-team All-America list. They were the MACCC’s pitcher and player of the year. Walker Powell of USM was the C-USA pitcher of the year, and JSU swept the SWAC’s honors: Ty Hill was player of the year, hitter of the year and newcomer of the year, Anthony Becerra was pitcher of the year, Steven Davila relief pitcher of the year and Brown the freshman of the year.

14 Jun

hard knocks

Ole Miss is a good hitting team. The Rebels ran into a better one in Arizona. In a Game 3 that kinda figured to be a slugfest, the host Wildcats slugged best, ending the Rebels’ season with a 16-3 blowout in the Tucson Super Regional. A seven-run fourth inning effectively crushed the Rebels. “I think this is the best offense in Pac-12 history,” Arizona coach Jay Johnson told tucson.com. “I’m not a historian, so I can’t validate that. But if there’s one that’s equal, I’d like to see what that looked like.” Arizona leads the nation in hits and runs. The Wildcats put up 28 runs in the three games at Hi Corbett Field. Even in their Game 2 loss, they put 10 runners on base and scored twice against Rebels ace Doug Nikhazy in 5 1/3 innings. In Sunday’s clincher, the Wildcats piled up 20 hits and scored at least once against each of the five pitchers UM trotted out. The Rebels, who rank first in the SEC in hits and second in runs, managed just five and three on Sunday. Even if this Arizona team is “the best offense in Pac-12 history,” that’s no consolation to Rebel Nation, which has seen coach Mike Bianco win more than 800 games in his 21 seasons but manage just one trip to the College World Series.

12 Jun

around the horn

The matchup of the National League’s third-leading hitter against the pitcher with the loop’s third-best ERA — who just happened to be teammates eight years ago at Mississippi State — went to the latter on Friday night in Milwaukee. So did the game. Brandon Woodruff retired Adam Frazier in three at-bats while working seven strong innings in the Brewers’ 7-4 win over Pittsburgh. Woodruff is 5-2 with a 1.53 ERA for the Brewers, tied for first in the NL Central with Chicago. Frazier’s average dipped to .328 after an 0-for-4 for the last-place Pirates. … Cleveland’s decision to give Bobby Bradley another big league opportunity is looking like a shrewd move. The former Harrison Central High standout, looking fitter than ever, hit his second homer in the Indians’ 7-0 win against Seattle and is batting .462 with six RBIs in four games. … Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet threw two scoreless innings, fanning three, to notch his sixth hold in the Chicago White Sox’s 5-4 win against Detroit. Crochet’s ERA is 0.44, and the flame-throwing lefty has 25 K’s in 20 1/3 innings. … Down in Double-A, the Mississippi Braves lost their manager — Wyatt Toregas resigned unexpectedly (no reason given in the press release) — and then lost in 10 innings at Biloxi. The M-Braves had won four straight. … Also in the Double-A South, former Southern Miss star Chuckie Robinson homered in Chattanooga’s 1-0 win vs. Pensacola. Robinson, batting .269 with two bombs, was behind the plate for Cincinnati mega-prospect Hunter Greene’s fifth win. … MSU product Brent Rooker homered for the second straight game for Triple-A St. Paul and now has nine homers on the season. He is batting .237 with 16 RBIs as he works toward a recall to Minnesota. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Parker Caracci picked up his fourth save and trimmed his ERA to 1.50 over 13 games for High-A Vancouver in Colorado’s system. … On the college front, Ole Miss fell into a hole at Arizona, yielding four home runs and failing to score after the first inning in a 9-3 loss in Game 1 of the Tucson Super Regional. Mississippi State hosts Notre Dame today in Game 1 of that best-of-3 super regional.

11 Jun

summer session

The Cotton States League is back for 2021 with a whole new look. The wood-bat college summer league has added a Coastal division to go with its traditional New Albany-based North division. (There is also a high school league and a junior high league.) The Coastal teams, which began play last weekend, are the Biloxi Bacon, Gulfport Gamblers, Ocean Springs Ospreys, Bay St. Louis Seagulls, D’Iberville Dolphins and Pascagoula Pelicans. Games are being played at MGM Park, Biloxi High School and the AJ Holloway Sports Complex. The North, also just under way, includes the North Delta Dealers, Tupelo Thunder, Golden Triangle Jets, Woodall Mountain Lookouts, Tallahatchie Rascals, Tippah Tribe, BlackPrairie Mudcats and HillCountry Generals. North teams play at two fields at BNA Bank Park. … The Acadiana Cane Cutters of the Texas Collegiate League are stacked with Mississippi connections. Southern Miss’ Matthew Adams, Tanner Hall, Michael Latulas and Will Tynes, Ole Miss’ Ben Van Cleve, Belhaven’s Reed Vincent and Northwest Mississippi Community College’s Peyton Puckett are on the roster. The TCL season began this week. Tynes and Vincent pitched Thursday night. … The Cape Cod League, cancelled in 2020, opens its season on June 20, with a handful of Mississippi college players listed on the preliminary rosters. Bourne shows Mississippi State’s Will Bednar, Xavier Lovett and Cade Smith and Southern Miss’ Slade Wilks. Ole Miss’ Peyton Chatagnier and Derek Diamond are with Orleans. Falmouth has five state products: Bulldogs K.C. Hunt, Davis Rokose, Landon Sims and Mikey Tepper along with Bryson Ware, a Pearl River Community College alum now at Auburn. P.S. In the wake of the cancellation of the college season in 2020, several new summer leagues – Southeast Collegiate, Deep South Collegiate, Honor the Game — sprang up around the state, but it’s unclear if any will operate this year.

09 Jun

noteworthy

Just throwing this out there: It’s entirely possible that five Mississippi products could make the MLB All-Star Game rosters. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson, ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier, ex-Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn, DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley and former MSU standout Brandon Woodruff all have credentials worthy of a trip to Colorado next month. Heck, even State alum Hunter Renfroe, if he continues on his recent tear, could garner support in Phase 1 of the fan voting for position players currently under way. Phase 2, the final round of fan voting, begins on June 28. (Pitchers are chosen by player ballot and the Commissioner’s Office.) … There is some good news on the injury front regarding Mississippians in the majors. Former State standout Kendall Graveman began a rehab assignment Tuesday night, throwing an inning for Triple-A Tacoma in Seattle’s system. Graveman went on the IL on May 23, reportedly for COVID-19 related issues. He was in the midst of an excellent season with the Mariners, having not allowed a run in 14 relief appearances. The list of injured Mississippi products remains lengthy: Billy Hamilton went on the IL (oblique) on Sunday, joining Spencer Turnbull (forearm), Cody Reed (thumb), Justin Steele (hamstring), Drew Pomeranz (shoulder) and Jonathan Holder (shoulder) as current ILers. Holder has been on the Chicago Cubs’ IL all season, as has Dakota Hudson (2020 Tommy John surgery) with St. Louis. Mitch Moreland, Lance Lynn, Mike Mayers, Tim Anderson and Garrett Crochet all have spent time on the list. It has been that kind of year. … Ex-Richton High star JaCoby Jones lost his spot on Detroit’s 40-man roster when he was designated for assignment on Sunday. He was hitting .205 at Triple-A Toledo, which is where he’ll likely return if he clears waivers. … The search is ongoing for new coaches at Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State, both of which recently fired their coaches. Bretton Richardson went 67-166 in six years at Alcorn, including a 7-20 run this season. Aaron Stevens coached at Valley for seven years; the Delta Devils finished 0-20 in 2021. Obviously, winning consistently is a challenge at both schools, but it has been done. … Team Jennings, coached by former Itawamba Community College star Desmond Jennings, won the inaugural HBCU All-Star Game, played Tuesday night at the Hoover Met in Alabama. Former major leaguer Jennings had four state-connected players on his roster: Chenar Brown from Jackson State, Jose Fernandez and Tristan Garcia from Alcorn and Sieas Elliot from Rust College. Team Weeks, coached by former Southern University and MLB star Rickie Weeks, included JSU’s Nik Galatas, Chandler Dillard and Jeremiah Hill along with Tougaloo’s D’Anthony Morrow. The game was organized and hosted by Minority Baseball Prospects.

08 Jun

name-dropping

These names you know: Tim Elko, Doug Nikhazy and Taylor Broadway – heroes for Ole Miss in their regional title game victory over Southern Miss – and Kamren James, Logan Tanner and Landon Sims – stars for Mississippi State in their regional clincher against Campbell. Here’s a couple of names you need to know looking ahead to this weekend’s super regionals: Niko Kavadas and Garrett Irvin. Kavadas was the South Bend Regional MVP for Notre Dame, which comes to Dudy Noble Field for its first super regional appearance in 19 years. Kavadas, 6 feet 1, 235 pounds, went 6-for-11 with six walks and belted five home runs for Fighting Irish (33-11) in their regional sweep. Kavadas, a lefty hitter, is batting .309 with 21 homers and 62 RBIs on the year. Irvin was the Tucson Regional MVP for Arizona, which will host Ole Miss in the super regional at Hi Corbett Field. Irvin threw a three-hit shutout (no walks, 10 strikeouts) against UC Santa Barbara in the regional, registering his sixth win in his last seven decisions. The left-hander, who also beat NCAA tourney participants Stanford and Oregon down the stretch, has a 3.51 ERA on the season for the 43-15 Wildcats, the No. 5 national seed. … Only two Magnolia State schools are still standing in what has been another banner year for baseball in the state. USM gave Ole Miss all it could handle in the Oxford Regional final and finishes 40-21. Jackson State went undefeated in the SWAC regular season and suffered a gut-wrenching defeat in the tournament title game. Delta State made it to the finals of the GSC Tournament and advanced to the Division II South Region tourney before bowing out. William Carey won the SSAC Tournament title and went to an NAIA regional, ending its season at 36-12. East Central Community College made the final game of the NJCAA Division II Region 23 tourney, handing eventual national champ LSU-Eunice one of just seven losses it suffered all year.

27 May

just stuff

Oak Grove visits Northwest Rankin tonight to decide the MHSAA Class 6A South State title and berth in next week’s finals against Madison Central. All of the other state championship pairings are set for the big event that starts Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. In 5A, it’s Saltillo-Pascagoula, 4A West Lauderdale-Sumrall, 3A Booneville-Magee, 2A East Union-Taylorsville and 1A Tupelo Christian-Resurrection Catholic (Pascagoula). Madison Central is top-ranked in the state by MaxPreps and is No. 6 in the country. NWR is fifth in the state, Oak Grove 12th. Sumrall is No. 4, and Booneville is eight. … Southern Miss beat Western Kentucky in its C-USA Tournament opener, finishing off the 11-1 win at 2:59 a.m. today in Ruston, La. The Golden Eagles play again tonight, throwing C-USA pitcher of the year Walker Powell at Lousiana Tech. Ole Miss and Mississippi State both lost in SEC tourney play on Wednesday and face elimination games today in Hoover, Ala. Delta State starts play in the NCAA Division II South Region today vs. Tampa at Pensacola, Fla. … Braden Shewmake, the Mississippi Braves shortstop and Atlanta’s No. 4 prospect, is in the throes of a woeful slump. After an 0-for-4 on Wednesday against Montgomery at the TeePee, Shewmake is batting .086. He has five hits, one homer. He hit .300 over two levels in 2019. … Jacob Robson, the former Mississippi State standout, is hitting the pause button on his torrid start in the minors this season. But for good reason. Robson, a native of London, Ont., is off to play for Team Canada in the Olympics qualifying event in Florida next week. Robson, 26, a lefty-hitting outfielder, is batting .424 with two homers and 10 RBIs for Double-A Erie in Detroit’s system. He played in Triple-A in 2019, hitting .267, and has a .295 career average. He was an eighth-round pick out of Starkville in 2016. He’s not on the Tigers’ top 30 prospect list but has been in their big league spring camp the last couple of years. … Magnolia State products Hunter Renfroe and Austin Riley played a little tit-for-tat in Wednesday’s MLB game between Boston and Atlanta. Renfroe, from Crystal Springs, hit a 377-foot homer for the Red Sox in the second inning. Riley, from Southaven, retaliated with a 390-foot shot, also over Fenway Park’s Green Monster, three innings later. Boston ultimately won the game. … MLB placed Los Angeles Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway, a former Ole Miss pitcher, on the ineligible list through 2022, the culmination of investigation into numerous sexual harassment allegations. The Angels promptly fired Callaway, who hadn’t been with the team at all this season. … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, now with San Diego, reportedly has suffered a setback in his recovery from a left shoulder impingement and could be out an extended time. He has been on the IL since May 13.

21 May

nothing like it

Jackson State’s mettle was tested on Thursday. The Tigers passed. JSU blew a 13-1 lead against Grambling State in the second round of the SWAC Tournament at Madison, Ala., but won 14-13 on a walk-off hit by Jatavious Melton in the bottom of the ninth inning. Ah, there’s nothing like tournament baseball. Melton’s third hit and third RBI of the game scored Omar Gomez and kept the Tigers in the winners’ bracket of a tourney they must win to get an NCAA regional bid. JSU, which went 24-0 in the SWAC this season, is 33-8 overall heading into play today. Alcorn State stayed alive with a 3-2 win over Alabama State in an elimination game. … Elsewhere: Delta State fell to West Florida 11-4 in the deciding game of the Gulf South Conference championship series at Pensacola. All-tournament selection Jake Barlow went 4-for-4 but DSU could not overcome UWF’s seven-run first inning. The Statesmen (28-18) await a possible at-large bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. … SSAC champion William Carey bowed out of NAIA regional play with a 7-2 loss to Central Methodist in the title round of the O’Fallon (Mo.) Opening Round. Carey finished 36-12. … MACCC champion Pearl River Community College’s season ended with a 5-2 loss to second-ranked LSU-Eunice in the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament at Poplarville. The third-ranked Wildcats finish 36-9. East Central, behind the pitching of Jeremy Martin, KO’d Hinds and will meet LSU-E for the berth in the juco D-II World Series. No. 15 ECCC (29-18) must beat LSU-E twice to advance. … MUW finished third in the USCAA World Series in Pennsylvania. Damain Benefield and Trey Petite were named first-team All-Americans for the Owls, who closed at 21-13 in their fourth year of competition.