27 Mar

taking stock

They are dazed and confused at Mississippi State and Ole Miss, both still winless in the SEC at 0-6. Defending national champion Ole Miss — clearly missing injured ace Hunter Elliott — allowed 28 runs in getting swept at home by Florida over the weekend. The Rebels’ staff ERA is now 5.68. Not to be outdone, State yielded 55 runs to visiting Vanderbilt, jacking the Bulldogs’ ERA to 6.70. All three SWAC schools also were swept in conference series over the weekend. Jackson State is now 1-5 in the league, Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State both 0-6. Alcorn, 1-18 overall after a 2-39 2022 season, seems to have fallen and can’t get up. On the positive side, Southern Miss beat Georgia Southern two out of three at Taylor Park and moved to 3-3 in the Sun Belt. The Golden Eagles play Ole Miss on Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The hottest team in the state is NCAA Division III Belhaven, which has won 10 in a row and stands at 6-0 in the CCS. On Tuesday, the Blazers visit D-III rival Millsaps, coming off a sweep of SAA foe Sewanee and carrying a five-game win streak. In the NAIA ranks, William Carey scored 56 runs in a sweep of SSAC opponent Stillman. The Crusaders — led by Patrick Lee (.426, 11 homers, 47 RBIs) — are 23-6, 7-2 SSAC. Blue Mountain Christian won two of three from Faulkner and moved to 21-11, 6-6 SSAC. In D-II, Delta State and Mississippi College both came up clutch in the rubber game of their GSC series. Brendan McCauley’s two-run hit in the ninth inning propelled DSU (9-6 in the league) past Auburn-Montgomery, while Kolby McWilliams capped a rally by MC (6-9 GSC) at Lee with a seventh-inning RBI knock. NAIA Rust is 4-2 in the GCAC and 8-14 overall, while league rival Tougaloo is 4-21, 1-5. Tougaloo visits Jackson State on Wednesday. D-III MUW is 2-16. P.S. Jones College has won seven straight and moved to the top of the MACCC standings with a 9-1 league mark. The Bobcats, ranked 11th last week in the NJCAA Division II poll, are 24-6 overall. East Central Community College is second in the standings at 7-1, Pearl River third at 8-2.

20 Mar

lost weekend

Well, that was awful. Mississippi’s six NCAA Division I teams went 2-16 over the weekend. Two and sixteen. Kudos to Southern Miss and Jackson State for winning a game each and preventing a complete wipeout. Ole Miss may have suffered the hardest fall. The Rebels were beaten by a collective 27-4 at Vanderbilt. They managed just 13 hits the entire weekend. Remarkably, Ole Miss (14-6) fell only nine spots in the new Baseball America poll, from No. 6 to 15. And there’s no rest for the weary in the SEC: Florida, ranked No. 2, comes to Oxford next weekend. Mississippi State (13-8) went 0-3 at Kentucky; Southern Miss (12-7) went 1-2 at Texas State in its Sun Belt debut; and Jackson State (13-5), which had been playing really well, went 1-2 at home against Alabama A&M to start SWAC play. Meanwhile, the struggles continued for Mississippi Valley State (6-13), swept by Florida A&M, and Alcorn State (1-14), swept by Prairie View A&M. Note: Props to William Carey University (20-6), which went on the road and took three straight SSAC games from Brewton-Parker, and Delta State (12-13), which won two of three GSC games at home against Union.

12 Mar

odds and ends

Sal Frelick, who played for the Biloxi Shuckers in 2022, went 3-for-5 with two RBIs to help Italy upset The Netherlands in pool play today and reach the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic. Frelick, an outfielder, is one of Milwaukee’s top-rated prospects and likely will make his MLB debut in 2023. … Mississippi State product Jacob Robson went 4-for-4 with a walk, scored three times and drove in a run as Canada opened WBC play with an 18-8 win against Great Britain. Robson played independent ball last year and spent several seasons in Detroit’s system. He got some big league time in 2021. … Delta State swept a three-game series from Christian Brothers this weekend to improve to an eye-popping 77-4 all-time against its Gulf South Conference rival. … Surging Blue Mountain Christian suddenly dropped three straight at home against SSAC power Mobile to fall to 18-7, 3-3. The Toppers’ Josh Smith, the NAIA pitcher of the week, got roughed up for 10 hits, seven walks and five earned runs in the series opener. Mobile is 20-2, 6-0. … William Carey dropped two of three to Talladega in Hattiesburg in its SSAC opening series. The Crusaders, who had never lost to Talladega, are 16-6 overall. … After its controversial (see previous post) loss against New Orleans on Friday, Mississippi Valley State fell 35-3 to the Privateers on Saturday and 16-3 today. (Note: Valley’s Davon Mims was 1-for-8 with five strikeouts, presumably all legit, in Games 2 and 3.) … Mississippi State, 11-5 with five wins in a row, will play Nicholls State and Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday and Wednesday at MGM Park in Biloxi. … Former Ole Miss right-hander James McArthur was optioned to Triple-A by Philadelphia. The 2018 draftee has yet to make his big league debut. … There is a nice piece on former Jackson Mets standout Al Pedrique on milb.com. The new manager of the Double-A Reading Phillies has been playing, coaching or managing in pro ball since 1978. He spent parts of four seasons as the JaxMets’ shortstop in the early 1980s and played parts of three years in the majors. “What is beautiful about this game is you learn something every day,” Pedrique said.

11 Mar

bringing down the house

Clearly, there was something magical in the Mississippi air today. There was a walk-off homer in Oxford, another in Starkville and a late, tie-breaking rally in Hattiesburg. Kemp Alderman, former Newton County Academy standout, gave Ole Miss a 7-6 win against Purdue with a 10th-inning bomb, his second of the game and eighth of the season for the 13-2 Rebels. Kellum Clark, the former Brandon High star, hit the winner for Mississippi State in the ninth, his fifth jack of the season beating Lipscomb 4-3. Southern Miss scored a run in the seventh and four in the eighth — two coming on a homer by Danny Lynch — to beat Valparaiso 8-3. P.S. For anyone who might’ve missed it: One of the worst called strikes imaginable ended Mississippi Valley State’s 7-3 loss at New Orleans on Friday night. Home plate umpire Reggie Drummer punched out Valley’s Davon Mims on a 1-2 offering that was low and away, nowhere near the plate and almost a wild pitch. (The video is all over the Internet.) On the previous pitch, also a questionable called strike, Mims had taken exception, jumped into the air, twirled around and then tapped the plate with his bat. Apparently, Drummer didn’t like that. … Former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Brandon Parker, a minor leaguer in Atlanta’s system, got a hit today in his first big league spring training at-bat.

06 Mar

good stuff

Jackson State has won nine straight games and put up some football scores in the process. In their last five, the Tigers (11-2) have scored 17, 21, 13, 19 and 17 runs. They blew away error-prone Alcorn State in a non-SWAC series at Lorman over the weekend, getting big performances from Ty Hill, Jordon Smiley and Marcus Atterberry. Hill, a grad student from Saltillo, is batting .447 with three homers, 18 RBIs and 18 runs. … Hotter even than JSU is Blue Mountain Christian. The recently renamed NAIA school has won 10 straight and sits at 17-3 and 3-0 SSAC after a sweep of Stillman. … SSAC member William Carey University (14-4) has won six straight and tallied 43 runs in a weekend sweep of Dillard. Patrick Lee, a senior from Pascagoula, had an eight-RBI game in a 16-5 win in the finale of a Saturday doubleheader. … Nationally ranked Ole Miss (10-2), coming off a controversial twinbill split against Louisiana Tech, crushed three Big Ten teams in an event in Minnesota. Ethan Groff, a Tulane transfer, went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, two runs and a steal in Sunday’s 14-5 win against Nebraska. Groff is batting .413 with three homers, 22 RBIs and 17 runs for the Rebels, who’ll host Southern Miss on Tuesday. … USM (8-3) allowed just six runs total in a sweep of Dallas Baptist over the weekend. The Golden Eagles got sterling starts from ace Tanner Hall, Matthew Adams and Niko Mazza, the former MRA standout, plus two saves from Justin Storm. Tuesday’s trip to Oxford will be USM’s first true road game. … Mississippi State (7-5) didn’t get much pitching in a tournament in Texas but was bailed out in its third game by fireballing reliever Nate Dohm. The Ball State transfer tossed five scoreless innings in relief in a win against Cal, punching out six batters. In 12 1/3 innings in five games, Dohm has 12 K’s, two wins and a spotless ERA. … Mississippi College (6-12) went 1-2 against Tampa, ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division II, in a series at Clinton. All three games were one-run affairs. … On Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Division III rivals Millsaps (7-7) and Belhaven (3-8) will play the second game of the Maloney Trophy Series. Belhaven won the first meeting 4-3, the Blazers’ eighth straight win in the series.

27 Feb

whatever happened to …

Drew Bianco, the former Oxford High star and son of the Ole Miss coach, is getting a ton of attention after making a sensational catch for Houston in a game on Sunday. Bianco, playing center field for the Cougars, made a long run and went over the outfield wall to snag a drive off the bat of an Incarnate Word hitter. (The video is all over the Internet and was SportsCenter’s No. 1 play among its daily Top 10.) Bianco, an All-State pick and state champion at Oxford, is a grad transfer at Houston after four seasons at LSU, where he had modest numbers (.202, 10 homers) on some outstanding teams. This year, he has made two highlight-reel catches for the Cougars, matching his number of hits in five games. Also on the UH roster is former Ole Miss and Magnolia Heights pitcher Braden Forsythe. P.S. Two familiar names appear on mlb.com’s list of the top dark horse candidates for opening day rosters: Brent Rooker with Oakland and Jason Heyward with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mississippi State product Rooker is with his fourth organization in less than a year. The 2017 SEC Triple Crown winner has 102 homers in the minors — 28 in Triple-A in 2022 — but batted just .200 with 10 homers in 81 big league games, most of those with Minnesota. He hopes to stick as the A’s left fielder. Heyward, a former Mississippi Braves star, has been reunited with old buddy Freddie Freeman. They debuted with the Double-A M-Braves together in 2009. Cut loose by the Chicago Cubs after last season, Heyward has struggled at the plate for several years but reportedly revamped his swing and stands a good chance of making LA’s club. His outfield defense is still top drawer.

26 Feb

flippin’ the script

After a forlorn Friday that saw Southern Miss, Ole Miss and Mississippi State each get whipped at home, all three got some satisfaction on a sweet Saturday in the Magnolia State. USM rallied repeatedly to beat Illinois 14-13 in a 5-hour, 17-minute, 11-inning marathon. Ole Miss surged late to knock off Maryland 12-6 in a battle of nationally ranked teams. And State shut down Arizona State 5-1, handing the Sun Devils their first loss of the year. In Hattiesburg, before a crowd of 5,000-plus at Taylor Park, USM (5-1) squandered an 8-3 lead but scored twice in the ninth and once in the 10th to extend the game, then won it in 11 — after a lengthy review — on a hit by Carson Paetow. At Oxford, before 10,000-plus at Swayze Field, UM (5-1) scored three times in the seventh and four in the eighth to overcome a 5-4 deficit. Jacob Gonzalez and Ethan Groff, the 1-2 hitters, combined for six knocks and seven RBIs. Mason Nichols notched a two-inning save. In Starkville, in front of 14,000-plus at Dudy Noble Field, State (4-3) got a combined five-hitter from Graham Yatema, Evan Siary and Nate Dohm to beat ASU in a snappy 2:24. Colton Ledbetter and Lane Forsythe drove in two runs apiece for the Bulldogs. The Big 3 go for series wins today. … For the record, Jackson State (4-2) improved to 2-0 in the MLB Andre Dawson Classic in New Orleans, beating Prairie View A&M 5-4, tallying the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth on a two-out hit by Colby Guy.

24 Feb

spotlight on …

Compelling series begin today in Oxford (Maryland vs. Ole Miss in a clash of nationally ranked foes), Hattiesburg (Illinois vs. unbeaten Southern Miss), Starkville (4-0 Arizona State vs. Mississippi State) and New Orleans (Jackson State in the MLB Andre Dawson Classic). But the spotlight is trained on Cleveland, where Delta State, off to an uneven start, begins Gulf South Conference play against Valdosta State (one game tonight, a doubleheader on Saturday). The Statesmen are 4-5 and coming off a series loss at Eckerd College. DSU won the GSC regular season title — for the 22nd time — in 2022 en route to making the NCAA Division II postseason and finishing 32-17. Valdosta comes to Ferriss Field with an 8-3 mark, 2-1 in conference after taking a series from Mississippi College. Kirkland Trahan, a Madison Central High and Jones College product, has swung a big bat for DSU, hitting .400 with two homers and seven RBIs. Cleveland native Brett Burrell is batting .387. But those two haven’t gotten a lot of help, with the Statesmen stuck at .241 as a team. This weekend would be a good time for leadoff batter Carson Clowers (.194) to click. The pitching has been good (staff ERA: 3.19). Three of the four starters have sub-4.00 ERAs, led by Hammer Franks with a 1.64 in two outings. The outlier is Harrison Haley, a Madison Central alum of whom big things were expected. He has been knocked around (0-1, 11.42 ERA) in three starts. DSU’s pitchers will be challenged this weekend; Valdosta, led by Miami transfer J.P. Gates (.432, 14 RBIs), is averaging 6.5 runs per game. P.S. There is concern about ace lefty Hunter Elliott in Oxford. The Tupelo native, a key component of last year’s national title team, has been shut down at least for this weekend because of elbow soreness.

23 Feb

making news

Mississippi State’s freshman switch-pitcher — Jurrangelo Cijntje — appears to be much more than a novelty act. Cijntje made his first start on Wednesday against visiting Louisiana-Monroe and threw four shutout innings, fanning six batters with his right arm and one with his left in a 14-3 victory. In two appearances, he has allowed three hits, no runs and one walk with eight punchouts for the 3-2 Bulldogs. Wednesday’s performance rated a witty headline on mlb.com: “Give him a hand … or two!” On si.com, he was hailed as a “new star.” The 5-foot-11 Cijntje, from Florida, was an 18th-round draft pick by Milwaukee last summer. A natural lefty, he hits 92 mph from that side but amps it up to 97 with his right arm. In its pre-draft scouting report last year, Baseball America noted that Cijntje has “real touch and feel with both arms.” On Wednesday, he threw 58 pitches right-handed, 17 lefty. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles SEC lineups. … Overshadowed by the switch-pitcher was the reported 474-foot home run hit by Bulldogs freshman Dakota Jordan. It was the first bomb of the season for the former Jackson Academy star, who is 5-for-21 on the year. P.S. Kudos to Picayune native and ex-Pearl River Community College star Matt Riser, who notched his 300th win as coach at Southeastern Louisiana when the Lions pummeled Jackson State 19-0 at Braddy Field on Tuesday. … Getting home runs from Patrick Lee, Billy Garrity and Bailee Hendon, William Carey University beat Southeastern Baptist College 23-3 at Boston Park in Laurel on Wednesday. Carey, a traditional NAIA power, is 8-2. SBC, a fledgling NCCAA program, was playing its season opener.

16 Feb

newbies of note

Never easy to predict which newcomers will have significant impact at the state’s Big 4 NCAA Division I schools. But there are some obvious ones to keep an eye on. To wit: At Ole Miss, there is freshman right-hander Grayson Saunier, already penciled in as the No. 2 starter for the defending national champs. He reportedly was quite impressive in the fall. Saunier, 6 feet 4, 200 pounds, was ranked in the Top 200 2022 drafts prospects by mlb.com as a senior at Colliersville High in Tennessee and was drafted in the 19th round by Texas, though he was firm in his commitment to the Rebels. (Colliersville, incidentally, is the school that produced Zack Cozart and Drew Pomeranz, who left UM as first-rounders en route to fine big league careers.) At Mississippi State, much attention will be focused on freshman outfielder Dakota Jordan, the ex-Jackson Academy star from Canton who was the state’s Gatorade player of the year in 2022. Also a Top 200 draft prospect, he went undrafted, likely because of his commitment to State. He batted .524 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs last year at JA. The SEC will be a different type of challenge. At Southern Miss, the much-traveled Tate Parker has landed as a transfer from juco national champ Pearl River Community College. The NJCAA Division II national player of the year in 2022 — when he batted .450 with 19 homers and set the school’s career homer mark — he’s in the running for an outfield job with the Golden Eagles, pegged by some as the top team in the Sun Belt Conference. (Parker’s brother Brandon is a former Gulf Coast CC star now in Atlanta’s system.) At Jackson State, Arderrius Townsend, a transfer from Northwest CC’s perennially strong program, might be one to watch. The 6-1, 225-pound outfielder hit 11 homers for the Rangers last season and was career .290 hitter in Senatobia. The D-I schools open their seasons on Friday. P.S. Kudos to Bridley Thomas, a newcomer at D-II Mississippi College, who hit for the cycle in a Choctaws win on Tuesday. Thomas, a Meridian CC transfer and former Northwest Rankin High standout, scored four runs and drove in two in that game for 2-6 MC.