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.
A month into the Puerto Rican Winter League season, former Delta State standout Trent Giambrone is leading the circuit in home runs. Giambrone has hit three homers in 21 games for first-place Criollos de Caguas and is batting .200 with three doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs. The 29-year-old infielder, who had a cup of coffee with the Chicago Cubs in 2021, played in the independent Atlantic League this past season and hit .287 with 22 homers and 72 RBIs. Drafted by the Cubs in 2016 after a highly decorated college career at Jones County Junior College and NCAA Division II DSU, the 5-foot-8 Giambrone batted .233 with 62 homers and 72 RBIs in six minor league seasons and went 2-for-13 for the Cubs in ’21. He became a minor league free agent after the 2022 season.
Happy 44th birthday to Eli Whiteside, the former All-America catcher at Delta State who played parts of six seasons in the major leagues. New Albany native Whiteside, drafted in the sixth round by Baltimore in 2001, played in 216 MLB games, batting .210 with 10 homers, and got two World Series rings despite never playing in the postseason. Whiteside, backing up Buster Posey, hit .238 for the 2010 San Francisco Giants and was on their Series roster but didn’t get in a game as they beat Texas 4-1. He also spent part of the 2012 season with the Giants but didn’t make the postseason roster for a club that won another Fall Classic. After he retired in 2015, Whiteside served for a time as a bullpen catcher for the Giants and a roving instructor. Whiteside’s first career homer was a grand slam for the Giants in 2009, and he also caught a Jonathan Sanchez no-hitter that year. He is one of nine Delta State alums to have made The Show. Others on that list: Barry Lyons, Stewart Cliburn and Jim Miles (the first in 1968).
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.
Trent Giambrone, the former Delta State standout, is having a standout season as the shortstop and leadoff batter for the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League. Giambrone, 29, is batting .280 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs in what is his eighth professional season. He put up a 2-for-4 on Saturday, driving in a pair of runs for the Revolution in a 10-7 win against Lexington. Giambrone, listed at 5 feet 8, 175 pounds, defied the odds as a 25th-round draft pick by reaching the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs in 2021. He is one of nine DSU alums to play in the majors. He got a pinch single in his first at-bat and was 2-for-13 overall as a September call-up. He went back to the minors in 2022 and became a free agent at season’s end, signing with York this spring. Giambrone batted .351 over two years at DSU but didn’t replicate that success in the minors (.231 career). However, he appears to have found a happy place in the Atlantic League, a good quality loop where several Mississippians are currently playing. P.S. Ole Miss product Thomas Dillard, playing for Lexington on Saturday, went 3-for-4 with two doubles and his league-best 22nd home run (see previous post). … Tim Elko, another ex-Rebels star, put up a 3-for-4 with a triple and four RBIs for High-Class A Winston-Salem in the White Sox’s organization. In 10 games at this level, Elko — a ’22 draftee — is batting .308 with a homer and eight RBIs. Half of his 12 hits are extra-base knocks. … Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, Detroit’s No. 1 prospect (per mlb.com), went 1-for-1 with a walk in Saturday’s All-Star Futures Game in Seattle. Keith is batting .335 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A this season. … The Tigers’ previous no-hitter before Saturday’s combo job was thrown by Madison Central High product Spencer Turnbull on May 18, 2021, at Seattle. Turnbull, who missed all of the 2022 season following Tommy John surgery, is back on the injured list now (neck injury) but is throwing off a mound. He is 1-4 with a 7.26 ERA in seven starts this year.
There is a strong Mississippi flavor on the roster of the Kansas City Monarchs, who play in the independent American Association. Former Mississippi State standout Gavin Collins is the team’s regular catcher and is batting .362, ranking among the league leaders heading into a game today. Collins, a six-year minor leaguer, was in Tampa Bay’s big league camp this spring. Outfielder Jacob Robson, another ex-Bulldogs star and onetime big leaguer, has four homers and nine RBIs. He played for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Both Collins and Robson went deep in a Tuesday loss to Lincoln. On the bump, the Monarchs have Delta State product Dalton Moats, a lefty who is 2-2 with a 6.63 ERA, and former Mississippi Braves right-hander Patrick Weigel, who has some MLB time. Longtime major league star Frank White, a Greenville native who won a World Series with the Royals, is the first-base coach for the Monarchs. The team, which has a 14-9 record entering play today, used to be known as the T-Bones but adopted the old Negro Leagues moniker a couple of years ago. They play at Legends Field, not far from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Since the calendar flipped to May, Grae Kessinger’s bat has taken off. Now playing for Houston’s Triple-A Sugar Land Space Cowboys, ex-Ole Miss star Kessinger has hit .500 (15-for-30) in seven games this month with two homers, 11 RBIs and a .568 on-base percentage. He went 1-for-3 with two walks on Tuesday, his first game after a five-hit, two-homer effort in a wild contest on Sunday. It didn’t hurt that the first six games of the month were played at Albuquerque, where the ball flies, but you still gotta put bat on ball. He has struck out just five times this month. Kessinger is hitting .311 for the year with four homers and 21 RBIs in 32 games. An All-America shortstop at UM — and the grandson of MLB star Don Kessinger — Grae was drafted in the second round by the Astros in 2019. This is his first season in Triple-A after batting .211 with 16 homers in Double-A in ’22. He has played short, second and third base this season, showing some versatility that can only enhance his value in Houston, where the starting lineup is tough to crack. P.S. After three straight tight wins in the losers bracket of the Gulf South Conference Tournament, Delta State ran smack into a wall on Tuesday, falling to top-seeded West Florida 17-1 at Oxford, Ala. DSU finishes 27-26 in coach Rodney Batts’ fourth season. … In MLB, former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman notched his first save with a clean ninth inning for the Chicago White Sox and fellow ex-Bulldogs ace Chris Stratton earned his first win with 1 1/3 scoreless innings for St. Louis against the Cubs.
They have a saying at Delta State, where they’ve won a truckload of championships: “Tradition never slumps.” Tradition also never hangs its head. Down 8-0 in the second inning of an elimination game in the Gulf South Conference Tournament, the Statesmen rallied to win 10-9 in 11 innings on Monday. They beat Valdosta State, previously unbeaten in the tourney, on a walk-off balk. To win the GSC title — and an NCAA Division II Tournament berth — DSU (27-25) will have to win twice today in Oxford, Ala., first against top-seeded West Florida (35-15) and then in a rematch with Valdosta (33-17). But don’t count the Statesmen out. It has been a wonky season in Okra-land. DSU, the preseason pick to win the GSC regular season title, needed to win its last two games on the road against archrival Mississippi College just to get into the eight-team tournament field. Mission accomplished. The Statesmen lost their opener in the tournament 5-3 to West Florida, pinning their backs to the wall in the double-elimination event. They responded with wins over West Georgia and Shorter before the remarkable rally against Valdosta. Hayden Cooper hit a two-run homer as part of the comeback, and Brendan McCauley belted a huge game-tying shot in the eighth. Three relievers shut out the Blazers over the final five innings. In the 11th, Kirkland Trahan got on with a one-out walk, went to third on a Cooper single and scored the game-winner on the untimely balk. Two more for the championship. Don’t count ’em out. P.S. Rust College begins play on Wednesday in the Black College World Series at Montgomery, Ala. The Bearcats, regular season champs in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference, are the No. 1 seed in the NAIA bracket. … Former Ole Miss star James McArthur has been traded from Philadelphia to Kansas City, which optioned the 6-foot-7 right-hander to Triple-A Omaha. He had been designated for assignment by the Phillies last week.
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.
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.