23 Jun

down on farm

It was a quiet day for the few but proud Mississippians active in the majors. In Triple-A, however, it was a different story on Wednesday: Former Southern Miss standout Chuckie Robinson went 3-for-4 with his first Triple-A home run in Louisville’s loss to Iowa. Robinson, a good defensive catcher, started this season with Cincinnati’s International League club, was sent down to Double-A Chattanooga, then bumped back up a few days ago after hitting .276 in 31 games with the Lookouts. Delta State product Trent Giambrone, who had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2021, went 0-for-5 for Iowa, the Chicago Cubs affiliate. … Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley, who started this season in Cleveland, hit a pair of homers — doubling his season total — for the Indians’ Columbus club, which lost an IL game to Omaha. Bradley is batting .202. Ex-Mississippi State star Konnor Pilkington, who also has some time in The Show this year, gave up five runs in four innings as the Clippers’ starter but did not take the loss. USM product Nick Sandlin has joined the Clippers’ bullpen, sent down Monday by the Indians despite a 2.98 ERA, but didn’t work Wednesday. … Former MSU standout and erstwhile big leaguer Brent Rooker went 2-for-4, boosting his average to .281, for El Paso, San Diego’s Pacific Coast League team. … Former Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers, recently demoted by the Los Angeles Angels, made a rare start, yielding one run in four innings for Salt Lake in a PCL loss to Reno. Mayers has a 10.57 ERA in three Triple-A games. … MSU alum Jacob Robson, who made his MLB debut last year, went 0-for-2 but swiped his 12th base and scored a run for Toledo, Detroit’s IL affiliate, in a win against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Robson is batting .206. … Ex-Bulldogs star Jordan Westburg was 1-for-5 with an RBI for Norfolk and is batting .365 since his recent promotion to Triple-A by Baltimore. Ole Miss product Aaron Barrett notched a hold for Philadelphia’s Lehigh Valley club, which lost that game to the Tides in the ninth inning. … Rehabbing big leaguer Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College standout, went 0-for-2 in his third game with St. Louis’ Memphis affiliate. Dickerson, 3-for-7 with the Redbirds, appears close to a return to the Cardinals’ roster.

07 Jun

power play

Before the hype gets cranked up for the super-duper Super Regional set for Hattiesburg this weekend, let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the jaw-dropping performance by Ole Miss’ Tim Elko. The senior first baseman batted .778 and slugged 2.111 — yes, 2.111 — in three games in the Coral Gables Regional. His batting line from Monday’s game: 4-6-4-5. (Plus two walks.) You won’t see something like that very often. Elko belted three home runs in the Rebels’ 22-6 demolition of Arizona in the regional title game, a first in his five-year career and a first for any UM player in an NCAA Tournament game. He also broke the school record for homers in a season with 22. Brian Pettway hit 21 in 2005. With 44 career bombs, Elko is within sight of the Rebels’ career record of 48, set by Kyle Gordon in the 1980s. Elko’s place in Ole Miss lore was secured last season when he made that inspired return from an ACL injury and helped the Rebels reach a Super Regional. His performance in Coral Gables was icing on the cake — and, of course, he’s not done yet. We’ve been fortunate in the Magnolia State to witness some amazing slugging exploits in the last few years. Delta State’s Zack Shannon set the state all-classification record with 31 homers in 2018. He hit 50, second only to Dee Haynes’ 69 on the school’s career list, in his two years in Cleveland. In 2019, Matt Wallner hit 23 bombs for Southern Miss, matching the school record. He hit 58 in his three years in Hattiesburg, setting a school mark. (He’s now mashing homers in Double-A ball for Minnesota.) Current USM slugger Christopher Sargent — who batted .524 in five games in the Hattiesburg Regional — has rather quietly cranked out 21 homers this season with at least two more games to play in the Super Regional. … With Mississippi State, the defending national champ, sitting at home this postseason, no Bulldogs are mounting any assault on the school’s single-season home run record of 29, shared by Rafael Palmeiro and Bruce Castoria.

22 May

buckle up

It’s championship week for the MHSAA schools and the NCAA Division I programs, and here are the hot spots:
Trustmark Park, Pearl: On Tuesday, Biggersville meets Resurrection Catholic in the Class 1A series, Pontotoc plays Sumrall in 4A and Neshoba Central meets East Central in 5A. On Wednesday, it’s Stringer-East Union in 2A, Amory-Seminary in 3A and DeSoto Central-Northwest Rankin in 6A. All are best-of-3 series.
Hoover Met, Hoover, Ala.: On Tuesday, Ole Miss plays Vanderbilt in a play-in game in the SEC Tournament. The winner gets No. 1 Tennessee in the first round of the double-elimination phase of the 12-team event.
Taylor Park, Hattiesburg: On Wednesday, Southern Miss, regular season champion in C-USA, gets UAB in the first round of the double-elimination C-USA Tournament.
Regions Field, Birmingham: On Wednesday, Jackson State, the 4-seed out of the SWAC East, opens SWAC Tournament play against old rival Southern University, the top seed from the West.
P.S. Delta State’s season ended Saturday with a 6-3 loss to St. Leo in the Division II South Regional. … Pearl River Community College, the No. 1-ranked team in NJCAA Division II, will play next weekend in the juco D-II World Series in Enid, Okla. The opponent has not been determined.

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.

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.

11 Mar

spotlight on …

Pearl River Community College has risen to No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll heading into its conference-opening doubleheader Saturday against Northwest at Poplarville. The Wildcats are 11-3, having last played last weekend, when Tate Parker’s walk-off homer beat Coastal Alabama-North. Parker, from Gulfport, leads PRCC’s potent lineup with a .426 average, six homers (tied for third nationally) and 19 RBIs. McComb’s Alex Perry is hitting .385 with five homers, and Oak Grove product Turner Swistak is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in four games, three starts. Northwest, not ranked, is 10-6 with six straight wins. Notable: Ryan Lee hit for the cycle in a game last week, reported to be the first time for a Rangers player since 2006. East Central is No. 5 in the national poll, Meridian No. 7, Northeast No. 15 and Jones No. 20. MACCC play starts this weekend.
Delta State has won seven straight, including a road victory against nationally ranked Southern Arkansas on Wednesday, and is 10-5 heading into a Gulf South Conference series vs. Lee University this weekend in Cleveland. DSU is 5-3 in the league. Chad Ragland is the reigning GSC player of the week; he hit .556 with a cycle in four games last week and went 2-for-5 with two RBIs in the win over SAU. Ragland is at .433 for the year for the NCAA Division II Statesmen.