21 May

touching the bases

The decision by the Chicago White Sox to move Garrett Crochet from the bullpen to the rotation this season is beginning to look like a stroke of brilliance. The 6-foot-6 left-hander from Ocean Springs, who’ll face Toronto today, has allowed one earned in 17 innings with 23 strikeouts in three May starts. For the year, he is 4-4 with a 4.18 ERA, 70 punchouts, a 1.01 WHIP and a .207 batting average against. And he is pitching for a team that is 14-34. Crochet was the 11th overall pick out of Tennessee in 2020 and made the big leagues that season, throwing 100 mph gas. Arm surgery shelved him in 2022 and limited him to 13 games last season. Moved to the rotation this spring, he seems to have found his calling. Writes the Chicago Sun-Times: “Great fastball, four-pitch mix, plenty of moxie and the intangibles all baked into a prototypical staff ace.” … The jury is out on Philadelphia’s decision to move former Madison Central High standout Spencer Turnbull from the rotation to the bullpen. Turnbull, in his first season with the Phillies, was 2-0, 1.67, in six starts this season. As a reliever — a new role for the veteran right-hander — he has a 6.43 in four appearances. … Colt Keith, Biloxi High alum, is heating up for Detroit in his rookie campaign. The 22-year-old Keith is 9-for-22 over his last seven games and 14-for-44 the last 15, boosting his average to .214. He has yet to homer. … Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central star, hasn’t played for Atlanta since May 12 (side inflammation) but remains on the active roster. It’s unclear when he might return to the lineup. Her is batting a sub-par .245 with three homers. … Former big leaguer Anthony Alford, the Petal High product, is playing in the Mexican League for Campeche after being released by Cincinnati. He was hitting .222 at Double-A Chattanooga. … The New York Yankees DFA’d Colby White, the former Mississippi State pitcher they claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay earlier this month. The injury-plagued White, yet to appear in the majors, presumably will stay in the Yankees’ system. … Ex-Ole Miss star Jacob Gonzalez has been promoted to Double-A Birmingham, where he’ll join former Rebels teammate Tim Elko on the Barons’ roster. Gonzalez, a first-round pick last summer by the White Sox, was hitting .273 with three homers, 15 RBIs and seven steals at the High-Class A level. Birmingham starts a series at Biloxi today. … Dalton Moats, former Delta State left-hander, recently signed with the Chicago Cubs and threw three innings for Double-A Tennessee on Sunday. The minor league vet pitched in independent ball in 2023.

19 May

tournament time

The dust has settled — on the regular season, at least — and the conference tournament brackets are set for the state’s NCAA Division I schools. Dust will fly again on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala. As fate would have it, Mississippi State and Ole Miss will meet Tuesday in the one-game elimination round of the SEC tourney. Game time is 9 p.m. State (36-19) is the 5-seed, Ole Miss (27-28) the 12th. Texas A&M awaits the winner in the double-elimination phase. The SEC Tournament means a lot more to the Rebels, who’ll need to win the whole thing to get an NCAA bid. But rest assured, the Bulldogs would love to send the Rebels home. … Surging Southern Miss (37-18) is the No. 2 seed and will open Sun Belt Conference Tournament play Wednesday against an as yet undetermined winner from the single-elimination games on Tuesday. The tournament is in Montgomery, Ala. … Jackson State (33-18) is the No. 4 seed in the SWAC East and will begin tournament play Wednesday in Atlanta against the No. 1 team from the West, apparently either Texas Southern or Grambling State. … There’s more: In the NAIA World Series, William Carey is the seventh seed and will open Friday against 10-seed Indiana Southeast at Lewiston, Idaho. No. 2 Georgia Gwinnett awaits the winner. … The MHSAA State Championships schedule features four Game 1’s on Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl and three on Wednesday. On Tuesday, starting at 10 a.m., it’s Class 2A St. Andrew’s-East Union; followed by Class 3A West Marion-East Webster; Class 4A Sumrall-Ripley; and Class 7A Brandon-Hernando. On Wednesday, starting at 1 p.m., it’s Class 1A Taylorsville-Pine Grove; followed by Class 6A George County-Warren Central; and Class 5A Vancleave-Lafayette. Game 2’s are Thursday and Friday (in the same order), with any Game 3’s on May 25. … Delta State’s season ended on Saturday with a 17-6 loss to West Florida in the NCAA D-II South Region at St. Leo, Fla. The Statesmen finish 33-24.

17 May

catching up

LSU-Eunice, a seven-time national champion, completed a 4-0 run through the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament by beating Jones College 7-2 Friday in the title game at Poplarville. The third-ranked Bengals get an automatic bid to the D-II World Series in Enid, Okla. There are two at-large bids available in the 12-team field, leaving the door open for an MACCC team to get a call. East Central Community College is 51-7 and ranked No. 1 in the most recent D-II poll; Pearl River is 49-10 and ranked second; and Jones is 41-16 and ranked eighth. Jones eliminated ECCC in the regional on Thursday, and LSU-E put out Pearl River. … Drake Fontenot, Noah Magee and Braiden Jones combined on a six-hitter and Blayke Dendy and Brendan McCauley hit home runs as Delta State stayed alive in the NCAA D-II South Region tourney with an 8-0 win over host St. Leo (Fla.). The Statesmen (33-23) will be back at it on Saturday.

16 May

good vibrations

Delta State might be carrying a special vibe as it enters the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Statesmen celebrated the 20th anniversary of their greatest season — the 2004 national championship season — during the team’s final homestand, swept three games from rival Mississippi College, then made a run to the finals of the Gulf South Conference Tournament, ensuring a bid to the NCAAs. DSU (32-22) begins play tonight in the South Region against Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in St. Leo, Fla. The streaky Statesmen have won seven of their last nine, but their path to a D-II World Series berth is seriously cluttered. Embry-Riddle, ranked 20th in D-II, is 30-20. Host St. Leo, ranked No. 7, is the top seed in the four-team sub-regional with a 38-11 record. No. 1-ranked Tampa is in the other South Region bracket. Dylan Coleman, from Madison by way of Hinds Community College, has had a huge year with the bat for DSU, hitting .387 with 16 homers, 57 RBIs and a .683 slugging percentage. Hayden Cooper is batting .345, and Cleveland native Brett Burrell is at .332. Pitching (5.53 staff ERA) hasn’t been a strength, though reliever Josh Hill, a Northwest Mississippi CC transfer, has been a valuable asset with 5-1 record, eight saves and a 3.58 in 19 appearances. Top starter Drake Fontenot is 7-4, 6.32, and Logan Cromer 4-3, 3.48. Embry-Riddle’s attack is led by Drew Barragan, who carries a .448 average with 16 homers and 94 RBIs. Travis Strickler is hitting .402 with 29 steals. The ace of the staff is Cole Altherr (6-4, 4.37, 106 strikeouts).

13 May

taking flight

A seven-game win streak capped by a 38-run explosion in a three-game conference road sweep has propelled Southern Miss back into Baseball America’s Top 25. The 25th-ranked Golden Eagles are 34-17, 18-9 Sun Belt, and back in BA’s poll for the first time in two months. It’s the right time to be taking off, with four regular season games left — Ole Miss at home on Tuesday and a Sun Belt series at home vs. Texas State on the weekend — before the league tournament. The NCAA Tournament looms in the distance. Ozzie Pratt had a five-hit game on Sunday in a 14-6 romp past Arkansas State, driving in three runs and scoring three. But no Eagles player is hotter than Slade Wilks, the senior DH from Columbia. Wilks went 7-for-14 in the ASU series with three homers, seven RBIs and seven runs. He has a 24-game hitting streak. He leads the team with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and a .596 slugging average. With 45 career homers, Wilks is tied for sixth on USM’s all-time list with the legendary slugger Fred Cooley. Leadoff batter Dalton McIntyre — USM’s Ferriss Trophy candidate — has been a spark all season; the Meridian Community College transfer leads the team with a .388 average and has scored 39 runs and swiped 10 bases. But Wilks is the aircraft carrier for first-year coach Christian Ostrander. P.S. Mississippi State (33-18) slipped from 12th to 15th in the BA poll after losing two of three at third-ranked Arkansas over the weekend. … Delta State (32-22) is bound for the NCAA Division II South Region Bracket 2 at St. Leo, Fla. The Statesmen, seeded sixth in the eight-team regional, will open tourney play with Embry-Riddle (Fla.) on Thursday. … William Carey University and Blue Mountain Christian are scheduled to play today in their respective NAIA regionals, though weather may interrupt. Carey is hosting a four-team Opening Round event in Hattiesburg, while BMC is in the five-team tourney at LSU-Shreveport.

08 May

fully charged

A well-rested Belhaven University team begins play today in the Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament at Maryville, Tenn. The second-seeded Blazers, who haven’t played an actual game since April 27, meet Huntingdon (Ala.) at the wonderfully named Scotland Yard, home of the top-seeded Maryville Scots. (Game time is 10 a.m. CDT.) Under first-year coach Andrew Gipson, the Blazers are 23-15 and took two of three from Huntingdon on the road last month. BU is led by the bat of Owen Abney, the arms of Brett Sanchez and Colton Sylvester and the legs of, well, a host of players. Former Jackson Prep star Abney is batting .345 with 10 homers and 55 RBIs. Sanchez is a preseason NCAA Division III All-America pick and a finalist for the state’s Ferriss Trophy. The fifth-year right-hander, who has 33 wins in his BU career, is 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 2024. Sylvester, who moved into the rotation late in the season, is 6-1 with a 2.43. The Blazers have stolen 137 bases — fourth in the country — led by Noah Foster with 26. Five others have nine or more, including Abney with eight bags. The six-team, double-elimination CCS Tournament will conclude on Saturday. P.S. Delta State mashed five homers in a 9-8 win against West Florida on Tuesday but ran out of juice in the second game of the GSC Tournament finals against the Argonauts, falling 9-2 at Oxford, Ala. DSU (32-22) hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA D-II Tournament when the field is announced on Sunday. … Belhaven’s Sanchez is joined as a Ferriss Trophy finalist by Dakota Jordan (Mississippi State), Ethan Lege (Ole Miss), Dalton McIntyre (Southern Miss) and R.J. Stinson (William Carey). The winner will be announced May 20.

07 May

fighting okra

Delta State is two wins away from another Gulf South Conference Tournament championship. Playing a third straight elimination game on Monday at Oxford, Ala., the Statesmen pounded Valdosta State 10-3 to reach the title round. They’ll have to beat West Florida twice today to claim their 16th GSC tourney title and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Argonauts beat DSU 4-3 in their tournament opener last week. In Monday’s victory, Dylan Coleman, All-GSC third baseman, hit a grand slam in an eight-run fourth inning that put DSU in charge. Coleman is batting .379 with 15 bombs, 54 RBIs and 42 runs, leading the team in each category. Wes Warnock also homered for the Statesmen, now 31-21, and Cade Whitley worked 5 2/3 strong innings in relief to get the W. DSU’s last tournament title was in 2019, Mike Kinnison’s last year as coach. Current coach Rodney Batts was a star on the 1996 team that won the title. P.S. No. 1-ranked East Central Community College and No. 13 Jones College have advanced to the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament that starts May 13 at Poplarville. They’ll be joined by No. 2 Pearl River, Hinds, Meridian and third-ranked LSU-Eunice in the double-elimination event.

06 May

names to know

Slade Wilks, Southern Miss: Extended his hitting streak to 21 games on Sunday, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs, to spark USM to a 6-5 curfew-shortened win over Coastal Carolina, completing a sweep of the Sun Belt Conference series.
Jordan McCladdie, Jackson State: Went 5-for-8 with six RBIs and four runs to pace JSU (29-16, 12-11) to a SWAC sweep, 22-3 and 7-4, over Mississippi Valley State. Game 3 is today in Jackson.
Noah Magee, Delta State: Threw four shutout innings in relief as the Statesmen, who scored four times in the first inning, held off top-seeded Lee 5-3 to stay alive in the GSC Tournament at Oxford, Ala. DSU, now 30-21, gets Valdosta State today.
Blaise Priester, Meridian Community College: Banged out four hits, including a homer, and knocked in four runs to propel MCC to a 15-8 win over Copiah-Lincoln CC and into the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament. (No. 1-ranked East Central and No. 13 Jones face winner-take-all Game 3’s today.)
Andrew Fischer, Ole Miss: Drove in five runs, three on a clutch double in the ninth inning, but couldn’t prevent the Rebels from suffering a brutal 10-9 loss at Auburn. (The Tigers, 4-20 in SEC play, scored the winning run on a wild pitch, a steal and a passed ball.)
Khal Stephen and Jurrangelo Cijntje, Mississippi State: Each notched his seventh win, combining to strike out 14 batters while allowing just four runs over 12 innings, as the Bulldogs took the first two games of their weekend series vs. Alabama. (Alas, State could not complete the sweep, falling 10-5 on Sunday.)

05 May

blast from past

Joining a list that includes Mark McGwire can be pretty impressive, at least when it comes to hitting dingers. Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker blasted two home runs in one inning on Saturday, becoming the first Oakland player to do so since McGwire in 1996. Rooker, born in 1994, told mlb.com he grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan in Germantown, Tenn., and followed McGwire during the slugger’s time with the Redbirds. “Being able to do anything the same as him is a huge accomplishment, and something that’s really cool for me,” Rooker said. Rooker’s bombs came in a 10-run third inning that propelled the surprising A’s to a 20-4 win over visiting Miami. Oakland is 17-17 with six straight victories. Rooker, a 2023 All-Star who also homered on Friday, is batting .240 with eight homers and 20 RBIs in 22 games, having spent 10 days on the injured list last month. As a BTW: Ex-Ole Miss standout Nick Fortes hit his first homer of the year for the lowly Marlins, 9-26. Also overshadowed by Rooker’s exploits was a four-hit game by another former Bulldogs masher, Nathaniel Lowe, who led Texas to a 15-4 rout of Kansas City. Lowe started the season on the IL and is batting .333 with a homer and four RBIs in 13 games since his return. He picked up two of those RBIs on Saturday. “I’m three weeks late to the party,” he told mlb.com, “so I have to get going.” The Rangers, 18-16 and second in the American League West to Seattle, visit division rival Oakland for a four-game series beginning Monday. P.S. William Carey University beat Blue Mountain Christian for the SSAC Tournament championship, the third tourney title in the last four years for coach Bobby Halford, who has a shelf full of trophies over his 39-year career. The Crusaders (34-14 with eight straight wins) will host an NAIA Opening Round tourney next week. BMC also gets an NAIA bid. … Delta State won an elimination game in the GSC Tournament and will play again today against Lee in Oxford, Ala. … Hinds Community College swept host Northwest Mississippi CC in their MACCC playoff series and advances to next week’s NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament in Poplarville. No. 1-ranked East Central, No. 13 Jones and Meridian all won their best-of-3 series openers on Saturday and will play again today.

04 May

big time

Any win is big this time of year in college baseball. Each of the state’s Big 3 NCAA Division I schools got one Friday, and big flies played a big role. Ole Miss, which is practically in desperation mode, won at Auburn 11-7 for its 24th win, sparked by home runs from Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters Jackson Ross, Andrew Fischer and Will Furniss. Surging Mississippi State picked up win No. 31, a 13-3 run-rule rout of Alabama in Starkville. The Bulldogs hit four bombs, including a pair by red-hot Hunter Hines, and Khal Stephen notched win No. 7. Southern Miss got win No. 29, getting a homer from Nick Monistere and three run-scoring doubles in a 7-2 victory against Coastal Carolina at Hattiesburg; Billy Oldham earned win No. 6. … In the MACCC playoffs, Hinds Community College pulled off an upset win vs. Northwest Mississippi CC in Game 1 at Senatobia. Braden Richardson, Cameron Hill and Tyler Jonas went deep for the Eagles, the latter hitting a late grand slam in the 9-5 victory. That best-of-3 series continues today, while the other three will begin. The series winners move on to next week’s NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament in Poplarville. … Delta State needs a win today to stay alive in the GSC Tournament at Oxford, Ala. The NCAA D-II Statesmen, seeded third, were upset by No. 6 West Florida, which got to closer Josh Hill for a run in the ninth in a 4-3 win. All-GSC pick Dylan Coleman was 3-for-5 with an RBI for DSU, which plays 7-seed Shorter today.