Bradley Pelle and his Millsaps College teammates hit the ground swinging on Friday. The NCAA Division III Majors opened their season with an 8-7, 17-8 sweep at LeTourneau (Texas). Pelle went 6-for-8 with three RBIs and six runs to pace the Millsaps attack. Jim Page, a recent Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inductee, now has 839 wins over his 36 seasons. … Elsewhere in the small college ranks: Mississippi College (4-2) blasted visiting Miles 6-0 and 21-5 Friday in Clinton. J.T. Vance drove in seven runs and Cole Drake six in Game 2. Vance, a transfer from state champion East Central Community College, leads the Division II Choctaws with a .409 average. … Delta State, which yielded 32 runs in a 1-2 start against Harding last weekend, beat host Spring Hill (Ala.) 6-0 behind Drake Fontenot’s pitching and homers by Hayden Cooper and Taylor Woodcock in the opener of a Friday twinbill. The D-II Statesmen lost Game 2 9-5. … William Carey University, ranked No. 4 in NAIA, improved to 3-2 with a 6-5 win over Talladega in Hattiesburg. Preston Ratliff’s eighth-inning sac fly was the game-winner. … NAIA Blue Mountain Christian is off to a 5-1 start, led by Chris Smith, who’s hitting .556 with eight RBIs and four runs. … Belhaven dropped a pair of one-run games (to Hendrix and Westminster) at Conway, Ark., in new coach Andrew Gipson’s debut. Noah Foster was 4-for-9 in the two games for the D-III Blazers. … Rust College, defending regular season champ in the GCAC, is 0-7 after a 17-0 loss to Jarvis Christian. Jalin Thomas, an NAIA honorable mention All-America pick last year, has not played for the Bearcats. … Tougaloo, also a GCAC member, is 0-3 heading into weekend games against Tuskegee. The Bulldogs visit Blue Mountain on Tuesday. … Southeastern Baptist (of Laurel) lost its first two games last week at Southern-New Orleans, which is playing its inaugural season. … MUW opens Feb. 16 at Huntingdon (Ala.). P.S. Third-ranked Pearl River Community College (6-1) swept Baton Rouge 10-0 and 3-0 on Friday and made ESPN’s Top 10 plays. The Wildcats’ highlighted double play was started by second baseman Jeff Ince, who made a diving stop, then fed shortstop Creek Robertson, who fired to first baseman Hollis Porter, who scooped a low throw. Ince also hit a homer Friday and Porter belted a pair.
Observations from a Tuesday locked into televised baseball:
First pitch of game one — Texas at Tampa Bay — of the four wild card series openers is at 2:07 p.m. CDT. … Christian Bethancourt, the former Mississippi Braves catcher, is not in Tampa Bay’s lineup; he played in 104 games this season. … Nathaniel Lowe, former Mississippi State standout, gets a hit in his first at-bat and scores the first run of the day for Texas in the second inning. … Brookhaven native Lance Barksdale, veteran MLB umpire, is at second base for the Rangers-Rays game. … With the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth, Lowe pops up; it’s still 1-0. … Andy Fletcher, an Ole Miss alum and Olive Branch resident, is the ump behind the plate for the Toronto-Minnesota game. He rated relatively low on ball-strike accuracy in 2023, per umpscorecards.com. … In his first postseason at-bat, ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner draws a walk for Minnesota in the second inning. He is stranded. … Toronto’s bullpen coach is Jeff Ware, who spent a year as a pitcher/coach with the independent Jackson Senators some 20 years ago. Ware got the bullpen job this spring, 27 years after he last wore a big league uniform as a Jays pitcher. … Texas wins 4-0; Lowe finishes 1-for-5. … Wallner, who made one error all season in 100 chances, is replaced in left field in the seventh inning. … Milwaukee’s starting lineup against visiting Arizona includes four former Biloxi Shuckers — pitcher Corbin Burnes, second baseman Brice Turang and outfielders Sal Frelick and Tyrone Taylor — and a Mississippi Braves alum — catcher William Contreras. … Minnesota wins 3-1, snapping an 18-game postseason losing streak dating to 2004. Former Jackson Mets shortstop Ron Gardenhire was the Twins manager that season. … In Miami’s starting lineup at Philadelphia is catcher Nick Fortes, the Ole Miss product who has had a tough year (.206, six homers). … The Phillies’ infield coach is Laurel native Bobby Dickerson, father of ex-USM shortstop Dustin Dickerson, now in the Kansas City system. … Taylor — the No. 9 hitter — hits a two-run homer for the Brewers, putting them ahead 3-0 in the second inning. … Milwaukee pitching coach Chris Hook, who pitched briefly for the Jackson Generals in 1998, makes a trip to the mound after Burnes surrenders back-to-back homers that tie the score for Arizona. … Cristian Pache, once a highly rated prospect with the M-Braves, makes a nice running catch in left field to record the first out for the Phillies at raucous Citizens Bank Park. … In the second inning at Philly, ESPN’s Karl Ravech talks about Phillies infielder Bryson Stott’s work with Bobby and Dustin Dickerson in the off-season in Mississippi. … Fortes, in his first postseason AB, hits into an inning-ending double play in the third; the score is still 0-0. … Burnes, a 10-game winner this year, is pulled in the fifth by the Brewers, down 4-3; rookie Abner Uribe, a 2023 Shuckers alum, replaces him. … Pache — whose first big league homer came as a rookie for Atlanta in the 2020 National League Championship Series — gets an RBI knock in the fourth to put the Phillies up 3-0. … In Milwaukee, Taylor lines into an inning-ending double play in the fifth with the bases jammed and the Brewers still trailing 4-3. D’backs veteran third baseman Evan Longoria, 37, who passed through Trustmark Park with the Montgomery Biscuits back in 2006-07, makes the crucial, leaping snag. … Milwaukee goes to its closer, former Shuckers star Devin Williams (36 saves), in the ninth. He issues three walks — around a strikeout and a caught stealing — before Christian Walker doubles to plate two more runs. … In the bottom of the ninth, Frelick makes the last out on a pop up in Arizona’s 6-3 win. … In Philadelphia, the Phillies go to ex-M-Braves star Craig Kimbrel — the occasionally erratic closer — who gets through the ninth to finish off a 4-1 victory. The last out of the fourth and final game is recorded at 9:55 p.m. … What a day. And the postseason has only just begun.
Lance Lynn vs. Brandon Woodruff. Two All-Stars from rival Magnolia State schools pitching for division leaders in the ESPN Sunday night feature. This ought to be good. Lynn, the very intense Ole Miss product, is 9-3 with a 1.94 ERA for the Chicago White Sox, who lead the American League Central with a 58-40 record. Brandon Woodruff, the very intense Mississippi State product, is 7-4 with a 2.04 ERA for the host Milwaukee Brewers, 58-41 in the National League Central. Though their college careers did not intersect, surely one of the ESPN broadcasters will pick up on the Rebel vs. Bulldog theme. However, the depth of that rivalry probably isn’t known to them. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Yelich have a combined four homers against Lynn in 13 combined at-bats. Few of the White Sox have ever faced Woodruff. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton is 0-for-4. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson hasn’t had the pleasure. P.S. Update: Eric Cerantola has signed a pro contract, leaving just two of the 12 picks from the state unsigned.
There was a reference to Jermaine Van Buren in the wind of the internet today. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, a seamhead of great renown, compiled an All-Presidential team in honor of a visit he made to the White House on this date in 2006. On a 25-man roster with the likes of Gary Carter, Homer Bush, Lou Clinton, Dan Ford and J.J. Hoover was – ta da — Jermaine Van Buren, the former Hattiesburg High star who pitched in 16 MLB games in 2005-06. Van Buren, no relation to the eighth president, Martin, was a dominant prep pitcher (21 strikeouts in one seven-inning game) and a second-round draft pick by Colorado in 1998. He stalled in the Rockies’ system, revived his career in the indy Central League and finally made the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs. He got his lone win with Boston in ’06, finishing up with a 9.00 ERA. Van Buren pitched in various leagues, including China, until 2010.
ESPN will televise LIVE baseball from the Korean Baseball Organization beginning Tuesday morning (midnight CDT). As Jack Buck might’ve said, “Go crazy, folks.” If you’re wondering about a Mississippi connection in the KBO, there are at least a couple. Former Mississippi Braves Jake Brigham (2015) and Mel Rojas Jr. (2016) are established three-year veterans there, Brigham with the Kiwoom Heroes and Rojas with the KT Wiz. Brigham, a right-handed starter, went 6-3 with a 3.05 ERA for the M-Braves in 2015 and made the Southern League All-Star Game. He reached Atlanta later that summer and got into 12 games, his only MLB appearances. Brigham is 34-18, 3.72 in the KBO. Rojas, son of the ex-big league pitcher, batted .244 with two homers in 35 games for the ’16 M-Braves. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound switch-hitting outfielder has been a force in South Korea, belting 85 homers and hitting .310 over his three seasons. Quite a few former major leaguers are on KBO rosters.
Tim Anderson went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs on Monday night, but ESPN analysts Tim Kurkjian and Eduardo Perez were singing the praises of the shortstop’s defense during the network’s game coverage. The former East Central Community College standout made two highlight-worthy plays in the Chicago White Sox’s 6-2 win over the New York Yankees. On the first, he went deep into the hole and made a jump-and-throw play to nail the batter at first base. On the second, playing in with a runner at third, he short-hopped a hard-hit grounder and cut down the runner at the plate. Defense has been an issue for Anderson, a relative latecomer to baseball, during his three years in the big leagues. He made 28 errors in in 145 games in 2017. But, by all accounts, he is improving. He has just 15 errors in 125 games this year and reportedly is making more plays like the ones he pulled off Monday. “He’s growing and maturing,” Perez said. “He’s a great athlete learning to play baseball,” Kurkjian said. A basketball star in high school in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Anderson didn’t play baseball until his junior year. East Central was his only baseball scholarship offer. In his second year with the Warriors, he batted .495 with 10 homers and 41 steals for a state championship team and was named an NJCAA All-American. Intrigued by his raw skills, the White Sox drafted him 17th overall in 2013. There was speculation then that Anderson might have to move to center field in pro ball, but he has stuck at short. He is also making strides as an offensive threat; he’s at .249 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs and 25 steals in 2018. The White Sox have seen enough that they signed him last year through the 2022 season. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Chris Stratton threw a career-high eight innings on Monday as San Francisco shut out Arizona 2-0. Stratton (9-7, 4.99 ERA) allowed five hits, no walks and fanned six in his second straight quality start since returning from a second pit stop in the minors. … In recent MLB moves: Richton High alum JaCoby Jones has been activated from the disabled list by Detroit; Southern Miss product Cody Carroll was sent to the minors by Baltimore; former Ole Miss star Mike Mayers has landed on the DL for St. Louis; and UM alum Bobby Wahl is eligible to come off the DL for the New York Mets but there’s been no word on when that might happen.
It’s not often you run across the name of Hughie Critz in a story these days. The Starkville native last played a big league game in 1935. But ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, in a piece about Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, notes a link between Critz and the current Cincinnati star. Hamilton, with 40 runs in 54 games, is on pace to score 109. His on-base percentage is .305. Since 1920, Crasnick writes, only two players — Tony Armas in 1984 and Critz in 1930 — have scored 105 runs or more in a season in which they had an OBP of .305 or lower. Critz, who started that 1930 season with the Reds and finished it with the New York Giants, scored 108 runs with an OBP of .292. The diminutive infielder had 172 hits and 30 walks, and he stole only eight bases. (Hamilton, probably the fastest player in the game today, has an MLB-best 28.) Not to diminish Critz’s accomplishment, but it should be noted that the 1930 season came at the height of a “lively ball” era that saw huge offensive numbers posted across the board. Critz spent most of that year with the Giants, who had three players you might have heard of – Bill Terry, Mel Ott and Fred Lindstrom – who drove in over 100 runs each and also scored 100-plus. Critz, a Mississippi A&M (State) alum, batted .268 with a .303 OBP over an outstanding 12-year career in which he scored 90 or more runs five times.