Looking to the 2020 season, there are big holes to fill at each of the state’s Big 3 Division I schools. All lost significant players (see Ethan Small, Matt Wallner, Grae Kessinger … to name a few) to the MLB draft from their NCAA Tournament teams of 2019. Fall ball, the first phase of the rebuild, is under way. The first fall ball exhibition game involving the Big 3 is slated for Saturday when Louisiana-Lafayette visits Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field. The Bulldogs, who brought in the nation’s No. 7 recruiting class (per Perfect Game), started a slate of 12 intrasquad games on Sept. 13. The three-game Fall World Series is scheduled for Oct. 10-12. State will travel to UAB on Oct. 20 to conclude its fall season. … Ole Miss, with a recruiting class ranked No. 2 in the country, opens fall ball today. The Rebels’ first exhibition game is against Arkansas State on Oct. 12 and the second is vs. Memphis on Oct. 25. Both games are in Oxford. The annual Pizza Bowl that ends the fall session is on Nov. 15. … Southern Miss, which opened fall practice on Sept. 14, plays crosstown rival William Carey at Taylor Park on Oct. 13 and travels to Alabama on Oct. 27. … Division II Delta State, under new coach Rodney Batts, opened practice on Sept. 9; the three-game Green-White Series starts on Oct. 19.
Fall ball wraps up for Ole Miss and Southern Miss this weekend. The Rebels play the annual Pizza Bowl intrasquad contest tonight at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field, while the Golden Eagles finish with a game at Tulane on Sunday. Mississippi State concluded its session on Oct. 13 with the finale of the Fall World Series in Starkville. … Ole Miss and USM played exhibition games last Sunday, UM hosting Arkansas-Little Rock and USM bringing in Nicholls State. … Cole Zabowski (homer, four RBIs), Will Ethridge and Gunnar Hoglund were among the Rebels who shined against UALR. Hoglund, a freshman who passed on pro ball to play for the Rebels, has made an impression both pitching and hitting this fall. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Hoglund was the 36th overall pick by Pittsburgh as a pitcher after posting a 0.27 ERA this past year in high school in Florida. … Matt Wallner and Brant Blaylock – a highly regarded transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College – hit clutch homers for the Golden Eagles against Nicholls at Taylor Park. Blaylock, who transferred to NWCC from State, hit .385 with 18 homers for the Rangers in 2018. He can also pitch. … Familiar names rose to the occasion for State in the decisive Game 3 of its Fall World Series last month. Ethan Small pitched four hitless innings and Dustin Skelton drove in Jake Mangum – yes, he’s still around — with the go-ahead run in the extra-inning contest. A newcomer, juco transfer infielder Gunner Halter, also had an impressive camp for the Bulldogs and could be a player to watch in 2019. He hit .440 with 19 homers at Seminole State in Oklahoma last season.
The familiar “plink” of ball meeting bat is back on college campuses around the state. Fall ball begins Friday at Southern Miss, which returns 19 lettermen from a C-USA championship squad. In addition to intrasquad games, the Golden Eagles will play two scrimmages against outside competition, which is now permitted by the NCAA. USM hosts Nicholls State in Hattiesburg on Oct. 28 and visits Tulane on Nov. 4 to wind up the fall schedule. … Ole Miss also has announced its slate of scrimmages, the first of which is an intrasquad on Friday. The Rebels also will play two other teams this fall, Delta State on Oct. 13 and Arkansas-Little Rock on Oct. 27, both in Oxford. The Pizza Bowl, the intrasquad finale, is set for Nov. 2. The Rebels are coming off an SEC championship season and return All-America closer Parker Caracci. … Mississippi State, under new coach Chris Lemonis, started fall scrimmages last week. The Bulldogs are coming off a College World Series appearance – the 10th in program history – and welcomed the nation’s No. 12 recruiting class (by Baseball America) to Starkville. The freshman crop includes J.T. Ginn, the Brandon High product who was drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in June. … Fall ball is also under way at Delta State, where much is new. Only one regular position player – catcher Josh Russell – returns from last year’s NCAA Division II regional participant. Two new full-time assistants are now on Mike Kinnison’s staff: Blake Mathews and Slater Lott, a former Meridian Community College assistant. The Green-White Fall Series, which concludes the season, is set for Oct. 18-21. … Itawamba, Mississippi Delta and Pearl River Community Colleges will play a tripleheader of scrimmages on Oct. 5 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson.
Far from the bright lights of Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field, Ferriss Field in Cleveland also will come to life tonight. Delta State fans will get a preview of the 2018 Statesmen team when the annual Green and White Series begins. Zack Shannon, everybody’s All-American from last year’s NCAA Division II College World Series team, is the big name on the Gray team. He hit .434 with 19 homers and 88 RBIs in 2017. Leading the White squad is Clay Casey, who batted .333 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs. Game 2 of the best-of-3 is slated for Friday and the potential Game 3 is Saturday. … Ole Miss has one more weekend of intrasquads ahead before next Wednesday’s Pizza Bowl, the culmination of fall ball in Oxford. Sophomore Thomas Dillard has had a particularly strong fall, batting about .480, and redshirt junior Brady Feigl threw four perfect innings on Sunday. Freshmen Anthony Servideo and Carl Gindl also have stood out. Servideo, a middle infielder, was hitting .348 before going 1-for-9 in last weekend’s games. … Southern Miss has been transitioning to new pitching coach Christian Ostrander during its fall session. Ostrander is a Delta State alum who previously coached at Louisiana Tech and Jones County Junior College, where he had some outstanding teams. The Golden Eagles lost two key arms, Kirk McCarty and Taylor Braley, from last year’s 50-win squad. “The unknown is going to be who steps up for us,” USM coach Scott Berry told d1baseball.com. … Mississippi State’s 2017 recruiting class has been ranked in the top 25 by three different publications. The Bulldogs, who started fall ball on Oct. 9, are blending in three freshmen who were drafted last June plus Alabama’s Mr. Baseball, Owen Lovell. Lovell, 6 feet 4, 220 pounds, could help fill the void left by slugger Brent Rooker, the SEC player of the year and Ferriss Trophy winner. State wraps up its fall season Nov. 17-19 at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium.
The sound of pads popping, whistles blowing and bands playing can mean only one thing: Fall ball is just around the corner. Returning Ole Miss players were all over Baseball America’s rankings of the top prospects in various summer leagues. Ryan Rolison, who went 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in the Cape Cod League, made BA’s list of the top prospects in that highly regarded circuit. UM’s Parker Caracci was tabbed as the best prospect in the Ripken Collegiate League, where he posted seven wins and a 0.70 ERA. First baseman Cole Zabowski also made the Ripken top 10. Pitcher Houston Roth was on the publication’s list of top prospects in the Perfect Game Collegiate League, and Dallas Woolfolk was a rather obvious standout (four saves, 0.87 ERA) for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. … Mississippi State left-hander Konnor Pilkington, who could be the first Mississippian picked in the 2018 draft, also pitched well for Team USA, and Bulldogs catcher Dustin Skelton made BA’s Perfect Game prospect rankings. … Mississippi College outfielder Blaine Crim was ranked among the top prospects in the Great Lakes Collegiate League, and Will Freeman, a sophomore right-hander at Jones County Junior College, was rated No. 1 in the Prospect League. Alabama native Freeman was 3-1 with five saves and a 1.80 ERA as a freshman for state champion JCJC. … Mississippi State’s new freshman class includes three members of Baseball America’s Top 500 draft prospects from 2017: outfielder Jordan Anderson, pitcher Chad Bryant and outfielder Owen Lovell. Ole Miss has two of the Top 500: pitcher Jordan Fowler and first baseman Tim Elko. … Southern Miss welcomes back standout closer Nick Sandlin, who showed good stuff in the Cape Cod League, and Matt Wallner, who won several national freshman player of the year awards last season. … Delta State returns a bunch of players from its NCAA Division II College World Series team, including slugger Zack Shannon, who earned a boatload of conference, regional and national honors. … Mississippi University for Women will have a fall program for its first class of recruits. MUW, which has applied for NCAA Division III membership, will launch its inaugural season in 2018. Coach Matt Wolfenbarger is a former Coahoma Community College pitching coach and Delta Academy head coach. The Owls announced 35 commitments from prep and juco players for the coming season and will hold an open tryout on Saturday at Columbus High, where the W will practice and play. The 2018 schedule includes games against Rust, Tougaloo, Blue Mountain and Belhaven.