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).

26 Apr

collision course

If momentum means anything, Mississippi College might have an edge against Delta State when the NCAA Division II rivals hook up in Cleveland this weekend (today-Saturday). The Choctaws (20-22, 10-17 Gulf South) are coming off a walk-off win — courtesy of a Caleb Reese home run — and have won four of their last six. Delta State (25-20, 16-11) has lost five in a row and six of seven, though the Statesmen have clinched a berth in the GSC Tournament while MC is on the outside looking in. MC has some power bats — Reese and J.T. Vance have 14 homers each and Wesley Sides has 12 — and some speed — 80 steals, 15 by Cole Drake — but has been dragged down by its pitching. The staff ERA is 6.46 and no pitcher has more than three wins. Cooper Gadman is 3-1 with a 3.92, and reliever Michael Sutton has a 3.86 and two saves. Dylan Coleman has been the offensive bell cow for DSU, batting .364 with 13 homers and 45 RBIs. Brett Burrell is at .346. No. 1 starter Drake Fontenot is 6-3 despite a 5.66 ERA, while reliever Josh Hill is 4-0 with six saves and a 3.79. If history means anything, DSU might be favored to take the three-game series at Ferriss Field. The Statesmen lead all-time 50-14 according to DSU records, 46-14 per MC’s. Of course, it’ll probably come down to which pitching staff can get the clutch outs. P.S. In the GCAC Tournament at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium, Rust beat top-seeded Wiley (Texas) on Thursday and is 2-0 heading into a winners bracket game today against Talladega (Ala.) at 5:30 p.m. Tougaloo stayed alive Thursday by beating Oakwood (Ala.) and meets Wiley in an elimination game today at 2 p.m.

27 Feb

leading the way

Pearl River Community College swept the MACCC individual honors for last week, with Hollis Porter taking the hitting award and J.P. Robertson the pitching laurels. Porter, from Hurley, hit .450 with three homers and 10 RBIs during No. 3 PRCC’s 4-2 week. The lefty slugger is tied for the NJCAA Division II lead with nine homers. Ex-Germantown High star Robertson threw six shutout innings, with nine strikeouts, in the Wildcats’ win over No. 20 Parkland. Robertson is 4-0 with a 3.00 ERA for 14-5 PRCC. … Barret Rodgers leads the nation with 30 RBIs for undefeated (16-0), 10th-ranked East Central CC, and Hinds CC’s Lincoln Sheffield is tied for the national lead with 37 strikeouts in 23 innings. … Jackson State’s Joseph Eichelberger, a junior outfielder from Georgia via Paul D. Camp CC, leads NCAA Division I in batting with a .692 average. … For the second time this season, Millsaps’ Wil Wood has earned the Southern Athletic Association pitcher of the week honor. Wood, a grad student, threw a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts against Westminster. He is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 34 K’s on the season for the 8-3 Majors. … Mississippi College leads the Gulf South Conference in hitting with a .326 team average, followed by Delta State at .325. The Choctaws, 9-5 and 3-3 in the GSC, lead the league with 30 homers, topped by former DeSoto Central and East Mississippi CC standout Wesley Sides, who has seven bombs and a .488 average. DSU (9-5, 3-0) is also second in the GSC in runs with 122, having tallied 29 in a three-game sweep at Union University over the weekend. … William Carey University’s John Snyder is tied for the NAIA national lead with five saves. Rust’s Jalik Demar and Blue Mountain’s Hayden Redding are tied for third nationally with 13 stolen bases each.

09 May

don’t look now …

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.

30 Apr

more to come

Delta State, preseason favorite in the Gulf South Conference, took two of three from Mississippi College in Clinton this weekend to claim the No. 8 seed in the GSC Tournament that begins Friday in Oxford, Ala. DSU won the rubber game of the series 2-1 Sunday to clinch its tournament berth. MC didn’t make the GSC field. DSU (24-24 overall) will meet top-seeded West Florida in the first round of the double-elimination tourney. … William Carey University won the Southern States Athletic Conference regular season crown in impressive fashion, going 22-2 (40-7 overall, including a couple of forfeits) and setting a school record for runs with 512. Carey, ranked 12th in the latest NAIA coaches poll, will host the eight-team league tournament at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg starting Wednesday. The Crusaders get state-rival Blue Mountain Christian in the first round. The winner of the SSAC tourney gets an NAIA Tournament bid; Carey is likely to get an at-large bid if it doesn’t win the event. … Division III Millsaps, having won its best-of-3 opening round series against Rhodes, moves on to play top-seeded Birmingham-Southern in the first round of the Southern Athletic Association Tournament at Birmingham. The four-team, double-elimination event begins Thursday. … D-III Belhaven, which finished second in the Collegiate Conference of the South race, plays Covenant in the first round of the league tournament on Thursday at LaGrange, Ga., home of the regular season champion. … Rust College, the No. 1 seed, played two seed Dillard for the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament title on Sunday at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. The winner gets a bid to the NAIA Tournament. Rust already has been invited to the Black College World Series. … In the MACCC postseason, Meridian plays East Mississippi, Pearl River plays Southwest, Itawamba plays Hinds and Jones plays Northeast in the best-of-3 series that begin Thursday at campus sites. The winners will advance along with conference champion East Central to Eunice, La., for the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament, hosted by top-ranked LSU-Eunice. That event begins May 15.

24 Feb

spotlight on …

Compelling series begin today in Oxford (Maryland vs. Ole Miss in a clash of nationally ranked foes), Hattiesburg (Illinois vs. unbeaten Southern Miss), Starkville (4-0 Arizona State vs. Mississippi State) and New Orleans (Jackson State in the MLB Andre Dawson Classic). But the spotlight is trained on Cleveland, where Delta State, off to an uneven start, begins Gulf South Conference play against Valdosta State (one game tonight, a doubleheader on Saturday). The Statesmen are 4-5 and coming off a series loss at Eckerd College. DSU won the GSC regular season title — for the 22nd time — in 2022 en route to making the NCAA Division II postseason and finishing 32-17. Valdosta comes to Ferriss Field with an 8-3 mark, 2-1 in conference after taking a series from Mississippi College. Kirkland Trahan, a Madison Central High and Jones College product, has swung a big bat for DSU, hitting .400 with two homers and seven RBIs. Cleveland native Brett Burrell is batting .387. But those two haven’t gotten a lot of help, with the Statesmen stuck at .241 as a team. This weekend would be a good time for leadoff batter Carson Clowers (.194) to click. The pitching has been good (staff ERA: 3.19). Three of the four starters have sub-4.00 ERAs, led by Hammer Franks with a 1.64 in two outings. The outlier is Harrison Haley, a Madison Central alum of whom big things were expected. He has been knocked around (0-1, 11.42 ERA) in three starts. DSU’s pitchers will be challenged this weekend; Valdosta, led by Miami transfer J.P. Gates (.432, 14 RBIs), is averaging 6.5 runs per game. P.S. There is concern about ace lefty Hunter Elliott in Oxford. The Tupelo native, a key component of last year’s national title team, has been shut down at least for this weekend because of elbow soreness.

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.

29 Apr

rivals assemble

The results of last weekend left both Delta State and Mississippi College a little deflated. DSU lost two of three at home, including an L on Senior Day at Ferriss Field, while MC was swept on the road by Lee University, the No. 2 team in NCAA Division II. Well, forget all that. The Statesmen and Choctaws will be plenty fired up this weekend. The old rivals meet in a three-game set to finish the regular season at Frierson Field in Clinton. They’ll play a single game Friday and a pair on Saturday. DSU (22-14, 19-13 Gulf South) has clinched a berth in next week’s GSC Tournament; MC (15-18, 12-16) is still hunting. The all-time series tilts heavily to DSU, 43-12. But it’s 11-7 since 2015, when the Choctaws returned to D-II status and the GSC. Both teams can trot out some good arms – DSU’s Hunter Riggins (6-4, 3.03 ERA) and MC’s Jackson Bridges (5-3, 4.67), for example – but it would not be a shock to see the long ball determine the series winner. The Statesmen lead the GSC in homers with 50, topped by Jake Barlow with 12 and Hayden White with eight. MC is fourth with 42 homers, led by Ken Scott’s 10 and nine each from Caleb Reese and Dylan Duplechain. The teams didn’t play in last year’s aborted season, making this the first meeting between coaches Rodney Batts, who is in his second year in Cleveland, and Jeremy Haworth, now in his sixth at Clinton.

20 Apr

what a week

Mississippi College’s Dylan Marsh had the magic touch last week. The senior right-hander from Lake Cormorant (via Louisiana-Monroe) pitched in four games for the Choctaws and notched two saves and two wins. Not surprisingly, he earned the Gulf South Conference’s pitcher of the week honor, which was announced today. Marsh worked a total of seven innings, allowing just two hits and an unearned run while fanning 11. He got the wins in MC’s back-to-back, extra-inning, walk-off victories over Auburn-Montgomery on Sunday. Those wins stretched the Choctaws’ streak to seven. They have climbed to 15-15 overall and 12-13 in the GSC with two league series remaining, including the finale vs. Delta State. Dakota Kennedy has paced the MC attack with a .385 average. Ken Scott and Caleb Reese have supplied power with eight homers each, and Dylan Duplechain has added seven. Jackson Bridges (5-2), Payton Russell (3-3) and Bryce Lewis (2-4) have been reliable starters. MC currently sits seventh in the league standings. DSU is tied for fourth at 18-11. The top eight teams make the GSC Tournament field. … DSU’s Hayden White, a junior from Madison and MRA, was named the GSC player of the week after hitting .667 with three homers, seven RBIs and 10 runs in four wins. He is at .367 with eight homers and 37 RBIs for the year. The Statesmen (21-11 overall) have won 15 of their last 16.

12 Mar

early returns

Has Delta State found its footing? Hard to tell just yet. The Statesmen whipped Arkansas-Monticello 10-5 on Wednesday at Ferriss Field, fueled by hot-hitting leadoff batter Chad Ragland. DSU – 90-9 all-time against the Boll Weevils — has won three of its last five on the heels of a five-game losing streak. Nationally ranked in NCAA Division II early in the season, the Statesmen are 13-10 overall, 6-6 in the Gulf South Conference, which they were picked to win by league coaches. Ragland, a junior college transfer from Florida, has been a major bright spot. He is batting .449 with 21 runs and six steals. Darek Sargent, who homered on Wednesday, leads the club with three homers and has 16 RBIs. Hayden White and Jake Barlow also have been producing runs. Hunter Riggins, a 2019 All-GSC and All-America pick, has been solid, per expectations, but the other starting pitchers have been inconsistent. Moreover, new coach Rodney Batts’ team is 1-7 on the road heading into a GSC series at West Alabama this weekend. … The state’s other D-II program, Mississippi College, went on the road for the first time last weekend and lost two of three to Shorter. The Choctaws, nationally ranked in mid-February, are 11-9, 6-3 GSC; they were pegged for a third-place finish in the league. MC has another road test this weekend at West Georgia. MC is digging the long ball, with a GSC-best 24 home runs as a team. Chauncey Callier, a .357 hitter, leads the way with six bombs. Caleb Reese has five and Ken Scott four. The tradeoff for that power: MC also leads the league in strikeouts. That can be a problem.