If there is a karma factor in the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament, it might belong to Hinds Community College. This could be a sentimental journey for Eagles coach Sam Temple, who is leaving for the Clinton High job after 16 very successful years in Raymond. He has taken two teams to the juco World Series in his previous 15 years. Hinds is the only unranked team in the six-team regional at Poplarville, but between the white lines that means nothing. Stuff happens in the postseason when the games mean more. Pablo Lanzarote, a Purdue signee, leads the HCC attack with a .325 average, 13 homers and 15 RBIs. Matt Corder is hitting .445 with 17 steals. Brooks Auger is 6-1 with a 3.38 ERA, Bryce Brock 5-4, 2.23. Pearl River, which plays Hinds in the first round, is the top seed and enjoys home field advantage (17-1 record) at Herring Park. Led by Tate Parker (.396, 17 homers, 63 RBIs) and Landon Gartman (8-0, 1.83), the Wildcats are among the nation’s leaders in both home runs and ERA, a pretty potent combination. Lurking in the field as the No. 3 seed is LSU-Eunice, ranked second in the nation and boasting of six national titles. The Bengals’ lineup features two .400-hitting regulars: Jack Merrifield (.441) and Scott Jones (.401). Two relief pitchers have ERAs of 1.13 and 0.65. Some other star may emerge, like, perhaps, Meridian’s Banks Tolley (.416, 13 homers, 14 steals), Itawamba’s Lane Domino (.788 slug) or East Central’s Walker Johnson (2.08 ERA, 15 strikeouts per nine innings). Whichever team makes it through to Enid, Okla., for the D-II World Series will have earned the ticket.
There are four Mississippi junior colleges in the latest NJCAA Division II Top 20 poll, led by No. 3 Pearl River (31-7), which leads the MACCC standings at 21-5. Itawamba, ranked 11th, is 19-7 in the league, No. 9 Meridian 18-8 and No. 19 East Central 17-9. A bunch of individuals also show up in the national stat charts, most notably perhaps Jones College left-hander Dalton Rogers, who leads the nation with 91 strikeouts over 57 innings. The Northwest Rankin High product is 3-4 with a 3.16 ERA for the 22-18 Bobcats. The top-ranked hitter from the state is Mississippi Delta’s Gage Little, batting .481, ninth in the D-II stats. Pearl River’s Graham Crawford stands tied for second nationally with 14 home runs; teammates Tate Parker and Kasey Donaldson have 13 each for the power-laden Wildcats, who top the country with 80 homers. Parker is fifth in D-II with 53 RBIs. Jones’ Murray Hutchinson leads the state with 25 stolen bases, ranking ninth in the nation. Pearl River’s Landon Gartman has eight wins (and no losses), tied for second in the national stats, and a 1.87 ERA, which ranks third. Meridian’s Alec Sparks has seven wins. Northeast’s Alex Potter has five saves, tied for third in the country. Jones’ Garrett Langrell and Gulf Coast’s Alex McWhorter have four saves each. P.S. Hinds has named Dan Rives, a former Eagles assistant and Delta head coach, as the 2022 successor to Sam Temple, who has taken the Clinton High job for next season. Temple has 439 wins over 16 seasons in Raymond, with three state championships and two juco World Series trips on his ledger.
The tone was set on opening day at Dub Herring Park in Poplarville. The Pearl River Community College Wildcats slugged five home runs in a doubleheader sweep of East Central CC on Feb. 3, and the laser show has continued all season for a team that has climbed to first place in the state standings and to No. 2 in the national poll. PRCC (21-5, 11-3 MACCC) has 53 home runs, third-most in NJCAA Division II. They hit eight in one game in February. The Wildcats are slugging .577 as a team. They take a seven-game win streak into today’s big doubleheader at Hinds (14-10, 12-6). Pablo Lanzarote leads the Eagles with eight homers. PRCC has four players with eight or more. Kasey Donaldson and Graham Crawford each hit their ninth on Friday, two of the four the team belted in a 10-0, 5-inning win against Holmes. Tate Parker also has nine; Von Seibert sits at eight and Eric Newsom at five. That makes for a pretty scary lineup. But the Wildcats can also scratch out a win, as they did in Game 2 against Holmes on Friday. They got just five hits, pushed across the winning run in the sixth on a sac fly and used some gritty pitching from Dakota Lee to close it out. “What makes this league so tough and people don’t understand about junior college baseball is you play a doubleheader and there is no guarantee Game 1 is going to be like Game 2 and vice versa,” PRCC coach Michael Avalon said in a school release. Landon Gartman tops the team’s pitchers with a 4-0 record and 2.10 ERA; the other three regular starters are a combined 10-1. P.S. East Central is second in the league standings at 14-4, and Itawamba is third at 10-4, percentage points ahead of Hinds.
Five Mississippi junior colleges are ranked in the most recent NJCAA Division II poll, but only one remains undefeated on the young season. Hinds Community College, ranked seventh (up from 17th in the preseason poll), moved to 8-0 on Tuesday by overpowering Jones College 8-5 and 9-7 in a non-conference twinbill at Vicksburg’s Sports Force Parks. The Eagles hit seven homers, two more than they’d hit all year to that point, and came from behind to win both games. “This is a sophomore-laden club that has that spirit about them,” Hinds coach Sam Temple told the Vicksburg Post. Jones, ranked fifth in one preseason poll, slipped to 2-7. Venezuela native Pablo Lanzarote leads the Eagles’ potent attack with a .522 average, two homers and 15 RBIs. Connor Carter, a sophomore out of Germantown High, is at .520 with two homers and a team-leading 11 runs. The HCC pitching staff carries a 1.94 ERA. Preston Johnson, out of Copiah Academy, is 1-0, 3.00 with 16 strikeouts in nine innings. Germantown product Harrison Haley and Warren Central alum Caleb Sterling are both 2-0 with sub-2.00 ERAs. … Pearl River (4-2) is ranked fourth in this week’s NJCAA poll, and Itawamba (5-3) is co-No. 7 with Hinds. Northeast, which has won nine of 10, all at its new home park, is ranked 12th.
Just when it looked like the Jones County Junior College program was starting to slip, Chris Kirtland’s Bobcats ripped off 17 wins in their first 18 games this year. They’ve jumped from unranked in preseason to No. 2 in the nation. They take a 20-2 overall record (5-1 MACJC) into a doubleheader today at 14th-ranked Hinds CC (15-4, 3-1). Kirtland, in his fourth season as JCJC head coach, has a fairly stunning 158-26 record. A longtime assistant under Christian Ostrander (now at Southern Miss), Kirtland won the 2016 NJCAA Division II national title in his first year in charge. In 2017, the Bobcats “slipped” to 46-4 and lost in the Region 23 Tournament. Last year, they “fell” to 38-11 and were upset by Hinds in the best-of-3 round of the state playoffs. But anyone expecting a down year in Ellisville in 2019 was misinformed. Led by an influx of talented freshmen, JCJC looks as formidable as ever. O’Neill Burgos, from Brookhaven, is hitting .398, Bailee Hendon of Vancleave .396. Versatile Blake Johnson, from Gulfport via Tulane, has seven homers and three saves. Lane Thomas is 5-0 with a 1.72 ERA and fellow frosh Coleton Ausburn 5-0, 3.10. Brandon Hale, a sophomore from Pontotoc, is batting .385 with four homers and a team-leading 29 runs. “Our team has gotten to a point where the expectations can motivate you,” Kirtland said before the season began. “The expectations can take your play to another level at times.”
Twenty years ago on this date – Aug. 1 – Chad Bradford, at age 23, made his big league debut, completing a rather rapid journey from Byram High to Hinds Community College to Southern Miss and through three levels of the minors. The right-hander with the down-under delivery pitched 2 1/3 innings for the Chicago White Sox against Texas at The Ballpark in Arlington. He allowed one hit and was charged with one run. He faced eight batters and got seven ground balls, a display of the speciality that helped him stay in the majors for 11 more years, including the immortalized 2001 season with the “Moneyball” A’s in Oakland. Bradford ended his career with a 3.26 ERA, 36 wins and 11 saves. He never made an All-Star team or won a World Series ring, but he did pitch in seven postseasons for five different clubs and put up a sparkling 0.39 ERA.
Ole Miss players will be plentiful in the venerable Cape Cod League, which starts its 133rd season today. Greer Holston, Cooper Johnson and Grae Kessinger are on the roster of the Bourne Braves. Thomas Dillard is with Cotuit, Will Ethridge with Falmouth and Jordan Fowler and Houston Roth with Hyannis. Mississippi State’s Jordan Anderson is listed on the Falmouth roster, though Bulldogs players will be a little delayed in reaching their summer assignments. They have more pressing business, of course: the College World Series. … Southern Miss has four players, including outfielder Fred Franklin, with the Acadiana team in the Texas Collegiate League. … Ole Miss’ Parker Caracci and USM’s Matt Wallner are on the roster for Team USA’s college national squad. Caracci, drafted this month as an eligible sophomore by Toronto, had 10 saves and a 2.31 ERA for the Rebels in 2018. Wallner, a rising junior who batted .351 with 16 homers last season, has been projected to go ninth overall in the 2019 draft by an mlb.com writer. … The New Albany-based Cotton States League is up and running in its 10th season. The HillCountry Generals, featuring a bevy of Blue Mountain College players, are off to a 4-1 start. Ty Wooten, an Arkansas-Little Rock player, is hitting .467 for the Generals. In addition to BMC alums, players from Belhaven, Ole Miss, Mississippi Valley State, MUW and several state jucos are in the league. … Hinds Community College coach Sam Temple will be on the staff of the NJCAA National Team in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita in late July. The all-star squad has yet to be announced. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s Brandon Parker and Meridian CC’s Trace Jordan were named to the NJCAA Division II All-America first team and Pearl River’s Simon Landry to the second team. P.S. If anyone is wondering, former State star Rafael Palmeiro is batting .212 in 10 games for Cleburne in the independent American Association. The 53-year-old ex-big leaguer hasn’t homered since his one bomb on May 21 (see previous post).
Fifty years ago this season, Jim Miles made his big league debut. The Grenada native did not make much of an imprint, appearing in just 13 games for the Washington Senators over two years in The Show. Miles, of course, is much better known for what he did after pro ball: coaching at Northwest Mississippi Community College, his alma mater, for 20 years. The Rangers’ field in Senatobia now bears his name. Also in 1968, Bill Melton, a Gulfport native, debuted with the Chicago White Sox and went on to make quite a dent. Melton, sometimes called “Beltin’ Bill,” hit 160 career homers in 10 seasons and won an American League home run crown with 33 in 1971. If Melton isn’t the best third baseman from the Magnolia State, Charlie Hayes is. The Hattiesburg native made his MLB debut 30 years ago and went on to bat .262 with 144 homers over 14 years. Hayes won a World Series ring with the 1996 New York Yankees. Among the first Mississippians to play in the majors was Dode Criss of Sherman; he broke in 110 years ago – 1908 – with the St. Louis Browns and hit a sweet .341 in 82 at-bats that year. Morton native Atley Donald came along 80 years ago, playing the first of his eight seasons with the Yankees in 1938. “Swampy” won 65 games all told and a World Series in 1941. Hard to believe, but it has been 20 years since Byram’s Chad Bradford – he of Moneyball fame — arrived in the big leagues. The Hinds Community College and Southern Miss alum, known for his submarine-style delivery, posted a 3.26 ERA in 561 games – and a 0.39 in 24 postseason appearances. Time marches on: Bradford’s son Keller now pitches for USM.
The “Moneyball” A’s are back in the news, thanks to Cleveland’s remarkable winning streak. The Indians will seek their 20th straight win tonight, which would tie the 2002 Oakland club’s American League record. The A’s record – and the 20th win, in particular – were made famous by the “Moneyball” book and movie. Former Jackson Mets star Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt in the movie, was the Oakland GM and, of course, star of the film. Chad Bradford, a Byram High, Hinds Community College and Southern Miss alum, also gained a measure of fame from “Moneyball” as one of the frequently featured players. His role in the winning streak is worthy of mention. A situational, submarine-style right-hander, Bradford made eight appearances during the A’s record roll from Aug. 13-Sept. 4, 2002. He did not allow a run in six of those games. One of his two rough outings came in the Sept. 4 game, which was immortalized in the movie. Bradford allowed four runs in a third of an inning as the A’s blew an 11-0 lead against Kansas City. As all the world knows, the A’s won on the dramatic walk-off homer by Scott Hatteberg, who was played by Chris Pratt in the movie. The part of Bradford was played by an ex-minor league pitcher named Casey Bond. The real-life Bradford posted a 3.11 ERA in 75 games for Oakland in 2002, his second year with the team and fifth of 12 he spent in the big leagues.
Here are a few names to know heading into the weekend: Cameron Baranek, Dominick Cammarata and Wes Degener. … Baranek is the leading hitter for Hope International, which is William Carey University’s first-round opponent on Friday in the NAIA World Series at Lewiston, Idaho. Baranek is batting .356 with 13 homers for a Royals team that is playing just its second season. The California-based Royals (35-16) can mash (66 homers) and dash (101 steals), but their pitching staff has a 4.48 ERA. … Cammarata is the hitting star for Pitt (N.C.) Community College, which is Hinds CC’s first-round foe on Saturday in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla. Cammarata has put up a .349 average, 17 homers and 69 RBIs for a Bulldogs team that is 41-7 with 16 straight wins. … Degener is the catalyst for Lindenwood (Mo.) University, which is Delta State’s first-round opponent on Saturday in the NCAA Division II World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas. Degener is hitting .399 with 21 steals and 54 runs for the Lions (39-18), who won the Central Region title in their first regional appearance. … But enough about those guys. Here are some picks to click for the home boys: Adrian Brown, Quinton Logan and Clay Casey. … Brown, Carey’s senior center fielder from McComb, does a lot of things in a loaded lineup that also features James Land and a band of Tylers (Graves, Odom, James). Brown is hitting .300 with four homers, 16 doubles, five triples, 44 RBIs, 60 runs and 36 steals. If the Crusaders make a run in Lewiston, Brown will be in the thick of things. … Logan, a sophomore from Natchez, is not Hinds CC’s best hitter – that’s Jackson Mitchell (.385, six homers) — and he’s not the Eagles’ ace – that’s Caleb Morgan (8-1, 2.23). Logan is a two-way threat for Hinds, posting a 1.19 ERA and seven saves and a .333 batting average with 11 doubles, 47 RBIs and 42 runs. Somehow, someway, he’ll be a factor in any success in Enid. … Casey, a transfer from Houston (by way of Northwest CC and DeSoto Central), has had a big year for Delta State that has been largely overshadowed by the ginormous year enjoyed by Zack Shannon. Casey is batting .346 (.673 slugging) with 17 bombs, 62 RBIs and 58 runs. If Shannon gets pitched around in Grand Prairie, Casey is certainly capable of picking up any slack.