28 Feb

18 and 500

Something special seems to be brewing at East Central Community College. Again. Down five runs in the eighth inning on Tuesday against visiting East Mississippi, the Warriors rallied to win, 10-8, in extra innings, moving their record to 18-0 and notching coach Neal Holliman’s 500th win at the Decatur school. ECCC, the defending MACCC and Region 23 champion, is ranked 10th in the NJCAA Division II preseason poll and will surely jump when the first in-season poll is released. The Warriors won twice on Tuesday, beating 13th-ranked Meridian 14-2 in the first game of the three-team round-robin event. They hit three homers in that one, including a Kelby Jordan grand slam. They belted four more bombs in the win against East, two by Mo Little and a walk-off shot in the 10th by Brady McGee. ECCC is averaging almost 11 runs a game and has a 3.74 staff ERA. The Warriors play again on Saturday in a round-robin at Hinds, meeting Southeastern (Iowa) and the host Eagles. P.S. Lewisburg High, off to a 5-0 start, is ranked fifth in the latest MaxPreps Top 25. The Patriots, led by preseason All-America pick Samuel Richardson, are playing this weekend in the Perfect Game Showdown, a 60-team event at the Hoover Met in Alabama. Brandon, DeSoto Central and Hernando are also in the field. … Jackson Prep (9-1) is No. 22 in the MaxPreps poll as the only other state school in the rankings.

21 Feb

february madness

This was a pretty cool idea: Twelve of the 15 teams in the MACCC got together Tuesday for three-way round-robin events at four locations. The other three teams will play a round-robin today. In Tuesday’s action, No. 3-ranked Pearl River Community College (12-3), No. 10 East Central (13-0) and unranked Mississippi Gulf Coast (10-2) went undefeated in their respective events. No. 13 Meridian (7-5) beat Coahoma but lost to Northeast in Booneville. At Goodman, Pearl River beat Itawamba behind two RBIs from Bryce Fowler and strong pitching by Eli Waters, then whipped host Holmes powered by Hollis Porter’s seventh home run of the year. At Ellisville, East Central — the defending state and region champ — blew past Copiah-Lincoln and host Jones by a combined 27-8 count. For the Warriors, Barret Rodgers drove in three runs against CLCC and Reid Hall picked up five RBIs vs. Jones. At Perkinston, Gulf Coast’s Brandon Cain won the opener vs. Southwest 9-1 with five stellar innings and then got four hits in an 11-10 thriller over East Mississippi. East, which beat Southwest, is 11-3. At Delta State’s Ferriss Field today, Hinds, Delta and Northwest will go at it.

12 Feb

strong start

Power bats are in no short supply in the Mississippi junior college circuit. It’s early — yes, very early — in the 2024 season, but there are three MACCC products in the top eight in NJCAA Division II in home runs. Evan Radford is tied for the lead with five, and Dom Jackson and Hollis Porter have hit four each. Radford, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore, is batting .450 with 13 RBIs for East Mississippi CC. A transfer from Southern Miss, he hit 12 homers for the Lions in 2023. Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s Jackson, 6-3, 215, a freshman from Florida, is hitting .600 with 13 RBIs for the Bulldogs. Pearl River CC’s Porter, 6-4, 220, from Hurley by way of Mississippi State, has 10 extra base hits (1.129 slug) for the Wildcats. Four other state juco players have three homers to date: Meridian’s Cooper Chaplain, Hinds’ Thomas Marsala and East Central’s Brady McGee and Barret Rodgers.

10 Feb

tagging up

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.

29 Jan

on the juco menu

The junior college season, which will serve up an array of delectable games this week, delivered quite the appetizer on Saturday. Kaden Irving belted a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning to propel Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to an 8-7, season-opening win against Baton Rouge in Perkinston. Saucier native Irving, 6 feet 2, 235 pounds, is a reverse transfer from Ole Miss. “We know what he’s capable of,” Gulf Coast coach Bob Keller said in a school release. “We’re glad he chose us.” Marc Stephens went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for the Bulldogs, who play again today at Baton Rouge. Pearl River, ranked No. 3 in the NJCAA Division II preseason poll, opens Tuesday against Coastal Alabama South in Poplarville. No. 13 Meridian opens Friday in the Panama City Beach Baseball Classic, facing Wallace-Dothan of Alabama. PRCC is also in the Panama City event, a three-day, 16-team affair featuring juco teams from across the South. Tenth-ranked East Central, the defending MACCC and Region 23 champion, opens Saturday in a twinbill against Marion Military Institute of Alabama. Other openers of note: Itawamba is at Bevill State (Ala.) on Wednesday; Hinds hosts Logan College (Ill.) on Friday; Holmes welcomes Bevill State on Saturday; and Northeast hosts Columbia State (Tenn.) on Saturday.

23 Jan

poll positions

To the list of life’s certainties, you can add this: When an NJCAA poll comes out, several Mississippi schools will be near the top. The Division II preseason poll was released Monday and three state jucos are ranked in the top 13: Pearl River Community College is No. 3, East Central No. 10 and Meridian No. 13. PRCC went 45-13 in 2023 and returns left-hander Conner Ware, an LSU signee, and Jonah Katsaboulas, an infielder who hit .292 last season. The Wildcats open Jan. 30 in Poplarville against Coastal Alabama South. ECCC won the state and Region 23 championships last year and welcomes back second-team All-America Mo Little, who hit .340 with 12 homers as a freshman. … Preseason polls can and often do miss the mark. Case in point: William Carey University wasn’t ranked in the NAIA coaches preseason poll in 2023 but went 49-11 and reached the World Series. The Crusaders are ranked fourth in the 2024 preseason poll, which was released back in the fall. … Neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State, both coming off rough years, appears in the d1baseball.com Top 25. But, in the site’s 2024 transfer class rankings, UM checks in at No. 7 — ex-Arizona State shortstop Luke Hill being the most notable newcomer — and State at No. 24. In the site’s freshman class rankings, State is No. 9 and UM No. 15. … Jackson State is ranked No. 5 in Black College Nine’s HBCU large school rankings and Rust College is No. 3 in the small school class. JSU finished 28-25 in 2023. Rust, an NAIA member, went 25-25 and won the regular season title in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. P.S. The new National Baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced today, and there is a decent chance that former Jackson Generals pitcher Billy Wagner will make the cut for Cooperstown.

22 Jun

gimme some glovin’

In one of the many great scenes in the movie “Moneyball,” the Scott Hatteberg character tells Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s GM, he’s never played first base. “It’s not that hard, Scott,” says Beane. “Tell him, Wash.” To which Ron Washington, the A’s infield coach, replies: “It’s incredibly hard.” Mississippi can proudly boast of two college players who mastered that underrated position this past season, both of whom anchored the infield for championship clubs: William Carey University’s Jake Lycette and East Central Community College’s Ramie Harrison. They are among the six state college products who received ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove honors on Wednesday. Southern Miss pitcher Tanner Hall, who was error-free in 2023 while also winning 12 games, was named to the NCAA Division I Gold Glove team. He is the first Golden Eagles player to earn this award. Lycette, a former Northwest Rankin High star, made the NAIA team; he handled 412 chances without a boot for the SSAC regular season champions who reached the NAIA World Series. Harrison, a Neshoba Central product, made one error in 308 chances, a .997 fielding percentage, for state champion and NJCAA Division II World Series participant ECCC. Pearl River CC pitcher Luke Lyon, an Oak Grove alum, and second baseman Blaise Breerwood, out of Poplarville High, also made the juco D-II team, as did Southwest CC outfielder Jerod Williams, a Gulfport High product who did not commit an error in 2023. P.S. Tonight is Southern Miss Night at Pearl’s Trustmark Park, where the Mississippi Braves will host Birmingham at 6:35. Scheduled to appear in pregame ceremonies are retired coach Scott Berry and players Dustin Dickerson and Nick Monistere, who prepped at Northwest Rankin. Basketball coach Jay Ladner is also on the guest list. Fans in USM gear can get a $5 ticket. … The M-Braves, winding down the first half of the Southern League season, are 32-32 after a 7-2 win Wednesday in which Scott Blewett threw six shutout innings and Justin Dean celebrated his return from Triple-A with an inside-the-park home run.

29 May

road trip

Southern Miss will load up the bus and head east about 300 miles for its NCAA regional assignment. The Golden Eagles are the 2-seed in the Auburn Regional and will open Friday against Samford, another Alabama school. Top-seeded Auburn will play Penn on Friday. USM is 41-17 and champion of the Sun Belt Conference. Auburn (34-21-1) went 1-2 in the SEC Tournament. Samford, a 36-win team that won the Southern Conference Tournament, is led by John Anderson, who has 22 homers, and Jayden Davis, a .363 hitter. Also on the Bulldogs roster is Hinds Community College alum Josh Rodriguez (.271, 11 homers), an outfielder, and Kace Garner, a Northwest Rankin grad who played at Meridian CC and Mississippi State before landing at Samford. A backup catcher, he hit .143 in 19 games. One of Auburn’s big sticks is Bryson Ware, former Germantown High and Pearl River CC standout who was a second-team All-SEC pick this season. The Tigers are coached by Amory High and Itawamba CC alum Butch Thompson, a former Mississippi State assistant coach. The winner of the Auburn Regional will meet the winner of the Clemson Regional, which also includes Tennessee, in the Super Regional round.

25 May

the other guys

Though neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State qualified for the SEC Tournament, there are Magnolia State connections among the eight teams still alive as of today in Hoover, Ala. Bryson Ware, a former Germantown High and Pearl River Community College standout, was a second-team All-SEC player for Auburn this season and showed out Wednesday, going 2-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs and a steal in the Tigers’ 6-4 loss to Vanderbilt. Ware’s 23rd homer of the season matches the school record. Auburn is coached by Amory High and Itawamba CC alum Butch Thompson, a former Mississippi State assistant coach. The Tigers meet Alabama today in an intriguing elimination game. On the Crimson Tide roster is Wayne Academy product Will Hodo, who batted .289 this season but has been sidelined of late by an injury. Alabama fell into the losers bracket with a loss to Florida, whose starting pitcher was Hurston Waldrep, one of the stars of Southern Miss’ NCAA Tournament team in 2022. Waldrep, 7-3 with a 4.83 ERA for the Gators in the regular season, pitched into the sixth inning on Wednesday; he was long gone by the time the Gators won in the 11th. Arkansas’ starter on Wednesday was Cody Adcock, a right-hander who began his college career at Ole Miss before transferring. He pitched two innings in the 11-inning win over Texas A&M. The Razorbacks may be without starting shortstop John Bolton, a Hinds CC alum, for the entirety of the tournament. The slick-fielding Bolton, a .202 hitter, was injured the last weekend of the regular season. Former Lewisburg High star Brady Tygart, 2-0 with a 3.31 for Arkansas this season, figures to make an appearance before the Hogs are done. Today, they’ll play LSU in the winners bracket. On the Tigers’ roster is freshman Aiden Moffett, the highly touted pitcher out of Taylorsville who made one (very poor) appearance this season and apparently is redshirting. LSU beat South Carolina on Wednesday. The Gamecocks have played all year without Jacob Compton, a DeSoto Central and Northeast CC alum who transferred in from Memphis, where he was All-AAC in 2022. The slugging first baseman was injured in preseason. South Carolina plays A&M in an elimination game today. The Aggies’ director of player and program development is Chuck Box, a Columbus native who previously coached at Jackson Prep and Hartfield Academy. P.S. Kudos to Southern Miss, which opened Sun Belt Conference Tournament play with a 7-1 win over James Madison as Tanner Hall notched his 12th victory. USM gets Troy today in Montgomery, Ala. Jackson State lost its SWAC tourney opener to Grambling State 8-7 despite a combined seven hits from Omar Gomez and Marcus Atterberry. JSU meets Bethune-Cookman today in an elimination game in Atlanta.

20 May

enid-bound

How do you get to Enid, Okla.? Practice, yes, but there is a little more to it. In East Central Community College’s case, to get to Enid and the NJCAA Division II World Series, you had to win the Region 23 Tournament against a field that included the No. 1 team in the country, the defending national champion and two other ranked teams. The Warriors pulled it off, beating top-ranked LSU-Eunice 8-2 in a winner-take-all game at Eunice on Friday. Under coach Neal Holliman, in his 17th season, the Warriors have won four state titles, including this year’s. This is their first region title and first World Series berth. Eli Collins, a Southern Miss signee, went 2-for-3 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs to power the ECCC offense on Friday. Five pitchers combined on a six-hitter with 13 strikeouts. From unranked in the preseason, the now No. 8 Warriors (37-17) will head to Enid as one of the 10 regional champions. The brackets will be announced Tuesday, and the double-elimination tournament begins May 27 at Allen Memorial Ballpark. Pearl River won the national title in 2022 and Jones College did it in 2016.