28 May

clearing the bases

Scouts really like Bradley Loftin, the DeSoto Central High ace who is ranked as the No. 73 MLB draft prospect in the latest mlb.com list. Northwest Rankin’s potent pack of hitters was not particularly impressed. The Cougars lit Loftin up for five runs on five hits and three walks (plus two errors) in the first inning en route to a 9-4 win Friday night in the MHSAA Class 6A opener at Trustmark Park. Left-hander Loftin, a Mississippi State commit, pitched just the one inning, throwing 49 pitches (per SBLive). NWR’s Nick Monistere, a Southern Miss signee, outpitched Loftin, yielding four runs over six innings. … Also in the Top 200 of mlb.com’s draft chart are Mississippi State catcher Logan Tanner (No. 29) and pitcher Landon Sims (41), Northeast Mississippi Community College right-hander Colby Holcombe (132), Ole Miss catcher Hayden Dunhurst (152), MSU outfielder Brad Cumbest (172) and Jackson Academy outfielder Dakota Jordan (176). … Jackson State’s season ended with a second straight loss in the SWAC Tournament in Birmingham. The Tigers entered the tourney on quite a roll, having scored 76 runs — yes, 76 — in their last four regular season games. But they were stymied in the tourney by Southern University and Prairie View A&M. … USM faces elimination today against Texas-San Antonio in the C-USA Tournament in Hattiesburg. The top-seeded Golden Eagles will need to beat the Roadrunners twice to reach Sunday’s title game. … Out in Arizona, former Madison Central star Braden Montgomery is 4-for-10 with three runs in Stanford’s 2-0 start in the Pac-12 Tournament. Montgomery, the league’s freshman of the year, is hitting .302 with 15 homers and has two saves in 14 pitching appearances for the top 10 Cardinal. … Pearl River Community College, top seed in the NJCAA Division II World Series, will learn today who its opening opponent will be on Sunday in the Enid, Okla., tournament. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves matched their club scoring record in a 19-6 win at Pensacola on Friday. The M-Braves mashed six homers, two each by Drew Lugbauer and C.J. Alexander. The M-Braves, 21-22 with two games left on this trip, return home Monday for a Memorial Day special. … The Dakota Hudson-Brandon Woodruff showdown in St. Louis (see previous post) sorta fizzled. Hudson didn’t allow a run but took 97 pitches to get 14 outs and wound up with a no-decision in a game the Cardinals won 4-2. His former MSU teammate Woodruff, Milwaukee’s starter, allowed two runs in four innings, left with an ankle injury and took the loss to fall to 5-3. If Woodruff goes on the injured list, will the Brewers call up ex-Bulldogs ace Ethan Small (3-1, 1.88 ERA in Triple-A)?

20 May

party at the river

On a day when gloom enveloped Starkville and anger bubbled up in Oxford, there was joy Thursday in Poplarville, where Pearl River Community College won the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament title. The No. 1-ranked Wildcats, wearing their lucky gold unies, celebrated their 11-4 win against defending national champion LSU-Eunice with a huge dogpile in the middle of the field at Dub Herring Park. PRCC has punched its ticket to Enid, Okla., for the NJCAA Division II World Series. “This program is here to take that next step and I think they’re up for the challenge,” coach Michael Avalon said in a school release. Here are nine numbers to chew on as The River prepares for Enid:
3 — Trips to the juco World Series for the program in the last 20 years, two in the last four.
40 — Wins, marking the second time in the last three full seasons the Wildcats have reached that threshold.
7.0 — Average margin of victory in going 4-0 in the region tournament.
76 — Team home runs, sixth-most in the nation.
34 — Career homers, a school record, by Tate Parker, who hit the record-breaker, his 16th, in Thursday’s game.
.455 — Batting average this season for Parker, a likely juco All-American.
11.39 — Strikeouts per nine innings by Sam Hill (3-2), who fanned seven over six innings in the title-clincher vs. the nation’s fourth-ranked team.
6 — Wins by Dakota Lee, Leif Moore and Turner Swistak, tied for the team lead; they are a combined 18-2.
195 — Wins in six seasons, including the abbreviated 2020 campaign, for Avalon.

16 May

developing situations

Suddenly, Ole Miss looks like a juggernaut. Again. Buried at the bottom of the SEC standings a couple weeks ago, the Rebels have won seven in a row, including their first (as in ever) sweep at nationally ranked LSU over the weekend. Three home runs and clutch pitching by closer Brandon Johnson carried UM (31-19, 13-14 SEC) to an 8-5 win Sunday. Ole Miss was a consensus top 10 team at the season’s outset.
It was bombs away in Hattiesburg as Southern Miss, in dire need of a big win, blasted six homers — three by Christopher Sargent — and got clutch pitching from closer Landon Harper in a 9-5 victory against Texas-San Antonio that clinched the weekend series. The Golden Eagles (38-14, ranked No. 18 by Baseball America) are 2 games up in first place in C-USA with a 20-7 record. An NCAA regional host role may still be in play.
The stunning freefall by Mississippi State continues, as the Bulldogs’ losing streak stretched to nine after a sweep at the hands of nationally ranked Texas A&M. MSU pitching yielded 8, 9 and 8 runs in the three losses. The defending national champion Bulldogs, at 9-18 in the SEC, are in real danger of missing the conference tournament.
Jackson State, seeking to right a listing ship, swept Florida A&M at Braddy Field over the weekend, winning the finale 13-2 as Jaelen Williams went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. The Tigers climbed back over .500 at 26-25 and are 13-14 in the SWAC with a road series at fading Mississippi Valley State (on a 12-game losing streak) remaining before the league tournament.
William Carey’s “reward” for winning the SSAC Tournament is a trip to Lawrenceville, Ga., to meet defending national champion Georgia Gwinnett today in an NAIA Opening Round game. Gwinnett is 42-14, Carey 37-15. Hope International (Calif.) is the top seed in this four-team regional. The winner of the double-elimination tourney goes to the NAIA World Series, which WCU won way back in 1969.
Delta State is off to Saint Leo, Fla., for an NCAA Division II South Regional matchup on Thursday against Rollins College. DSU, making its 35th regional appearance, is 32-15. The winner of this four-team bracket moves into a Super Regional series to play for a berth in the World Series. The Statesmen won the D-II national title in 2004.
The NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament starts today in Poplarville with MACCC champ Pearl River Community College playing Northwest, East Mississippi taking on Jones and Hinds tangling with LSU-Eunice. PRCC (36-10) is ranked No. 1 in the nation. LSU-E, the defending national champion, is No. 4. The winner of the double-elimination event gets a trip to the juco World Series.

10 May

next!

Eliminated on Monday from the Gulf South Conference Tournament, Delta State awaits a bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The regional fields will be announced on Sunday. The Statesmen (32-15), regular season champs in the GSC under coach of the year Rodney Batts, lost to Alabama-Huntsville 7-3 on Monday in Oxford, Ala. DSU went 2-2 in the tournament. The Statesmen got a South Regional bid in 2021, Batts’ first full season at the helm, but went 2-and-out at Pensacola, Fla. … Also awaiting its postseason destination is William Carey, champion of the Southern States Athletic Conference. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders will take a 37-15 record into an NAIA regional. … Millsaps’ season ended Monday with a second straight loss to top-seeded Birmingham-Southern in the Southern Athletic Association championship series. Jim Page’s Majors won 10 of their last 14, including a pod title, to finish 24-21. … Belhaven’s season ended Sunday with two losses to UT-Dallas in a pod championship showdown in the American Southwest Conference Tournament. Kyle Palmer’s Blazers went 28-16, most wins for the program in seven years. … Rust College, under first-year coach John Bates, plays Edward Waters on Wednesday in the NAIA bracket of the Black College World Series at Montgomery, Ala. The double-elimination pod winner will meet the NCAA Division II bracket champ in a title game. … In the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament on Monday in Poplarville, MACCC champ Pearl River Community College plays Northwest, East Mississippi takes on Jones and Hinds gets LSU-Eunice. The winner of the double-elimination event gets a trip to the juco World Series.

08 May

championship stuff

For the second straight year, William Carey University wears the crown in the Southern States Athletic Conference. Behind a brilliant pitching performance by Chris Williams, the Crusaders beat Faulkner 7-0 Saturday, completing a 4-0 run through the double-elimination tournament at Columbus, Ga. R.J. Stinson hit a pivotal home run in a 13-6 win against Loyola-New Orleans earlier Saturday and drove in two more runs in the title-clincher. Carey (37-15) earns an automatic bid to the NAIA nationals at a regional site to be determined. Under coach Bobby Halford, in his 37th season, the Crusaders have won 18 conference titles (GCAC or SSAC) and been to eight NAIA tournaments. … Behind the brilliant pitching of Brett Sanchez, Belhaven University beat UT-Dallas 7-1 and moved into the championship round of its pod in the American Southwest Conference Tournament at Richardson, Texas. BU (28-14) plays UT-Dallas again today, needing one win to advance to the ASC title series. Sanchez (8-1) threw a complete-game six-hitter with nine strikeouts. Caleb Whittle homered for the Blazers. … Top-seeded Delta State lost to Lee University 9-3 and dropped into the losers bracket of the Gulf South Conference Tournament at Oxford, Ala. DSU (31-14) plays Montevallo today in an elimination game. … Wesley Lester’s 10th-inning grand slam boosted Northwest Mississippi Community College past Meridian 14-11 and into the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament. East Mississippi also won a Game 3 on Saturday, beating East Central 11-1, and joins Northwest, Hinds, Jones, LSU-Eunice and host Pearl River in the region tourney at Poplarville starting May 16. The region winner moves on to the NJCAA Division II World Series.

07 May

slam dances

Nathan Herron put up what might just be the hitting performance of the year among Mississippi college players, belting two grand slams Friday to power Belhaven University to an 11-4 win against Hardin-Simmons in the American Southwest Conference Tournament. Herron, a sophomore third baseman out of South Panola High, hit five homers with 32 RBIs during the regular season. The Blazers (27-14) play UT-Dallas today in the second round of their double-elimination bracket at Richardson, Texas. In other postseason play: Delta State got a grand slam and eight RBIs all told from Blayke Dendy in a 13-0 run-rule win over Shorter in the Gulf South Conference Tournament at Oxford, Ala. Dendy’s eighth homer of the year backed the stellar pitching of Harrison Haley, now 10-1. DSU, the top seed, takes a 31-13 record into today’s game against Lee University. … Blue Mountain’s season ended with an 11-9 loss to Loyola-New Orleans in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament at Columbus, Ga. The Toppers lost despite a seven-run first inning. Loyola moves on to play William Carey today; the Crusaders are 2-0 in the tournament. … A walk-off two-run homer by Justin Williams gave Hinds Community College an 11-10 win over Mississippi Gulf Coast and puts the Eagles in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament at Poplarville next week. The Eagles, under first-year coach Dan Rives, swept the MACCC best-of-3 series. Williams, a freshman out of Madison-Ridgeland Academy, went 4-for-5 in the clincher. Sean Smith had a grand slam and seven RBIs for Gulf Coast. … Jones College, under first-year coach Wes Thigpen, also advanced to the six-team region tourney by run-ruling host Northeast 11-1 to sweep that series. … Northwest is at Meridian and East Mississippi hosts East Central in winner-take-all games today.

04 May

may madness

Tournament baseball, with its air of finality, rarely fails to produce great drama. We’ve already seen it: Millsaps College, pushed into a winner-take-all game after a crushing 25-10 loss to Rhodes last Saturday, responded hours later with a 7-2 win to advance to the Southern Athletic Association championship series. Ryan Erwin and Wil Wood, both on very short rest, stepped up on a combo nine-hitter and Avery Brock hit a big home run for the 6-seeded Majors (24-19). They’ll meet top-seeded Birmingham-Southern (36-8) in a best-of-3 in Birmingham this coming weekend (Sunday-Monday) for an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament. Expect more drama this week. On tap today: William Carey, defending champion of the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, plays Mobile and Blue Mountain meets Loyola-New Orleans in the first round of the event at Columbus, Ga. The winner of the double-elimination tourney gets an automatic bid to the NAIA nationals. Third-seeded Carey (33-14) placed three players on the all-conference first team: outfielders R.J. Stinson and Chris Williams and pitcher A.J. Stinson, 9-0 this season. Alex Frilliman and Dylan Hale made the team for BMC (28-23), seeded seventh. On Thursday: The MACCC best-of-3 series begin. East Central Community College is at East Mississippi, Mississippi Gulf Coast is at Hinds, Jones College is at Northeast and Northwest is at Meridian. Regular season champion Pearl River, ranked No. 2 in the nation, clinched a berth in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament, which starts May 16 in Poplarville. The four playoff winners will advance to the six-team bracket, which will also include LSU-Eunice. On Friday: Delta State begins play in the Gulf South Conference Tournament as the No. 1 seed, meeting 8-seed Shorter in the first round at Oxford, Ala. The Statesmen (30-13) won their 22nd GSC regular season title last weekend and will be seeking a 16th tournament crown. The winner of the eight-team double-elimination tourney gets an automatic bid the NCAA D-II Tournament. Belhaven (26-14) plays Hardin-Simmons at Richardson, Texas, in the first round of double-elimination pod play in the D-III American Southwest Conference Tournament.

30 Apr

what’s in a game

For the second straight year — and fifth time overall — Pearl River Community College owns the state championship. The Wildcats, ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division II, clinched the MACCC crown with a 12-3 whipping of Northeast on Friday in Poplarville. The pitching of Dakota Lee and two homers from Alex Perry were key for PRCC, which will host the Region 23 Tournament at Dub Herring Park starting May 16. PRCC finishes the regular season 34-10, 22-6 MACCC. Northeast, which won the second game Friday, heads into a best-of-3 series next week with a berth in the region tourney at stake. The Nos. 2-9 seeds in the league face off in the four best-of-3 series. … Millsaps College won for the second straight day in the Southern Athletic Association Tournament and plays Rhodes today for the championship of its pod. The Majors, 23-18 with six straight wins, need to win once to advance to the SAA title series. Sam Pitre was 5-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs in the Majors’ 16-10 win against Centre on Friday. … William Carey pounded out 32 runs in a twinbill sweep of overmatched Talladega and heads to next week’s Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament as the 3-seed with a 33-15 overall record. Jake Lycette drove in seven runs in the two games for the Crusaders. Also headed to the SSAC tourney in Columbus, Ga., is 7-seed Blue Mountain (27-24), which lost its regular season finale Friday at Mobile. … Belhaven split a doubleheader at UT-Dallas on Friday, winning Game 2 8-0 behind the pitching of ace Brett Sanchez, and clinched the No. 3 seed in next week’s American Southwest Conference Tournament. The Blazers are 25-14, 18-11, heading into today’s season finale. … Most NCAA Division I Tournament projections don’t include Mississippi State or Ole Miss, but both helped their cause with wins on Friday. State (25-18) beat Missouri and Ole Miss (24-17) took down highly ranked Arkansas. Southern Miss, a favorite to host a regional at this stage, saw its 15-game win streak end at UAB. The Golden Eagles, a consensus top 10 team, are 33-9. Jackson State, coming off a disheartening 21-3 loss to Alabama State at home last Sunday, beat Alabama A&M 3-2 on Friday on a walk-off balk at Braddy Field. It was win No. 501 for coach Omar Johnson, whose erratic Tigers are 20-21, 8-11 SWAC. … Mississippi College (13-33, 7-21 Gulf South) stumbled to its eighth straight loss, 12-1 vs. Union. The Choctaws are going to miss the GSC Tournament; Delta State (27-13, 17-7), which didn’t play Friday, is vying for the No. 1 seed.

26 Apr

juco watch

As the junior college regular season winds down, Pearl River Community College holds on as the top-ranked team in the state and the first-place team in the MACCC standings. The Wildcats are ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll with a 31-9 mark and have a 2-game lead in the conference at 19-5 with two doubleheaders left. Meridian is No. 8 at 27-11, Northeast 18th at 34-11 and East Central 20th at 27-13. Hinds and East Mississippi are tied for second in the state standings at 17-7, with Meridian fourth at 15-7. Among individuals, PRCC’s Tate Parker, a sophomore from Gulfport, leads the state in home runs with 14, ranking third in the nation, and in RBIs with 49. East Central’s Trey Lewis leads the state in batting at .478 and in steals with 23. Parker is batting .465, followed by Meridian’s Bo Gatlin at .434 and Hinds’ Vantrel Reed at .432. Northwest’s Ryan Lee has 13 homers and 46 RBIs, second to Parker on both charts. Just as Parker has been the best all-around hitter in the state, Northeast’s Colby Holcombe has emerged as a dominant pitcher. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound freshman from Alabama leads the nation in strikeouts with 104 (16.5 per nine innings) and ranks 11th with a 1.91 ERA, best among MACCC pitchers. He is 6-2 for Tigers. East’s Blayze Berry has a 2.22 ERA, also in the top 20 nationally.

20 Apr

random numbers of note

9 — Wins for Buck Showalter’s New York Mets, most in the majors. The former Mississippi State player and new Mets manager saw his club sweep a twinbill from San Francisco on Tuesday to improve to 9-3.
5 — Innings played in right field by former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna on a rehab assignment in the Atlanta system. Acuna doubled in three at-bats for Triple-A Gwinnett and appears on track for an early May return to the Braves’ lineup.
129 — Career MLB home runs for Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State standout who hit his first as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.
4 — Homers, in 36 at-bats, for MSU product Jordan Westburg at Double-A Bowie in the Baltimore organization. The 30th overall pick in the 2020 draft is batting .306.
10 — Active hitting streak for the M-Braves’ Michael Harris II, Atlanta’s top prospect who is batting .366 with nine RBIs and three steals in 10 games in his first Double-A campaign.
10 — Consecutive wins by Southern Miss, which beat Tulane 11-5 Tuesday to move to 28-8 on the season. The Golden Eagles are ranked in the top 10 in most of the polls.
6 and 7 — Where Mississippi State and Ole Miss sit in the SEC West standings heading into their series this week in Oxford. Both the Bulldogs (6-9, 22-16) and Rebels (5-10, 21-15) began the season as consensus Top 25 teams.
.308 — Batting average for Alcorn State’s Diego Lopez-Molina, a sophomore from Puerto Rico who leads the lowly Braves (2-23) in hits and RBIs and ranks second in runs, homers, OBP and slugging.
12 — Homers for Jake Barlow, who has helped nationally ranked Delta State climb to 25-11, 16-5 (and first) in the Gulf South Conference. He hit 19 bombs last year and 11 in 2019.
4 — Consecutive wins for William Carey University, which beat West Alabama 12-7 Tuesday behind Chris Williams’ three-hit, three-RBI, three-run effort and ran its record to 27-15. The Crusaders, 13-8 in the SSAC, host Tougaloo this weekend in a non-conference series.
42 — Runs scored by Chris Hart, who also has six homers, 23 RBIs and a .311 batting average for Millsaps, 18-18, 8-10 Southern Athletic Association with one conference series remaining — at home vs. Sewanee this weekend.
5 — Wins in six decisions for Brett Sanchez, who has helped Belhaven to a 20-12 mark, 16-9 in the American Southwest Conference. Sanchez, who has a 2.31 ERA in his eight starts, went 9-2 in 2021 for a 20-win team.
16-4 — Pearl River Community College’s MACCC record, which leads the league standings by 2 games over Hinds and East Mississippi. The Wildcats (28-8) are currently ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll.
4 — Undefeated Sumrall High School’s spot in the latest MaxPreps Top 25. Northwest Rankin is No. 25. Sumrall is 25-0, NWR 25-2 after both posted wins on Tuesday.