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.

16 Feb

juco jottings

Based on the linescore, some wacky stuff happened in Fulton on Tuesday. Itawamba Community College put up a 10-run inning for an 11-3 lead after three, then surrendered 11 runs in the seventh and lost to Snead State (Ala.) 23-16 in Game 1 of a doubleheader. Perhaps in a state of shock, the Indians lost Game 2 6-1. The Indians (3-3) are ranked No. 17 in the NJCAA Division II preseason poll; they figure to tumble when the first regular season poll is released. … Jones College, under new coach Wes Thigpen, moved to 3-1 with a sweep of Coastal Alabama-East on Tuesday, winning both games 10-0. Kade Keeton, from Brandon, got the win with six shutout innings and went 3-for-3 with two runs and an RBI in the opener at Ellisville. … Preston Ratliff had a day, hitting two home runs and notching the victory on the mound in Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s split with Baton Rouge. The Bulldogs, under new coach Bob Keller, are off to a 2-4 start. … Led by Brock Butler (.667, a homer, seven RBIs), seventh-ranked Meridian CC is 5-1 heading into a Saturday twinbill against visiting Hinds, which is 4-2 in Dan Rives’ first season as Eagles head coach. … No. 4 Pearl River, the defending state champion, and No. 14 East Central are off to 4-0 starts. The Wildcats have been paced by John Griffin Bell (.500) and Tate Parker (.467, two homers, seven RBIs). Coleton Smith has two homers and four RBIs for the Warriors.

08 Sep

must see tv

Tonight’s marquee game in the big leagues has to be Toronto at New York, slated to be televised by MLB Network at 6:05 CDT from Yankee Stadium. Three Mississippians are among the cast: McComb natives and Mississippi junior college products Corey Dickerson and Jarrod Dyson play for the suddenly sizzling Blue Jays; Louisville native and East Central CC product Marcus Thames is the hitting coach for the Jekyll-and-Hyde Yankees, currently in an ugly slide. The Blue Jays (75-62) have won six in a row and nine of 10 to move within 2 games of the second wild card berth in the American League. They lead all of MLB in homers and have hit seven in the first two games of this series. The Yankees, who had ripped off a 13-game win streak that moved them to the top of the wild card standings, have dropped four straight and eight of 10. New York (78-60) lost the first two games of this series 8-0 and 5-1, failing to record a walk or an extra-base hit in successive games for only the fourth time in team history. Dickerson (Meridian CC) is batting .277 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 29 games for the Jays since he was acquired in a trade with Miami. He’ll lead off tonight against Yankees rookie right-hander Luis Gil. Dyson (Southwest CC), a recent waiver claim from Kansas City, serves mainly as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. He is at .220 for the season with 10 steals, two for Toronto. It’s surely been a frustrating season for Thames, in his fourth year as the Yanks’ hitting coach. A lineup loaded with sluggers ranks 11th in the league in scoring, first in grounding into double plays and seventh in strikeouts. Only one batter in tonight’s lineup is batting above .266.

01 Jul

affirmation

Baseball means a lot in Mississippi. If you live here, you know that already. After what transpired in Omaha this week, it should be apparent to any- and everyone who follows the game. Mississippi State’s national championship is a source of pride for the state, regardless of whether you’re a Bulldogs fan. Having made 12 trips to the College World Series, four in the last nine years, State is firmly established as one of the nation’s best programs. The first national title is merely an affirmation that outsiders will notice. Hats off to Chris Lemonis and crew for getting it done. Ron Polk transformed the MSU program into a beast, and other state schools have followed that wave. Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Jackson State, Delta State and William Carey have been consistent winners led by a succession of great coaches — Bianco, Denson, Berry, Braddy, Johnson, Ferriss, Kinnison, Halford, to name a few. DSU (2004) and Carey (1969) have won national titles. Millsaps, Belhaven, Mississippi College and even the fledgling programs at Blue Mountain and MUW have had shining moments in recent seasons. The state’s junior college league ranks with the best in the nation and produced a national champ (Jones College) in 2013. Kids in Mississippi high schools yearn to play on the state’s grand stages, Dudy Noble Field, Taylor Park, Ferriss Field, Dub Herring Park, et al. Youth league opportunities and training facilities seemingly abound, including the new Hank Aaron Sports Academy at Smith-Wills Stadium. Mississippi produces, per capita, more major league players than practically every other state. A Baseball America survey in 2018 put Mississippi fourth behind only Florida, California and Georgia in the relative number of pros produced from 2011-17. This season, 29 Mississippians (natives, prep or college alums) have appeared on a major league roster. Eleven of those are MSU products. The Bulldogs’ national title should compel folks outside the state to notice. Yes, baseball means a lot here.

20 May

on the docket

Delta State plays West Florida in a winner-take-all game tonight for the Gulf South Conference Tournament championship at Pensacola, Fla. The Statesmen (28-17) lost Game 2 5-2 on Wednesday.
William Carey needs two wins today against Central Methodist to win the O’Fallon Opening Round (regional) and advance to the NAIA World Series. The Crusaders (36-11) lost to host Central Methodist on Wednesday before beating McPherson in an elimination game.
Jackson State (32-8), which won its opener in the SWAC Tournament, takes on Grambling State today in Madison, Ala., in a winners’ bracket game. Alcorn State lost its first-round game and plays an elimination game today vs. Alabama State.
Pearl River Community College and Meridian CC meet today for the right to play unbeaten LSU-Eunice in the NJCAA Division II Region 23 tourney at Poplarville. East Central and Hinds play in another elimination game.
The Mississippi Braves host a Double-A South doubleheader tonight against Chattanooga at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The M-Braves are 5-8 on the season after winning the six-game series opener on Wednesday night.

17 May

six will enter

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.

10 May

juco brackets set

Five of the top 18 teams in the new NJCAA Division II poll will clash next week in a loaded regional tournament with a berth in the juco World Series on the line. Brackets are set for the first day of the double-elimination Region 23 Tournament in Poplarville. On May 17, Pearl River Community College, the host and No. 1 seed, opens with Hinds; No. 2 Meridian meets Itawamba; and 3-seed LSU-Eunice takes on East Central. PRCC (34-7), ranked third in the nation, won the MACCC regular season title with a 23-5 record, 3 games better than Meridian, which had to win a play-in series to make the regional. Hinds, ICC and ECCC also advanced via that route. LSU-E is 42-5 and ranked No. 2 in the national poll. Meridian, ICC and ECCC are also ranked. Hinds, the outlier, went 18-10 in the league, has won eight of its last 10 and owns victories against Meridian and ECCC. “All of the top seeds in the MACCC advanced this past weekend,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said in a school release. “Add LSU-Eunice to the tournament field, and again this will be one of the most competitive regionals in the NJCAA. There is no doubt fans will see good players, well-coached teams and enjoy the awesome atmosphere that Dub Herring Park provides.”

07 May

into the juco minefield

It’s do-or-die time for eight Mississippi junior colleges who battled through 28 regular season games to reach this stage. The four winners of the best-of-3 playoff series that start today will advance to the NJCAA D-II Region 23 Tournament, where third-ranked Pearl River Community College, regular season champion in the MACCC, and No. 2 LSU-Eunice, six-time NJCAA national champ, await. In the conference playoffs, Meridian hosts Copiah-Lincoln, Itawamba hosts Gulf Coast, East Central hosts Northwest and Hinds hosts Jones. Meridian (29-11), ranked 10th in the latest NJCAA poll, surged at season’s end to claim second place in standings and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. The Wildcats lost their last game but won eight straight before that, including two big ones against Itawamba, the 3-seed. Meridian is hitting .352 as a team, best in the MACCC. Banks Tolley has carried a big stick, batting .429 with 12 homers. Alec Sparks has been the staff ace, with a 7-1 record and 3.16 ERA. Pearl River, the top slugging (87 homers) team in the state, also leads in pitching (3.90 ERA), but both Hinds and Jones also rank among the top 15 nationally in staff ERA. The six-team region tournament is set for May 17-22 at Herring Park in Poplarville. P.S. Three former major league players were inducted into the Mississippi Community and Junior College Sports Hall of Fame in ceremonies last week in Pearl. Hinds Community College alum Chad Bradford, Pearl River’s Wendell Magee and Meridian’s Tyler Moore were among a large group of inductees from various sports. Bradford, who also pitched at Southern Miss, posted a 3.26 ERA over 12 MLB campaigns and famously pitched for the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s in 2002. Magee, a two-sport star at PRCC and Samford, spent seven years in the majors and batted .247 with 24 home runs. Moore, a Mississippi State alum, belted 30 homers over his five-year career. Current Auburn coach Butch Thompson, who pitched at Itawamba CC, also entered the juco Hall.