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.

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.

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.

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.

12 Jun

stars come out

The Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference, which had four teams in the top 13 of the final NJCAA Division II poll in mid-May, placed six players on the D-II All-America teams announced today. Meridian CC’s Cole Boswell made the first team. The Southern Miss signee, the MACCC pitcher of the year, went 11-1 with a 2.49 ERA and averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings for the Eagles, who finished 38-12 and were ranked No. 3 in the final poll issued before the postseason. Four state juco products made second-team A-A, led by Itawamba infielder Will Verdung, the state’s position player of the year and another USM signee. Verdung hit .389 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs. Also on the second team: Pearl River’s Cooper Cooksey, who led the nation with a 1.32 ERA; Hinds infielder Dylan Coleman; and Mo Little, DH for East Central, which won the state and Region 23 titles and played in the juco World Series. Gulf Coast outfielder Sean Smith made the third team. P.S. In case you missed it: Cooper Pratt, shortstop/pitcher for Magnolia Heights Academy, won Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year award for 2023, joining an impressive list. An Ole Miss signee and highly rated MLB draft prospect, Pratt hit .469 with 38 steals and went 10-0, 0.14, on the mound for the MAIS 5A champions. Dakota Jordan, a Jackson Academy alum now at Mississippi State, won the 2022 award, preceeded in recent years by Braden Montgomery of Madison Central, Blaze Jordan of DeSoto Central, Colt Keith of Biloxi and J.T. Ginn of Brandon. Montgomery is now at Stanford, while Blaze Jordan, Keith and Ginn are in pro ball.

23 May

the path ahead

East Central Community College, champion of possibly the toughest region in the country, was given the No. 3 seed in the upcoming NJCAA Division II World Series and will open tournament play on Saturday against 6-seed Southeastern (Iowa) in Enid, Okla. This is the first trip to the juco World Series for the Warriors (37-18), who would love to follow Pearl River’s lead and come home with the national championship. The Wildcats won it all in 2022. ECCC coach Neal Holliman was named the MACCC coach of the year, and two of his players, Eli Collins and Mo Little, made first-team all-conference. Itawamba’s Will Verdung, who hit .389 with 15 homers this season, was named the MACCC player of the year, and Meridian’s Cole Boswell (11-0, 2.00 ERA) was named pitcher of the year. Both have signed with Southern Miss. Meridian, which finished second to ECCC in the regular season, had four players named to the MACCC first team, with Dalton McIntyre, Blaise Priester and Gunnar Dennis joining Boswell. Pearl River had three: Logan Walters, Cooper Cooksey and Will Passeau. Hinds had two players selected: Connor Chisolm and Dylan Coleman. Also on the first team were Gulf Coast’s Sean Smith, Northeast’s Khi Holliday and Jones’ Beau Bryans. P.S. Baseball America’s latest projected NCAA Tournament field has USM going to Baton Rouge as a No. 2 seed behind LSU. The Golden Eagles (37-16) will begin their chase for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament title on Wednesday vs. James Madison at Montgomery, Ala.

15 May

heavyweight class

To win the state championship this season, East Central Community College had to navigate a 28-game gauntlet of nationally ranked teams and longtime rivals. Now the going really gets tough.
Five of the top 14 teams, including Nos. 1, 3 and 4, in the NJCAA Division II poll are gathered in Eunice, La., this week to determine the Region 23 champion in a six-team, double-elimination event that figures to be a tooth-and-nail battle.
The field includes the defending national champion, third-ranked Pearl River Community College, and seven-time national champion LSU-Eunice, the nation’s top-ranked team. Also in the tourney are four other Mississippi schools: No. 4 Meridian, No. 8 East Central, No. 14 Itawamba and Northeast, which just missed a Top 20 ranking. The survivor of the Region 23 Tournament, which starts today, gets a berth in the Division II World Series in Enid, Okla.
“That’s it, that’s the goal,” said East Central coach Neal Holliman, who has won four Mississippi titles but has yet to claim a region crown or juco world series berth in 17 years in Decatur.
The Warriors (33-16), who got a bye into the region field, are rested and as ready as they can be for the challenge ahead, Holliman said.
“To win the regular season championship in our league (the MACCC), that might be tougher than winning a tournament championship,” he said. “The regular season is like a two-month tournament. Playing two double-headers every week, it wears and tears on your guys. We’re very proud to have come through.”
“It’s an incredible accomplishment to say that you’ve survived and made it to the regional,” said Pearl River coach Michael Avalon, whose 2022 team also survived the regional and then won the national title in Enid, just the second by a Mississippi juco.
Holliman had high expectations for this year’s East Central team, which returned the likes of Eli Collins, Leighton Jenkins and Grant Edwards from a 30-win club in 2022.
“We felt like we’d be pretty productive,” the coach said. “You never say, ‘Oh, this team is gonna win a championship,’ even though that’s always the goal. But we felt we had a good group and had a chance to do productive things.”
Things started slowly. On March 7, before conference play began, the Warriors’ record was 8-10.
“That surprised us a little,” Holliman said. “We weren’t playing bad. It wasn’t the Bad News Bears out there, but we weren’t executing in any phase like we were capable of. We have some players with a lot of versatility, and we were trying to find the best formula to have the best team, where everybody fits. Once we got settled into our roles, we took off.”
The Warriors went 23-5 in the league. They swept nine league doubleheaders and split the other five. They had a nine-game win streak and two five-game streaks. They clinched the championship on April 28, the last day of the regular season, by beating East Mississippi in the opener of a twinbill.
They haven’t played a game since. The other Mississippi teams in the region field got there by winning a best-of-3 play-in series. East Central has spent its off time working out and playing intrasquad games. “Our goal for this time was to have the guys prepared and hungry but rested,” Holliman said.
Collins, a Southern Miss signee from Laurel, was a sparkplug for the Warriors, batting .424, driving in 51 runs, scoring 66 and stealing 27 bases. Jenkins, a North Alabama commit from Collinsville, hit .355. Mo Little, a freshman from Brandon, supplied 10 homers and 65 RBIs while batting .350, and Ramie Harrison, from Philadelphia, hit .358.
Edwards, a New Orleans signee, was a whirlwind on the mound, going 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA, three saves and 57 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings. Luke Cooley, from Waynesboro, went 5-1, and David Burton, from Decatur, posted five saves.
“We’re not a one-dimensional club. To go 23-5, you can’t be one-dimensional,” Holliman said.
There is a bundle of talented players in the regional, and pro and college scouts will be there to watch. LSU-E has its usual array of stars, and the Mississippi contingent will roll out several players who rank among the national leaders in various categories: ICC’s Will Verdung (.402, 16 homers); Meridian’s Dalton McIntyre (.462, 33 steals); Pearl River’s Alex Perry (.377, 62 runs); Northeast’s Khi Holiday (.363, 76 runs); Meridian’s Cole Boswell (11-0, 2.60); Pearl River’s Cooper Cooksey (9-0, 1.26); and Northeast’s Matthew Bullard (9-0).
“It’s six good teams,” Holliman said. “Eunice has a great program. All the Mississippi schools have faced good competition all year. It’ll just depend on who plays best that week and executes in the crucial moments.”
First-round games at Bengal Stadium
Meridian-Pearl River, noon
LSU-Eunice–Northeast, 3:30 p.m.
East Central-Itawamba, 7 p.m.

05 May

winners and losers

Behind the dominant pitching of Brett Sanchez, Belhaven University beat Covenant 2-1 Thursday in the first round of the Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament at LaGrange, Ga. Sanchez (6-2), an NCAA Division III All-American, allowed four hits with eight strikeouts over nine innings. The Blazers, seeded second, play a winners bracket game today. … Top-seeded William Carey, upset by Blue Mountain Christian on Wednesday, bounced back with a 14-1 rout of Middle Georgia on Thursday to stay alive in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament in Hattiesburg. Jake Lycette homered and drove in four runs for the Crusaders, Kris Jones notched three RBIs and Andrew Shirah (8-1) threw all seven innings and punched out 11. Carey gets a rematch with Blue Mountain in an elimination game today. BMC was thumped 14-2 Thursday in a winners bracket game against Loyola of New Orleans. … Millsaps was run-ruled 11-1 by Birmingham-Southern, the No. 9 team in NCAA D-III, in the Southern Athletic Association Tournament at Birmingham. The Majors play an elimination game today against Centre. … In the MACCC playoffs, the home team won in each of the openers in the best-of-3 series: Meridian Community College beat East 15-1; Pearl River beat Southwest 23-1; Itawamba beat Hinds 8-4; and Northeast beat Jones 14-8. The four series winners go to the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament at Eunice, La. East Central, the MACCC champion, and LSU-Eunice are already in the field. … Delta State opens play today in the Gulf South Conference Tournament against West Florida, the No. 1 seed, in Oxford, Ala.

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.