31 Mar

have a week

Belhaven University’s road show this past week was a rousing success. The NCAA Division III Blazers went 3-1, clinching the Maloney Trophy Series with a blowout win against Millsaps and then taking two of three from conference foe Piedmont. Under first-year coach Andrew Gipson, a former Blazers player, Belhaven is 13-10 and 3-2 in Collegiate Conference of the South. The week started on Tuesday with a 19-6 victory at Millsaps’ Twenty Field, a game that featured a stellar hitting performance by Eli Britt and a jaw-dropping 11 stolen bases by the Blazers. Britt, from Petal by way of Meridian Community College, was 4-for-5 with six RBIs and five runs. Tristan Pearson, from Biloxi and Jones College, homered and drove in three for BU. On Thursday, the Blazers dropped the opener at Piedmont 10-5 despite a four-RBI game from Jackson Prep product Owen Abney. But the staff stopper, senior Brett Sanchez, stepped up on Friday with a four-hitter in a 4-1 victory. Sanchez (3-1), a Golden Spikes Award candidate, struck out 14 and walked none in the complete game. Hunter Harrell, a Southwest CC transfer, homered for the Blazers. In Saturday’s rubber game, Harrell rapped two doubles and drove in a pair of runs in a 7-4 win. The bigger star of the day was reliever Kade May (from Florence via Copiah-Lincoln CC), who worked the final seven innings and yielded just two runs. The road show goes on next week: Belhaven visits Millsaps again on Tuesday, then travels next weekend to play a CCS series against Covenant. The Blazers have stolen 92 bases, a big reason they are averaging 5.7 runs a game despite hitting just .263.

20 Mar

there and here

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the first game of the MLB season today in Seoul, South Korea, beating San Diego 5-2. Mississippi Braves alum Evan Phillips registered the first save of 2024. And Mississippian Lance Barksdale, working the plate, registered the first umpire’s interference call of the season, which he called on himself in the first inning for inadvertently disrupting the catcher’s throw to second base on a steal attempt. … On this date in 1981, former big leaguer Gerald “Gee” Walker died at age 73. The Gulfport native and ex-Ole Miss star has a historic connection to MLB’s opening day, having hit for the cycle on April 20, 1937, for Detroit. It is the only opening day cycle in major league history. … The projected starting pitchers announced Tuesday for MLB’s stateside version of opening day include two Mississippi natives (Justin Steele and Garrett Crochet), two M-Braves alums (Spencer Strider and Alex Wood) and two ex-Biloxi Shuckers standouts (Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes). … In a 3-hour, 4-minute game that “featured” 12 pitchers, a 14-pitch at-bat, 17 hits and 20 strikeouts, Ole Miss beat Southern Miss 8-3 Tuesday night at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The most eye-catching number from the game was 3,269 — the announced attendance, surely a disappointment to all involved. … At Trustmark tonight, NCAA Division III rivals Millsaps and Belhaven will play the first game of the Maloney Trophy Series. The opener of the three-game series was originally scheduled for March 5 at Millsaps’ Twenty Field but was rained out. … At Starkville, Dakota Jordan hit yet another home run, his 11th in 22 games, as surging Mississippi State whipped Memphis 17-9. … Jackson State swiped five more bases, boosting its season total to a national-best 67, in a 13-3 rout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Braddy Field. Jordan McCladdie got two bags Tuesday and has 15 for the year for JSU, 16-4 with six straight wins. … Top-ranked East Central Community College swept a doubleheader at Hinds (12-2 and 5-0) to improve to 30-0. No. 5 Pearl River took two from No. 12 Meridian (14-2 and 5-2) to improve to 28-5 with 15 straight wins. (ECCC and PRCC are slated to meet April 17 at Poplarville.) … Big league veteran Mike Mayers, an Ole Miss product, has signed a minor league deal with Toronto. He pitched in the Kansas City and Chicago White Sox systems in 2023. … Former Petal High star Demarcus Evans, an erstwhile big leaguer, has signed with Yucatan of the Mexican League. Evans did not pitch in a game in 2023 because of injury.

05 Mar

have a day

There are compelling matchups everywhere you look today in the Magnolia State. (Here’s hoping the weather cooperates.) At Pearl’s Trustmark Park, Southern Miss and Mississippi State renew their neutral-site rivalry. At Twenty Field in Jackson, Millsaps hosts Belhaven in the opener of the Maloney Trophy Series. At Braddy Field in Jackson, Jackson State hosts Rust in a doubleheader. And at Swayze Field in Oxford, Ole Miss will play Memphis, which is coached by a Mississippi native and suits up several others. (For the record: On Wednesday, at Sanders Field in Jackson, Tougaloo will host Blue Mountain Christian.) Both USM and State have 8-4 records, and they have split their last 10 meetings. There will be a huge and vocal crowd at the TeePee for that clash, a smaller but no less fired-up gathering at Twenty Field, where NCAA Division III rivals Millsaps (10-4) and BU (7-6) meet for the first of three games. (A Wil Wood-Brett Sanchez pitching matchup might be too much to hope for.) Jackson State (9-3) beat NAIA member Rust 18-1 and 12-1 in 2023. Perhaps the Bearcats (3-15) can put up more of a fight this time. In Oxford, Ole Miss takes an 8-5 record into its game with familiar foe Memphis (7-6), which is now coached by Picayune native Matt Riser. The Tigers’ director of pitching development is Oxford native Chase Kessinger, Keith’s son, Don’s grandson, Grae’s cousin. P.S. Former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery, now at Texas A&M, aspires to be “the best baseball player ever,” he said in a Monday interview on MLB Network’s Hot Stove. The switch-hitting outfielder, on the Golden Spikes Award watch list, is batting .410 with five homers and 21 RBIs for the Aggies, 11-0 heading into a showdown tonight at archrival Texas. “The most important part is we’re winning,” Montgomery said.

29 Mar

dramatic endings

Scoring four runs in a wild ninth inning, Belhaven University rallied to beat Millsaps 8-7 Tuesday night at Twenty Field and retained the Maloney Trophy. There was drama of a different sort at Trustmark Park in Pearl, where the Southern Miss-Ole Miss game was cancelled in the fourth inning due to unplayable field conditions. Recently installed sod on the infield at the home of the Double-A Mississippi Braves was not holding up. Both coaches reportedly agreed with the decision to halt the rivalry game but were obviously disappointed not to get it in, as were thousands of fans who packed the park. Meanwhile, over at Twenty Field on the Millsaps campus, before a listed crowd of 190, Belhaven players and fans celebrated their 11th straight win, which moved the Blazers’ record to 14-9. Millsaps is 14-12. BU has won the series between the NCAA Division III rivals four straight seasons. P.S. The next scheduled event at Trustmark Park would appear to be the April 5 exhibition between the M-Braves and Jackson State, a game originally slated for Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium. The M-Braves open their Southern League season with a three-game home set against Biloxi April 7-9. The annual Governor’s Cup game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State at the TeePee is April 25. … JSU plays local rival Tougaloo tonight at Braddy Field.

28 Mar

battle lines drawn

Before the season began, Southern Miss-Ole Miss gleamed as a Top 25 matchup. Both schools, coming off highly successful seasons, appeared in various national preseason polls. Collegiate Baseball Magazine had USM at No. 18 and Ole Miss, the reigning national champ, at 24, plus Mississippi State at 22. Sadly, the Big 3 have fallen out of the CB poll and most of the others, though UM still shows up in a couple. Even if some of the luster is gone from tonight’s USM-UM game (6 p.m.) at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the crowd will be large and the intensity high. USM comes in with a 14-9 record, 3-3 in the Sun Belt Conference. After a hot start to 2023, Ole Miss has slipped to 15-9 and is 0-6 in the SEC. The Rebels beat the Golden Eagles 11-5 in Oxford on March 7. The two schools clashed in a drama-filled Super Regional in Hattiesburg last year. … A few miles from the TeePee tonight, NCAA Division III rivals Belhaven and Millsaps will meet at the Majors’ Twenty Field in a game that will decide the Maloney Trophy Series winner for 2023. Millsaps is 14-11 with five straight wins, Belhaven 13-9 with a 10-game win streak. P.S. Poll news: William Carey University (23-6 with seven straight wins) is No. 20 in the current NAIA coaches poll. Pearl River Community College is No. 3 in the NJCAA Division II poll, with Meridian at 6 and Jones at 9. The Bobcats are in first place in the MACCC standings.

08 Mar

special delivery

Stepping up in a rivalry game is something special. Here’s a tip of the cap to three players who did so in three intra-state clashes on Tuesday night. In Oxford, senior Peyton Chatagnier went 2-for-3 with a homer and three runs to drive Ole Miss to an 11-5 win over Southern Miss in a matchup of nationally ranked rivals. Chatagnier is batting .400 with four homers, 11 RBIs and 14 runs for the 11-2 Rebels, who are ranked as high as No. 4. USM slipped to 8-4. At Lorman, freshman Victor Figueroa went 3-for-4 with five RBIs as Mississippi Valley State whipped Alcorn State 8-4. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Figueroa is hitting .359 with 12 RBIs for the Delta Devils (6-6). Alcorn fell to 1-11. At Pearl’s Trustmark Park, Stewart Bonnecaze was the leader of a pack of four Millsaps pitchers who combined on a three-hitter to propel the Majors to a 4-2 victory against Belhaven that evened the Maloney Trophy Series at 1-1. Bonnecaze, a freshman, worked four hitless innings, allowing just an unearned run and fanning five, to improve to 1-1 with a 4.66 ERA for the 8-7 Majors. Belhaven is 3-9. … Jones College, Itawamba Community College and Mississippi Delta CC will play a round-robin today at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson, an event originally scheduled to be played in Cleveland. Jones-Delta is at noon, Jones-ICC at 2:30 and ICC-Delta at 5. Tickets are $10.

06 Mar

good stuff

Jackson State has won nine straight games and put up some football scores in the process. In their last five, the Tigers (11-2) have scored 17, 21, 13, 19 and 17 runs. They blew away error-prone Alcorn State in a non-SWAC series at Lorman over the weekend, getting big performances from Ty Hill, Jordon Smiley and Marcus Atterberry. Hill, a grad student from Saltillo, is batting .447 with three homers, 18 RBIs and 18 runs. … Hotter even than JSU is Blue Mountain Christian. The recently renamed NAIA school has won 10 straight and sits at 17-3 and 3-0 SSAC after a sweep of Stillman. … SSAC member William Carey University (14-4) has won six straight and tallied 43 runs in a weekend sweep of Dillard. Patrick Lee, a senior from Pascagoula, had an eight-RBI game in a 16-5 win in the finale of a Saturday doubleheader. … Nationally ranked Ole Miss (10-2), coming off a controversial twinbill split against Louisiana Tech, crushed three Big Ten teams in an event in Minnesota. Ethan Groff, a Tulane transfer, went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, two runs and a steal in Sunday’s 14-5 win against Nebraska. Groff is batting .413 with three homers, 22 RBIs and 17 runs for the Rebels, who’ll host Southern Miss on Tuesday. … USM (8-3) allowed just six runs total in a sweep of Dallas Baptist over the weekend. The Golden Eagles got sterling starts from ace Tanner Hall, Matthew Adams and Niko Mazza, the former MRA standout, plus two saves from Justin Storm. Tuesday’s trip to Oxford will be USM’s first true road game. … Mississippi State (7-5) didn’t get much pitching in a tournament in Texas but was bailed out in its third game by fireballing reliever Nate Dohm. The Ball State transfer tossed five scoreless innings in relief in a win against Cal, punching out six batters. In 12 1/3 innings in five games, Dohm has 12 K’s, two wins and a spotless ERA. … Mississippi College (6-12) went 1-2 against Tampa, ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division II, in a series at Clinton. All three games were one-run affairs. … On Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Division III rivals Millsaps (7-7) and Belhaven (3-8) will play the second game of the Maloney Trophy Series. Belhaven won the first meeting 4-3, the Blazers’ eighth straight win in the series.

21 Feb

rivalry time

Millsaps College is 2-4 and has lost four straight, the last two against teams ranked in the top four nationally in NCAA Division III. Belhaven University is 0-5, including two one-run losses and a pair of two-run defeats. One of the two will have its spirits lifted tonight at Trustmark Park in Pearl, where the D-III rivals will meet in the first Maloney Trophy Series game of the season. Belhaven holds the trophy, having swept the three-game series last year, including a 29-13 rout in the finale. The Blazers, an NAIA program until just a few years ago, lead the all-time series 29-17 and have won the last seven. Another high-scoring affair could be in the offing in tonight’s 6 p.m. contest, despite the TeePee’s reputation as a pitcher’s park. Jim Page’s Majors have a staff ERA of 7.02. (Wil Wood, a first-team all-conference pick in 2022, has an 8.10 ERA in two starts.) Kyle Palmer’s Blazers have posted a 6.21. (Preseason All-America pick Brett Sanchez has a 5.25.) Millsaps brings a .297 team batting average into the game, led by Case Page at .440 and Chris Hart at .360 (with six RBIs). Kyle McLaughlin leads Belhaven with a .500 average and six runs, and Dawson Albin is at .294. The Blazers are hitting just .244 as a unit. Mississippi offers up an abundance of in-state rivalry games at the various levels every season. Millsaps-Belhaven, with a trophy on the line, is one of the best. P.S. Former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery, now at Stanford, had an eventful game on Sunday. He hit a three-run double in the top of the ninth to put the Cardinal ahead, gave up a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth, scored a run as part of the Cardinal’s eight-run 10th and pitched a scoreless bottom half (with two strikeouts) to get the win in a wild 21-13 victory at Cal State Fullerton.

23 Mar

hot spots

Compelling college matchups today (weather permitting):
Twenty Field, Jackson: Millsaps College hosts fellow NCAA Division III foe Belhaven University in the first Maloney Trophy Series game of the season. The Majors are 13-8, led by Mark Petkovsek Jr., who is batting a robust .420. Belhaven is 10-8 and coming off a three-game sweep of Sul Ross State in which the Blazers put up 40 runs. Nathan Herron is the top hitter at .290. The series went on hiatus in 2021, and they played only once in 2020 before the pandemic halted the season. Belhaven won that game and all three contests in 2019.
Sports Force Parks, Vicksburg: William Carey, ranked 19th in the most recent NAIA poll, will test its mettle against No. 4 LSU-Shreveport in a non-conference, neutral-site game. The Crusaders are 17-9, just 4-5 away from home. LSU-S is 26-2 and has won 15 straight games. Carey won last year’s game at this same site 13-3.
Dub Herring Park, Poplarville: In a clash of juco titans, No. 3 Pearl River Community College hosts No. 5 East Central CC in an MACCC doubleheader. PRCC is 15-5, 3-1 conference. Tate Parker is having a monster season, batting .450 with seven homers and 30 RBIs. Turner Swistak is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in five starts. Trey Lewis is batting .521 and carries a 17-game hit streak for ECCC, which is 17-4, 4-2.
Braddy Field, Jackson: Jackson State, reeling from a three-game SWAC sweep at Bethune-Cookman over the weekend, looks to get back on track against Tougaloo in an HBCU matchup. JSU, preseason No. 1 in the Black College Nines poll, is 10-10 overall, including two blowout wins against the NAIA Bulldogs last month. Tougaloo is 5-20.
BMC Sportsplex, Blue Mountain: MUW (5-11) visits Blue Mountain (15-12) in a non-conference rivalry of sorts. MUW, which competes in the USCAA, has beaten D-III Millsaps this season but faces a taller order against the NAIA Toppers.
P.S. Delta State was scheduled to host Southern Arkansas, the No. 4 team in NCAA Division II, but the game at Ferriss Field in Cleveland was cancelled because of weather issues.

03 Mar

trophy time

Game 1 of the Maloney Trophy Series, matching NCAA Division III neighbors Millsaps College and Belhaven University, is slated for tonight (6 p.m.) at Twenty Field and comes at a time when both schools may be finding their form. Belhaven, under new coach Kyle Palmer, is 5-7 but has won three straight. Millsaps, under longtime coach Jim Page, is 5-6 with three wins in its last four games. The Blazers swept the three-game series in 2019 and lead the all-time series 25-17. BU features several hot hitters, notably Hunter White (.433) and Justin Milam (.302 with five homers, matching his season total from 2019). For the Majors, Mark Petkovsek leads with a .406 mark. Jon Dale Dieckman is at .367 with 13 RBIs and Fritz Walker III at .355 with two of the team’s three homers. It’s unlikely either team will throw an ace tonight, so it could be a hitter’s kind of game. Belhaven’s staff ERA is 4.73, Millsaps’ 5.71.