Yes, Michael Harris II is gone to the big leagues, but the Mississippi Braves’ cupboard is hardly bare. There are prospect pitchers aplenty on this suddenly surging club, which plays a Memorial Day special tonight (6:05) at Trustmark Park in Pearl, and there are more than a few hitters of note. Riley Delgado is batting .327, and Hendrik Clementina is at .301. Drew Lugbauer (“Slug-bauer”) has 11 home runs, and C.J. Alexander has seven, all this month. Luke Waddell, Atlanta’s No. 26 prospect, is batting .268 with 27 RBIs. Five of Atlanta’s top 21 prospects populate the pitching staff, including tonight’s starter, Freddy Tarnok (No. 8). The M-Braves come in hot, having won five of six at Pensacola to climb to 23-22 on the season. The defending Double-A South champs now play old rival Montgomery in a six-game homestand with an off day Tuesday. P.S. Kudos to: Southern Miss, which earned a regional host role and will welcome Army, Kennesaw (Ga.) State and LSU to Hattiesburg this week. … Ole Miss, which, somewhat surprisingly, earned an NCAA Tournament bid and will head to the Coral Gables Regional. … Madison Central High product Braden Montgomery, who hit a monstrous homer in Stanford’s Pac-12 Tournament title game victory on Sunday. The Cardinal is also hosting a regional this week. … Pearl River Community College, top seed in the NJCAA Division II World Series, which won its opener in Enid, Okla., 10-2 over Florida State College-Jacksonville and plays Lansing CC tonight. … Northwest Rankin High, which beat DeSoto Central in a decisive Game 3 in the MHSAA Class 6A championship series on Sunday and joined East Central, Sumrall, Amory, East Union and Resurrection Catholic as state champs.
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)?
It’s championship week for the MHSAA schools and the NCAA Division I programs, and here are the hot spots:
Trustmark Park, Pearl: On Tuesday, Biggersville meets Resurrection Catholic in the Class 1A series, Pontotoc plays Sumrall in 4A and Neshoba Central meets East Central in 5A. On Wednesday, it’s Stringer-East Union in 2A, Amory-Seminary in 3A and DeSoto Central-Northwest Rankin in 6A. All are best-of-3 series.
Hoover Met, Hoover, Ala.: On Tuesday, Ole Miss plays Vanderbilt in a play-in game in the SEC Tournament. The winner gets No. 1 Tennessee in the first round of the double-elimination phase of the 12-team event.
Taylor Park, Hattiesburg: On Wednesday, Southern Miss, regular season champion in C-USA, gets UAB in the first round of the double-elimination C-USA Tournament.
Regions Field, Birmingham: On Wednesday, Jackson State, the 4-seed out of the SWAC East, opens SWAC Tournament play against old rival Southern University, the top seed from the West.
P.S. Delta State’s season ended Saturday with a 6-3 loss to St. Leo in the Division II South Regional. … Pearl River Community College, the No. 1-ranked team in NJCAA Division II, will play next weekend in the juco D-II World Series in Enid, Okla. The opponent has not been determined.
Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central High slugger, was back in the big leagues on Saturday and doubled in his only at-bat as a pinch hitter for Cleveland. The lefty-hitting first baseman/DH made his MLB debut in 2019 but didn’t get the call last season. Sent to Triple-A Columbus despite a strong spring, he was hitting .196 with nine homers (and a 36 percent strikeout rate) when the Indians decided to give him another look after axing Jake Bauers. Bradley told cleveland.com that he feels no pressure: “I get to settle in and get comfortable and play my game.” Known affectionately as “The Assassin” at Columbus, where he hit 33 homers in 2019, Bradley could give the Indians some needed thump if he can cut down on the strikeouts. He’ll probably be in the lineup today at Baltimore. … Madison Central product Spencer Turnbull has landed on the 10-day injured list with a forearm strain. He is 4-2, 2.88 ERA for Detroit; one of the wins was a no-hitter. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Brent Rooker hit his seventh homer of the season and is batting .238 for Triple-A St. Paul in Minnesota’s system. Rooker was in the big leagues briefly in April. … LeDarious Clark, the East Mississippi Community College alum and former Texas Rangers minor leaguer, has four homers and a .320 average in nine games in the independent Atlantic League, now one of MLB’s new partner leagues. … Joe Gray Jr., the former Hattiesburg High star who was once a prized prospect in Milwaukee’s system, appears to be figuring some things out at Low-A Carolina. He blasted his ninth homer on Saturday and is at .291 with 34 RBIs. He is only 21. … After suffering three straight soul-crushing postseason losses, Southern Miss bounced back with a vengeance in a 21-0 win over Southeast Missouri State in the Oxford Regional. That gives the Golden Eagles another shot at Florida State in an elimination game today. FSU beat USM 5-2 on Friday, then lost to Ole Miss Saturday. … Hail to the MHSAA champs: Madison Central polished off Northwest Rankin for the Class 6A title, joining Saltillo (5A), West Lauderdale (4A), Booneville (3A), Taylorsville (2A) and Tupelo Christian (1A) in the winners’ circle.
More than a few atta boys are in order, starting with the stars from the MHSAA championships at Pearl’s Trustmark Park (props to SBLive for those details):
Tupelo Christian’s Daniel Reddout pitched six innings, allowing one earned run, in a 5-2 win against Resurrection Christian in Class 1A.
Magee’s Adam May went seven innings to beat Booneville 6-3 in 3A.
Pascagoula’s Brayden Scott allowed one run in six innings in a 12-1 blowout of Saltillo in 5A.
In the minors, Houlka native Tyreque Reed belted his eighth home run for High-A Greenville in the Boston system.
Harrison Central High alum Bobby Bradley hit his eighth dinger for Triple-A Columbus (Cleveland).
Ex-Mississippi State star Ethan Small struck out 11 over five shutout innings for Double-A Biloxi (Milwaukee).
Ole Miss product Will Ethridge allowed one hit over six shutout innings with eight K’s for Low-A Fresno (Colorado).
MSU product Jordan Westburg had a hit and three RBIs in his High-A debut for Aberdeen (Baltimore).
In independent ball, ex-UM standout Braxton Lee went 2-for-5 and is batting .438 in four games for Southern Maryland in the Atlantic League.
In the big leagues, DeSoto Central alum Austin Riley was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and is hitting .310 with 24 RBIs for Atlanta.
Former State star Adam Frazier put up a 2-for-4 for Pittsburgh, raising his average to .335, third-best in the National League.
Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton went 1-for-3 (a face-planting “hustle homer”) with an RBI for the Chicago White Sox, boosting his average to .316 with five runs and five RBIs in his last seven games.
Ocean Springs’ Garrett Crochet threw two scoreless innings for the White Sox, cutting his ERA to 0.57 in 15 games.
Ex-State standout Hunter Renfroe extended his hitting streak to five games, during which he has 10 hits, eight runs and three RBIs for Boston.
Oak Grove visits Northwest Rankin tonight to decide the MHSAA Class 6A South State title and berth in next week’s finals against Madison Central. All of the other state championship pairings are set for the big event that starts Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. In 5A, it’s Saltillo-Pascagoula, 4A West Lauderdale-Sumrall, 3A Booneville-Magee, 2A East Union-Taylorsville and 1A Tupelo Christian-Resurrection Catholic (Pascagoula). Madison Central is top-ranked in the state by MaxPreps and is No. 6 in the country. NWR is fifth in the state, Oak Grove 12th. Sumrall is No. 4, and Booneville is eight. … Southern Miss beat Western Kentucky in its C-USA Tournament opener, finishing off the 11-1 win at 2:59 a.m. today in Ruston, La. The Golden Eagles play again tonight, throwing C-USA pitcher of the year Walker Powell at Lousiana Tech. Ole Miss and Mississippi State both lost in SEC tourney play on Wednesday and face elimination games today in Hoover, Ala. Delta State starts play in the NCAA Division II South Region today vs. Tampa at Pensacola, Fla. … Braden Shewmake, the Mississippi Braves shortstop and Atlanta’s No. 4 prospect, is in the throes of a woeful slump. After an 0-for-4 on Wednesday against Montgomery at the TeePee, Shewmake is batting .086. He has five hits, one homer. He hit .300 over two levels in 2019. … Jacob Robson, the former Mississippi State standout, is hitting the pause button on his torrid start in the minors this season. But for good reason. Robson, a native of London, Ont., is off to play for Team Canada in the Olympics qualifying event in Florida next week. Robson, 26, a lefty-hitting outfielder, is batting .424 with two homers and 10 RBIs for Double-A Erie in Detroit’s system. He played in Triple-A in 2019, hitting .267, and has a .295 career average. He was an eighth-round pick out of Starkville in 2016. He’s not on the Tigers’ top 30 prospect list but has been in their big league spring camp the last couple of years. … Magnolia State products Hunter Renfroe and Austin Riley played a little tit-for-tat in Wednesday’s MLB game between Boston and Atlanta. Renfroe, from Crystal Springs, hit a 377-foot homer for the Red Sox in the second inning. Riley, from Southaven, retaliated with a 390-foot shot, also over Fenway Park’s Green Monster, three innings later. Boston ultimately won the game. … MLB placed Los Angeles Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway, a former Ole Miss pitcher, on the ineligible list through 2022, the culmination of investigation into numerous sexual harassment allegations. The Angels promptly fired Callaway, who hadn’t been with the team at all this season. … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, now with San Diego, reportedly has suffered a setback in his recovery from a left shoulder impingement and could be out an extended time. He has been on the IL since May 13.
So many proverbial big games to track this weekend. The regular season rolls toward a climax for the NCAA Division I programs. Mississippi State is at South Carolina and Ole Miss at Texas A&M in the SEC, Southern Miss hosts Middle Tennessee State in C-USA and Jackson State (shooting for an unbeaten SWAC season) hosts Mississippi Valley State (shooting for its first win). (Note: Valley, 0-17, hasn’t played since April 18, when the Delta Devils blew a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth and lost 8-7 to Alabama A&M.) The small colleges are in postseason play. Today, in the NAIA SSAC Tournament at Mobile, Ala., fifth-seeded William Carey (30-10) plays 4-seed Mobile and 7-seed Blue Mountain (14-18) gets 2-seed Faulkner in the first round. In NCAA Division III, Belhaven (20-16) meets East Texas Baptist today in the first round of the ASC Tournament at Marshall, Texas. Division II Delta State (24-15) opens play Friday in the GSC Tournament in Oxford, Ala. The fifth-seeded Statesmen, who have won 15 GSC tourney titles, meet 4-seed Valdosta State in the opening round. And the state junior college playoffs begin Friday with the best-of-3 series that will send four teams to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament next week. Third-ranked Pearl River Community College has clinched its regional berth and will host the tourney. The high school playoffs are under way, with the series opener of several MHSAA Class 6A heavyweight bouts set for tonight: MaxPreps No. 2-ranked Madison Central is at South Panola; No. 9 Tupelo hosts No. 12 Oxford; No. 4 Germantown visits No. 14 DeSoto Central; and No. 7 Lewisburg visits Starkville. In MAIS 5A, MaxPreps No. 1 Jackson Prep, up 1-0 in the series, plays Jackson Academy on Friday.
Things went a little nuts Thursday in Starkville, where the runaway train that is Mississippi State scored 24 runs, its most in an SEC game in 22 years, to blow away South Carolina. The Bulldogs (44-10, 19-9 SEC and 31-4 at Dudy Noble Field) had a seven-run inning and two five-run innings. Twelve different players scored, with Jake Mangum and Tanner Allen crossing the plate four times each. Eleven different players got a hit, with Allen going 5-for-5. Four Dogs homered. Oh, and Ethan Small breezed through five innings to improve to 8-1.
Delta State, behind the pitching – again — of Hunter Riggins, beat Embry-Riddle 5-1 in an NCAA Division II South Sub-Regional game at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. Riggins, who somehow did not make the final five in the Ferriss Trophy voting, threw a seven-hitter with six strikeouts to move to 11-3 and trim his ERA to 2.03. DSU is now 40-12, winning 40 for the 15th time under coach Mike Kinnison. The Statesmen get Valdosta State in a winner’s bracket game today.
In the big juco showdown at Cresap Field in Fulton, No. 2-ranked Itawamba Community College took down No. 1 LSU-Eunice 5-2 in the winner’s bracket of the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament. LaBryant Siddell drove in two runs and scored two for ICC (41-6-1). Justin Medlin (7-1) went 6 1/3 innings for the win, striking out 11, and Kyle Crigger worked the final 2 2/3 for the save. ICC next plays Pearl River, which beat Gulf Coast 12-11 in 11 innings as Shemar Page homered twice.
At Trustmark Park in Pearl, West Jones (Class 5A) and North Pontotoc (3A) claimed MHSAA state championships, New Hope rallied late to win its 4A opener and emergent draft prospect Jared Johnson pitched Smithville to a 4-2 win over Stringer in 1A. Johnson, a sturdy 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander, wasn’t particularly sharp but yielded just two cheap singles over seven innings, notching eight strikeouts and five walks. He hit 94 mph on the stadium gun and was consistently around 92. The MSU (and former ICC) commit is 9-0 with an 0.68 ERA.
The stakes are higher now for Delta State and many others in the state. Fresh off another Gulf South Conference Tournament championship, DSU will host an NCAA Division II South Sub-Regional starting Thursday at Ferriss Field in Cleveland. The Statesmen (39-12), who won the GSC title for the 15th time last week, will play Embry-Riddle in their opener. Eckerd and Valdosta State meet in the other game. Tampa is hosting the other sub-regional with West Florida, Nova Southeastern and Spring Hill also in the field. Mississippi College, which went 2-and-out in the GSC tourney, did not get a regional bid. MC’s season ends at 28-17, and GSC player of the year Blaine Crim’s career ends, as well. He hit .379 with 11 homers in 2019. … Jackson State, 30-22 and a 2-seed in the SWAC Tournament, plays Texas Southern on Wednesday at New Orleans, while Alcorn State (14-29 and a 3-seed) meets Grambling. The tourney winner gets an NCAA bid, likely the only one the SWAC will receive. … The NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament begins Wednesday at Fulton, with host and MACJC champ Itawamba Community College playing Mississippi Gulf Coast, Jones meeting Pearl River and Northwest drawing No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice. The region winner goes to the Juco World Series. Gulf Coast, powered by Brandon Parker and Cullan O’Shea, swept Meridian in their best-of-3 playoff, but the other three series went three games. Northwest beat Northeast, Jones topped Hinds (behind Coleton Ausburn’s Game 3 shutout) and Pearl River whipped East Central (thanks in part to another big homer by Dexter Jordan in the rubber game). … MUW, 16-11 in its second year of competition, opens play today in the non-scholarship USCAA Small College World Series at DuBois, Penn. … The MHSAA Tournament finals begin Wednesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. DeSoto Central hosts Northwest Rankin today for a berth in the Class 6A finals against St. Martin, which is coached by former Ole Miss and Jackson Generals star Kary Bridges.
DeSoto Central High, the only Mississippi school appearing in the Collegiate Baseball and MaxPreps national rankings, starts its postseason journey against visiting Warren Central on Thursday in the second round of the MHSAA Class 6A North playoffs. The Jaguars are 26-2, ranked No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball and 11th by MaxPreps. Sophomore third baseman Blaze Jordan leads the Jags’ attack with a .448 average, eight homers and 38 RBIs. The Mississippi State commit was the MaxPreps national player of the week for April 8-14, when he went 8-for-9 with three homers and nine RBIs (eight in one game). Junior outfielder Kyle Booker is batting .417 with 34 runs, and senior Colby Crocker (6-1, 1.09 ERA) leads a strong pitching staff. Warren Central, which beat Tupelo in the first round, is 20-9-1. … DeSoto Central may be on a collision course for the state championship with Biloxi (25-3), which is actually rated above the Jaguars in MaxPreps’ computer poll. Biloxi starts 6A South postseason play at home against Petal on Thursday. Senior catcher Nick Skaggs leads the Indians, batting .374 with four homers and 37 RBIs. … The 6A championship series is slated to start May 15 at Pearl’s Trustmark Park.