16 Apr

dynamic duo

A new version of “Thunder and Lightning” has emerged at Blue Mountain Christian, where Arderrius Townsend is providing the former and Hayden Redding the latter. Unlike the old Clark and Palmeiro duo, the sluggers at Mississippi State 40 years ago, the BMC pair are doing their thing a little differently. Townsend, a 6-foot, 230-pound junior from Pontotoc, has 22 home runs, ranking third in NAIA heading into a game today against Bethel. Redding, 6-2, 175, a junior from Mobile, Ala., is among the national leaders in stolen bases with 39. While those two have certainly carried their weight, the Toppers actually could use a little more power and speed. They are 24-17 overall but just 9-15 in the SSAC, with a big conference series at William Carey looming this weekend. Townsend, aka “Peeko,” who played at Northwest Mississippi Community College before a brief stop at Jackson State, is batting a robust .400 and slugging .952 with 138 total bases. His 70 RBIs ranks third in NAIA. Redding, who has been caught stealing just three times, is batting .364 with a .449 on-base percentage.

12 Apr

the other rivalry

You’ve heard about the rivalry series coming up this weekend. No, not that SEC skirmish in Oxford. The other one. Gulf Coast Athletic Conference rivals Rust and Tougaloo, jockeying for position in the conference tournament later this month, meet in a three-game set (Saturday-Sunday) at the Bulldogs’ Sanders Field (named for coach and ex-Jackson State star Earl Sanders). Rust, led by hot-hitting, base-swiping Malik Berrien, is 7-7 in the GCAC, in fourth place. Tougaloo, led by the sizzling bat of Khilan Magee, is 7-8. Tougaloo has lost 12 straight to Rust, last winning one in 2021. The GCAC now includes eight teams for baseball, with newcomer Southern-New Orleans joining Wiley (Texas), Talladega (Ala.), Dillard (La.), Philander Smith (Ark.) and Oakwood (Ala.) this year. Wiley leads the league with a 13-2 record. More expansion is on the horizon for the NAIA league, which will become the HBCU Athletic Conference in July. The GCAC Tournament starts April 24 at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium.

01 Apr

poll positions

Slumping East Central Community College dropped one spot in the NJCAA Division II poll, while surging Pearl River CC climbed one spot. Former No. 1 ECCC (33-3 with three losses in its last five games) is now No. 2 behind LSU-Eunice; Pearl River (34-5 with 21 straight wins) moved up to fourth from fifth. Jones (29-5) is No. 7 and Northwest (25-9) sits at No. 17. … Pearl River’s all-around strength is fairly remarkable: The Wildcats are No. 2 in the country in runs and home runs, second in ERA and fourth in fielding percentage. … In Baseball America’s new NCAA Division I poll, which is dominated by SEC teams, Mississippi State (19-10) checks in at No. 19 despite losing two of three (via walk-offs) at Florida, which ranks fourth. Arkansas remains No. 1 after a sweep of LSU last weekend and will host Ole Miss this coming weekend. Former Lewisburg High star Brady Tygart is 3-0 with a 2.51 ERA as the Razorbacks’ No. 3 starter. Madison Central High alum Braden Montgomery, who plays for No. 3 Texas A&M, is the SEC’s player of the week after going 7-for-14 with three homers in a sweep of Auburn. … William Carey University (22-10) has won 11 of 12 and surely will get back into the Top 25 in the next NAIA coaches poll. The Crusaders were preseason No. 4. … Jackson State was ranked No. 2 in Black College Nines’ HBCU Large School poll last week but will surely tumble after getting swept at Florida A&M by a collective 29-5 over the weekend. JSU is 19-8, 5-3 SWAC.

22 Mar

up and running

After stumbling out of the blocks this season, William Carey University may be hitting its stride. The Crusaders (15-9) have won five straight, including a conference sweep at Thomas University (Ga.) last weekend, and host sub-.500 SSAC foe Tennessee Southern this weekend (Saturday-Sunday) in Hattiesburg. Carey was ranked No. 4 in the NAIA preseason poll, coming off a World Series appearance, but lost its opener at home to 10th-ranked Missouri Baptist and wobbled through February. “It’s a long season and I think we’ll be fine,” longtime coach Bobby Halford said last month, acknowledging that some new faces would have to step up. The Crusaders are 7-3 in March. They fell out of the national rankings last week but appear poised to climb back in with a stretch of 10 straight games upcoming at Wheeler Field. Preseason NAIA All-America pick R.J. Stinson has played like one — batting .469 with four homers, 27 RBIs and 32 runs — and he has started to get some help from the rebuilt lineup. Bailee Hendon, a senior from Vancleave, is batting .299 with four homers and 27 RBIs, and Jerod Williams, junior from Gulfport via Southwest Mississippi Community College, is at .292 with 13 steals and 25 runs. Dario Herrera, a lefty from Panama, has posted a 4-1 record with a 4.46 ERA and 2023 ace Andrew Shirah is 3-2, 4.40. The glue of the pitching staff has been closer John Snyder, who has six saves and a 0.82 in 10 appearances. Carey is 7-5 in the SSAC. UT Southern is 5-7. P.S. Blue Mountain Christian’s Arderrius “Peeko” Townsend leads NAIA in homers (18) and RBIs (60) and ranks seventh in batting average (.484). The Toppers (20-8, 6-7) lost Game 1 today of an SSAC series against visiting Middle Georgia State. … Jackson State, coming off a rough loss at New Orleans on Wednesday, hosts rival Mississippi Valley State in a SWAC series this weekend. The Tigers are 16-5 and 2-0 in the league. … Alcorn State (1-13), which got its first win against Valley at Itta Bena on Wednesday, is playing a SWAC series vs. Southern University at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium. … The state’s Big 3 NCAA Division I schools are on the road for league series this weekend: Mississippi State lost to Texas A&M on Thursday night, while tonight Ole Miss opens at Tennessee and Southern Miss at Georgia Southern.

14 Mar

clearing the bases

Anthony Alford hit his first home run of the spring Wednesday for Cincinnati in the Cactus League. The two-run shot by the former Petal High star, in Reds camp as a non-roster invitee, came at the expense of former Mississippi State standout Ethan Small, who yielded five runs (two homers) in two innings in San Francisco’s 19-11 loss. Small, trying to earn a spot in the Giants’ bullpen, has a 9.53 ERA this spring. … Southern Miss alum Matt Wallner hit his first homer of the spring for Minnesota in the Grapefruit League. Wallner, USM’s all-time homer leader, belted 14 in 76 games for the Twins last year. … Aaron Downs, a junior out of Heritage Academy, delivered an 11th-inning walk-off single for MSU in a 2-1 win over New Orleans at MGM Park in Biloxi. It was the first RBI of the season for Downs. The Bulldogs (13-5) play defending national champion LSU in Starkville this weekend to open SEC play. … Ole Miss (13-5 with seven straight wins) launches SEC play Friday against nationally ranked South Carolina in Oxford. … Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson will host a pair of SWAC series over three days this weekend with Mississippi Valley State playing Bethune-Cookman and winless Alcorn State meeting Grambling State in three-game sets. … In the first regular season NAIA coaches poll released on Wednesday, William Carey — preseason No. 4 — fell out of the Top 25. The Crusaders, who made the NAIA World Series in 2023, are 13-9 and 4-5 in the SSAC. Blue Mountain Christian (18-5, 5-4 SSAC) did not get any votes in the new poll. … East Central Community College, ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II, beat No. 15 Meridian 7-5 and 4-3 to improve to 27-0 and 4-0 MACCC. … Jackson Prep, 18-2 and ranked No. 2 in the state by Prep Baseball Report, beat ninth-ranked Sumrall 7-2 to finish a 3-1 run through the Battle at the Beach. Patriots star — and LSU commit — Konnor Griffin threw six one-hit innings with 12 strikeouts and got two knocks in the Sumrall win. Lewisburg, ranked No. 1 by Prep Baseball Report, plays in the four-team Southeastern High School Baseball Classic at Trustmark Park this weekend. … MaxPreps’ latest state rankings have Hartfield Academy No. 1, followed by Lewisburg. Prep is fifth in that poll.

13 Mar

steal this base

There’s a whole lot of thievery going on in Mississippi. Jackson State, which stole six bases in a win over Grambling State on Tuesday, leads NCAA Division I in stolen bases with 59 (in 63 attempts) in its 17 games, of which the Tigers have won 13. Belhaven University has swiped 63 bags (in 16 games), which is second-most in NCAA Division III. Rust College has 86 steals, ranking No. 3 in NAIA, and Blue Mountain Christian has 79 bags, fifth in NAIA. (Not sure what this says about the quality of catching at the NAIA or D-III levels.) At JSU, there is a team-wide emphasis on stealing bags, with three regulars having nine or more and two others bagging four each. Jordan McCladdie leads the Tigers with 13, followed by Rodney Hibler Jr. with 12 and Joseph Eichelberger — the .483 hitter — with nine. Rust is running with even more abandon, having attempted 105 steals in 25 games (7-18 record). Malik Berrien ranks second in NAIA with 24. Hayden Redding has 17 and Bryland Skinner (used most often as a pinch runner) 14 for Blue Mountain, which has bolted to an 18-5 start. Cole Fletcher leads Belhaven with 12. At NAIA William Carey, which has swiped 37 bases, Jerod Williams has 11. … The state’s Big 3 D-I schools haven’t caught the running bug. Southern Miss has just 12 steals, Ole Miss 22 and Mississippi State 23. No individual has more than six bags at any of the three. P.S. Blue Mountain’s Arderrius “Peeko” Townsend has been named the NAIA national player of the week after batting .500 with five homers and 12 RBIs last week. Note: Townsend, more slugger (15 homers in 2024) than sprinter, has swiped eight bases for the Toppers.

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.

23 Jan

poll positions

To the list of life’s certainties, you can add this: When an NJCAA poll comes out, several Mississippi schools will be near the top. The Division II preseason poll was released Monday and three state jucos are ranked in the top 13: Pearl River Community College is No. 3, East Central No. 10 and Meridian No. 13. PRCC went 45-13 in 2023 and returns left-hander Conner Ware, an LSU signee, and Jonah Katsaboulas, an infielder who hit .292 last season. The Wildcats open Jan. 30 in Poplarville against Coastal Alabama South. ECCC won the state and Region 23 championships last year and welcomes back second-team All-America Mo Little, who hit .340 with 12 homers as a freshman. … Preseason polls can and often do miss the mark. Case in point: William Carey University wasn’t ranked in the NAIA coaches preseason poll in 2023 but went 49-11 and reached the World Series. The Crusaders are ranked fourth in the 2024 preseason poll, which was released back in the fall. … Neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State, both coming off rough years, appears in the d1baseball.com Top 25. But, in the site’s 2024 transfer class rankings, UM checks in at No. 7 — ex-Arizona State shortstop Luke Hill being the most notable newcomer — and State at No. 24. In the site’s freshman class rankings, State is No. 9 and UM No. 15. … Jackson State is ranked No. 5 in Black College Nine’s HBCU large school rankings and Rust College is No. 3 in the small school class. JSU finished 28-25 in 2023. Rust, an NAIA member, went 25-25 and won the regular season title in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. P.S. The new National Baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced today, and there is a decent chance that former Jackson Generals pitcher Billy Wagner will make the cut for Cooperstown.

17 May

what’s going on …

In Hattiesburg today, William Carey University is in the championship phase of the NAIA Opening Round tourney, awaiting the winner of the Ave Maria-Houston-Victoria game. Carey already has beaten both of those teams and will advance to the NAIA World Series with another victory, either today or Thursday. … In Eunice, La., today, East Central Community College takes on LSU-Eunice in a winners bracket game and Pearl River meets Itawamba in a losers bracket game of the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament. ECCC, the MACCC champion, has wins over ICC and Meridian in the tournament. LSU-U, ranked No. 1 in the nation, has wins over Northeast and Pearl River. Meridian and Northeast have been eliminated. … In Hattiesburg this weekend, Southern Miss, chasing a Sun Belt Conference title, plays host to Louisiana-Lafayette in a three-game league series to end the regular season. The Golden Eagles will honor retiring coach Scott Berry on Friday. There will be a lot of emotion at Taylor Park. … Jackson State, trying to maintain momentum for the SWAC Tournament, heads to Daytona Beach, Fla., for a league series against Bethune-Cookman. The Tigers are just 12-15 in the SWAC but have won their last four series. … Taps have been played on Ole Miss’ postseason chances, but Mississippi State clings to hope as it hosts Texas A&M to wrap up the regular season. State is 8-19 in the SEC, trailing both Georgia and Missouri by 2 games in the standings. Those three are vying for the last two SEC tourney berths. MSU basically needs to sweep A&M and get some help from LSU (vs. Georgia) and Auburn (vs. Missouri). … The MHSAA playoffs are down to the final 24 with North and South championships to be decided this week. In Class 6A, Northwest Rankin and Gulfport will battle for the South crown and Germantown and Lewisburg for the North. The state championship series in all six classes will be held at Trustmark Park in Pearl from May 30-June 2.

17 Apr

poll positions

East Central Community College, which has surged to the top of the MACCC standings, has finally cracked the Top 20 of the NJCAA Division II poll. The Warriors, 17-3 in the league and 27-14 overall, are ranked 17th, fourth among the four state jucos in the poll. Pearl River, 17-5 in conference and the defending national champ, is No. 3, Meridian No. 5 and Jones No. 15. Heads up: Pearl River visits Decatur on Tuesday for a rather large doubleheader; the jucos always play single-day twinbills. In the last week, ECCC has swept Delta (at Moorhead), swept Jones (at Ellisville) and split with Itawamba. Neal Holliman’s Warriors also have registered sweeps against Hinds, Northwest, Copiah-Lincoln and Northeast. Eli Collins, a former Northeast Jones High star, is batting .445 with 40 RBIs, 55 runs and 25 steals. Brandon’s Mo Little leads the team with nine homers and 58 RBIs while batting at a .352 clip. On the bump, Luke Cooley (Wayne Academy) is 4-0 with a 3.29 ERA and David Burton (Newton County) has five saves. The team’s success really shouldn’t be a surprise: The Warriors have won three state titles in the last 10 years. … William Carey University, 31-9 heading into a home game today against Mobile, is 31-9 (13-4 SSAC) and ranked 16th in the latest NAIA coaches poll. The Crusaders swept a doubleheader from No. 7 Mobile on Friday.