08 May

fully charged

A well-rested Belhaven University team begins play today in the Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament at Maryville, Tenn. The second-seeded Blazers, who haven’t played an actual game since April 27, meet Huntingdon (Ala.) at the wonderfully named Scotland Yard, home of the top-seeded Maryville Scots. (Game time is 10 a.m. CDT.) Under first-year coach Andrew Gipson, the Blazers are 23-15 and took two of three from Huntingdon on the road last month. BU is led by the bat of Owen Abney, the arms of Brett Sanchez and Colton Sylvester and the legs of, well, a host of players. Former Jackson Prep star Abney is batting .345 with 10 homers and 55 RBIs. Sanchez is a preseason NCAA Division III All-America pick and a finalist for the state’s Ferriss Trophy. The fifth-year right-hander, who has 33 wins in his BU career, is 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 2024. Sylvester, who moved into the rotation late in the season, is 6-1 with a 2.43. The Blazers have stolen 137 bases — fourth in the country — led by Noah Foster with 26. Five others have nine or more, including Abney with eight bags. The six-team, double-elimination CCS Tournament will conclude on Saturday. P.S. Delta State mashed five homers in a 9-8 win against West Florida on Tuesday but ran out of juice in the second game of the GSC Tournament finals against the Argonauts, falling 9-2 at Oxford, Ala. DSU (32-22) hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA D-II Tournament when the field is announced on Sunday. … Belhaven’s Sanchez is joined as a Ferriss Trophy finalist by Dakota Jordan (Mississippi State), Ethan Lege (Ole Miss), Dalton McIntyre (Southern Miss) and R.J. Stinson (William Carey). The winner will be announced May 20.

27 Mar

taking stock

They are dazed and confused at Mississippi State and Ole Miss, both still winless in the SEC at 0-6. Defending national champion Ole Miss — clearly missing injured ace Hunter Elliott — allowed 28 runs in getting swept at home by Florida over the weekend. The Rebels’ staff ERA is now 5.68. Not to be outdone, State yielded 55 runs to visiting Vanderbilt, jacking the Bulldogs’ ERA to 6.70. All three SWAC schools also were swept in conference series over the weekend. Jackson State is now 1-5 in the league, Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State both 0-6. Alcorn, 1-18 overall after a 2-39 2022 season, seems to have fallen and can’t get up. On the positive side, Southern Miss beat Georgia Southern two out of three at Taylor Park and moved to 3-3 in the Sun Belt. The Golden Eagles play Ole Miss on Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The hottest team in the state is NCAA Division III Belhaven, which has won 10 in a row and stands at 6-0 in the CCS. On Tuesday, the Blazers visit D-III rival Millsaps, coming off a sweep of SAA foe Sewanee and carrying a five-game win streak. In the NAIA ranks, William Carey scored 56 runs in a sweep of SSAC opponent Stillman. The Crusaders — led by Patrick Lee (.426, 11 homers, 47 RBIs) — are 23-6, 7-2 SSAC. Blue Mountain Christian won two of three from Faulkner and moved to 21-11, 6-6 SSAC. In D-II, Delta State and Mississippi College both came up clutch in the rubber game of their GSC series. Brendan McCauley’s two-run hit in the ninth inning propelled DSU (9-6 in the league) past Auburn-Montgomery, while Kolby McWilliams capped a rally by MC (6-9 GSC) at Lee with a seventh-inning RBI knock. NAIA Rust is 4-2 in the GCAC and 8-14 overall, while league rival Tougaloo is 4-21, 1-5. Tougaloo visits Jackson State on Wednesday. D-III MUW is 2-16. P.S. Jones College has won seven straight and moved to the top of the MACCC standings with a 9-1 league mark. The Bobcats, ranked 11th last week in the NJCAA Division II poll, are 24-6 overall. East Central Community College is second in the standings at 7-1, Pearl River third at 8-2.

06 Mar

down goes no. 1

Off to a tough start this season, Mississippi College got something to hang its hat on Saturday: a win over the No. 1-ranked team in NCAA Division II. Behind the strong pitching of Jackson Bridges and Brooks Warren, the Choctaws beat the University of Tampa 4-3 at Tampa, Fla., for just their sixth win in 18 games. Tampa, a longtime D-II powerhouse with eight national titles, is 15-2. Bridges, from Tupelo by way of Meridian Community College, went eight-plus, improving to 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts in 2022. He carried a 4-2 lead into the ninth but yielded a leadoff home run and was replaced by Warren, a onetime Southern Miss pitcher from French Camp. Warren walked the first batter he faced, then struck out the side. The left-hander has a 1.69 ERA on the year. Matthew Priest had a couple of hits and two RBIs for MC, and Brandon’s Tristan Tigrett and Jackson Breedlove also drove in runs. MC led 3-0 in the third inning. The Choctaws lost to fourth-ranked Southern Arkansas 8-1 at home on Tuesday, then dropped a pair of close games at Tampa on Friday. The gauntlet continues on Tuesday when they get No. 19 Arkansas Tech at Frierson Field in Clinton.

12 Mar

early returns

Has Delta State found its footing? Hard to tell just yet. The Statesmen whipped Arkansas-Monticello 10-5 on Wednesday at Ferriss Field, fueled by hot-hitting leadoff batter Chad Ragland. DSU – 90-9 all-time against the Boll Weevils — has won three of its last five on the heels of a five-game losing streak. Nationally ranked in NCAA Division II early in the season, the Statesmen are 13-10 overall, 6-6 in the Gulf South Conference, which they were picked to win by league coaches. Ragland, a junior college transfer from Florida, has been a major bright spot. He is batting .449 with 21 runs and six steals. Darek Sargent, who homered on Wednesday, leads the club with three homers and has 16 RBIs. Hayden White and Jake Barlow also have been producing runs. Hunter Riggins, a 2019 All-GSC and All-America pick, has been solid, per expectations, but the other starting pitchers have been inconsistent. Moreover, new coach Rodney Batts’ team is 1-7 on the road heading into a GSC series at West Alabama this weekend. … The state’s other D-II program, Mississippi College, went on the road for the first time last weekend and lost two of three to Shorter. The Choctaws, nationally ranked in mid-February, are 11-9, 6-3 GSC; they were pegged for a third-place finish in the league. MC has another road test this weekend at West Georgia. MC is digging the long ball, with a GSC-best 24 home runs as a team. Chauncey Callier, a .357 hitter, leads the way with six bombs. Caleb Reese has five and Ken Scott four. The tradeoff for that power: MC also leads the league in strikeouts. That can be a problem.

24 May

mystique and aura?

There is something sort of Yankees-esque about baseball at the University of Tampa, which hosts Delta State this weekend in the NCAA Division II South Super Regional. Two of Tampa’s most famous alumni, Lou Piniella and Tino Martinez, played for the New York Yankees, as did another Spartans alum of note, Sam Militello, now a UT coach. Coincidentally, the UT baseball field sits not far from George M. Steinbrenner Field, where the Yankees hold spring training and field a Class A club. And then there is the championship pedigree. The Yankees – the team of mystique and aura — own 27 World Series titles. The Spartans claim seven NCAA D-II titles, second-most all-time, including the 2015 and ’13 crowns. They should consider wearing pinstripes. The current Tampa team is 39-14, ranked third in the nation and has designs on another championship. Delta State, 42-12 and ranked fifth, has a case full of trophies back in Cleveland but owns only one national championship, from 2004. DSU has a trio of starters – Hunter Riggins, Seth Hougesen and Dalton Minton – that gives it a good shot at winning any best-of-3 series. The key hitter for Tampa might be Yorvis Torrealba – son of the ex-big leaguer Yorvit – who is batting .420 with 11 homers, mainly from the leadoff spot. Stevie Mangum is a .345 hitter and has eight homers. DSU’s offensive leader much of the season has been Jake Barlow (.327, 11 homers, 53 RBIs). The schools have played 10 times over the years, with the Statesmen winning six, mystique and aura be damned.

17 May

worth noting

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.

27 Feb

making news

Mississippi Valley State finally got on the field Tuesday for its first game of the season after a couple of postponements. The Delta Devils lost 4-2 at Arkansas State, giving up a lead in the eighth inning. The bigger news from the Delta on Tuesday comes from Cleveland, where Delta State beat Arkansas Tech 9-2 to improve to 13-0 – matching its best-ever start – and also learned that it has jumped to No. 1 in the NCBWA’s NCAA Division II poll. The Statesmen returned just one regular position player from the outstanding 2018 team, but Mike Kinnison has kept the green machine humming, as he always seems to do. DSU is hitting .301 with 87 runs, led by David Herrington (.431), Darek Sargent (.340, 17 RBIs) and the remarkable Jake Barlow, who hit for the cycle on Sunday, belted a grand slam on Tuesday and is batting .412 with three homers and 15 RBIs. Not to be overlooked by any means is DSU’s pitching staff, which has a ridiculous 0.90 ERA. Hunter Riggins is 4-0 with an 0.33, Seth Hougesen 3-0, 0.73 and Melvin Frazier 3-0, 1.29. The Statesmen play Arkansas Tech again today at Ferriss Field, then head to Georgia for a weekend Gulf South series against Shorter.

02 Feb

and so it begins

The renewed rivalry between Mississippi College and Delta State might be as strong and compelling as it has ever been as the 2019 campaign gets under way. MC and DSU were ranked 1-2 in the Gulf South Conference’s preseason poll. MC, the GSC Tournament champ in 2018, is ranked No. 7 in NCAA Division II by Perfect Game and No. 18 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Delta State, which finished first in the GSC regular season standings, is No. 10 in Collegiate Baseball’s poll. DSU took two of three from the Choctaws in the 2018 regular season but lost to them in the conference tournament. Both went to the D-II South Regional, where the Statesmen won their first-round meeting and the Choctaws won an elimination game four days later. The rivalry will simmer all season, as the two don’t meet until the end of the schedule – on April 27-28 at Frierson Field in Clinton. MC returns the GSC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, senior first baseman Blaine Crim, who hit .383 with 13 homers in 2018. Billy Cameron, a senior third baseman, batted .354 with six homers last year. Both were named preseason All-GSC. Catcher Josh Russell is the lone returning starter for DSU, though there are a handful of other experienced position players back. Seniors Dalton Minton and Seth Hoguesen, both left-handers, should front the rotation, and Melvin Frazier, another lefty, is an experienced bullpen piece. And Statesmen coach Mike Kinnison is high on his crop of newcomers. P.S. Both teams opened with wins on Friday. MC beat Harding 12-6 as Cameron drove in three runs. DSU snuffed East Central University of Oklahoma 9-1 behind Hunter Riggins’ pitching and three RBIs from Darek Sargent.

23 May

green machine

The scorebook has closed on Zack Shannon’s career at Delta State, which saw its season end with a loss to Mississippi College in the NCAA Division II regionals on Tuesday. In his two years with the green-and-white, the big man from Cincinnati stuffed that scorebook with some jaw-dropping numbers. Start with his home run totals – and take a deep breath. He hit his 31st of the season in the final game (Game No. 53); that’s not only a school record but also the most all-time by any player in any division in the state. That number also leads the nation, all divisions included. Shannon’s total of 50 career homers at DSU ranks second to Dee Haynes, who hit 69 over three seasons (1998-2000) in Cleveland. For the year, Shannon hit .406 with 93 RBIs (best in the nation) and a .955 slugging percentage (also No. 1). Also noteworthy, he struck out just 27 times and walked 35 times in 202 at-bats. Though he didn’t win a Ferriss Trophy, plenty of awards and accolades have poured in the last two years and more may be coming. Earlier this week, Shannon was named one of 25 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which goes to the nation’s best player. He is the first D-II player to be named a semifinalist. He won Gulf South Conference player of the year both this year and last and received several D-II national player of the year awards in 2017. Surely he’ll get picked in the MLB draft. Regardless, he won’t soon be forgotten in the Magnolia State. P.S. Before Shannon broke it, the state’s college homer record was shared by former Mississippi State stars Rafael Palmeiro and Bruce Castoria, according to John W. Smillie’s Mississippi Baseball Record Book. Castoria hit 29 in 1981, Palmeiro in 1984. Will Clark smacked 28 for MSU in 1984 (and got 25 the next year). DSU’s Haynes hit 26 in 1999. Four Southern Miss players cranked out 23: Fred Cooley (1989), Bill Selby (1992), Jeff Cook and Clint King (2003). The Ole Miss single-season mark is 21 by Brian Pettway in 2005. … MC’s remarkable season also ended on Tuesday with a loss to Tampa in the rain-soaked South Region tourney in Lakeland, Fla. The Choctaws, who made their first D-II regional appearance, finished 36-17.

19 Mar

be very afraid

Arkansas-Monticello is next on Delta State’s schedule. Boll Weevils pitchers don’t need to pore over the Statesmen’s stat sheet too long to identify what should be their biggest concern, if not their biggest fear, in Tuesday’s game. Zack Shannon’s numbers are scary good. The DSU senior, an Ohio native, is batting .494 with 17 home runs and 48 RBIs for a 19-2 team. He has a 1.229 slugging percentage. He has struck out just 10 times in 83 at-bats. And pitchers have been challenging him: He has walked only 11 times and been hit by a pitch just four times. “He has the ability to look for a pitch, sit on it and get it,” DSU coach Mike Kinnison told The Bolivar Commercial. Shannon, 6 feet 3, 230 pounds, has been on a fearsome power trip of late, with homers in seven straight games and nine of 10. With 36 career bombs in one-plus years in Cleveland, he has equaled Barry Lyons’ total for fifth place on the team’s all-time list. Dee Haynes’ 69 is probably out of reach, but Jud Thigpen (41), Craig Newton (40) and Devin Goodwin (37) should prepare to be taken down a peg. Shannon reaped all kinds of honors last season, including the Tino Martinez Award as NCAA Division II’s most outstanding player, and he has been even better in 2018.