07 Jun

power play

Before the hype gets cranked up for the super-duper Super Regional set for Hattiesburg this weekend, let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the jaw-dropping performance by Ole Miss’ Tim Elko. The senior first baseman batted .778 and slugged 2.111 — yes, 2.111 — in three games in the Coral Gables Regional. His batting line from Monday’s game: 4-6-4-5. (Plus two walks.) You won’t see something like that very often. Elko belted three home runs in the Rebels’ 22-6 demolition of Arizona in the regional title game, a first in his five-year career and a first for any UM player in an NCAA Tournament game. He also broke the school record for homers in a season with 22. Brian Pettway hit 21 in 2005. With 44 career bombs, Elko is within sight of the Rebels’ career record of 48, set by Kyle Gordon in the 1980s. Elko’s place in Ole Miss lore was secured last season when he made that inspired return from an ACL injury and helped the Rebels reach a Super Regional. His performance in Coral Gables was icing on the cake — and, of course, he’s not done yet. We’ve been fortunate in the Magnolia State to witness some amazing slugging exploits in the last few years. Delta State’s Zack Shannon set the state all-classification record with 31 homers in 2018. He hit 50, second only to Dee Haynes’ 69 on the school’s career list, in his two years in Cleveland. In 2019, Matt Wallner hit 23 bombs for Southern Miss, matching the school record. He hit 58 in his three years in Hattiesburg, setting a school mark. (He’s now mashing homers in Double-A ball for Minnesota.) Current USM slugger Christopher Sargent — who batted .524 in five games in the Hattiesburg Regional — has rather quietly cranked out 21 homers this season with at least two more games to play in the Super Regional. … With Mississippi State, the defending national champ, sitting at home this postseason, no Bulldogs are mounting any assault on the school’s single-season home run record of 29, shared by Rafael Palmeiro and Bruce Castoria.

06 Jun


You know the old saying in baseball: Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. The focus today is on who might take the mound for Southern Miss and Ole Miss, both hoping to catch a wave. USM got clutch pitching efforts from Hunter Riggins, Tyler Stuart and Justin Storm in winning a pair of elimination games Sunday in the Hattiesburg Regional. The Golden Eagles now face a winner-take-all game against LSU at 3 p.m. at Taylor Park. Can coach Scott Berry get some quality innings from Tanner Hall, the C-USA pitcher of the year who worked eight innings on Friday? The bullpen is stretched thin. Five pitchers threw on Saturday night. It took six to get through Sunday. Ole Miss is in a much more enviable position in the Coral Gables Regional. The Rebels are 2-0 going into today’s championship round against Arizona, a team they beat on Saturday. The Wildcats had to win twice on Sunday to stay alive; they’ll have to do that again today. UM has used five different pitchers — Brandon Johnson closed both games — and yielded just five runs while punching out 35. Derek Diamond, who has had a disappointing season (4-4, 6.57 ERA), could get a shot at redemption today. Arizona roughed up Diamond in their Super Regional meeting in 2021. Outs are hard to get when the heat rises in tournament baseball, but if USM and Ole Miss can summon some more clutch pitching, we’ll get that dream matchup in the Super Regional next weekend.

05 Jun

random (but relevant) numbers

200 — Wins for Michael Avalon as coach at Pearl River Community College, No. 200 being the national championship-securing 7-2 victory over Madison (Wisc.) College on Saturday in Enid, Okla. The Wildcats got homers from Tate Parker and Alex Perry, two RBIs from World Series MVP D.K. Donaldson and 12 strikeouts from Cole Tolbert and Turner Swistak, who combined on a six-hitter. PRCC follows Jones College (2016) as NJCAA Division II national champs. William Carey University (1969), Delta State (2004) and Mississippi State (2021) have won national titles at the four-year level.
3 — Hits by Peyton Chatagnier, including a key two-run double in the eighth inning that propelled Ole Miss to a 7-4 win against Arizona in the first round of the Coral Cables Regional. The Rebels get 1-seed Miami today; the Hurricanes used a three-homer game by Yohandy Morales to beat Canisius 11-6.
4 — Runs by LSU, three after two were out, in a stunning ninth-inning rally that led to a 7-6, 10-inning win against Southern Miss in the Hattiesburg Regional winners bracket. On a day when crooked numbers were flying all over in the NCAA regionals, these teams combined for 18 hits, five homers, eight walks, three HBPs, 28 strikeouts and 357 pitches in a 3-hour, 44-minute grinder played before 5,211 emotionally drained fans at Taylor Park. USM tries to rebound today against Kennesaw State, hoping (?) for another crack at the Tigers.
6 — Combined hits by Matt Wallner (four) and Blaine Crim in Wichita’s 8-7 win vs. Frisco in a Double-A Texas League clash (see previous post). Wallner, a USM alum, hit his 11th homer and drove in three runs for Wichita. Ex-Mississippi College star Crim boosted his average to .301 with a 2-for-5 effort and scored twice for Frisco.
21 — Hits in his last 15 games by Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High product who tripled and homered in Atlanta’s 6-2, 11-inning win against Colorado. Riley is batting .339 with six homers and 12 RBIs over his last 15 games. He has 14 bombs all told for the Braves, who have won four straight to reach 27-27 on the season.

04 Jun

bunch of stuff

There is a lot to digest from a not-so-sleepy-or-dusty third of June: In the Hattiesburg Regional, the anticipated Southern Miss-LSU winners bracket game will take place tonight (6 p.m.) after the Golden Eagles blanked Army 2-0 and the Tigers rallied past Kennesaw State 14-11 on Friday. The Pete (Taylor Park) will be packed. … At Coral Cables, Fla., Ole Miss’ regional opener against Arizona was pushed back to today because of rain. … In Enid, Okla., Pearl River Community College pummeled Madison (Wisc.) College 19-1 to set up a decisive Game 3 in the NJCAA Division II World Series. No. 1-ranked PRCC rode the bats of Alex Perry (home run, three RBIs) and D.K. Donaldson (three RBIs) and the pitching of Dakota Lee (six innings, one run). … At Pearl’s Trustmark Park, the Mississippi Braves’ Jalen Miller reportedly hit a home run over the batter’s eye in center field — no mean feat — en route to an extra-inning win against Montgomery in the Double-A Southern League. … In Appleton, Wisc., ex-Hattiesburg High standout Joe Gray Jr. had a 4-for-5 game, including his seventh homer and ninth stolen base, for High-A Wisconsin. Gray, a highly rated Milwaukee prospect, is batting .202 in his second stint at that level. … At Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian CC star from McComb, hit his first two homers of the season for St. Louis in a blowout win against the Cubs. Dickerson, who chose to wear Mark McGwire’s No. 25 in his first year with the Cardinals, has 130 career homers and has hit as many as 27 in a season. He is batting .194 in sporadic playing time. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Brent Rooker has been called up by San Diego. The former Minnesota Twins outfielder, traded this spring, was hitting .242 with nine homers at Triple-A El Paso. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn, on the injured list all year for the Chicago White Sox, made his second rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte and yielded three runs in four innings. … Colorado announced that left-hander Ryan Rolison, another former UM star, will undergo shoulder surgery and miss the remainder of the season. A highly rated prospect, Rolison has been on the IL all year. … And last but certainly not least, Jackson Academy outfielder Dakota Jordan received the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year award. The MSU signee, who aims to play football and baseball, hit .524 with 16 homers this season. He is ranked as the No. 176 MLB draft prospect by MLB Pipeline.

03 Jun

in a word

If you had to assess Southern Miss with one word, it would be: pitching. The Golden Eagles have a deep and talented stable of arms that enters the Hattiesburg Regional with a 3.04 ERA, among the nation’s best. Tanner Hall was C-USA pitcher of the year and the state’s Ferriss Trophy winner. For LSU, the 2-seed in the regional, the word would be power. The Tigers raked 107 home runs, led by the remarkable Dylan Crews with 21. Army, the 4-seed, is mostly about speed. The Black Knights swiped 101 bases this season, led by Hunter Meade with 31. Kennesaw State is a curiosity. The Owls’ pitching is highly suspect; they don’t hit a ton of homers or steal a bunch of bases. But KSU does have Josh Hatcher, an All-America candidate who hit .386 with 13 homers, 55 RBIs and 60 runs and twice hit for the cycle in 2022. (Unfortunately, he doesn’t pitch.) USM (43-16, 22-10 at Taylor Park) does enough with the bats (.283, 77 homers) that it should prevail in the regional and make the Super Regional. But LSU, which didn’t have a typical season (38-20, 17-13 SEC), certainly poses a threat. In a published poll, four Gannett “experts” split between USM and LSU as the regional favorite. (All four picked Miami to come out of the Coral Gables Regional, where Ole Miss is playing. That regional champion plays the Hattiesburg champ in the Super Regional.)

30 May

worth noting

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.

08 Jun


These names you know: Tim Elko, Doug Nikhazy and Taylor Broadway – heroes for Ole Miss in their regional title game victory over Southern Miss – and Kamren James, Logan Tanner and Landon Sims – stars for Mississippi State in their regional clincher against Campbell. Here’s a couple of names you need to know looking ahead to this weekend’s super regionals: Niko Kavadas and Garrett Irvin. Kavadas was the South Bend Regional MVP for Notre Dame, which comes to Dudy Noble Field for its first super regional appearance in 19 years. Kavadas, 6 feet 1, 235 pounds, went 6-for-11 with six walks and belted five home runs for Fighting Irish (33-11) in their regional sweep. Kavadas, a lefty hitter, is batting .309 with 21 homers and 62 RBIs on the year. Irvin was the Tucson Regional MVP for Arizona, which will host Ole Miss in the super regional at Hi Corbett Field. Irvin threw a three-hit shutout (no walks, 10 strikeouts) against UC Santa Barbara in the regional, registering his sixth win in his last seven decisions. The left-hander, who also beat NCAA tourney participants Stanford and Oregon down the stretch, has a 3.51 ERA on the season for the 43-15 Wildcats, the No. 5 national seed. … Only two Magnolia State schools are still standing in what has been another banner year for baseball in the state. USM gave Ole Miss all it could handle in the Oxford Regional final and finishes 40-21. Jackson State went undefeated in the SWAC regular season and suffered a gut-wrenching defeat in the tournament title game. Delta State made it to the finals of the GSC Tournament and advanced to the Division II South Region tourney before bowing out. William Carey won the SSAC Tournament title and went to an NAIA regional, ending its season at 36-12. East Central Community College made the final game of the NJCAA Division II Region 23 tourney, handing eventual national champ LSU-Eunice one of just seven losses it suffered all year.

07 Jun

something special

We don’t get to see this very often, two Mississippi schools squaring off in the postseason. Two days in a row is a lot to handle. Ole Miss and Southern Miss play today for the Oxford Regional championship. The noon game will be televised on ESPN2. Somebody’s season ends today at Swayze Field. Four years ago, in Hattiesburg in 2017, USM and Mississippi State squared off in a regional title game. USM fans cringe at the memory: State won 8-6, its second straight win that day over the Golden Eagles, who saw one of their best-ever seasons end in heartbreak. USM can deliver a similar blow today to the Rebels, the No. 12 national seed and once the nation’s top-ranked team. Facing elimination on Sunday night, the Eagles bucked up for a 10-7 win that had a lot of everything over 3 hours and 35 minutes: 20 hits, seven walks, three HBPs, three home runs, 17 strikeouts, two errors. Both teams got heroic pitching performances. UM’s Tyler Myers quelled the first-inning uprising that saw the Eagles turn a 4-0 deficit into a 7-4 lead. Myers went five innings, yielding two runs. Chandler Best came out of the bullpen to do damage control for USM in the wild first two innings, and Tanner Hall owned the day with five scoreless frames to finish off the Rebels. Before Sunday’s game, the last regional meeting between the two schools came in 2007, when Lance Lynn threw a two-hitter in UM’s 4-0 first-round win in Oxford. Lynn won’t be walking through that bullpen gate today. It’ll be interesting to see who does; the pitching staffs for both teams are stretched thin. But somebody will step up. Somebody will have to, and they’ll earn a place in Magnolia State lore. P.S. Props to Mississippi juco products Jase Dalton and Tyler Samaniego, who combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief in South Alabama’s win over Miami in the Gainesville Regional. The Jaguars are facing South Florida for the regional title. In the Ruston Regional, Kyle Crigger, an Itawamba CC alum, worked the last 4 1/3 innings in Louisiana Tech’s win over Alabama in an elimination game. The Bulldogs then lost to North Carolina State.

03 Jun

there are others

In addition to the Mississippi products on the Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss teams, there are quite a few on the rosters of other schools participating in this week’s NCAA Division I regionals. C-USA power Louisiana Tech, hosting a regional, is coached by Meridian native Lane Burroughs, who has coached all over the Magnolia State and recruits it heavily, as well. There are eight state connections with the Bulldogs, including Itawamba Community College product Kyle Crigger (3-2, 3.69 ERA), Seminary’s Adarius Myers (.256 in 36 games) and Hernando’s Ben Brantley (17 RBIs in 34 games). SWAC champion Southern University, in the Austin Regional, has seven state products on its roster. O’Neill Burgos, the ex-Jones College slugger who broke Jackson State’s heart in the SWAC final (see previous post), is one of the Jaguars’ top hitters at .300 with five homers. Starkville’s Jonathan Evans is a .271 hitter. South Alabama, bound for the Gainesville Regional, also has seven state connections and has gotten significant contributions from three pitchers: Pearl River CC alum Miles Smith is 6-1, 2.23; Hinds CC’s Jase Dalton is 5-3, 1.53 with four saves; and Northeast CC’s Tyler Samaniego has two wins and six saves. LSU suits up Drew Bianco, Oxford High product and son of the UM coach who is batting .229 with six homers. The Tigers are in the Eugene Regional. Alabama, in the Ruston Regional, has former Jones juco ace Will Freeman, who is 2-1, 2.41.

03 Jun

stepping up

Mississippi State and Ole Miss got what they needed from starters Peyton Plumlee and Gunnar Hoglund, respectively, in Sunday’s regional clinchers. Plumlee went five-plus, yielding two runs for the Bulldogs, who used four relievers to close out the 5-2 win against Miami at Starkville. Hoglund worked 5 1/3 for the Rebels, allowing just one earned run, before three relievers finished up the 19-4 romp vs. Jacksonville State in Oxford. But the most impressive mound performance on Sunday might have came from a pitcher who took a loss, the one that ended Southern Miss’ season. In a must-win game, against LSU at night in a packed Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, the Golden Eagles’ Josh Lewis delivered six-plus innings, taking a lead into the seventh, against the national No. 13 seed. Left-hander Lewis, a junior transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, hadn’t pitched since May 17. He had only one previous start, and his ERA in 15 games was approaching 6.00. But the Eagles’ pitching depth was depleted after the wild 13-12 win over Arizona State earlier Sunday and an 8-4 loss to LSU on Saturday; they trotted out 11 pitchers in those two games. So Lewis got the ball with the season on the line. “Really, it’s a moment I’ve been waiting for,” Lewis told the Hub City Spokes. “I’m glad I went out there and gave us a chance to win.” After allowing a leadoff homer and then two more runs in the second inning, the undaunted Lewis settled in, and the Eagles rallied to take a 4-3 lead before the game got away from them in the seventh. Lewis was charged with eight hits, a walk and five runs in the 6-4 defeat. Those numbers don’t tell the story a truly valiant effort.