30 Apr

what’s in a game

For the second straight year — and fifth time overall — Pearl River Community College owns the state championship. The Wildcats, ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division II, clinched the MACCC crown with a 12-3 whipping of Northeast on Friday in Poplarville. The pitching of Dakota Lee and two homers from Alex Perry were key for PRCC, which will host the Region 23 Tournament at Dub Herring Park starting May 16. PRCC finishes the regular season 34-10, 22-6 MACCC. Northeast, which won the second game Friday, heads into a best-of-3 series next week with a berth in the region tourney at stake. The Nos. 2-9 seeds in the league face off in the four best-of-3 series. … Millsaps College won for the second straight day in the Southern Athletic Association Tournament and plays Rhodes today for the championship of its pod. The Majors, 23-18 with six straight wins, need to win once to advance to the SAA title series. Sam Pitre was 5-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs in the Majors’ 16-10 win against Centre on Friday. … William Carey pounded out 32 runs in a twinbill sweep of overmatched Talladega and heads to next week’s Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament as the 3-seed with a 33-15 overall record. Jake Lycette drove in seven runs in the two games for the Crusaders. Also headed to the SSAC tourney in Columbus, Ga., is 7-seed Blue Mountain (27-24), which lost its regular season finale Friday at Mobile. … Belhaven split a doubleheader at UT-Dallas on Friday, winning Game 2 8-0 behind the pitching of ace Brett Sanchez, and clinched the No. 3 seed in next week’s American Southwest Conference Tournament. The Blazers are 25-14, 18-11, heading into today’s season finale. … Most NCAA Division I Tournament projections don’t include Mississippi State or Ole Miss, but both helped their cause with wins on Friday. State (25-18) beat Missouri and Ole Miss (24-17) took down highly ranked Arkansas. Southern Miss, a favorite to host a regional at this stage, saw its 15-game win streak end at UAB. The Golden Eagles, a consensus top 10 team, are 33-9. Jackson State, coming off a disheartening 21-3 loss to Alabama State at home last Sunday, beat Alabama A&M 3-2 on Friday on a walk-off balk at Braddy Field. It was win No. 501 for coach Omar Johnson, whose erratic Tigers are 20-21, 8-11 SWAC. … Mississippi College (13-33, 7-21 Gulf South) stumbled to its eighth straight loss, 12-1 vs. Union. The Choctaws are going to miss the GSC Tournament; Delta State (27-13, 17-7), which didn’t play Friday, is vying for the No. 1 seed.

21 May

nothing like it

Jackson State’s mettle was tested on Thursday. The Tigers passed. JSU blew a 13-1 lead against Grambling State in the second round of the SWAC Tournament at Madison, Ala., but won 14-13 on a walk-off hit by Jatavious Melton in the bottom of the ninth inning. Ah, there’s nothing like tournament baseball. Melton’s third hit and third RBI of the game scored Omar Gomez and kept the Tigers in the winners’ bracket of a tourney they must win to get an NCAA regional bid. JSU, which went 24-0 in the SWAC this season, is 33-8 overall heading into play today. Alcorn State stayed alive with a 3-2 win over Alabama State in an elimination game. … Elsewhere: Delta State fell to West Florida 11-4 in the deciding game of the Gulf South Conference championship series at Pensacola. All-tournament selection Jake Barlow went 4-for-4 but DSU could not overcome UWF’s seven-run first inning. The Statesmen (28-18) await a possible at-large bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. … SSAC champion William Carey bowed out of NAIA regional play with a 7-2 loss to Central Methodist in the title round of the O’Fallon (Mo.) Opening Round. Carey finished 36-12. … MACCC champion Pearl River Community College’s season ended with a 5-2 loss to second-ranked LSU-Eunice in the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament at Poplarville. The third-ranked Wildcats finish 36-9. East Central, behind the pitching of Jeremy Martin, KO’d Hinds and will meet LSU-E for the berth in the juco D-II World Series. No. 15 ECCC (29-18) must beat LSU-E twice to advance. … MUW finished third in the USCAA World Series in Pennsylvania. Damain Benefield and Trey Petite were named first-team All-Americans for the Owls, who closed at 21-13 in their fourth year of competition.

20 May

on the docket

Delta State plays West Florida in a winner-take-all game tonight for the Gulf South Conference Tournament championship at Pensacola, Fla. The Statesmen (28-17) lost Game 2 5-2 on Wednesday.
William Carey needs two wins today against Central Methodist to win the O’Fallon Opening Round (regional) and advance to the NAIA World Series. The Crusaders (36-11) lost to host Central Methodist on Wednesday before beating McPherson in an elimination game.
Jackson State (32-8), which won its opener in the SWAC Tournament, takes on Grambling State today in Madison, Ala., in a winners’ bracket game. Alcorn State lost its first-round game and plays an elimination game today vs. Alabama State.
Pearl River Community College and Meridian CC meet today for the right to play unbeaten LSU-Eunice in the NJCAA Division II Region 23 tourney at Poplarville. East Central and Hinds play in another elimination game.
The Mississippi Braves host a Double-A South doubleheader tonight against Chattanooga at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The M-Braves are 5-8 on the season after winning the six-game series opener on Wednesday night.

17 May

six will enter

If there is a karma factor in the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament, it might belong to Hinds Community College. This could be a sentimental journey for Eagles coach Sam Temple, who is leaving for the Clinton High job after 16 very successful years in Raymond. He has taken two teams to the juco World Series in his previous 15 years. Hinds is the only unranked team in the six-team regional at Poplarville, but between the white lines that means nothing. Stuff happens in the postseason when the games mean more. Pablo Lanzarote, a Purdue signee, leads the HCC attack with a .325 average, 13 homers and 15 RBIs. Matt Corder is hitting .445 with 17 steals. Brooks Auger is 6-1 with a 3.38 ERA, Bryce Brock 5-4, 2.23. Pearl River, which plays Hinds in the first round, is the top seed and enjoys home field advantage (17-1 record) at Herring Park. Led by Tate Parker (.396, 17 homers, 63 RBIs) and Landon Gartman (8-0, 1.83), the Wildcats are among the nation’s leaders in both home runs and ERA, a pretty potent combination. Lurking in the field as the No. 3 seed is LSU-Eunice, ranked second in the nation and boasting of six national titles. The Bengals’ lineup features two .400-hitting regulars: Jack Merrifield (.441) and Scott Jones (.401). Two relief pitchers have ERAs of 1.13 and 0.65. Some other star may emerge, like, perhaps, Meridian’s Banks Tolley (.416, 13 homers, 14 steals), Itawamba’s Lane Domino (.788 slug) or East Central’s Walker Johnson (2.08 ERA, 15 strikeouts per nine innings). Whichever team makes it through to Enid, Okla., for the D-II World Series will have earned the ticket.

14 May

coming events

The road to Lewiston, Idaho, will start in O’Fallon, Mo., for William Carey University, which has been assigned to the NAIA Tournament Opening Round hosted by fourth-ranked Central Methodist. Carey, champion of the SSAC Tournament, draws 19th-ranked Benedictine Mesa (Ariz.) to begin on May 17. The winner of the regional advances to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston. Tenth-ranked Loyola (New Orleans) is also hosting an Opening Round tourney, but Carey won’t get to make that short trip. Carey, as a 5-seed, beat the top-seeded Wolf Pack twice in the SSAC Tournament. Carey won the NAIA national title in 1969, one of only two championships by Mississippi four-year schools. (Delta State won the other.) The Crusaders’ Blake Freeman was named SSAC Tournament MVP after batting .474 with two homers (both in the title clincher) and was joined on the all-tournament team by pitcher Jorge Ramos and two-way star Sloan Dieter. … Jackson State, 24-0 and top seed from the East Division, will open SWAC Tournament play against West 4-seed Texas Southern on May 19 at Madison, Ala. Alcorn State, East 4-seed, gets West No. 1 Prairie View that same day. … Delta State heads to Pensacola, Fla., for the best-of-3 GSC Championship Series against West Florida starting on May 18. … MUW takes on Bryant & Stratton College-Albany (N.Y.) on May 17 in the first round of USCAA Small College World Series at DuBois, Pa. … And at Herring Park in Poplarville, the NJCAA D-II Region 23 Tournament, stacked with nationally ranked teams, begins May 17 with three games: Pearl River Community College vs. Hinds; Meridian vs. Itawamba; and LSU-Eunice vs. East Central.

10 May

juco brackets set

Five of the top 18 teams in the new NJCAA Division II poll will clash next week in a loaded regional tournament with a berth in the juco World Series on the line. Brackets are set for the first day of the double-elimination Region 23 Tournament in Poplarville. On May 17, Pearl River Community College, the host and No. 1 seed, opens with Hinds; No. 2 Meridian meets Itawamba; and 3-seed LSU-Eunice takes on East Central. PRCC (34-7), ranked third in the nation, won the MACCC regular season title with a 23-5 record, 3 games better than Meridian, which had to win a play-in series to make the regional. Hinds, ICC and ECCC also advanced via that route. LSU-E is 42-5 and ranked No. 2 in the national poll. Meridian, ICC and ECCC are also ranked. Hinds, the outlier, went 18-10 in the league, has won eight of its last 10 and owns victories against Meridian and ECCC. “All of the top seeds in the MACCC advanced this past weekend,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said in a school release. “Add LSU-Eunice to the tournament field, and again this will be one of the most competitive regionals in the NJCAA. There is no doubt fans will see good players, well-coached teams and enjoy the awesome atmosphere that Dub Herring Park provides.”

10 May

here and there

William Carey University earned a bid to the NAIA national tournament by winning its first Southern States Athletic Conference championship on Sunday. Blake Freeman hit a pair of three-run homers and John Snyder delivered some clutch relief pitching to pace the Crusaders past Faulkner 11-7 Sunday at Mobile, Ala. Carey (34-10) won four straight in the SSAC Tournament, beating top seed Loyola (New Orleans) twice. The NAIA field will be announced Thursday; the Opening Round is set for May 17-20. … Delta State, 2-0 in the GSC Tournament, plays Alabama-Huntsville today in Oxford, Ala., for a berth in championship series. … In the junior college playoffs, Meridian, Itawamba, East Central and Hinds advanced to the NJCAA D-II Region 23 Tournament, which will start May 17 at Pearl River’s Herring Park. PRCC, the MACCC regular season champion, and LSU-Eunice are also in the six-team field. … MUW (20-9) will play in the USCAA Small College World Series in Dubois, Pa., beginning May 17. … The Texas Rangers claimed former Mississippi State catcher Jack Kruger off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. He goes on the 40-man roster and will likely be assigned to Triple-A Round Rock. Kruger made one appearance, on defense, for the Angels before being squeezed out of a roster spot because of a trade.

07 May

into the juco minefield

It’s do-or-die time for eight Mississippi junior colleges who battled through 28 regular season games to reach this stage. The four winners of the best-of-3 playoff series that start today will advance to the NJCAA D-II Region 23 Tournament, where third-ranked Pearl River Community College, regular season champion in the MACCC, and No. 2 LSU-Eunice, six-time NJCAA national champ, await. In the conference playoffs, Meridian hosts Copiah-Lincoln, Itawamba hosts Gulf Coast, East Central hosts Northwest and Hinds hosts Jones. Meridian (29-11), ranked 10th in the latest NJCAA poll, surged at season’s end to claim second place in standings and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. The Wildcats lost their last game but won eight straight before that, including two big ones against Itawamba, the 3-seed. Meridian is hitting .352 as a team, best in the MACCC. Banks Tolley has carried a big stick, batting .429 with 12 homers. Alec Sparks has been the staff ace, with a 7-1 record and 3.16 ERA. Pearl River, the top slugging (87 homers) team in the state, also leads in pitching (3.90 ERA), but both Hinds and Jones also rank among the top 15 nationally in staff ERA. The six-team region tournament is set for May 17-22 at Herring Park in Poplarville. P.S. Three former major league players were inducted into the Mississippi Community and Junior College Sports Hall of Fame in ceremonies last week in Pearl. Hinds Community College alum Chad Bradford, Pearl River’s Wendell Magee and Meridian’s Tyler Moore were among a large group of inductees from various sports. Bradford, who also pitched at Southern Miss, posted a 3.26 ERA over 12 MLB campaigns and famously pitched for the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s in 2002. Magee, a two-sport star at PRCC and Samford, spent seven years in the majors and batted .247 with 24 home runs. Moore, a Mississippi State alum, belted 30 homers over his five-year career. Current Auburn coach Butch Thompson, who pitched at Itawamba CC, also entered the juco Hall.

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.

13 May

what’s goin’ on …

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.