16 Jun

caught in a draft

A host of Magnolia State products will have the opportunity to enhance their draft stock at the upcoming MLB Draft Combine, which runs Tuesday-Sunday at Chase Field in Phoenix. Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin; former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery of Texas A&M; Mississippi State’s Dakota Jordan, Hunter Hines, Jurrangelo Cijntje, Khal Stephen and Nate Dohm; Ole Miss’ Hunter Elliott; Pearl River Community College’s Conner Ware; Lewisburg High’s Samuel Richardson; and former Lewisburg standout Brady Tygart of Arkansas are on the list of scheduled attendees. Griffin, Montgomery, Cijntje and Jordan are ranked among the top 29 draft prospects by MLB Pipeline. The draft is July 14-16. Players will get to participate in technological evaluations of their “cognitive skills, speed of processing, athletic performance and on-field talent,” per a story on mlb.com. A pro-style workout, strength tests and a game for prep players are also on the docket. Of note: Griffin — the Gatorade national player of the year — said in an MLB Central appearance last week that he doesn’t plan to participate in on-field activities. Asked on MLB Central to evaluate himself as a draft prospect, Griffin, in a polite and unassuming manner, said: “I know the skill set that I have. I feel like I’m a five-tool guy … one of the few five-tool guys in this draft.” An LSU commit, he pitched and played shortstop and outfield while at Prep but projects as an outfielder in pro ball. MLB Central’s Mark DeRosa said Griffin also has the “sixth tool,” aka makeup: “It’s beyond real.” … Montgomery’s Texas A&M team is in the College World Series in Omaha, though the first-team All-America outfielder is sidelined with an ankle injury. … Jordan won the Ferriss Trophy as Mississippi’s top college player. … Elliott had elbow surgery earlier this year and did not pitch for Ole Miss this season. … Ware, a Germantown High alum and LSU signee, made only seven appearances for PRCC, posting a 1.80 ERA and two saves. … Richardson, a preseason All-America pick and top draft prospect, had an off year, batting .211 with seven homers, per MaxPreps. … Vicksburg native and former big leaguer Dmitri Young is among the ex-players slated to work with the attendees, and former Mississippi State star and MLB manager Buck Showalter will be part of the MLB Network crew covering the event.

20 May

honor society

Dakota Jordan, who has had a bunch of good days swinging the bat for Mississippi State this season, had a good day Monday without ever touching one. The former Jackson Academy star from Canton won the state’s Ferriss Trophy, was named one of the 25 semifinalists for the national Golden Spikes Award and also earned second-team All-SEC recognition. Jordan is batting .363 with 17 home runs, 63 RBIs and 51 runs through 55 games for the nationally ranked Bulldogs, who play Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament at Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday night. … MSU shortstop David Mershon and pitcher Khal Stephen made first-team All-SEC, and Ole Miss outfielder Andrew Fischer was a second-team pick. … Former Madison Central High standout Braden Montgomery, now at Texas A&M, was named first-team All-SEC and also a Golden Spikes semifinalist. … Southern Miss pitcher Billy Oldham and DH Slade Wilks earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors, and pitcher Niko Mazza, shortstop Ozzie Pratt and outfielder Dalton McIntyre — a Ferriss finalist — were pegged on the second team. Banks Tolley, an Ole Miss transfer from Madison, was named the Sun Belt’s newcomer of the year and ex-Pearl River Community College star Luke Lyon, now at Troy, was a second-team All-SBC pick. … Pearl River CC’s Michael Avalon was named the MACCC coach of the year and the Wildcats’ Hollis Porter, an MSU transfer, earned player of the year honors. PRCC won the regular season title in the conference. … In the MHSAA State Championships that begin Tuesday at Pearl’s Trustmark Park, two of the seven classification Mr. Baseball winners will take part: Ty Long of Class 4A Ripley and Landon Harmon of 2A East Union. Long is a USM signee, Harmon an MSU commit. Tupelo’s Lake Reed was the 7A winner, West Jones’ Camden Clark in 6A, South Jones’ Cole Richardson in 5A, Mooreville’s Mason McMillin in 3A and Pine Grove’s Gehrig Shinall in 1A.

14 May

survival of fittest

The top three teams in the NJCAA Division II poll — and five of the top 17 — are playing today in Poplarville, all in the six-team Region 23 Tournament, from which one team will emerge and move on to the juco World Series. In the first round: No. 1-ranked East Central Community College, a 50-game winner, plays Meridian, which is ranked 17th; No. 2 Pearl River, the MACCC regular season champion and the top seed in the regional, plays upstart Hinds; and No. 3 LSU-Eunice, the seven-time national champ, plays eighth-ranked Jones. The SEC Tournament has nothing on this little get-together at Herring Park. ECCC is the defending region champ. PRCC won in 2022 and went on to claim the national title. LSU-E won the 2021 regional and the national title.
A few players to watch:
ECCC: Mo Little (.370, 11 homers, 71 RBIs, 18 steals) and Luke Cooley (8-1, 2.11 ERA, 105 strikeouts)
PRCC: Hollis Porter (.415, school-record 20 homers, 71 RBIs) and J.T. Schooner (11-3, 3.76, 92 K’s)
LSU-E: Tyson LeBlanc (.353, 54 RBIs, 50 runs, 30 steals) and Blake Lobell (12-0, 1.99, 105 K’s)
Jones: Brady Thomas (.389, 16 homers, 63 RBIs) and Beau Bryans (6-1, 3.82, 99 K’s)
Meridian: Blake Priester (.366, 14 homers, 65 RBIs) and Landon Waters (8-1, 2.05, 106 K’s)
Hinds: Thomas Marsala (.395, 12 homers, 54 RBIs) and Lincoln Sheffield (7-4, 3.59)
P.S. Props to William Carey University and closer John Snyder, whose 13th save nailed down a 6-5 win on Monday against Oklahoma Wesleyan in the NAIA Opening Round tourney at Hattiesburg. Carey (35-14) has won nine straight. … In the NAIA regional at Shreveport, Blue Mountain Christian’s opener against Talladega on Monday was suspended by rain.

01 May

big wednesday

The Mississippi Braves play an 11 a.m. matinee today at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the pro game against Pensacola serving as an appetizer of sorts for tonight’s Ole Miss-Mississippi State clash at the same venue. The televised non-conference game (6:30 p.m./ESPN2) between the Rebels (23-20, 27th in ncca.com’s RPI) and Bulldogs (29-15, 28th in RPI) could have implications for their NCAA Tournament chances. UM took two of three from State in their SEC series last month. … Meanwhile, in Jackson, Tenn., William Carey University and Blue Mountain Christian will begin play today in the SSAC Championship. Carey (30-14) is the No. 2 seed and will open Pool B play against Thomas U. BMC (29-19) is the 8-seed and draws top-seeded Faulkner to start Pool A play. The winners of the two four-team pools will meet for the championship, with both getting bids to the NAIA Tournament. … The Belhaven University-MUW game originally scheduled for tonight in Clinton has been cancelled. The Blazers (23-15) have finished their regular season and will compete in the CCS postseason next week. P.S. The pairings are set for the MACCC’s best-of-3 play-in series, which begin Friday: East Central, ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II, hosts Northeast; No. 12 Northwest hosts Hinds; No. 13 Jones hosts East Mississippi; and Meridian hosts Copiah-Lincoln. The series winners advance to the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament next week in Poplarville, home of regular season champion Pearl River, ranked No. 2 nationally. … Eli Huebner of Meridian was named the MACCC hitter of the week after batting .500 with three homers, including two grand slams in one inning, in four games, while PRCC’s Caleb Dyess earned pitcher of the week honors following his six-hitter in the championship-clinching 7-1 win against Northwest on Saturday.

18 Apr

hard times befallen

Expectations were not great for the Chicago White Sox heading into this season. Marcus Thames, the Louisville native and ex-East Central Community College star hired as the club’s new hitting coach in the off-season, surely knew this. But just as surely, he did not expect the times to be this hard. The White Sox can’t hit. They split a doubleheader against visiting Kansas City on Wednesday despite scoring just four runs on 11 hits and going 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. The team ranks last in MLB in runs, home runs and OPS and 29th in batting. They are 3-15. Injuries to some key players are partly to blame for the ice-cold start, but not solely. “We have guys who are capable of being better,” Thames said in a recent mlb.com story. The ChiSox won just 61 games in a tumultuous 2023 season. Manager Pedro Grifol’s staff changes included the hiring of Thames as the team’s third hitting coach in three years. The former big league slugger has earned a strong reputation as a coach after stops in New York (Yankees), Miami and Los Angeles (Angels). But his skills are being tested with a club projected by USA Today to win just 69 games. “This game is tough,” he told mlb.com, “but at the same time we have to battle and compete.” P.S. Thames’ alma mater, No. 4-ranked East Central CC, took a pair from No. 2 Pearl River CC, 3-1 and 7-2, in the big juco showdown in Poplarville. PRCC’s 29-game win streak was halted. The Wildcats are 42-7, 22-2 in the MACCC. ECCC, which was No. 1 in NJCAA Division II at one point, is 42-4, 18-4. The Warriors rode the bat of Mo Little and the arms of Marbin Lezcano and Luke Cooley to the impressive sweep.

17 Apr

clash of titans

For one day at least — make that today — the center of the state’s baseball universe is Dub Herring Park in Poplarville. Pearl River Community College (42-5), ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division II and riding a 29-game win streak, hosts East Central CC (40-4), which is ranked No. 4 and started the season with 31 straight wins while rising to No. 1. The host Wildcats are 22-0 in the MACCC; ECCC’s Warriors are 16-4. PRCC hits .345 as a team with 77 home runs. The big bopper in the lineup is Hollis Porter, raking at .431 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs. The Wildcats’ pitching staff features a 2.43 ERA and three eight-game winners, led by J.P. Robertson (8-0, 2.28). Mo Little, a preseason All-America pick, leads ECCC with a .372 average, nine homers, 62 RBIs and 16 steals. Luke Cooley is the Warriors’ ace: 6-0, 1.89 ERA, 13.3 K’s per nine innings. Today’s twinbill starts at 3 p.m. … Two other big doubleheaders are on today’s MACCC docket: No. 12 Jones College (33-9) visits Meridian, which was ranked 13th in preseason, and No. 15 Northwest (31-12) hosts East Mississippi.

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.

28 Mar

rising river

East Central Community College currently holds the No. 1 ranking in NJCAA Division II, but Pearl River CC is No. 5 with a bullet. The Wildcats swept two games from Hinds on Tuesday to run their win streak to 19. They are 32-5 and 12-0 in the MACCC, alone in first place. ECCC, which won its first 31 games of the season, lost for the second time in three outings on Wednesday, falling to Copiah-Lincoln 3-1 in Game 2 of a twinbill. ECCC is 32-2, 8-2. Seventh-ranked Jones beat Gulf Coast twice on Wednesday to improve to 29-5, 11-1; and No. 18 Northwest sits at 24-8, 9-1, after a sweep of Holmes. But Pearl River, which won the national championship two years ago, is the team of the moment. The ‘Cats belted 11 homers in a sweep of Itawamba on Saturday, then got great pitching on Tuesday from Thomas Crabtree — the league’s reigning pitcher of the week — and J.P. Robertson, former Germantown High star, in the 9-2, 6-1 sweep of Hinds. Hollis Porter, named the NJCAA D-II hitter of the week on Wednesday, homered in Game 1 and drove in three runs in Game 2. The Mississippi State transfer from Hurley is batting .425 with 15 homers, four shy of the school single-season record. P.S. Baseball America’s first projected field of 64 for the NCAA Tournament features four state schools, with Jackson State joining Southern Miss, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. UM and MSU — the national champs in 2022 and 2021, respectively — missed the tournament in 2023.

24 Mar

take cover

Those weren’t UFOs — or UAPs, if you prefer — flying around Dub Herring Park in Poplarville on Saturday. Those were baseballs, and 11 of them went out of the yard for home runs as No. 5 Pearl River Community College battered Itawamba CC 13-3 and 18-1. Nine different players homered for the Wildcats (30-5, 10-0 MACCC), with Hollis Porter — the Mississippi State transfer from Hurley — going deep twice to push his national-best total to 14. Alex Wade also hit two bombs. “I was really proud of our guys. They swung it really well,” PRCC coach Michael Avalon said in a school release. The Wildcats had 26 hits all told in the 15 innings of play. Not to be overlooked are the dominant efforts of winning pitchers Caleb Dyess and J.T. Schooner. … Meanwhile on Saturday, East Central CC, the No. 1 team in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, saw its 31-game win streak snapped by Northwest, which beat the Warriors 8-7 in Game 2 of a twinbill in Decatur. ECCC is 31-1, 7-1 in the league. The unranked Rangers are 21-8, 7-1. Tenth-ranked Jones swept Coahoma to move to 27-5 and 9-1.

08 Mar

and they’re off

We are several weeks into the junior college season, but the race for the all-important conference championship has yet to start. The green flag will wave on Saturday with six doubleheaders on the docket. East Central Community College, which would have to be considered the pole-sitter, opens on Sunday. The Warriors, the defending champs, coast into MACCC play with a 23-0 record and will take on sputtering Coahoma (4-11) in Clarksdale. On Saturday, Pearl River — ranked No. 3 in the NJCAA Division II preseason poll — takes a 20-5 record into its games at Northeast (14-9). Elsewhere: Holmes (8-8) is at Jones (18-4); Delta (6-8) is at Gulf Coast (14-6); Hinds (12-11) is at East Mississippi (14-7); Southwest (12-13) is at Northwest (13-5); and Itawamba (7-10) visits Meridian (15-7). Copiah-Lincoln (10-12) opens league play on March 13 at Gulf Coast. … The top hitter in the state is Northwest’s Cade Leatherwood, batting .500. Gulf Coast’s Marc Stephens is at .487. Pearl River’s Hollis Porter leads the league in homers with 10, and East’s Evan Radford has eight. ECCC’s Mo Little has a state-best 34 RBIs and six homers. Top pitchers include ECCC’s Luke Cooley (3-0, 1.57 ERA, 44 strikeouts); Pearl River’s J.P. Robertson (5-0, 2.42); and Jones’ Beau Bryans (4-0, 1.93).