22 Mar

rising to top

Pearl River Community College has the higher national ranking and the longer winning streak, but Jones College is keeping pace in the MACCC standings — and owns a win over the No. 2 Wildcats. Jones, ranked 11th in this week’s NJCAA Division II poll, improved to 7-1 in conference and 22-6 overall with a fairly dominant sweep against Copiah-Lincoln on Tuesday. PRCC (26-4) is also 7-1 in the league following a pair of comeback wins against fifth-ranked Meridian (18-8, 4-4). At Ellisville, the Bobcats got a home run from Madison Central High alum Gatlin Sanders and a strong pitching performance from Ovett’s Dalton Tanner to beat Co-Lin 11-1 in the opener of their twinbill. Drew Druckenmiller fired a seven-inning shutout in the 3-0 Game 2 win. At Poplarville, PRCC rallied from 3-1 down in Game 1, scoring the go-ahead run on a knock by Jackson Academy product Parker Ryan en route to a 7-3 victory. The Wildcats trailed most of Game 2 but won it 7-6 on a two-run walk-off hit by Alex Perry, former North Pike standout, current MACCC batter of the week. “Every time out is a dogfight,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said in a school release. PRCC has won seven straight games, Jones five in a row. Jones beat PRCC 8-5 in a non-league contest in Ellisville on March 1. The two will meet again in late April. … Sitting in a tie for third place in the MACCC are Northeast and East Central, both 5-1, neither ranked in the national poll.

18 Mar

hot spots

As the junior college season begins to warm, the hot spots for today are Poplarville and Perkinston. Pearl River Community College, tied for second in this week’s NJCAA Division II poll, hosts Mississippi Delta in a doubleheader showdown of 3-1 conference teams. PRCC, ranked No. 1 in preseason, is 22-4 and 10-2 at home. The visiting Trojans are 7-12-1 overall but have beaten Mississippi Gulf Coast and East Mississippi (twice) in league play. Gulf Coast, 2-2 in the MACCC, welcomes Itawamba (3-1) in another key matchup. No. 6 Meridian, also 3-1, hosts 0-4 Holmes and 13th-ranked Jones (3-1) is at East Mississippi (1-3). Hinds, 2-2 in conference and ranked 17th, visits 0-4 Coahoma. Northeast and East Central are also off to 3-1 starts. The Tigers are at Southwest (1-3) and the Warriors are at Baton Rouge. … Individual standouts include ICC’s Matthew Martinolich, batting .486; Gulf Coast’s Charlie Keller (12 home runs); Hinds’ Connor Chisolm (34 runs); Meridian’s Dalton McIntyre (18 steals); PRCC’s Cooper Cooksey (5-0, 0.83 ERA); MCC’s Cole Boswell (5-0, 0.96); and Northwest’s Brayden Sanders (4 saves, 0.00 ERA).

05 Mar

juco snapshot

Mississippi’s junior colleges are still tuning up for conference play, which starts for most next weekend, and no team’s motor is running more smoothly than No. 1-ranked Pearl River Community College. The Wildcats, defending national champs in NJCAA Division II, are 15-3, a notch above unranked Jones (14-4) with ninth-ranked Meridian (12-4) lurking. PRCC is led by Alex Perry, a .403 hitter whose 25 knocks are the most of any MACCC player, and Will Passeau, 3-1 with a 2.74 ERA and a state-best 32 strikeouts. The Wildcats have home games today against Lansing and Baton Rouge. Jones, heading into a three-way event Wednesday with Itawamba (10-3) and Delta in Cleveland, has been sparked by Gatlin Sanders, batting .418 with two homers and 18 RBIs. Meridian’s leaders are Dalton McIntyre, a .451 batter with 13 steals, and Chris Boswell, who is 4-0 with a 0.86 ERA. Gulf Coast has the state’s top home run hitters in Charlie Keller and Sean Smith — both with eight, which ranks second nationally — but the Bulldogs are just 7-9. Smith, batting .488, also leads MACCC in RBIs with 25, three more than Hinds’ Dylan Coleman. Hinds, ranked No. 15 in the preseason poll, is 11-6. The best closer in the state to date has been Brayden Sanders, who has three saves and a 0.00 ERA in six appearances for Northwest (11-6). … The next NJCAA D-II poll will be released March 13. Nine of the state’s 15 teams currently have winning records.

15 Feb

the river runs strong

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, or so they say. There is certainly no evidence of apprehension in Poplarville, where defending national champion Pearl River Community College has roared out of the gate with an 8-0 start. The Wildcats, currently ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II, swept a doubleheader from Coastal Alabama South on Tuesday, outscoring the visitors 12-3 while yielding no earned runs. For the year, PRCC has outscored its opponents 71-21, hit .364 as a unit and swiped 27 bases. Seven different pitchers worked Tuesday and combined for 20 strikeouts, prompting coach Michael Avalon to rave about the performance in a school release. As for the hitters, Petal’s Blake Hooks was 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the opener. Preston Soper, a Germantown High product, went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs in Game 2. Soper is batting .550 on the year with eight RBIs. Petal’s Logan Walters, hitting .429, leads the club with 11 RBIs. PRCC will face challenges down the road in the rugged MACCC — Meridian and Hinds are also ranked in the top 15 nationally — but appears up to the task.

01 Jan

still on top

Two Mississippi colleges won national championships in 2022, and one of them will start the new year where it finished the old. Pearl River Community College, defending NJCAA Division II champ, is ranked No. 1 in Collegiate Baseball Magazine’s preseason poll. The Wildcats went 45-11 in claiming the program’s first national crown, joining NCAA Division I champ Ole Miss in that regard. Star hitters Tate Parker and D.K. Donaldson have moved on from Poplarville, but the Wildcats’ cupboard remains well-stocked. “We are extremely talented and expect to have more depth on the mound than last year,” PRCC coach Michael Avalon told CB. Among the Wildcats’ four returning regulars are third baseman Alex Perry, who hit .385 with 17 homers and 22 stolen bases, and shortstop Gabe Broadus, a Southern Miss commit who batted .382 with 39 bags. Seven pitchers also return. … Hinds CC is ranked 12th in CB’s poll, with Jones College checking in at No. 17 and Meridian CC at No. 20. LSU-Eunice, a traditional Region 23 powerhouse, is ranked third. … USM, 47-19 and a Super Regional participant last year, is ranked 18th by CB in its D-I poll, followed by Mississippi State at No. 22 and Ole Miss at No. 24. The Golden Eagles are projected to win the Sun Belt in their first year in the league. MSU and UM are pegged fourth and fifth in the SEC West. In the SWAC, Jackson State is slotted fourth in the East Division with Mississippi Valley State sixth (last). Alcorn State is picked to finish sixth in the West.

20 Dec

it’s coming up …

Something to warm you up on a cold, wet day: The start of the college season in the Magnolia State is just six weeks away. William Carey University, an NAIA program, will get it started on Feb. 2 at home against Cumberland University. So there. … There was news of note on Monday, when Collegiate Baseball Magazine released its preseason All-America team. Southern Miss pitcher Tanner Hall and Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez have been named to the first team. Hall, the Ferriss Trophy winner in 2022, went 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA for the Golden Eagles. Gonzalez, the top MLB draft prospect in the state for 2023, batted .273 with 18 homers for national champion Ole Miss, which beat USM in a thrilling Super Regional in Hattiesburg to advance to Omaha. Rebels lefty Hunter Elliott was a second-team choice by CB, and USM first baseman Christopher Sargent made the third team. … The NCAA Division I start date is Feb. 17. The defending champion Rebels, minus some stars but fortified by a highly touted recruiting class, open at home against Delaware. USM, which moves from C-USA into the Sun Belt this season, hosts Liberty, and Mississippi State welcomes VMI on opening day. Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State will play in the Cactus Jack HBCU Classic at Houston’s Minute Maid Park on opening weekend. The Tigers play Southern University, Valley and Prairie View A&M in that order. Alcorn State opens at home against Alabama A&M on Feb. 17. … The annual college series at Trustmark Park in Pearl will feature USM-State on Feb. 28, Ole Miss-USM on March 28 and State-Ole Miss (the Governor’s Cup) on April 25. … Other opening days for state schools: On Feb. 3, Division II Mississippi College hosts Arkansas-Monticello and NAIA Rust visits Tuskegee; on Feb. 4, D-II Delta State visits Harding for a twinbill; on Feb. 5, NAIA Tougaloo is at Xavier of New Orleans; and on Feb. 10, D-III Millsaps is at home against LeTourneau. D-III Belhaven, now in the new USA South Conference, has not released its 2023 schedule. … USM pitching coach Christian Ostrander will be the speaker for Hinds Community College’s first First Pitch Banquet on Jan. 28. The juco season also starts in early February. Defending NJCAA Division II champ Pearl River CC opens on the road on Feb. 4.

18 Dec

transaction watch

News that ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton, Mississippi’s all-time MLB stolen base leader, has signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox rates some attention, but an under-the-radar signing of another South Mississippi product might be more intriguing. Petal High alumnus Demarcus Evans, a big man with a big fastball, was plucked off the minor league market by the New York Yankees. Evans pitched rather ineffectively (4.75 ERA) in the big leagues for Texas in 2020-21 (yielding a homer to Albert Pujols on the second pitch of his career) but had good numbers in the minors on his way up. He spent all of last season at Triple-A Round Rock and registered a 1.00 ERA with four saves over his last 18 games. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, only 26, became a six-year free agent after the season. Control is an issue for Evans, but if the Yankees can straighten him out, he might be a factor in their bullpen next season. He has been assigned to the Triple-A roster. … The well-traveled Hamilton, 32, played sparingly in 2022 for Miami and Minnesota but showed he can still run. With the White Sox in 2021, he hit .220 with nine bags in 71 games for a playoff team. He has 324 career stolen bases. P.S. Former Ole Miss slugger Thomas Dillard, who hit 12 homers (with a ton of strikeouts) at Double-A Biloxi last season, was released by Milwaukee. Pearl River Community College product Dexter Jordan, who played two seasons of rookie ball with Houston, also has been released.

10 Aug

whatever happened to …

Braxton Lee, whose serpentine career includes a minor league batting title and 17 MLB at-bats, is flourishing in the independent Atlantic League. Lee, 28, who played at Picayune High, Pearl River Community College and Ole Miss, set an Atlantic League record with a three-triple game on Tuesday for Southern Maryland, the club managed by Jackson’s Stan Cliburn. A lefty-hitting outfielder, Lee is batting .315 with three homers, 57 RBIs, 19 doubles, nine triples and 14 stolen bases. Originally drafted by Tampa Bay in 2014, he won the Southern League batting title in 2017 (playing for two different teams) and reached the big leagues with Miami in 2018. He played in the New York Mets’ system in 2019 and Cincinnati’s in 2021, getting some Triple-A time both years. He moved on to the Atlantic League after becoming a minor league free agent last fall. Cliburn’s Blue Crabs won the first-half title in their division with a 48-18 record; they’re 18-11 (second place) in the second half. P.S. Debut alert: Vaughn Grissom, making the jump from Double-A Mississippi to Atlanta today, is in the Braves’ lineup, batting ninth and playing second base at Boston. Grissom, 21, Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect, hit .363 with three homers in 22 games for the M-Braves, playing one game at second base, the others at shortstop. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Grissom has played 19 games at second in his three-year pro career. He is a .315 career hitter.

28 Jun

starting fresh

The Mississippi Braves, no doubt happy to put the first half behind them, and Biloxi Shuckers face off tonight at MGM Park to begin the second half of the Southern League season. The M-Braves lost 17 of their last 23 games to finish 29-40, last in the four-team SL South. With Michael Harris II gone to Atlanta at the end of May, the Double-A M-Braves have struggled to produce runs, scoring just 62 in June so far. No other team in the league has scored fewer than 103 this month. The Shuckers, on the other hand, have been an offensive juggernaut in June, scoring 156 runs. They won seven of their last 10 to finish the first half at 34-33, second place in the division. Aiming to quell the Shuckers’ attack and start the second half on a high note, the M-Braves will start Atlanta No. 9 prospect Jared Shuster (4-7, 3.53 ERA) in Game 1 of the six-game series. Biloxi’s hottest hitter has been Cam Devanney (.291), who’ll take a 19-game hitting streak into tonight’s game. Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard is batting .227 with five homers for the Shuckers. Andrew Moritz was named the M-Braves’ player of the week for last week after batting .416 with five RBIs in six games. He’s at .268 for the year. The M-Braves count on the power of Drew Lugbauer (15 homers) and C.J. Alexander (12) for much of their offense. … The Shuckers will honor Pearl River Community College’s national championship team in pregame ceremonies tonight. P.S. Ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner and DeSoto Central High product Blaze Jordan were named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week for June 20-26. Wallner, playing for Minnesota’s Double-A Wichita club, went 9-for-21 with three homers, six RBIs, seven runs and six walks; he has 16 bombs on the season. Jordan went 12-for-24 with two homers, five RBIs and five runs for Boston’s Low-Class A Salem team; he is hitting .311 with eight homers for the season. Other notable performances last week, per MLB Pipeline: Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, Jr., had a two-homer game for High-A Wisconsin in Milwaukee’s system, boosting his total to nine. He’s batting .177, so a promotion to Biloxi isn’t likely anytime soon. … Mississippi State product Jordan Westburg had a five-hit game for Triple-A Norfolk in Baltimore’s system. He is batting .366 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 16 games for the Tides. … Former Itawamba Community College standout Tyreque Reed, having a rough year (.202) at Double-A Portland (Boston), broke up a no-hitter in the seventh inning against Richmond last Friday.

27 Jun

one more for the ‘sip

The dust has settled in Omaha. The shouting has (mostly) subsided. And there it is: Ole Miss is the national champion of 2022. Let that soak in. A month ago, this seemed improbable if not impossible. But the Rebels got a ticket to the dance, and magic happened. Ten wins in 11 NCAA Tournament games, a sweep of Oklahoma in the College World Series final. On Sunday, there was more great pitching. A big home run. A crazy eighth-inning rally. Three punchouts in the ninth. A nationally relevant program for years, Ole Miss now has validation with its first national title. There is vindication for coach Mike Bianco, who has been on a hot seat for virtually his entire 22 years in Oxford. There was a time when New York City was called the Capital of Baseball, in the heyday of the Yankees, Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. Today, Mississippi could fairly be called the Capital of College Baseball. Pearl River Community College also won a natty this year. Mississippi State won its first national title in 2021. The Magnolia State can now claim six national baseball championships, with William Carey, Delta State and Jones College also on the list. The Rebels’ impressive feat caps another great year for state baseball. Southern Miss hosted and won a regional. DSU made the Division II regionals. Carey won the SSAC Tournament and went to the NAIA postseason. Millsaps made it to the SAA championship series in D-III. Rust College, under first-year coach John Bates, got an invitation to the NAIA division of the Black College World Series. Individual honors were abundant — and more may be coming. Ole Miss’ Dylan DeLucia was rightly named the MVP of the CWS. Teammate Jacob Gonzalez was first-team All-SEC. MSU’s R.J. Yeager was also a first-teamer. USM’s Tanner Hall has made two first-team All-America lists. He was also the C-USA pitcher of the year. Scott Berry was C-USA coach of the year, pitching guru Christian Ostrander assistant coach of the year and Hurston Waldrep and Landon Harper were first-team All–C-USA selections. DSU’s Rodney Batts was the Gulf South coach of the year, and Jake Barlow and Carson Clowers were named first-team All-GSC. Carey’s A.J. Stinson and R.J. Stinson were All-SSAC picks, as were Blue Mountain’s Alex Frilliman and Dylan Hale. Millsaps’ Jim Page was SAA coach of the year, with Wil Wood and Ryan Erwin earning first-team All-SAA honors. Belhaven’s Brett Sanchez was an All-ASC pick. Pearl River CC’s Tate Parker was a first-team All-America pick in NJCAA Division II. So, when does fall ball start? P.S. In other news: Perhaps foreshadowing the Rebels’ win in Omaha, former Ole Miss catcher Nick Fortes hit his first walk-off home run to give Miami a 3-2 win against the New York Mets. … Ex-State star Hunter Renfroe has been placed on the injured list by Milwaukee, which will activate Bulldogs alum Brandon Woodruff from the IL to start on Tuesday against Tampa Bay. … Former Petal High standout Demarcus Evans, pitching in Triple-A, has been designated for assignment by Texas. The erstwhile big leaguer likely will stay in the organization. … Wes Johnson, a former MSU pitching coach, is leaving the Minnesota Twins’ staff to take a coaching job at LSU.