They have a saying at Delta State, where they’ve won a truckload of championships: “Tradition never slumps.” Tradition also never hangs its head. Down 8-0 in the second inning of an elimination game in the Gulf South Conference Tournament, the Statesmen rallied to win 10-9 in 11 innings on Monday. They beat Valdosta State, previously unbeaten in the tourney, on a walk-off balk. To win the GSC title — and an NCAA Division II Tournament berth — DSU (27-25) will have to win twice today in Oxford, Ala., first against top-seeded West Florida (35-15) and then in a rematch with Valdosta (33-17). But don’t count the Statesmen out. It has been a wonky season in Okra-land. DSU, the preseason pick to win the GSC regular season title, needed to win its last two games on the road against archrival Mississippi College just to get into the eight-team tournament field. Mission accomplished. The Statesmen lost their opener in the tournament 5-3 to West Florida, pinning their backs to the wall in the double-elimination event. They responded with wins over West Georgia and Shorter before the remarkable rally against Valdosta. Hayden Cooper hit a two-run homer as part of the comeback, and Brendan McCauley belted a huge game-tying shot in the eighth. Three relievers shut out the Blazers over the final five innings. In the 11th, Kirkland Trahan got on with a one-out walk, went to third on a Cooper single and scored the game-winner on the untimely balk. Two more for the championship. Don’t count ’em out. P.S. Rust College begins play on Wednesday in the Black College World Series at Montgomery, Ala. The Bearcats, regular season champs in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference, are the No. 1 seed in the NAIA bracket. … Former Ole Miss star James McArthur has been traded from Philadelphia to Kansas City, which optioned the 6-foot-7 right-hander to Triple-A Omaha. He had been designated for assignment by the Phillies last week.
Rust College made an impressive run to the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular season title. Run is the operative word here. The Bearcats (21-21 overall, 14-4 GCAC) have stolen 200 bases as they charge into the league tournament, slated to begin today at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. Rust has nine players with 10 or more steals, led by Jesse Burton III with 31 and Malik Berrien with 29. The top hitters are Jalin Thomas, raking at .379 with eight homers, and Khalil Robinson, .357 with 11 bombs. The pitching hasn’t been as sharp (7.31 staff ERA), but Xavier Campbell emerged as a weapon out of the bullpen with four wins and a save in 11 appearances. Second-year coach John Bates has quickly built a competitive team with players from all over the South; last year’s club ended a streak of 17 straight losing seasons. The Bearcats are the top seed in the six-team GCAC tourney and are hopeful of an NAIA Tournament bid. The team already has been invited to the Black College World Series in Montgomery, Ala., in mid-May. Tougaloo (9-32, 6-11), coached be ex-Jackson State star Earl Sanders, is also in the GCAC field and opens today against Philander Smith, with the winner meeting Rust on Friday. P.S. The MACCC regular season concludes on Friday. The top four teams in the standings are ranked in the NJCAA Division II Top 20. First-place and 15th-ranked East Central (22-4 in the league) finishes with East Mississippi; No. 5 Meridian (20-6) hosts Mississippi Delta; No. 3 Pearl River (19-7) is at Northwest; and No. 18 Itawamba (19-7) is at Jones College. The postseason begins next week. … Belhaven University has finished its regular season and is awaiting its assignment in the Collegiate Conference of the South postseason. The Blazers went 20-16, 12-5 (second) in the new NCAA Division III conference. Brett Sanchez and Dawson Albin were named the CCS pitcher and player of the week on Monday.
Much attention is being given to the fact that two black quarterbacks will face off in the Super Bowl for the first time on Feb. 12. As a nod to Black History Month, let’s highlight a less-celebrated but perhaps equally significant event that occurred in baseball 70 years ago and involved a pioneering Mississippian. Dave Hoskins, a Greenwood native, faced future Hall of Famer Satchel Paige in an American League game on Sept. 7, 1953, marking the first time in history that African-Americans opposed each other as starting pitchers in the traditional major leagues. This was six years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line. Hoskins was a major league rookie at age 35 in 1953 with Cleveland. Hoskins, who had attended G.H. Jones Industrial School in north Mississippi (per a SABR article), pitched several years in the Negro Leagues and was the first black player to appear in two minor leagues, including the Texas League in 1952. He became on May 10, 1953, the first black Mississippian to win a game in the major leagues. On May 24 of that year, he and Paige, with the St. Louis Browns, faced each other as relief pitchers in a game in Cleveland. Months later, they met again as starters at old Cleveland Stadium. Neither pitched well. Hoskins gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings, Paige seven in 4 2/3. Neither was involved in the decision as the Indians prevailed 10-7. Hoskins won nine games for Cleveland in ’53 but would last just one more year in the majors, finishing 9-4 with a 3.81 ERA — and a piece of history — over 40 games. P.S. Jackson State is ranked eighth among the big schools and Rust College No. 3 among the smalls in Black College Nines preseason HBCU Top 10 polls.
Eliminated on Monday from the Gulf South Conference Tournament, Delta State awaits a bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The regional fields will be announced on Sunday. The Statesmen (32-15), regular season champs in the GSC under coach of the year Rodney Batts, lost to Alabama-Huntsville 7-3 on Monday in Oxford, Ala. DSU went 2-2 in the tournament. The Statesmen got a South Regional bid in 2021, Batts’ first full season at the helm, but went 2-and-out at Pensacola, Fla. … Also awaiting its postseason destination is William Carey, champion of the Southern States Athletic Conference. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders will take a 37-15 record into an NAIA regional. … Millsaps’ season ended Monday with a second straight loss to top-seeded Birmingham-Southern in the Southern Athletic Association championship series. Jim Page’s Majors won 10 of their last 14, including a pod title, to finish 24-21. … Belhaven’s season ended Sunday with two losses to UT-Dallas in a pod championship showdown in the American Southwest Conference Tournament. Kyle Palmer’s Blazers went 28-16, most wins for the program in seven years. … Rust College, under first-year coach John Bates, plays Edward Waters on Wednesday in the NAIA bracket of the Black College World Series at Montgomery, Ala. The double-elimination pod winner will meet the NCAA Division II bracket champ in a title game. … In the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament on Monday in Poplarville, MACCC champ Pearl River Community College plays Northwest, East Mississippi takes on Jones and Hinds gets LSU-Eunice. The winner of the double-elimination event gets a trip to the juco World Series.
In a showdown of in-state rivals on foreign soil, William Carey University beat Blue Mountain College 12-8 Thursday in a winners bracket game of the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament. Carey (35-15), the defending tourney champion, now gets a day off in the double-elimination event at Columbus, Ga., while BMC (28-25) faces Loyola-New Orleans for the right to play Carey again on Saturday. BMC upset 2-seed Loyola in the first round. Wiley Cleland drove in three runs and Branson Sharpley and Jordan Szush hit home runs to power Carey on Thursday. … Game 1 winners in the MACCC best-of-3 series were East Mississippi, Hinds, Jones College and Meridian. Jones was the only road team to win, beating Northeast in Booneville. The Game 2’s are set for today. The four series winners advance to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament starting May 16 in Poplarville. … Rust College received one of the four bids to the NAIA bracket of the Black College World Series. The Bearcats (16-13) will play Edward Waters on May 11 in their double-elimination pod. The pod winner will meet the Division II bracket champ in a title game. P.S. Delta State and Belhaven open today in their respective conference tournaments, with the Statesmen meeting Shorter in Oxford, Ala., in the Gulf South and the Blazers taking on Hardin-Simmons in Richardson, Texas, in the American Southwest.
Jackson State has a chance to ease the pain of a rough season this weekend when Alabama State comes to Braddy Field for a three-game SWAC series. A year after dominating the league (24-0 in the regular season), the Tigers are just 6-9 and fourth in the SWAC East. Alabama State leads the division at 11-2 and swept the Tigers at its home field earlier this month. The 17-2 loss at Mississippi State on Tuesday notwithstanding, JSU has showed signs of a resurgence, winning five of its last six conference contests. JSU (18-19 overall) has gotten consistent offense from Ty Hill (.385, 37 runs), Jatavis Melton (.319, 41 runs, 20 steals) and Devontae Rhodes (.313, 22 RBIs) but not much from the rest of the lineup. The pitching staff, so strong last year, has been knocked around frequently. Only one regular starter, Juan Maruland (5-4, 3.73 ERA), has an ERA under 4.00. Last year’s closer, Steven Davila, has missed most of the season. So, too, has slugger Chenar Brown, the league’s freshman of the year in 2021. Others need to step up. On the positive side, the Tigers are 12-4 at home. And a good showing against Alabama State would go a long way toward building confidence heading into the SWAC Tournament, where the Tigers have a demon to exorcise. P.S. Rust College has finished its regular season with a six-game win streak and a 16-13-1 record under first-year coach John Bates.
It’s Groundhog Day. And National Signing Day. It’s also Opening Day. The new college season begins today for Magnolia State schools when a new head coach, John Bates, takes his Rust College Bearcats to Tuskegee University in Alabama. Rust (13-20 last season under Stanley Stubbs, now the new coach at Mississippi Valley State) will lift the lid on a busy opening week for the state’s small schools. Other openers on the docket:
Friday: William Carey launches coach Bobby Halford’s 37th season in a doubleheader against visiting Lindsey Wilson. The Crusaders went 36-12 in 2021, won the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament and made the NAIA playoffs. … At Clinton, Mississippi College, coming off a disappointing 16-20 campaign, hosts North Greenville for a twinbill. … Delta State, 28-20 and an NCAA Division II regional participant last year, travels to Hot Springs, Ark., to play Henderson State in a tournament.
Saturday: Blue Mountain, where former associate head coach Taylor Clark has taken the reins from program founder Curt Fowler, opens at home with a pair against Williams Baptist. … Millsaps is at LeTourneau (Texas) for a doubleheader to begin coach Jim Page’s 31st season with the Majors, an uncharacteristic 10-24 in 2021. (Millsaps will host an eight-team tournament Feb. 11-13 with games at both Twenty Field and Smith-Wills Stadium.) … Tougaloo (4-21 last year) opens at Xavier (La.).
P.S. Belhaven (20-18 last season) opens Feb. 11 on the road at East Texas Baptist, and MUW (23-11) will play that day vs. Rhodes College in the Millsaps tournament. The NCAA Division I schools start Feb. 18, with the exception of Alcorn State, slated to begin the Reggie Williams era on Feb. 25 at McNeese State.
Stanley Stubbs, who won championships at two colleges in Georgia and coached at Rust College the last two years, will be named coach at Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday. Stubbs succeeds Aaron Stevens, fired after an 0-20 season. Stubbs is a Booneville native who played at Northeast Mississippi Community College and was an assistant coach under Bob Braddy at Jackson State for several years. Rust, an NAIA program, finished 13-20 in 2021. Alcorn State has yet to name a replacement for Brett Richardson, who was not retained after a 7-20 season. … The Mississippi Braves are riding an eight-game losing streak as they head into a 12-game road trip that begins tonight at Pensacola. The Double-A club’s longest losing streak since it arrived in Pearl in 2005 is nine. At 40-32, the M-Braves no longer have the Double-A South’s best record. … Whatever happened to Corey Dickerson? Well, the former Meridian Community College star is expected to begin a rehab assignment this week for the Toronto Blue Jays. Dickerson was on the injured list (foot) with Miami when he was traded on June 29. The veteran outfielder hit .260 with two homers in 62 games for the Marlins. … No surprise really that the top two teams in the Cotton States League North feature the college summer league’s top two pitchers. Will Cook, of Holmes Community College, is 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA for the Tupelo Thunder, 13-6 heading into the season’s final weekend in New Albany. Camron Wright, a lefty from Itawamba CC, is 3-1, 1.66 for the North Delta Dealers, also 13-6. The Dealers took two of three from the Thunder back in June, with Cook notching Tupelo’s lone win. Wright pitched well in the rubber game but didn’t get a decision. … Among the array of stars who’ll be formally inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night are two baseball icons: former high school coach Jerry Boatner and renowned stadium architect Janet Marie Smith. In addition, Con Maloney, longtime owner of Jackson’s Texas League franchise, will receive the Rube Award, which recognizes lifetime contributions to Mississippi sports and is named in honor former sports museum director Michael Rubenstein.
Millsaps College will play at Twenty Field this weekend without Keith Shumaker for the first time in five years. The Majors, hosting the three-team Millsaps Invitational, play LaGrange on Friday in their home opener. They went 1-2 in a tournament in Alabama last weekend. Shumaker, the team’s best all-around hitter and pitcher in 2015, was the Southern Athletic Association player of the year and an NCAA Division III All-America as a senior, leading the Majors to a 29-14 finish and an at-large berth in the D-III regionals. Among the familiar faces in purple and white this season is coach Jim Page, who typically finds a way to win. He has 701 career W’s. Page has some experienced talent back in the fold in Isaac Glenn, an All-America candidate who hit .425 last year; Andy Page, .331 in 2015 as a freshman; and Lee Ogletree, .305 last year. Those three combined for nine hits in an 11-7 romp against Southwestern last weekend. P.S. In case you missed it, Rust College opened its season last weekend at Loyola-New Orleans with three losses. The Bearcats, who play in NCAA D-III, were outscored by the NAIA Wolf Pack 54-8.
Did you know that Rust College has produced one and only one professional baseball player? His name is Otis Edwards; he played one season in the minors in 1991. Stumbled across this fascinating bit of data on the wonderful web site baseball-reference.com. Atop the list of most pro players produced by a Magnolia State college is Mississippi State, with 196, including 49 major leaguers. Ole Miss is second (at 193 and 48), Southern Miss third (109/23) and Jackson State fourth (62/9). The rest: Delta State 47/10, William Carey 39/1, Mississippi Valley State 21/0, Alcorn State 16/1, Mississippi College 15/7, Belhaven 10/0 and Millsaps 8/4. More on Edwards: Undrafted out of NCAA Division III Rust, he signed with Cleveland and played 29 games at the rookie and short-season Class A levels, batting .152 with seven RBIs, eight runs and three steals. He also pitched a scoreless inning for Burlington of the rookie Appalachian League. The one Carey player to make The Show? John Stephenson, the ex-Crusaders coach. The one Alcorn player? Al Jones, a pitcher in the mid-1980s. … Stumbled across a couple more interesting items in the July/August issue of Baseball Digest. To wit: Don Kessinger was a six-time All-Star and a career .252 hitter with 1,931 hits over 16 years in the majors. But as a pinch hitter, he was 0-for-37, the worst drought of any player in MLB history with at least 20 pinch-hit appearances. Kessinger did draw four walks as a pinch hitter, but still, it makes you wonder, when he reached 0-for-36, why in the world did his manager send him up there again? Also on the list of pinch-hit futility: former Jackson Mets standout Stanley Jefferson, who was 1-for-32. Then there’s this: The dubious distinction of worst-hitting Gold Glove winner in any season belongs to Greenville native George Scott. “Boomer” hit .171 as the Boston Red Sox’s first baseman in 1968, his third year in the big leagues. Scott, a career .268 hitter with 271 home runs, won eight Gold Gloves over his lengthy career. P.S. The current issue of Sports Illustrated (July 27) has a cool photo essay and brief article on the Anderson Monarchs’ Civil Rights Barnstorming Tour that made a stop for a game at Jackson State’s Braddy Field last month. The 23-day, multi-state trip was a living history lesson for the Philadelphia (Pa.) area youth team, which included 2014 Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis. It’s unclear whether any of the pictures were taken in Mississippi.