19 May

tournament time

The dust has settled — on the regular season, at least — and the conference tournament brackets are set for the state’s NCAA Division I schools. Dust will fly again on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala. As fate would have it, Mississippi State and Ole Miss will meet Tuesday in the one-game elimination round of the SEC tourney. Game time is 9 p.m. State (36-19) is the 5-seed, Ole Miss (27-28) the 12th. Texas A&M awaits the winner in the double-elimination phase. The SEC Tournament means a lot more to the Rebels, who’ll need to win the whole thing to get an NCAA bid. But rest assured, the Bulldogs would love to send the Rebels home. … Surging Southern Miss (37-18) is the No. 2 seed and will open Sun Belt Conference Tournament play Wednesday against an as yet undetermined winner from the single-elimination games on Tuesday. The tournament is in Montgomery, Ala. … Jackson State (33-18) is the No. 4 seed in the SWAC East and will begin tournament play Wednesday in Atlanta against the No. 1 team from the West, apparently either Texas Southern or Grambling State. … There’s more: In the NAIA World Series, William Carey is the seventh seed and will open Friday against 10-seed Indiana Southeast at Lewiston, Idaho. No. 2 Georgia Gwinnett awaits the winner. … The MHSAA State Championships schedule features four Game 1’s on Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl and three on Wednesday. On Tuesday, starting at 10 a.m., it’s Class 2A St. Andrew’s-East Union; followed by Class 3A West Marion-East Webster; Class 4A Sumrall-Ripley; and Class 7A Brandon-Hernando. On Wednesday, starting at 1 p.m., it’s Class 1A Taylorsville-Pine Grove; followed by Class 6A George County-Warren Central; and Class 5A Vancleave-Lafayette. Game 2’s are Thursday and Friday (in the same order), with any Game 3’s on May 25. … Delta State’s season ended on Saturday with a 17-6 loss to West Florida in the NCAA D-II South Region at St. Leo, Fla. The Statesmen finish 33-24.

25 May

the other guys

Though neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State qualified for the SEC Tournament, there are Magnolia State connections among the eight teams still alive as of today in Hoover, Ala. Bryson Ware, a former Germantown High and Pearl River Community College standout, was a second-team All-SEC player for Auburn this season and showed out Wednesday, going 2-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs and a steal in the Tigers’ 6-4 loss to Vanderbilt. Ware’s 23rd homer of the season matches the school record. Auburn is coached by Amory High and Itawamba CC alum Butch Thompson, a former Mississippi State assistant coach. The Tigers meet Alabama today in an intriguing elimination game. On the Crimson Tide roster is Wayne Academy product Will Hodo, who batted .289 this season but has been sidelined of late by an injury. Alabama fell into the losers bracket with a loss to Florida, whose starting pitcher was Hurston Waldrep, one of the stars of Southern Miss’ NCAA Tournament team in 2022. Waldrep, 7-3 with a 4.83 ERA for the Gators in the regular season, pitched into the sixth inning on Wednesday; he was long gone by the time the Gators won in the 11th. Arkansas’ starter on Wednesday was Cody Adcock, a right-hander who began his college career at Ole Miss before transferring. He pitched two innings in the 11-inning win over Texas A&M. The Razorbacks may be without starting shortstop John Bolton, a Hinds CC alum, for the entirety of the tournament. The slick-fielding Bolton, a .202 hitter, was injured the last weekend of the regular season. Former Lewisburg High star Brady Tygart, 2-0 with a 3.31 for Arkansas this season, figures to make an appearance before the Hogs are done. Today, they’ll play LSU in the winners bracket. On the Tigers’ roster is freshman Aiden Moffett, the highly touted pitcher out of Taylorsville who made one (very poor) appearance this season and apparently is redshirting. LSU beat South Carolina on Wednesday. The Gamecocks have played all year without Jacob Compton, a DeSoto Central and Northeast CC alum who transferred in from Memphis, where he was All-AAC in 2022. The slugging first baseman was injured in preseason. South Carolina plays A&M in an elimination game today. The Aggies’ director of player and program development is Chuck Box, a Columbus native who previously coached at Jackson Prep and Hartfield Academy. P.S. Kudos to Southern Miss, which opened Sun Belt Conference Tournament play with a 7-1 win over James Madison as Tanner Hall notched his 12th victory. USM gets Troy today in Montgomery, Ala. Jackson State lost its SWAC tourney opener to Grambling State 8-7 despite a combined seven hits from Omar Gomez and Marcus Atterberry. JSU meets Bethune-Cookman today in an elimination game in Atlanta.

21 May

coming attractions

Tournament time arrives this week for the nation’s major colleges, many of which are still battling for NCAA Tournament bids. Southern Miss shouldn’t have to fret about a regional berth, but the Golden Eagles would certainly like to collect a Sun Belt Conference tourney title for outgoing coach Scott Berry. USM (37-16 with 15 wins in its last 16 games) is in its first year in the SBC and enters the tournament in Montgomery, Ala., as the No. 2 seed (behind Coastal Carolina). The Golden Eagles will play Wednesday at Riverwalk Stadium against the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between James Madison and Old Dominion. … Jackson State (28-23) enters the SWAC Tournament as the 4-seed from the East Division and will play West No. 1 Grambling State on Wednesday at Georgia Tech’s Chandler Stadium in Atlanta. JSU beat Grambling in their only meeting in the Andre Dawson Classic back in March. Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State did not qualify for the SWAC tourney. … The SEC Tournament starts Tuesday in Hoover, Ala., but Mississippi State and Ole Miss — the last two national champions — won’t be there. (And since there is no NIT in baseball, their seasons are over.) MSU went into the final weekend with a chance to qualify for the SEC field but lost two of three to Texas A&M and came up short. … William Carey will open Friday in the NAIA World Series against Bellevue (Neb.) at Harris Field in Lewiston, Idaho. Carey is the No. 4 seed in the 10-team field. Region 23 champ East Central Community College will get its next assignment on Tuesday when the NJCAA Division II World Series brackets are announced. The Enid, Okla., tournament starts Saturday.

22 May

buckle up

It’s championship week for the MHSAA schools and the NCAA Division I programs, and here are the hot spots:
Trustmark Park, Pearl: On Tuesday, Biggersville meets Resurrection Catholic in the Class 1A series, Pontotoc plays Sumrall in 4A and Neshoba Central meets East Central in 5A. On Wednesday, it’s Stringer-East Union in 2A, Amory-Seminary in 3A and DeSoto Central-Northwest Rankin in 6A. All are best-of-3 series.
Hoover Met, Hoover, Ala.: On Tuesday, Ole Miss plays Vanderbilt in a play-in game in the SEC Tournament. The winner gets No. 1 Tennessee in the first round of the double-elimination phase of the 12-team event.
Taylor Park, Hattiesburg: On Wednesday, Southern Miss, regular season champion in C-USA, gets UAB in the first round of the double-elimination C-USA Tournament.
Regions Field, Birmingham: On Wednesday, Jackson State, the 4-seed out of the SWAC East, opens SWAC Tournament play against old rival Southern University, the top seed from the West.
P.S. Delta State’s season ended Saturday with a 6-3 loss to St. Leo in the Division II South Regional. … Pearl River Community College, the No. 1-ranked team in NJCAA Division II, will play next weekend in the juco D-II World Series in Enid, Okla. The opponent has not been determined.

27 May

just stuff

Oak Grove visits Northwest Rankin tonight to decide the MHSAA Class 6A South State title and berth in next week’s finals against Madison Central. All of the other state championship pairings are set for the big event that starts Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. In 5A, it’s Saltillo-Pascagoula, 4A West Lauderdale-Sumrall, 3A Booneville-Magee, 2A East Union-Taylorsville and 1A Tupelo Christian-Resurrection Catholic (Pascagoula). Madison Central is top-ranked in the state by MaxPreps and is No. 6 in the country. NWR is fifth in the state, Oak Grove 12th. Sumrall is No. 4, and Booneville is eight. … Southern Miss beat Western Kentucky in its C-USA Tournament opener, finishing off the 11-1 win at 2:59 a.m. today in Ruston, La. The Golden Eagles play again tonight, throwing C-USA pitcher of the year Walker Powell at Lousiana Tech. Ole Miss and Mississippi State both lost in SEC tourney play on Wednesday and face elimination games today in Hoover, Ala. Delta State starts play in the NCAA Division II South Region today vs. Tampa at Pensacola, Fla. … Braden Shewmake, the Mississippi Braves shortstop and Atlanta’s No. 4 prospect, is in the throes of a woeful slump. After an 0-for-4 on Wednesday against Montgomery at the TeePee, Shewmake is batting .086. He has five hits, one homer. He hit .300 over two levels in 2019. … Jacob Robson, the former Mississippi State standout, is hitting the pause button on his torrid start in the minors this season. But for good reason. Robson, a native of London, Ont., is off to play for Team Canada in the Olympics qualifying event in Florida next week. Robson, 26, a lefty-hitting outfielder, is batting .424 with two homers and 10 RBIs for Double-A Erie in Detroit’s system. He played in Triple-A in 2019, hitting .267, and has a .295 career average. He was an eighth-round pick out of Starkville in 2016. He’s not on the Tigers’ top 30 prospect list but has been in their big league spring camp the last couple of years. … Magnolia State products Hunter Renfroe and Austin Riley played a little tit-for-tat in Wednesday’s MLB game between Boston and Atlanta. Renfroe, from Crystal Springs, hit a 377-foot homer for the Red Sox in the second inning. Riley, from Southaven, retaliated with a 390-foot shot, also over Fenway Park’s Green Monster, three innings later. Boston ultimately won the game. … MLB placed Los Angeles Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway, a former Ole Miss pitcher, on the ineligible list through 2022, the culmination of investigation into numerous sexual harassment allegations. The Angels promptly fired Callaway, who hadn’t been with the team at all this season. … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, now with San Diego, reportedly has suffered a setback in his recovery from a left shoulder impingement and could be out an extended time. He has been on the IL since May 13.

23 May

drama in three acts

Tournament baseball is a different animal. White-knuckle moments are built in. But even then, you can’t anticipate the kind of high drama that Mississippi’s Big 3 experienced on Wednesday (and into the wee hours of today). Ole Miss, which can use some more wins, lost a late lead and fell in the SEC Tournament to Arkansas. Southern Miss, desperately needing more wins to make the NCAAs, pulled off a comeback for the ages in the C-USA Tournament against Rice. And Mississippi State, looking to pump up its NCAA Tournament resume, squandered an early lead, then rallied – twice – to beat LSU in the longest game in SEC tourney history. Ole Miss led 3-2 in the sixth inning at Hoover, Ala., fell behind 4-3, put the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the eighth but couldn’t get the clutch hit against Arkansas closer Matt Cronin. The Hogs won 5-3. At MGM Park in Biloxi, USM trailed 4-0 early, got a run in the seventh, three in the ninth to force extras and then won it 6-4 in the 10th on Matt Wallner’s walk-off home run. (You can almost feel Wallner’s MLB draft stock rising.) Back in Hoover for the SEC nightcap, State let an early 4-0 lead slip away, fell behind in the 16th inning, tied it and then won 6-5 in the 17th on a walk-off hit by Gunner Halter. The 6-hour, 43-minute emotional rollercoaster ended just after 3 this morning. Each of the Big 3 plays again today. There will be drama. That you can count on.

27 May

by the way …

It’s not something that will be on his mind today in Hoover, Ala., but Ryan Rolison heads a list of six Mississippi-connected players in mlb.com’s latest Top 200 draft prospects chart. The Ole Miss left-hander, expected to start the SEC Tournament title game against LSU, checks in at No. 17. Brandon High’s J.T. Ginn, ranked as a pitcher, is No. 34, Mississippi State lefty Konnor Pilkington No. 61, Hattiesburg High outfielder Joe Gray No. 62, Southern Miss right-hander Nick Sandlin No. 164 and MSU outfielder Jake Mangum No. 180. Rolison’s stock actually has slipped a bit since the season began. Rated the top overall draft prospect by Perfect Game in preseason, he is 8-4 with a 3.87 ERA and has wobbled down the stretch. South Carolina put up 11 runs in 3 1/3 innings against Rolison on May 4 and, after shutting out Auburn for six innings in the SEC Tournament on Wednesday, he was chased in the seventh of a 9-3 loss. You can bet scouts will be paying close attention today in what will be a highly charged atmosphere at the Hoover Met. LSU is gunning for its 13th SEC title, Ole Miss its third. … Ginn, also a shortstop with pop and a State signee, went 5-1 with an 0.36 ERA for Brandon. Ole Miss signee Gray is a five-tool type who led Hattiesburg to the Class 5A state title. Mangum was drafted as a sophomore last year – 30th round by the New York Yankees – and opted to return to State, where has had another good year. … It’ll be interesting to see if former Ole Miss closer Dallas Woolfolk gets a call next month. After a stellar 2017 that put him on the draft charts, the big right-hander went off the rails this spring and was rarely used down the stretch before leaving the team in early May, citing his “personal health.” He had a 2.51 ERA and six saves in 16 appearances.

23 May

pondering momentum

Whether momentum matters in sports is certainly subject to debate. In fact, whether it exists at all is questionable. But if it does exist, Jones County Junior College would appear to have it as the Bobcats move on to the NJCAA Division II World Series. Chris Kirtland’s club won three straight elimination games to capture the championship in the Region 23 Tournament. JCJC beat No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice twice in the regional. The Bobcats also snapped a three-game losing skid against MACJC champion East Central with a win on Saturday and then beat the Warriors again Sunday. In Sunday’s 6-5 title clincher, Mason Strickland, a freshman out of South Jones High, worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Logan Robbins. Strickland beat LSU-E on Thursday to improve to 10-0; Sunday’s save was his first. Mason Irby, Erick Hoard, Fred Franklin and Tanner Huddleston supplied big hits. So with Big Mo now seemingly on its side, Jones (49-8 and ranked third in the latest D-II poll) plays McHenry College of Illinois on Saturday in Enid, Okla. Delta State appeared to have some momentum last week when it beat top-seeded Tampa for its second straight win in the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament and sixth straight W overall. But DSU’s mo then got derailed by Nova Southeastern in a 9-4 loss. A 13-5 victory against West Georgia on Sunday – fueled by Brandon Cummins’ three-hit, two-RBI game — kept the Statesmen (41-16) alive, but they’ll have to beat Nova twice today to claim the region title and make the D-II World Series. With 11 straight wins and an SEC regular season championship in tow, Mississippi State would seem to be riding a huge wave of momentum into the SEC Tournament. Ole Miss might have picked up a little mo, too, by beating Texas A&M in the regular season finale, denying the Aggies a share of the SEC title. But also in Hoover, Ala., this week are five other teams ranked in the top 12 of Baseball America’s most recent poll. Pitching depth might be a tad more important than momentum in the SEC tourney. If there is a state school still playing that would appear to lack momentum, it’s Southern Miss, which lost its last three C-USA games at Florida International and slipped to the third seed in the conference tournament. But, the tournament is in Hattiesburg, and the Golden Eagles are 24-4 in the friendly confines of Taylor Park. Comfort might matter more than momentum – if any such thing really exists.

22 May

shades of maroon

It’s time for a Mississippi State flashback. The Bulldogs are SEC regular season champions for the first time since 1989. Yes, current State coach John Cohen was a player on that team, along with a host of others who surely hold a special place in the memory bank of Bulldog Nation. The ’89 team, which won 54 games under Ron Polk, had seven players picked in the MLB draft, including Pete Young, Jody Hurst, Richie Grayum, Barry Winford, Brad Hildreth, Bobby Reed and Jon Shave. (Reed and Shave returned to school.) Tommy Raffo, who went undrafted that year, led the Bulldogs with a .383 average, 22 homers and 80 RBIs. He was an All-America pick, along with Young, who played third base and closed. Raffo, Young, Hurst, Winford and Burke Masters made All-SEC. Reed, the staff ace who went 12-3, somehow did not make the all-conference charts. The ’89 Bulldogs clinched the SEC title in one of the more memorable games in school history, a 28-16 pounding of Kentucky in which they blasted six home runs. Tracy Echols had six of the team’s 30 hits. (It was the Gorilla Ball era in college baseball.) State did not win the SEC Tournament, bowing out in three games, but did host an NCAA regional. The Bulldogs won four times before huge crowds at Dudy Noble Field but ultimately were eliminated by North Carolina, which beat them twice. The 2016 Bulldogs will take an 11-game win streak into the SEC Tournament, which figures to be an absolute war. Like the ’89 team, State is in good shape to host a regional regardless of what happens in Hoover, Ala.

18 May

regional appeal

Ole Miss needs to beat Alabama on Tuesday to stay alive in the SEC Tournament. Whether the Rebels need to beat Alabama to stay in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid is less clear. UM has won six of its last seven to get to 30-25 against one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Still, a one-and-done performance in the SEC tourney at Hoover, Ala., might not look so good. The sixth-seeded Rebels will throw Scott Weathersby (4-1, 2.39 ERA), a recent addition to the rotation who got the last five outs in a 4-0 win over Alabama in Oxford in late April. Ole Miss took two of three from the Crimson Tide in that series, winning the opener 10-2 and losing the finale 13-4. The Tide (30-26) showed its offensive potential in that one, with 17 hits and seven two-out RBIs. … Southern Miss (35-16-1) has won 13 straight games to play its way into the NCAA regional picture and has a legitimate shot at winning the C-USA Tournament and claiming the automatic bid. USM is the 3-seed in the double-elimination event that it is hosting at Taylor Park in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles open Wednesday with UAB (30-24), which it beat two of three at “The Pete” in early April. In the rubber game of that series, James McMahon – the likely starter on Wednesday – got the W in the 3-2 victory with relief help from Luke Lowery and Cody Livingston. USM is flush with good arms. P.S. As we eagerly await today’s announcement of the 2015 Ferriss Trophy recipient, a check on last year’s winner, Auston Bousfield, shows the Ole Miss product batting .308 with a homer, 15 RBIs and 14 steals for Class A Lake Elsinore in the San Diego system. Bousfield was a fifth-round pick last June.