08 Apr


Teheran v. Morton: Longtime followers of the Mississippi Braves — if there are any — should perk up at the mention of these two names. Julio Teheran (M-Braves, 2010) will make his first start for the New York Mets tonight against Atlanta and Charlie Morton (M-Braves, 2007). Morton has 131 career MLB wins, tops among former M-Braves in The Show. Teheran, who spent the first nine years of his career with Atlanta, has 81 wins, third on that list. Morton was on the ’07 M-Braves team that made the Southern League playoffs for the first time in the club’s third year in Pearl. Teheran threw a combo no-hitter (with Tyrelle Harris) for the M-Braves in 2010.
Waldrep v. Blue Wahoos: Current M-Braves pitcher and ex-Southern Miss star Hurston Waldrep pitched 2 2/3 innings — twice through the order against Pensacola — and got rocked for 11 hits, a walk and seven runs as the M-Braves lost 9-1 Sunday and fell to 0-3 this season. The highly rated Waldrep, who posted a 1.53 ERA over four levels in Atlanta’s system last summer, has a 23.63 after his first appearance of 2024.
Crochet v. Renfroe: Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet got Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe to ground out in their first confrontation on Sunday, but Renfroe tagged Crochet for a two-run homer in the second encounter, breaking up a shutout in the fifth inning and propelling Kansas City to a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox. It was the first homer of the season for Renfroe, the veteran slugger in his first year with the Royals. Crochet, making his third career start, got a no-decision; he is 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA for the ChiSox, who have won only the one game.
Foscue v. Hader: Ex-MSU standout Justin Foscue got his first MLB hit on a 3-2 pitch in the ninth inning against fearsome lefty closer Josh Hader, the former Biloxi Shuckers star. Foscue’s single up the middle produced the only run Texas would score in a 3-1 loss at Silver Boot rival Houston on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
Dogs on Dogs: The weekend SEC clash between Georgia and Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field was one to remember. State (21-12, 6-6) took two of three, winning Sunday’s rubber game 9-8 after trailing 5-0 in the third inning and 8-7 in the eighth. Of course, the “highlight” of the series was Saturday’s ejection-filled affair, which Georgia (24-8, 5-7) won 3-2 on a late homer. Emotions ran high all weekend. Wouldn’t it be fun if these two clubs were to meet again in the SEC Tournament?

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.

31 Mar

the right stuff

Facing a power-packed lineup in enemy territory, a day after his team blew a late lead and lost, Jurrangelo Cijntje sizzled on Saturday. The Mississippi State sophomore threw seven commanding innings against Florida — a consensus top 10 team — in leading the Bulldogs to a resounding 12-2 victory. That’s what an ace does. “I was just trying to give my team the chance to win,” Cijntje said in a 247sports.com story. “These guys deserve it after an awful loss yesterday. We needed that today.” MSU improved to 19-9 and 4-4 in the SEC. Florida is 15-11, 5-3. The Bulldogs belted five homers — two each by Dakota Jordan and Connor Hujsak — but the performance by Cijntje stole the show. The Netherlands native, who played high school ball in Florida, had family members in the crowd at Condron Ballpark, and they watched him hold the Gators to two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts and two walks. Cijntje arrived at State last year with the fanfare of being a switch-pitcher. He had some tough times in the rugged SEC, finishing 3-5 with an 8.10 ERA overall. He has turned things around in 2024, currently sitting at 5-1 with a 3.43 in seven starts. He has punched out 53 in 39 1/3 innings. Clearly, his stuff plays. The Bulldogs’ pitching overall has been better this season under new pitching coach Justin Parker. The staff ERA is 4.16, fifth in the SEC. It was an ugly 7.01 in 2023, and no Bulldogs fan need be reminded that last year’s team went 27-26 and 9-21 in the league.

16 Mar

pen pals

It was quite an opening night of conference play for the state’s Big 3 NCAA Division I schools, with each scoring a win Friday before a big home crowd. Stars abound, but a trio of relief pitchers rate some special recognition. Here are the names to know:
Nolan Stevens, Mississippi State: The freshman left-hander from California came out of the bullpen in the fourth inning and worked 5 2/3, yielding one hit and one run with eight strikeouts in the Bulldogs’ 10-4 SEC win against No. 2 LSU at Dudy Noble Field. Hunter Hines hit two home runs, good for four RBIs, for State, now 14-5.
Connor Spencer, Ole Miss: The well-traveled senior from Hernando came on with two runners on in the eighth and retired the last five batters, registering his fourth save as the Rebels beat nationally ranked SEC foe South Carolina 5-4 at Swayze Field. Luke Hill went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for UM, 14-5 with eight straight wins.
Kros Sivley, Southern Miss: The sophomore lefty from Sumrall pitched the last 2 2/3 in relief of Nikko Mazza (4-0), allowing no runs on two hits and a walk for his second save in the 8-4 victory over Sun Belt rival Marshall at Taylor Park. Davis Gillespie went 3-for-4 with a bomb and five RBIs for the Golden Eagles, 12-6.

14 Mar

clearing the bases

Anthony Alford hit his first home run of the spring Wednesday for Cincinnati in the Cactus League. The two-run shot by the former Petal High star, in Reds camp as a non-roster invitee, came at the expense of former Mississippi State standout Ethan Small, who yielded five runs (two homers) in two innings in San Francisco’s 19-11 loss. Small, trying to earn a spot in the Giants’ bullpen, has a 9.53 ERA this spring. … Southern Miss alum Matt Wallner hit his first homer of the spring for Minnesota in the Grapefruit League. Wallner, USM’s all-time homer leader, belted 14 in 76 games for the Twins last year. … Aaron Downs, a junior out of Heritage Academy, delivered an 11th-inning walk-off single for MSU in a 2-1 win over New Orleans at MGM Park in Biloxi. It was the first RBI of the season for Downs. The Bulldogs (13-5) play defending national champion LSU in Starkville this weekend to open SEC play. … Ole Miss (13-5 with seven straight wins) launches SEC play Friday against nationally ranked South Carolina in Oxford. … Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson will host a pair of SWAC series over three days this weekend with Mississippi Valley State playing Bethune-Cookman and winless Alcorn State meeting Grambling State in three-game sets. … In the first regular season NAIA coaches poll released on Wednesday, William Carey — preseason No. 4 — fell out of the Top 25. The Crusaders, who made the NAIA World Series in 2023, are 13-9 and 4-5 in the SSAC. Blue Mountain Christian (18-5, 5-4 SSAC) did not get any votes in the new poll. … East Central Community College, ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II, beat No. 15 Meridian 7-5 and 4-3 to improve to 27-0 and 4-0 MACCC. … Jackson Prep, 18-2 and ranked No. 2 in the state by Prep Baseball Report, beat ninth-ranked Sumrall 7-2 to finish a 3-1 run through the Battle at the Beach. Patriots star — and LSU commit — Konnor Griffin threw six one-hit innings with 12 strikeouts and got two knocks in the Sumrall win. Lewisburg, ranked No. 1 by Prep Baseball Report, plays in the four-team Southeastern High School Baseball Classic at Trustmark Park this weekend. … MaxPreps’ latest state rankings have Hartfield Academy No. 1, followed by Lewisburg. Prep is fifth in that poll.

22 Feb

here and there

Delta State, pegged for a sixth-place finish in the Gulf South Conference this season, opens league play this weekend with a 6-5 record. The Statesmen will take on Union University for a three-game set (Friday-Saturday). DSU was the preseason favorite in the league poll in 2023 and finished eighth before reaching the championship round in the league tournament. Go figure. DSU is batting .323 as a team with a staff ERA of 6.00. The Statesmen are led by Brett Burrell, batting .444 with 11 RBIs, and Brendan McCauley, .391 with a homer and seven RBIs. … Mississippi College (8-3, 2-1 GSC) plays on the road for the first time this weekend, visiting league foe Auburn-Montgomery. … Blue Mountain Christian (11-3) has 19 home runs, seven by Arderrius Townsend, a former Northwest Mississippi Community College star. … Belhaven University is 3-3 heading into its first home games, a three-game set this weekend against St. Thomas at Trustmark Park in Pearl. … Mississippi Valley State will play its first games under new coach C.J. Bilbrey when the Delta Devils meet Jackson State (4-1) in a non-conference series, games at Braddy Field on Friday and Sunday and one in Itta Bena on Saturday. Joseph Eichelberger is batting a crazy .714 for JSU. … Southern Miss’ Nick Monistere was 0-for-10 heading into Wednesday’s game at New Orleans, then put up a 3-for-4 with a homer, five RBIs, four runs and two walks in the 4-1 Golden Eagles’ 15-10 victory. … Mississippi State is 13th and Ole Miss 14th in the Nashville Tennessean‘s latest SEC power rankings — and that was before both lost midweek games. MSU is 2-2, UM 2-3. The Rebels are batting .181 and have a 5.23 ERA. P.S. Pencil former East Central CC standout Tim Anderson in as Miami’s starting shortstop. The former All-Star and batting champ reportedly has signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Marlins on the heels of a disappointing 2023 season (.245, one homer) with the Chicago White Sox. Jon Berti was in line for the Miami shortstop job.

17 May

what’s going on …

In Hattiesburg today, William Carey University is in the championship phase of the NAIA Opening Round tourney, awaiting the winner of the Ave Maria-Houston-Victoria game. Carey already has beaten both of those teams and will advance to the NAIA World Series with another victory, either today or Thursday. … In Eunice, La., today, East Central Community College takes on LSU-Eunice in a winners bracket game and Pearl River meets Itawamba in a losers bracket game of the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament. ECCC, the MACCC champion, has wins over ICC and Meridian in the tournament. LSU-U, ranked No. 1 in the nation, has wins over Northeast and Pearl River. Meridian and Northeast have been eliminated. … In Hattiesburg this weekend, Southern Miss, chasing a Sun Belt Conference title, plays host to Louisiana-Lafayette in a three-game league series to end the regular season. The Golden Eagles will honor retiring coach Scott Berry on Friday. There will be a lot of emotion at Taylor Park. … Jackson State, trying to maintain momentum for the SWAC Tournament, heads to Daytona Beach, Fla., for a league series against Bethune-Cookman. The Tigers are just 12-15 in the SWAC but have won their last four series. … Taps have been played on Ole Miss’ postseason chances, but Mississippi State clings to hope as it hosts Texas A&M to wrap up the regular season. State is 8-19 in the SEC, trailing both Georgia and Missouri by 2 games in the standings. Those three are vying for the last two SEC tourney berths. MSU basically needs to sweep A&M and get some help from LSU (vs. Georgia) and Auburn (vs. Missouri). … The MHSAA playoffs are down to the final 24 with North and South championships to be decided this week. In Class 6A, Northwest Rankin and Gulfport will battle for the South crown and Germantown and Lewisburg for the North. The state championship series in all six classes will be held at Trustmark Park in Pearl from May 30-June 2.

07 May

shining moment

In what has been a largely forgettable season for defending national champion Ole Miss, Calvin Harris produced a memory for the ages on Saturday, belting a school-record four home runs in a 20-14 win at Missouri. The homers tied an SEC record and his 10 RBIs matched a school record set in 1947 by one Charlie Conerly, better known for his exploits in another sport. Harris is rated the No. 145 prospect by MLB Pipeline for this summer’s draft — he would be the eighth Rebels catcher drafted in the last 10 years — and Saturday’s show of power certainly didn’t hurt his stock. Harris, who bats from the left side, now has 12 homers on the season and is batting .342 and slugging .631. He hit just five homers in his first two seasons in Oxford.

20 Apr

where things stand

For what it’s worth in mid-April, Baseball America projects Southern Miss as an NCAA Tournament team and the No. 15 national seed, hosting a regional in Hattiesburg. Still a long way to go until the NCAA Baseball Selection Show on May 29, but the 25th-ranked Golden Eagles are trending in the right direction at 22-13 overall and 10-5 (tied for second) in the Sun Belt Conference. USM takes on first-place Coastal Carolina (11-4) in a three-game series this weekend at Myrtle Beach, S.C. USM swept James Madison last weekend, powered in part by SBC player of the week Slade Wilks, who homered twice, including a grand slam, and tied a school-record with eight RBIs in Sunday’s series finale. Wilks, out of Columbia Academy, is batting .333 with 14 homers and 39 RBIs. … In the mighty SEC, both Mississippi State and Ole Miss have a lot of work to do to impress the NCAA selection committee. State (22-15, 5-10) is tied for fifth with Auburn in the West Division and visits the Tigers this weekend. After last week’s gut-wrenching series loss at Starkville, Ole Miss (21-16, 3-12 and seventh in the West) gets to host No. 1 LSU this weekend. … It has been a tough year for Mississippi’s SWAC schools. Jackson State is 19-16 overall but just 4-11 in the league, fourth in the East and battling for a league tournament berth. Mississippi Valley State is 2-13 and 10-27, Alcorn State 2-12, 5-26. … It has also been a tough year for the state’s Division II schools. Delta State is 21-21 and 11-12 (ninth) in the Gulf South Conference. Mississippi College is 15-27 and 9-15 (11th). The top eight teams make the GSC Tournament. … In NAIA, William Carey University sits atop the Southern States Athletic Conference standings with a 14-4 record after sweeping Mobile last weekend. The nationally ranked Crusaders (32-9 overall) visit scuffling Blue Mountain Christian this weekend. The Toppers are 6-15 in the SSAC, 23-21 overall. … Rust College is tied for first in the NAIA Gulf Coast Athletic Conference with an 11-4 mark. Tougaloo is fifth in the six-team loop at 5-9. The league tournament is set for Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium April 27-30. … NCAA Division III Belhaven is second in the Collegiate Conference of the South standings at 10-4. The Blazers (18-15 overall) have one conference series remaining before the league tournament that starts May 3. … D-III Millsaps, on a six-game losing streak, is sixth in the Southern Athletic Association at 7-11 (16-21 overall) with one league series remaining. The postseason starts April 28 with four best-of-3 series, followed by a double-elimination tournament. The Majors reached the SAA championship series last year as the No. 6 seed under a different format. … MUW, a D-III independent, is 4-22. No record is available for Southeastern Baptist, an NCCAA school in Laurel.

17 Apr

a battle royale

A statue honoring the legendary Ron Polk was unveiled with much fanfare on Friday. Saturday’s game drew an NCAA record on-campus crowd of 16,423 at Dudy Noble Field. It seemed only fitting that Sunday would provide something special: a compelling rubber game in a drama-filled series in Starkville between Mississippi State and Ole Miss, college baseball’s last two national champions.
Behind a tiebreaking, seventh-inning home run by Hunter Hines — his third bomb of the series — and clutch relief work from Aaron Nixon, MSU won 5-3 Sunday to take the series and cap what really was a Super Bulldog Weekend.
“What an unbelievable job we do there at the end of the game. (Nixon), that was impressive,” said State coach Chris Lemonis. “Some big at-bats. Dakota (Jordan), huge swing (on a third-inning homer). Hunter Hines … to be able to have an approach on a guy like that (Ole Miss’ Jackson Kimbrell) and hit that ball out, man, that is huge.”
Never mind that the teams entered the weekend wallowing at the bottom of the SEC standings. The three games drew some 44,000 fans and produced one thrilling moment after another. MSU emerges at 22-15 overall and 5-10 in the SEC, perhaps building some momentum for the long stretch run ahead. Ole Miss is 20-16, 3-12 SEC, with LSU lurking next weekend. If there is some consolation for the Rebels, they were 18-17 and 6-9 at this point in 2022, and we know how that season ended.
Games 1 and 2 were one-run affairs not settled until the ninth inning. Ole Miss won Friday’s opener 3-2 behind the pitching of Jack Dougherty and Mitch Murrell and homers from Jacob Gonzalez and Kemp Alderman. Down 3-1, MSU got a two-out homer in the ninth from Hines before Murrell closed out the three-hitter.
The pitching woes that have plagued both clubs this year were evident in Game 2. The Bulldogs’ Nate Dohm blew a save in the top of the ninth, and Ole Miss freshman Sam Tookoian then blew a save in the bottom half. MSU won 8-7 on a two-run, walk-off single by the dynamic freshman Jordan, triggering a wild celebration on the field and in the stands. (Yes, even Dak Prescott was going nuts.) Colton Ledbetter hit two clutch homers for State in Saturday’s game, and Hines added another.
On Sunday, Jordan gave State a 3-0 lead with a home run in the third inning off Ole Miss starter J.T. Quinn. Freshman switch-pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje, who started for the Bulldogs, took a shutout into the sixth. Ole Miss made it 3-1 in that inning on an RBI ground out by Andy Calarco, the last batter Cijntje faced.
“That was impressive to go out there and do that,” Lemonis said of Cijntje’s performance. “I’ll tip my hat. I know that’s a rival, but there are some good hitters in that (Ole Miss) lineup, and, man, you just controlled it. It was poise. It was command.”
The Rebels cut it to 3-2 in the seventh on a walk, a single and a wild pitch by reliever K.C. Hunt. On came Nixon, who yielded an RBI hit to Alderman. It was the only hit Nixon allowed. He escaped the seventh with a double-play ball and then retired the last six Rebels in succession. The junior from Texas, who also tossed a scoreless inning on Saturday, now has an 0.84 ERA over eight appearances.
Hines, a sophomore out of Madison Central who has 17 homers on the year, seized the spotlight in the bottom of the seventh, blasting a two-out, two-run shot to right field off left-hander Kimbrell. The roars at Dudy Noble were deafening, and there were more of the same when Nixon retired Rebels star Gonzalez on a line drive for the last out.