William Carey University earned a bid to the NAIA national tournament by winning its first Southern States Athletic Conference championship on Sunday. Blake Freeman hit a pair of three-run homers and John Snyder delivered some clutch relief pitching to pace the Crusaders past Faulkner 11-7 Sunday at Mobile, Ala. Carey (34-10) won four straight in the SSAC Tournament, beating top seed Loyola (New Orleans) twice. The NAIA field will be announced Thursday; the Opening Round is set for May 17-20. … Delta State, 2-0 in the GSC Tournament, plays Alabama-Huntsville today in Oxford, Ala., for a berth in championship series. … In the junior college playoffs, Meridian, Itawamba, East Central and Hinds advanced to the NJCAA D-II Region 23 Tournament, which will start May 17 at Pearl River’s Herring Park. PRCC, the MACCC regular season champion, and LSU-Eunice are also in the six-team field. … MUW (20-9) will play in the USCAA Small College World Series in Dubois, Pa., beginning May 17. … The Texas Rangers claimed former Mississippi State catcher Jack Kruger off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. He goes on the 40-man roster and will likely be assigned to Triple-A Round Rock. Kruger made one appearance, on defense, for the Angels before being squeezed out of a roster spot because of a trade.
Hats off to William Carey University, which beat top-seeded Loyola (New Orleans) 9-6 on Friday in a winners’ bracket game in the SSAC Tournament at Mobile, Ala. R.J. Stinson drove in two runs and Patrick Lee scored four and the Crusaders profited from five Loyola errors. John Snyder got the last 11 outs for the win. Carey (32-10) will play tonight against the winner of an elimination game between the two teams it has beaten, Loyola and Mobile. … Delta State, behind the pitching of Hunter Riggins and the mashing of Kirkland Trahan and Jake Barlow, beat Valdosta State 12-2 in the GSC Tournament in Oxford, Ala. The Statesmen’s reward is a game against top-seeded Lee University today. … Jackson State moved to 22-0 in the SWAC with a 6-0 victory against visiting Mississippi Valley State. … Winners of the MACCC playoff openers were Meridian, Itawamba, East Central and Jones, the only visitor (at Hinds) to win. Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) are set for today. P.S. The season is over for Blue Mountain, which lost twice in the SSAC tourney, and Belhaven, which went 0-2 in the ASC Tournament in Marshall, Texas.
Far from the bright lights of the big leagues, where Shohei Ohtani is generating lots of buzz for his two-way heroics, Sloan Dieter of William Carey University is doing some impressive double-duty stuff down in Hattiesburg. A senior from Lake Charles, La., Dieter was named on Monday the Southern States Athletic Conference’s player of the week for last week. It was the second straight week he has won the award and the fourth time in his three years at WCU he has claimed it. He has also won the SSAC pitcher of the week award three times. Last week, Dieter, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound right-hander, hit .583 with two homers, five RBIs and five runs as the Crusaders went 5-0. He also threw a seven-hit shutout with nine strikeouts last week. He is batting .333 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs for the 30-10 Crusaders and has posted a 7-2 record with a 1.81 ERA. He rates some Ferriss Trophy consideration. For his college career, Dieter is batting .307 with 25 homers and has a 17-5 record with a 2.94 ERA.
The all-time series is rather lopsided between Delta State and Mississippi College. The Statesmen lead 122-44-2. More telling about the rivalry is the recent history: 5-5 over the last 10 games, 3-3 in 2018. And MC won the two biggest games last year, eliminating DSU in both the Gulf South Conference Tournament and NCAA Division II South Regional. The schedule brings them together again in Clinton on Saturday (doubleheader) and Sunday to conclude the regular season. Buckle up. MC, ranked No. 4 in the South Region, is 19-5 in the GSC and first in the standings. DSU, No. 3 in the South Region, is 18-8 and third. Delta State’s pitching (see Dalton Minton, Hunter Riggins, Melvin Frazier, et al.) has been outstanding; the Statesmen lead the league (by a wide margin) in ERA with a 2.50. Can MC’s hurlers (Chris Crosby, Garrett Hollinghead, Ryan Lane, et al.) keep pace? … Blue Mountain College and William Carey University get their final tuneups this weekend for next week’s Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, with BMC playing a three-game set at Bethel (Tenn.) and Carey hosting Loyola of New Orleans. The Toppers are 25-21-1 and 14-9 in the SSAC, third behind NAIA powerhouses Faulkner and Middle Georgia State. The Crusaders are 20-24 and 12-11, seventh in the league. … A tough year for Millsaps College will likely end this weekend in Conway, Ark., where the Majors will play in one of the Southern Athletic Association’s two four-team tournaments that decide the championship series teams. The Majors (9-31) are the 8-seed overall and face No. 1 Hendrix in Friday’s opening round. Rhodes and Centre, the 4- and 5-seeds, are also in this bracket. Hendrix (28-12) swept the Majors three straight by a cumulative score of 28-5 during the season. Pitching (7.28 ERA) has been Millsaps’ biggest issue, though the defense (102 errors) has been shaky, as well. But, upsets do happen in postseason baseball. Teams go on improbable runs. Millsaps has done it before. … MUW’s second season ended on Tuesday with a pair of losses to Stillman in Columbus. The Owls are 16-11 and may get an invitation to the USCAA championships as they did in 2018. MUW, a non-scholarship program, went 3-1 vs. Rust, 2-0 vs. Tougaloo and 1-3 vs. Blue Mountain. … Belhaven University hired Kyle Palmer, formerly director of baseball operations at California Baptist University in Riverside, as the retired Hill Denson’s replacement for 2020. The Texas Lutheran graduate will be a first-time head coach. BU, completing its transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III, is expected to be eligible for the American Southwest Conference championship next season.
When Toronto traded Kevin Pillar to San Francisco, it opened the door for ex-Petal High standout Anthony Alford to return to the Blue Jays’ big league roster. He started in center field and went 0-for-3 Tuesday in a loss to Baltimore. … You might have heard that Bryce Harper went 3-for-5 with a homer in his return to Washington, but in other news: Southern Miss product Brian Dozier got his first hit as a member of the Nationals in their loss to Philadelphia. Dozier is 1-for-13. … Former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe hit his first homer of 2019, then hit another in San Diego’s loss to Arizona. … Mississippi Braves alum Dustin Peterson, now with the Detroit Tigers, got his first big league hit. An RBI double. In the ninth. In a tie game. Against Aroldis Chapman. In Yankee Stadium. “I will never forget it. That’s for sure,” Peterson told mlb.com after the Tigers beat New York 3-1. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves introduced a roster on Tuesday that includes nine of Atlanta’s top 30 prospects (per MLP Pipeline). Five of them are pitchers, led by No. 3 Ian Anderson, who’s slated to start Thursday’s season opener at Tennessee. “It’s going to be exciting with the young staff we have here,” the 20-year-old right-hander said at Tuesday’s media day at Trustmark Park. “I’ll try to set the tone on Thursday.” M-Braves manager Chris Maloney said he likes “the vibe” he’s getting from this club. … The Double-A Biloxi Shuckers tuned up for their Thursday opener by bashing William Carey University 15-1 at MGM Park. Six Shuckers pitchers held Carey hitters, using wood bats, to one hit. The NAIA Crusaders (10-19) will try to return to normalcy today when they host West Alabama in Hattiesburg. … Go figure: Ole Miss, 20-9 and rising in the polls, lost to fledgling Division I North Alabama 10-6 in Oxford. The Rebels went deep into their bullpen to call on seven pitchers, who yielded 14 hits to the Lions, now 6-21. … The new NJCAA Division II poll came out Tuesday and seven Mississippi schools were in the Top 20. No. 4 Pearl River Community College celebrated by sweeping a doubleheader from No. 18 Mississippi Gulf Coast, knocking the Bulldogs out of first place in the league. Itawamba is ranked sixth, Jones County seventh, Meridian eighth, Hinds 13th and Northwest 16th. But what do the polls really mean in the MACJC jungle? Suddenly scuffling Jones got swept by East Central on Tuesday, and Hinds took a pair from Meridian.
William Carey University starts conference play this weekend, and the Crusaders aren’t just dipping a toe in the water. Carey will dive into the deep end of the Southern States Athletic Conference pool when it meets NAIA fourth-ranked Faulkner in Montgomery, Ala. Faulkner is 12-4, 8-2 at home. The Crusaders are 4-7 and coming off a 10-2 home win against No. 25 LSU-Shreveport on Tuesday. That was Carey’s first game in 10 days. The win snapped a four-game skid. Jonathan Turner, a senior from McComb, has swung a hot bat (.452) for the Crusaders, but the team is batting just .245. At some point in the three-game set that starts tonight, Carey will face Eagles ace Evan Gillespie, who is 4-0 with a spotless ERA. The Crusaders’ ace has been J.C. Sanner, a senior from Hattiesburg who is 2-1, 0.00. The big threat in Faulkner’s lineup is Max Guzman, batting .377 with four homers, 18 RBIs. … There are two Mississippians on Faulkner’s roster: Clinton’s Staton Todd and Vicksburg’s Marcus Ragan, both Mississippi juco products.
William Carey University lifts the lid on the 2019 college season today with a home game against Missouri Baptist at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. There could be some karma at work for the Crusaders this season; 50 years ago Carey won the NAIA national championship. WCU lost many of the key contributors from its 2018 team, which went 36-25 and played in an NAIA regional. “Last year’s team was built on speed evidenced by their 150 stolen bases as a team. This year we should have a little more power in the lineup with the guys we have coming back and the addition of new guys,” longtime coach Bobby Halford said in a school release. Back are second baseman Caleb Ledet, who batted .336 with 31 runs in 43 games; outfielder Lucas Scott (.283, 11 steals, 47 games); right-hander Devin Smith (7-4, 3.65 ERA); and righty Lake Robertson (2-2, two saves, 6.11). Newcomers to watch include South Alabama transfer outfielder/closer Kyle Bayles, a onetime Meridian Community College standout, and Pascagoula High All-State shortstop Patrick Lee. P.S. On Friday, Delta State opens at home against East Central University, Mississippi College visits Harding in Arkansas and Blue Mountain launches at home against William Wood. Tougaloo starts on Saturday against Selma in Alabama. Next week brings the openers for Belhaven University (Feb. 8 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson against LeTourneau) and Millsaps College (Feb. 9 at Twenty Field in Jackson, also vs. LeTourneau). The NCAA Division I start date is Feb. 15: Mississippi State begins the Chris Lemonis era at renovated Dudy Noble Field against Youngstown State, Ole Miss hosts Wright State, Southern Miss opens at home with Purdue, Jackson State welcomes Boston College and Alcorn State plays Prairie View A&M in the MLB Urban Invitational at New Orleans. Mississippi Valley State opens Feb. 19 at Stillman in Alabama.
Just 62 days to get through until the first pitch is thrown in the 2019 college season. William Carey University, an NAIA member, will get it started on Jan. 31 with a home game against Missouri Baptist at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Delta State lifts the lid on its season on Feb. 1 at home against East Central University, and fellow NCAA Division II member Mississippi College starts on Feb. 2 at Harding in Arkansas. Division III Belhaven University opens Feb. 8 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson against LeTourneau, and D-III Millsaps welcomes LeTourneau to nearby Twenty Field on Feb. 9. The D-I start date is Feb. 15: Mississippi State launches the Chris Lemonis era at renovated Dudy Noble Field against Youngstown State, Ole Miss hosts Wright State and Southern Miss opens at home with Purdue. SWAC school schedules have not been posted.
As the Arizona Fall League season winds down, two former Delta State players have clearly stepped up as the best of the Mississippi contingent in the highly regarded off-season loop. Second baseman Trent Giambrone, a Chicago Cubs prospect, and left-hander Dalton Moats, a Tampa Bay farmhand, have put up nice numbers on the heels of their first Double-A campaign. The 5-foot-8 Giambrone is hitting .348 with two home runs and six RBIs for Mesa and has had two three-hit games. At Tennessee in the Southern League in 2018, he batted .251 with 17 homers and 20 steals. Moats (see previous post) has a 0.84 ERA in seven appearances for Peoria, which will play in the AFL Championship Game on Saturday on MLB Network. (Several Atlanta and Milwaukee prospects are also on that Peoria club.) Moats put up a 5.34 ERA in 41 games at Montgomery in the SL last season. Ex-Petal High star Demarcus Evans (Texas) has a 6.30 ERA as a late-inning reliever in the AFL and George County product Justin Steele (Cubs) is 1-1, 5.79 in six starts. Both have shown flashes of good stuff. Former Ole Miss standout Errol Robinson (Los Angeles Dodgers) is batting .186 with eight runs in 12 games. P.S. The NAIA’s preseason coaches poll is out, and William Carey University is not ranked for the first time in three years. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders entered the 2018 season ranked No. 6 and finished 36-25 (and unranked). … In some way-too-early recruiting rankings for the Class of 2019 (and the 2020 college season), Pearl River Community College’s 16-player haul is listed at No. 4 among all jucos by Perfect Game. Jones County JC checked in at No. 12. Mississippi State is No. 6 and Ole Miss No. 10 in the NCAA Division I rankings.
Tyler James, whose speed helped William Carey University reach the NAIA World Series in 2017 and helped him get drafted into pro ball, has not slowed down. James led the rookie Pioneer League in stolen bases this season with 38 and now has 69 bags in two years in the Kansas City Royals’ system. The 5-foot-10 outfielder/second baseman also batted .312 with 55 runs in 47 games for Idaho Falls. One of his two homers came against former Mississippi State ace Konnor Pilkington, leading off a game on Aug. 11. James, a Louisiana native, batted .282 with 111 stolen bases in three years at Carey. The Royals drafted him in the 25th round in 2017. James is now in Instructional League in Surprise, Ariz., with a bevy of other Royals minor leaguers who are getting some extra work before calling it a season. … Other Mississippi-connected players on IL rosters in either Arizona or Florida include: Austin Riley with Atlanta; Taylor Braley, Davis Bradshaw and Milton Smith, Jr., with Miami; Joe Gray with Milwaukee; Zack Shannon with Arizona; Ryan Rolison, Will Golsan and Hunter Stovall with Colorado; Simon Landry with the Los Angeles Dodgers; Steffon Moore with Tampa Bay; Brent Rooker and Willie Joe Garry are with Minnesota; Jacob Billingsley with Houston; Jack Kruger with the LA Angels; Dallas Woolfolk with Oakland; and Demarcus Evans with Texas.