20 Feb

eye on …

Frierson Field, Clinton. William Carey University and Mississippi College, both off to good starts, renew their rivalry today. For the NCAA Division II Choctaws (7-3), Wesley Sides is on a jaw-dropping tear, batting .552 with six homers and 15 RBIs. MC has two other hitters, Cole Drake and J.T. Vance, with four homers each. And Caleb Reese, who has three bombs, is sitting on 35 career homers, tied for second on the school’s all-time list. (Richey Hines is No. 1 on that chart with 57. Yes, 57.) MC’s staff ERA is a tad troubling: 5.89. NAIA Carey (7-3) has been sparked offensively by Braydon Coffey at .462 and R.J. Stinson at .382. The Crusaders have just three homers as a team but do sport a 3.74 ERA. Closer John Snyder has five saves. … MC leads the series 6-2, per Carey’s website. Carey leads 14-9, per MC’s. P.S. Former Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff, who is unlikely to pitch this season after shoulder surgery, has re-signed with Milwaukee, a two-year deal. The former All-Star is 46-26 with a 3.10 ERA for his career.

15 Feb

a few small details

The “preseason” is over for William Carey University and Blue Mountain Christian, NAIA schools who are already heading into Southern States Athletic Conference play. Carey, ranked No. 4 in NAIA, takes a 5-2 record into a three-game series starting today at Point University in Georgia. The Crusaders are hitting just .227 as a team, though R.J. Stinson has come out hot, batting .409 with a homer, seven RBIs and five runs. BMC is 7-1 but will face tougher opposition in a three-game set beginning Friday at Brewton-Parker in Georgia. Brewton-Parker is 7-6 overall but 5-0 at home in Mt. Vernon. For the Toppers, Arderrius Townsend is raking at .577 with three homers and 14 RBIs. Townsend, from Pontotoc, is a Northwest Mississippi Community College alum who was on Jackson State’s roster in 2023. … East Central CC, defending state and region champ, is off to an 8-0 start. Led by slugger Mo Little — who hit a dramatic ninth-inning grand slam in an extra-inning win on Tuesday — the 10th-ranked Warriors have scored 92 runs. They play Southeastern (Iowa) and Kirkland (Mo.) on Saturday in Decatur. … Hinds CC is 7-2 with six straight victories heading into a pair of games today at Meridian; the Eagles will play Northwest Florida State and 13th-ranked MCC (4-4). Lincoln Sheffield, a sophomore out of Hartfield Academy, is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 12 innings for Hinds. … Belhaven University goes into a weekend series at Hardin-Simmons in Texas looking for new coach Andrew Gipson’s first win. The NCAA Division III Blazers went 0-3 in a round-robin event in Conway, Ark., last week.

02 Feb

spotlight on …

Kendall Williams, an Olive Branch native and Los Angeles Dodgers minor leaguer, made an appearance on MLB Network’s Hot Stove show today and spoke some words of wisdom about his chances of someday cracking the loaded Dodgers’ pitching staff. “If I do my job, there’ll be a job for me,” said the 23-year-old right-hander, who also talked about his rise to Triple-A in 2023 and about meeting Shohei Ohtani recently at Dodger Stadium. The 6-foot-6 Williams posted a 4-7 record and 3.73 ERA over four levels in 2023 and made the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game. He’s not on the 40-man roster and didn’t receive a non-roster invite to spring training, but he figures to get a look there at some point. Williams transferred from Olive Branch to IMG Academy in Florida during his sophomore year and was drafted in the second round in 2019 by Toronto, which traded him to LA the next fall. … Among the Mississippians to receive non-roster invites thus far are ex-Southern Miss standout Hurston Waldrep (Atlanta), Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington (Arizona), ex-Bulldogs standout Jonathan Holder (Texas), Ole Miss product Chad Smith (New York Mets) and UM alum Jacob Waguespack and ex-MSU stars Jake Mangum and Zac Houston (all with Tampa Bay). P.S. Ethan Small, a former first-round draft pick out of MSU, was designated for assignment by Milwaukee after the Brewers acquired two prospects from Baltimore in the Corbin Burnes trade. Left-hander Small likely will wind up with a new team. Also DFA’d on Thursday was Columbus native Michael Rucker by the Chicago Cubs, who signed free agent Hector Neris. Rucker, 2-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 35 MLB games in 2023, grew up in Washington and was drafted out of BYU. … William Carey University, ranked No. 4 in NAIA, lost its opener on Thursday, 5-3 to visiting Missouri Baptist, a 44-win team last year. Andrew Shirah, 10-1 for the Crusaders in 2023, yielded four hits, three walks and four runs in his three innings and took the loss. Preseason All-America pick R.J. Stinson went 1-for-5. … Belhaven University has scheduled an alumni game for Saturday (noon) at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the NCAA Division III Blazers’ home field for 2024. Andrew Gipson has taken the reins as BU coach. … Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley went 0-for-4 in Mexico’s 6-5 loss to Curacao on Thursday in the Caribbean Series in Miami. Mexico plays again tonight vs. Puerto Rico. Former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. did not appear in Venezuela’s 3-1 victory over the Dominican Republic on Thursday. Acuna played for the Venezuelan Winter League champion Tiburones de La Guaira this season and was listed on the preliminary roster for the CS.

23 Jan

poll positions

To the list of life’s certainties, you can add this: When an NJCAA poll comes out, several Mississippi schools will be near the top. The Division II preseason poll was released Monday and three state jucos are ranked in the top 13: Pearl River Community College is No. 3, East Central No. 10 and Meridian No. 13. PRCC went 45-13 in 2023 and returns left-hander Conner Ware, an LSU signee, and Jonah Katsaboulas, an infielder who hit .292 last season. The Wildcats open Jan. 30 in Poplarville against Coastal Alabama South. ECCC won the state and Region 23 championships last year and welcomes back second-team All-America Mo Little, who hit .340 with 12 homers as a freshman. … Preseason polls can and often do miss the mark. Case in point: William Carey University wasn’t ranked in the NAIA coaches preseason poll in 2023 but went 49-11 and reached the World Series. The Crusaders are ranked fourth in the 2024 preseason poll, which was released back in the fall. … Neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State, both coming off rough years, appears in the d1baseball.com Top 25. But, in the site’s 2024 transfer class rankings, UM checks in at No. 7 — ex-Arizona State shortstop Luke Hill being the most notable newcomer — and State at No. 24. In the site’s freshman class rankings, State is No. 9 and UM No. 15. … Jackson State is ranked No. 5 in Black College Nine’s HBCU large school rankings and Rust College is No. 3 in the small school class. JSU finished 28-25 in 2023. Rust, an NAIA member, went 25-25 and won the regular season title in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. P.S. The new National Baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced today, and there is a decent chance that former Jackson Generals pitcher Billy Wagner will make the cut for Cooperstown.

01 Jan

here and there

One month from today, the college season gets under way in the Magnolia State when William Carey University hosts Missouri Baptist and Blue Mountain Christian welcomes Lane College. Carey went 49-11 in 2023 and reached the NAIA World Series. Crusaders coach Bobby Halford will begin his 39th season at the helm with 1,300 career victories. Blue Mountain finished 26-25 last season, qualifying for the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, where the 6-seed Toppers beat Carey before bowing out in a rematch. … Former big leaguer Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central High slugger, finished 2023 with a bang, getting four hits including a home run on Saturday in the Mexican Pacific League. Bradley is batting .281 with three homers and 19 RBIs for Monterrey. He hit 30 bombs for Charleston in the independent Atlantic League last summer. Bradley played in 97 MLB games for Cleveland from 2019-22. … On the topic of slugging, DeSoto Central alum Austin Riley made mlb.com’s list of the 10 longest home runs in 2023. Riley tied for ninth with a 473-footer on April 3 at St. Louis; it was the first of his 37 homers on the year for Atlanta. The longest homer of 2023 was belted by — who else? — Shohei Ohtani, a 493-footer in June. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Chad Smith recently signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets; the right-hander posted a 6.59 ERA in 10 games for Oakland in 2023.

27 Jun

that’s a wrap

Now that LSU has pummeled Florida in the College World Series finale to claim the national championship, the college season is officially over. It was not a banner year for Mississippi’s four-year schools, but there were gold medal performances from the two that made the postseason. In NCAA Division I, Southern Miss won a regional on the road and came within one win of a trip to the CWS. In NAIA, William Carey University won a regular season conference title, a regional and two games in the World Series. Bravo. Take a bow coaches Scott Berry and Bobby Halford. Alas, seven state schools had losing seasons, some falling under the category of Major Disappointment (see defending national champ Ole Miss, for example). Here’s a school-by-school look at the records and relevant numbers:
The best
USM — Record: 46-20. Number: 12, the Golden Eagles’ final ranking by Baseball America.
Carey — 49-11. 652 runs.
The rest
Mississippi State — 27-26. 7.01 ERA.
Ole Miss — 25-29. 6 SEC wins.
Jackson State — 28-25. 26 home runs.
Mississippi Valley State — 15-36. 407 strikeouts (by hitters).
Alcorn State — 8-40. 111 errors.
Delta State — 27-26. 12-11 at Ferriss Field.
Mississippi College — 16-33. .256 batting average.
Blue Mountain Christian — 26-25. 10 different starting pitchers.
Rust — 25-25. 14 GCAC wins.
Tougaloo — 11-34. 0-8 start, 1-9 finish.
Millsaps — 22-23. 238 walks (by pitchers).
Belhaven — 21-18. 4 different home-field sites.
MUW — 6-25-1. 27 road games.
P.S. Props to Seth Farni, an outfielder at St. Stanislaus High, for being named a second-team All-America by Baseball America. The Ole Miss commit, who goes 6 feet, 190 pounds, hit .370 with eight homers, 30 RBIs and 45 runs (per MaxPreps) for the MHSAA Class 3A runner-up.

22 Jun

gimme some glovin’

In one of the many great scenes in the movie “Moneyball,” the Scott Hatteberg character tells Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s GM, he’s never played first base. “It’s not that hard, Scott,” says Beane. “Tell him, Wash.” To which Ron Washington, the A’s infield coach, replies: “It’s incredibly hard.” Mississippi can proudly boast of two college players who mastered that underrated position this past season, both of whom anchored the infield for championship clubs: William Carey University’s Jake Lycette and East Central Community College’s Ramie Harrison. They are among the six state college products who received ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove honors on Wednesday. Southern Miss pitcher Tanner Hall, who was error-free in 2023 while also winning 12 games, was named to the NCAA Division I Gold Glove team. He is the first Golden Eagles player to earn this award. Lycette, a former Northwest Rankin High star, made the NAIA team; he handled 412 chances without a boot for the SSAC regular season champions who reached the NAIA World Series. Harrison, a Neshoba Central product, made one error in 308 chances, a .997 fielding percentage, for state champion and NJCAA Division II World Series participant ECCC. Pearl River CC pitcher Luke Lyon, an Oak Grove alum, and second baseman Blaise Breerwood, out of Poplarville High, also made the juco D-II team, as did Southwest CC outfielder Jerod Williams, a Gulfport High product who did not commit an error in 2023. P.S. Tonight is Southern Miss Night at Pearl’s Trustmark Park, where the Mississippi Braves will host Birmingham at 6:35. Scheduled to appear in pregame ceremonies are retired coach Scott Berry and players Dustin Dickerson and Nick Monistere, who prepped at Northwest Rankin. Basketball coach Jay Ladner is also on the guest list. Fans in USM gear can get a $5 ticket. … The M-Braves, winding down the first half of the Southern League season, are 32-32 after a 7-2 win Wednesday in which Scott Blewett threw six shutout innings and Justin Dean celebrated his return from Triple-A with an inside-the-park home run.

01 Jun

banging on door

Sent back to the minors despite going 6-for-6 in his last two games for Minnesota, Matt Wallner has responded by banging out six hits, including two home runs, in his first two games for Triple-A St. Paul. He had a double, triple and homer on Tuesday, a homer and two singles on Wednesday. The former Southern Miss standout has crushed the ball with such ferocity that a St. Paul broadcaster called him “Judge-like.” A 6-foot-4, 220-pound lefty-hitting outfielder, Wallner is batting .298 with six homers and 21 RBIs for the Saints. He was at .368 in 19 at-bats for the Twins when they optioned him out to make room for Max Kepler, who came off the injured list. The Twins, clinging to first place in the American League Central, surely can’t keep Wallner down on the farm for long. … There are several other Mississippi products in Triple-A seemingly banging on the big league door. At Norfolk (Baltimore system), Mississippi State alum Jordan Westburg is batting .311 with 14 homers and 47 RBIs. The Orioles’ No. 3 prospect, who has played shortstop, third base, second and the outfield this season, hit nine homers in May. At Sugar Land (Houston), Oxford native and Ole Miss alum Grae Kessinger is batting .286 after a 3-for-7 effort in a pair of games on Wednesday. He hit his sixth homer and has 31 RBIs. At Louisville (Cincinnati), ex-USM star Chuckie Robinson went 2-for-4 with two RBIs on Wednesday and is batting .331 with six homers and 29 runs driven in. Robinson got a brief look with the Reds last season. At Jacksonville (Miami), Flowood native and ex-MSU standout Jake Mangum is hitting .307 after an 0-for-3 Wednesday. The speedy outfielder has two homers, 22 RBIs and seven steals. At Round Rock (Texas), Mississippi College product Blaine Crim is batting .255 with four homers and 18 RBIs and former State star Justin Foscue is at .272 with seven and 23 plus seven steals. At Albuquerque (Arizona), MSU alum Hunter Stovall is batting .296 with 27 runs in 32 games. P.S. Kudos to ex-Ole Miss standout Nick Fortes, who got his second career walk-off hit for Miami, an RBI single in the ninth against San Diego closer Josh Hader. … Tough day for Lance Lynn and Justin Steele, starting pitchers for Chicago on Wednesday (see previous post). Ole Miss alum Lynn gave up eight runs in four innings in a loss for the White Sox and George County High product Steele was pulled with left forearm tightness after throwing three perfect innings for the Cubs, who would go on to lose. … William Carey University’s great season ended with a 15-6 loss to Lewis-Clark State in a semifinal game at the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. The Crusaders won the SSAC regular season title, climbed to No. 8 in the national poll and finished 49-11; their last win in Idaho was coach Bobby Halford’s 1,300th at WCU. … Congrats to East Central, Purvis and East Union for winning series openers in the MHSAA state championships at Pearl. East Union’s Landon Harmon tossed a perfect game.

30 May

almost perfekt

The Kansas City Royals took a flier in the off-season on Mike Mayers, signing the former Ole Miss standout to a minor league deal after he had posted a 6.88 ERA in Triple-A last season. It is beginning to look like a smart move. In his third appearance for the Royals since a May 17 promotion, Mayers threw six perfect innings in relief on Monday before yielding a couple of hits in K.C.’s 7-0 win at St. Louis. The 31-year-old right-hander now has a 1.35 ERA in 13 1/3 innings. Coincidentally, Mayers made his MLB debut for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in July 2016. He has good memories from his four years in St. Louis, but that outing — nine runs in 1 1/3 innings — wasn’t one of them. Waived by the Cardinals in 2019, he spent three seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, won a pitcher of the month award in September 2020, struggled mightily in 2022 and finished the year in the minors, becoming a free agent at season’s end. “My story hasn’t always been easy,” he told the Kansas City Star after Monday’s performance. He relieved opener Josh Staumont in the second inning and carried a perfect game into the eighth before a Nolan Arenado single broke it up. Two other relievers closed out the two-hitter. P.S. Kudos to Michael Soroka, the former Mississippi Braves ace who returned to the big leagues with Atlanta on Monday for the first time since 2020. The injury-plagued right-hander threw six relatively sharp innings, allowing four runs in the travel-weary Braves’ 7-2 loss at Oakland. … Former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner was optioned to Triple-A for the third time this year by Minnesota. … William Carey University is 2-0 in the NAIA World Series after a 13-4 win against Southeastern (Fla.) on Monday. The Crusaders play Westmont (Calif.) tonight in Lewiston, Idaho.

28 May

worth noting

With a sixth-inning double Saturday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Corey Dickerson reached a pretty cool milestone: 1,000 career hits. McComb native Dickerson, 34, got his first big league hit in 2013 with Colorado, which drafted the lefty-hitting outfielder out of Meridian Community College in 2010. Now with Washington, Dickerson has played for eight different clubs over his career and has been an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner. He has 136 career homers and 460 RBIs. The career hits leader among Mississippi natives is Dave Parker with 2,712. Three others (Buddy Myer, Ellis Burks and Frank White) reached the 2,000-hit level. … Former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner now has 18 career hits after a 4-for-4 effort for Minnesota on Saturday. Wallner, who has played in just 28 games over his young MLB career, hit his first homer of 2023 in the win against Toronto; he hit two last season. … USM will play for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament title Sunday in Montgomery, Ala., after beating Appalachian State 11-1 in an elimination game on Saturday. USM lost an earlier game to the Mountaineers. In the win, Will Armistead threw a seven-inning four-hitter and Matthew Etzel and Reece Ewing banged out three hits apiece in a 15-hit attack. … East Central Community College got run-ruled 12-2 by Southeastern Iowa on Saturday in the NJCAA Division II World Series and plays an elimination game Sunday vs. Frederick (Md.) CC in Enid, Okla. … William Carey University won its opener Friday against Bellevue (Neb.) and will play again Monday in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. R.J. Stinson hit an RBI double and scored on a Jake Lycette sac fly to give the Crusaders a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Preston Ratliff pitched the ninth to nail down the win, Carey’s 48th of the season.