Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rick Cleveland: Is this the best baseball season ever?

The question was asked this past weekend: Is this the best college baseball season in Mississippi history?

It was a good weekend to ask it: Ole Miss swept Auburn. Mississippi State took two of three at LSU. Southern Miss took two of three one-run games from Rice. All three Mississippi teams are nationally ranked. All three have Top 20 RPIs. All three are in the conversation about who will host regionals.

Delta State, nationally ranked in Division II as usual, won another league series this past weekend. Stat of the week: DSU coach Mike Kinnison, in his 20th season, already has 842 coaching victories. That's 42 per season and there's still plenty games to play in this one.

But there are lots and lots of gaudy stats where Mississippi college baseball is concerned.

To wit:

• Ole Miss entered mid-week play with a 31-10 record (10-8 in league play) and a No. 5 RPI rating. The Rebels were 8-3 against Top 50 competition.

• Mississippi State entered the week at 27-10-1 (10-8 in SEC) and a No. 13 RPI rating. The Bulldogs have won series at Florida, Vanderbilt and LSU, all top 10 teams. State is 10-5-1 against Top 100 teams.

• Southern Miss, which played error-less ball this weekend, entered the week at 29-12, and a league leading 14-4 in Conference USA. The Golden Eagles, No. 19 in RPI, are 10-6 against Top 50 teams and a sparkling 23-9 against Top 100.

So, three of the top 19 RPI teams in college baseball are from Mississippi. That's as many as Florida and Texas and two more than California. That's one more than Louisiana and three more than Alabama and Georgia.

There's still much baseball left to play: four big conference series for each team. Let's take a look:

• Ole Miss plays host to LSU, then goes to Georgia before returning home to play Kentucky. The Rebels finish at hard-hitting Texas A & M. There's nothing easy about any of it.

• State, which has already played the top shelf SEC teams, has a remaining schedule that appears more manageable. The Bulldogs go to Alabama, play Missouri at home, go to Auburn and then finish with Arkansas at home.

• Southern Miss plays at tough Florida Atlantic this weekend, before home series with Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech and a final road series at Florida International. The Golden Eagles will host the Conference USA Tournament, quite an advantage when you consider USM is 18-3 at home. Remarkably, Southern Miss has not broken stride since losing slugging third baseman Taylor Braley (10 home runs in just 27 games) to a season ending knee injury 14 games ago.

With so much team success, you know many individual standouts exist. Major League scouts and college coaches will have plenty to choose from when they select the C Spire Ferriss Trophy winner at regular season's end. The Ferriss Trophy, named for Mississippi baseball legend Boo Ferriss, will be awarded at a May 23 luncheon in Ferriss's hometown of Cleveland.

State, Ole Miss and USM all have pitchers and position players who merit strong consideration, and don't forget Delta State's Will Robertson, who has a story USM's Braley might want to read.

Two years ago, Robertson, a slugging outfielder who also pitched out of the bullpen, led the Gulf South Conference in hitting with a .388 average. But Robertson missed all of 2015 after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

So, this spring Robertson returns and once again leads the league in hitting with a robust .443 average, including 27 doubles, seven home runs and a team-leading 64 RBIs. He has reached base more than half the times he has gone to the plate, a splendid stat in a most splendid Mississippi baseball season.

Rick Cleveland is a syndicated columnist and historian at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. His email address is

Kingfish note: I'm sorry Rick, but I don't see anything about winning Omaha mentioned in the column. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Think Rick meant to say USM is 13-9 against top 100. Still very solid.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS