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June 19, 2017

2017 SWAC Media Day Participants

By bryanflynn

You know college football is right around the corner when the teams get together to face the media.

The SEC has a week of media days because they have to fill up hours on their own network, and C-USA normally does two to three days. On the other hand, the SWAC crams in the whole conference in one day.

All 10 teams will gather at the Birmingham-Marriott Hotel in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday, July 14. Each coach in the SWAC will bring two players with him to talk to the media. SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp, Coordinator of Football Officials Harold Mitchell Sr. and others will be available to the media upon request.

The 2017 Media Day will be available for fans to stream on the official SWAC website, swac.org, with streams. The order of the coaches and athletes hasn’t been released yet.

Jackson State University head coach Tony Hughes begins his second season at the helm of the Tigers, and senior defensive lineman Keontre Anderson and senior linebacker Andre Lloyd will join him. JSU finished 2016 with a 3-8 overall record in 2016.

Alcorn State University looks to win its fourth-straight SWAC East title and second under head coach Fred McNair, who looks to build on last year’s 5-6 overall record. Senior quarterback Lenorris Footman and senior defensive end Michael Brooks Jr. will join McNair.

Rick Comegy enters his third season at Mississippi Valley State and is still trying to turn around a struggling program that has won just three conference games in three years. Comegy will try to build on last year’s 1-10 record. He will bring senior defensive back Everett Nicholas and senior offensive lineman Alvin Solomon with him to media days.

One other player heading to media days with ties to our state is Grambling State University quarterback Devante Kincade, who also played football at the University of Mississippi. Last season, Kincade led GSU to a victory in the SWAC Football Championship Game and Celebration Bowl.

The 2017 SEC Football Media Days is scheduled from Monday, July 10, to Thursday, July 13. If the tentative schedule doesn’t change, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen will meet the media on Tuesday, July 11, and UM head coach Hugh Freeze will meet them on July 13. No student-athletes have been named yet for media days.

Conference USA has yet to set its media days dates. Normally, the conference holds its media days toward the end of July. and the last few have been around July 21-23.

June 13, 2017

NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Results

By bryanflynn

While no athletes from universities in our state won at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, there were strong performances. The University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi all saw athletes qualify for the meet.

USM junior Cra’vorkian Carson finished 18th overall in the 100 meters, reaching the semifinals to earn Honorable Mention All-American. His teammate, senior Emron Gibbs, placed 20th in javelin to ensure Honorable Mention All-American honors, as well.

The MSU women placed two athletes on First Team All-American and one on Second Team All-American. Junior Logan Boss placed fourth in the high jump, and junior Tiffany Flynn finished eighth in the long jump for First Team honors. Junior Rhianwedd Price landed on the Second Team with a ninth-place finish in the 1,500-meters.

Two Bulldogs men earned First Team honors in the same event. Junior Nicolas Quijera finished second in the javelin, as teammate and defending national champion Curtis Thompson, who is a junior, finished seventh.

The MSU 4x400-meter relay team of Stephan James, Rasheed Tatham, Charles Taylor and Juston Waters finished 15th for Second Team All-American honors. Senior Leah Lott finished 18th in the women’s long jump, sophomore men’s long-jumper Willie Reed finished 19th overall, and the men’s 4x100-meter team of Charles Taylor, Philip Smith, Stephan James and Lawrence Crawford placed 19th overall to earn Honorable Mention All-American.

UM junior Janeah Stewart racked up the honors. She placed fifth in the women’s shot put for First Team All-American honors, and ninth in discus and 10th in hammer throw for Second Team All-American honors.

Teammate Raven Saunders, who is also a junior, finished ahead of Stewart in shot put in fourth place to earn First Team All-American for the Rebels. Shelby Brown finished 23rd in the steeplechase, and the women’s 4x100-meter relay team of Deanna Tate, Breanna Tate, Shannon Ray and Nicole Henderson finished 19th to earn Honorable Mention All-American.

Three UM men earned First Team All-American honors. Senior Craig Engels finished third in the 1,500-meters, senior MJ Erb finished fourth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and junior Brian Williams finished fourth in the discus.

Junior Dempsey McGuigan finished in 10th place in the men’s hammer throw to become the only men’s athlete to earn Second Team All-American honors for the Rebels.

MSU men finished in 26th place overall, and the university’s women’s team finished 38th overall. The Rebels’ men finished in 19th place overall, and the UM women took 29th in the final standings. USM’s two participants didn’t earn points to place overall.

June 13, 2017

CWS Field is Set

By bryanflynn

The SEC placed six teams in the NCAA Baseball Super Regionals, but only three reached the College World Series. Two teams from the ACC made it out of the Super Regionals to the CWS, and one team from the Big 12, Pac-12 and Big West conferences are in the CWS.

Louisiana State University took out fellow SEC West member Mississippi State University. The Tigers barely got by the Bulldogs in game one 4-3 but won 14-4 in game two and advanced.

The University of Florida needed three games to get past Wake Forest University. Weather delays plagued this series, as the Gators won game one 2-1, the Demon Deacons took game two 8-6, and UF won game three 3-0 and moved on.

Texas A&M University played two games against Davidson College and advanced. The Aggies took game one 7-6 and outlasted the Wildcats 12-6 in game two.

Oregon State University swept Vanderbilt University in the Super Regional. The Beavers won 8-4 in game one and 9-2 in game two, getting past the Commodores.

The University of Louisville battled past in-state rival University of Kentucky and reached the CWS. The Cardinals took game one 5-2 and game two 6-2, sweeping the Wildcats out of the tournament.

Florida State University slipped past Sam Houston State University in game one, scoring 7-6. The Seminoles had no trouble in game two, winning 19-0 over the Bearkats and reaching the CWS.

California State University, Long Beach and California State University, Fullerton need all three games to decide their Super Regional. The 49ers of Long Beach took game one 3-0, but the Titans won game two 12-0 and game three 2-1 and advanced.

Texas Christian University swept past Missouri State University, reaching the CWS. The Horned Frogs nipped the Bears in game one 3-2 but won in an 8-1 blowout in game two, finishing the sweep.

Top national seed Oregon State opens the tournament against CSU Fullerton on Saturday, June 17, at 2 p.m. on ESPN. LSU is the No. 4 national seed and takes on FSU on June 17 in game two at 7 p.m.

Louisville is the No. 7 national seed and will open day two of the CWS on Sunday, June 18, at 1 p.m. against Texas A&M. The second game on day two features No. 3 national seed Florida against No. 6 national seed TCU at 6 p.m. on June 18.

The first elimination game will be played on Monday, June 19, at 1 p.m. on ESPN against the losers of the OSU-Fullerton and LSU-FSU from games one and two. The winners between the Beavers versus Titans game and Tigers versus Seminoles game face off on June 19 at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

Game three and four losers between Louisville-Texas A&M and Florida-TCU will try to stay alive on Tuesday, June 20, at 1 p.m. on ESPN. The winners between the Cardinals-Aggies and Gators-Horned Frogs take the ...

June 1, 2017

College Football Hall of Fame Ballot Announced

By bryanflynn

The National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame announced the candidates for the 2018 College Football Hall of Fame class. The ballot provides a lengthy list of players and coaches at various levels of college football.

Many names on the list went on to have long and NFL Hall of Fame-worthy professional careers. Some of the players were just stars at the college level and had short or no pro careers.

There are a few names on the list that have ties to our state. It is a prestigious honor if any of those players make into the hall, considering over 5.19 million people have played college football, but only 987 players are in the hall of fame.

One athlete from our state with a great chance of making into the hall is University of Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis. The former Rebel great was a 2006 First Team All-American, 2006 Butkus Award winner, 2006 SEC Player of the Year and two-time First Team All-SEC. Willis went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers and was a star in the NFL. He abruptly retired after the 2014 season, thinking of his long-term health.

Four players from Mississippi Valley State University landed on the ballot. Younger fans will likely know former defensive back Ashley Ambrose the best. He was First Team All-American, First Team All-SWAC, and SWAC Defensive Back and Return Specialist in 1991. He went on to play in the NFL for several teams, including the New Orleans Saints.

Vincent Brown played linebacker for the Delta Devils, was a 1987 First Team All-American and led the nation in tackles in 1986 and 1987. He set an NCAA record at all levels for tackles with 570 and went on to have a successful career with the New England Patriots.

Former MVSU quarterback Parnell Dickerson was First Team All-American and Pittsburgh Courier National Player of the Year in 1975. He was a three-time All-SWAC selection and was the conference's all-time leader in total offense by the end of his college career. Dickerson played one season in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The final Delta Devil to make the list is former wide receiver Bob Gaddis. He was a 1974 First Team All-American and Pittsburgh Courier National Player of the Year. He was the NAIA 1970 Freshman of the Year. He played in the NFL and CFL during his professional career.

One coach to make the ballot has ties to our state. Head coach Billy Jack Murphy has the most wins in school history at the University of Memphis, which was called Memphis State University during his tenure. He took Memphis to its first bowl game, earned the title of Detroit News’ 1963 Coach of the Year, led the Tigers to an undefeated season in 1963 and was the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year multiple times.

Murphy played his college football at Mississippi State University. He ...

May 31, 2017

2017 NBA Finals Preview

By bryanflynn

There have been a few trilogies in sports over the centuries, but they are rare. Many people know that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson meet in three NBA Finals but not three straight finals.

This year’s NBA Finals is historic, as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are meeting for the third straight year on June 1.

Golden State won the first meeting in 2015 in six games, as Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were both out with injuries. LeBron James pushed the series as far as he could on his own, but he lost his fourth NBA Finals.

Cleveland had its revenge in 2016 when James won his third NBA Finals after erasing the Warriors’ 3-1 lead, winning in seven games. In back-to-back finals, James willed his team to win, making him as close to Michael Jordan as he ever has been in his career.

At some point James might pass Jordan in the eyes of the fans, but more than likely he will stay behind His Airness. Of course, his last two final appearances have made everyone forget about “The Decision” to join the Miami Heat. LeBron’s play in the 2015 and 2016 finals were truly legendary.

Now, The King faces Golden State again, but this time the Warriors have added Kevin Durant to its stacked roster of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Cleveland isn’t star poor with James, Love and Irving.

Golden State still hasn’t lost in these playoffs, as they have mostly crushed their opponents in three straight sweeps. The Warriors are the first team to enter the NBA Finals without a loss in the first three rounds.

Cleveland isn’t too shabby, with a 12-1 record heading into the finals. The lone loss was in the Eastern Conference Finals. James is playing in his seventh straight NBA Finals and eighth overall.

Golden State is a big favorite to win this finals matchup, and LeBron hasn’t been this big of an underdog since his first finals appearance against the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. In that series, San Antonio swept James and the Cavaliers.

If the Warriors can accomplish the sweep, they will be looking to pull off a perfect 16-0 playoff record. It seems highly unlikely that James would let himself get swept in a final again this late in his career.

It would be shocking if he couldn’t find some way to win at least one game if not two games. But there is some motivation for the Warriors to sweep James: He did ruin their historic 73-win season in 2016 when he denied Golden State the title.

As fans we can only hope for the seven-game thriller we received last year. Cleveland will try to play lockdown defense as Golden State bombs away three point shots as it runs and guns.

The Warriors look to be on a mission, and it ...

May 31, 2017

College Football Is Just Around the Corner

By bryanflynn

College football is less than 100 days from kickoff at the Division I level. As we head into June, it won’t be long before teams in the FBS and FCS begin practicing for season openers.

This year’s opening weekend doesn’t have quite the same jam-packed schedule as last season, but it isn’t terrible. There will be plenty of juicy matchups for fans to feast on.

Before looking at games from across the country, let’s look at those involving teams from our state on the first weekend of the season.

Jackson State University will hit the road to face a tough test in Texas Christian University. The Tigers will have to find away to slow down TCU’s high-powered offense. A JSU upset would be one of the biggest early-season stories.

Alcorn State University will have a much easier opening game against Miles College out of Division II. This game will start the Braves’ quest to play in a fourth straight SWAC Championship Game.

Mississippi Valley State University will go on the road to face one of the top teams at the FCS level, North Dakota State University. The Delta Devils will face a major test in week one, as the Bison have been racking up national titles lately.

The University of Mississippi Rebels will open the season knowing two things: They aren’t going to a bowl game, and their first foe has won at an SEC school before. The University of South Alabama pulled off a major upset against Mississippi State University last season. Things in Oxford would go from bad to worse in football if the Jaguars can trip up the Rebels.

Mississippi State opens the season against FCS foe Charleston Southern University. If the Bulldogs are going to prove that they are better than the 2016 team, they need to put this game away quickly.

One of the best opening-weekend games last season was the University of Kentucky hosting the University of Southern Mississippi. The Wildcats jumped out to a huge lead before the Golden Eagles stormed back for the victory. This year, the game is in Hattiesburg, and for neutral fans, a copy of the 2016 game would be a treat.

There are also some games that won’t involve teams from our state that should be enjoyable viewing. These games are in no particular order.

The University of Texas will host the University of Maryland in a Big 12-Big Ten matchup. This game means more to the Longhorns, who want to get back to being national-title contenders.

My opening-weekend bet for an FCS member to upset an FBS member is Eastern Washington University over Texas Tech University. If only this game were being played on the red field of Eastern Washington, all the black and red wore by both teams would murder the eyes.

Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson, will begin his bid to become the second man to win the award twice ...

May 30, 2017

USM and MSU in Hattiesburg Regional

By bryanflynn

At one time, it seemed like as many as four baseball teams from our state might end up in the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. That’s not how things worked out in the end.

Mississippi Valley State University failed to make the SWAC Baseball Tournament, and their year ended after the regular season. Both Jackson State University and Alcorn State University made the tournament but couldn’t win the title and the conference’s lone bid.

The University of Mississippi made the SEC Baseball Tournament but lost a single-elimination game to Auburn University. That ended up holding the Rebels, who were seeded ninth, back from the NCAA Tournament since the Tigers were seeded eighth, and the top eight seeds from the SEC made the NCAA Tournament.

It is possible that the Rebels might have been in the field if they beaten Auburn. Upsets, such as Rice University winning the Conference USA Tournament and Brigham Young University winning the West Coast Conference Tournament, didn’t help UM’s chances, though.

The Rebels are missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.

Late Sunday, May 28, the NCAA announced that the University of Southern Mississippi would be one of the 16 regional host sites. That assured the Golden Eagles that they were in the tournament and hosting a regional for the first time since 2003.

USM scored a school-record 48 wins so far this season and won the C-USA regular-season title. In the conference tournament, Southern Miss made the championship game but came up short against Rice. The Golden Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the regional.

On Monday, May 29, the NCAA announced the full 64-team field, with Mississippi State University also playing in the Hattiesburg Regional. The Bulldogs are making their 36th NCAA Baseball Tournament appearance.

MSU is the No. 2 seed in the regional and received an at-large bid into the tournament. The Bulldogs will open the regional against the No. 3-seed University of South Alabama, which earned an automatic bid by winning the Sun Belt Tournament.

South Alabama lost two of three games to MSU during the regular season but won the last meeting 5-2. This is the second meeting between the teams in a NCAA regional; the Bulldogs got the win in the only other meeting.

Meanwhile, USM will open regional play against the No. 4-seed University of Illinois-Chicago. The Golden Eagles didn’t meet the Flames in the regular season. UIC earned an automatic bid into the tournament by winning the Horizon League Tournament.

The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles clashed in the regular season at Trustmark Park, with USM coming out on top 7-5. The two schools played once in a 2011 regional, which the Bulldogs won 3-0.

MSU hasn’t faced UCI in program history. USM defeated South Alabama twice in the regular season this year and won ...

May 26, 2017

NCAA Rule Changes We All Can Agree On

By bryanflynn

Folks tailgating at The Grove this fall on the campus of the University of Mississippi will no doubt talk about potential NCAA sanctions. At some point, the talk might turn to another university that’s just over 630 miles from Oxford, Miss.: Baylor University in Texas.

Rebels fans might be scratching their heads wondering why they are looking down the barrel of the NCAA’s gun, but Baylor University isn’t. The answer is simple: There are no rules in the massive NCAA rulebook on what is going on at Baylor. Last year, a sexual-assault scandal in the football program came to light, and since then, the allegations have continued to mount.

Each new lawsuit against the university is painting an ugly picture about what was going on at Baylor. Still, the Bears will get to compete for the Big 12 title and head to a bowl game, but not the Rebels.

In an article on Sports Illustrated’s website, SI.com, writer Andy Staples breaks down the reasons why the NCAA won’t punish Baylor.

He points out that the organization jumped the gun against Pennsylvania State University in 2012.

The NCAA punished Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case. For the most part, many of the sanctions have quietly been reduced or repealed.

Personally, I was against the punishment for Penn State, not because of I’m a fan of the university but because the NCAA overstepped its boundaries. We can all agree that the NCAA should relax some rules and do away with others, but it can’t just make up rules on the fly.

Public outcry drowned out common sense. For the NCAA, the PSU case became, “We have to do something,” and not a question of whether organization had the ability to do something. The NCAA has learned its lesson so far in the Baylor case, but public outcry grows by the day.

It is amazing that an organization that has rules for when a coach can call or text a recruit doesn’t have rules when something horrific like what happened at Penn State and what is happening at Baylor. Maybe that should change.

Even before the Penn State scandal, the NCAA had a chance to change the rules and bring the hammer down on programs that were covering up crimes. In 2003 also at Baylor, basketball player Carlton Dotson murdered fellow teammate Patrick Dennehy.

Then-Head Coach Dave Bliss lied about Dennehy, saying he had become a drug dealer to pay his tuition. In reality, Bliss was paying for Dennehy’s tuition in order to get around NCAA rules.

Long story short, Baylor got in trouble, not for trying to cover up a murder, but because a coach playing fast and loose with rules in the NCAA books. Bliss got a 10-year show-cause penalty, which has ended his chances of coaching at another NCAA school.

It was a chance for the organization to look at changing ...

May 24, 2017

Delta State Reaches DII College World Series

By bryanflynn

While the University of Mississippi women’s softball team was making history last week, another team in our state was making strides on the diamond, as well.

Delta State University hosted an eight-team regional in Division II baseball—the Statesmen’s 31st NCAA postseason appearance and fifth NCAA South Regional appearance in the last six years. DSU entered the postseason looking to win its first regional since 2012. That year, Delta State beat Stillman College twice in the same day for the win.

Delta State started regional play against Florida Southern College after an opening-day bye. DSU jumped out to a 2-1 after the first inning, but FSC exploded for four runs to take a 5-2 lead after two innings.

The Moccasins and the Statesmen both added a run in the third inning to make the score 6-3. FCS added another run in the fourth inning to go up 7-3, but Delta State started the comeback in the fifth inning, scoring three runs to cut the Moccasins’ lead to 7-6.

DSU put up two more runs in the sixth inning to retake the lead at 8-7. The Statesmen then added an insurance run in the eighth inning, but it didn’t matter, as FSC didn’t get on the board again after the fourth inning.

After the Statesmen’s 9-7 win in a game where they had to rally from behind by four runs, DSU faced the defending national champion, Nova Southeastern University. There was no need for a comeback, here, though, as the Statesmen were in total control against the Sharks. Delta State cruised to a 4-1 win as the team pounded out 11 hits and held Nova Southeastern to just four hits.

In the regional final, DSU faced the University of West Alabama in an instant classic. Delta State started off with a 4-1 lead after two innings, but the Tigers weren’t done.

West Alabama added a run in the fifth inning to cut the Delta State lead to 4-2 and then added another run in the seventh inning to make it 4-3. In the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers tied the game at 4-4 to force extra innings. Delta State got the offense going again with two runs in the top of the 10th inning.

West Alabama threatened to make another comeback in the bottom of the 10th but couldn’t find a way to get back the two runs. DSU took the victory at 6-4 to win the South Regional and advance to the Division II Men’s College World Series.

Delta State won its 12th regional title overall and its sixth regional under current coach Mike Kinnison. DSU moved to a 68-42 all-time record in NCAA postseason play and a 16-9 mark in the South Regional.

DSU is 27-19 in the Division II Men’s World Series in program history. Delta State is ranked second in the nation by Collegiate Baseball and ranked fourth by the National ...

May 23, 2017

MSU’s Rooker Wins Ferriss Trophy and SEC POY Awards

By bryanflynn

The day after the regular season ended, Monday, May 22, turned out to be a great day for Mississippi State University first baseman Brent Rooker. He is in the midst of one of the greatest offensive seasons in the history of college baseball in our state.

Rooker became the first MSU player to be named SEC Player of the Year. He is leading the conference in batting average at .415, total bases with 179, hits with 85, RBI with 73, doubles with 28 and home runs with 20.

The Germantown, Tenn., native is second in the conference in stolen bases with 18 steals out of 23 attempts.

But it isn’t just the SEC that Rooker is leading or near the top with his statistics.

He is first in the nation in slugging percentage at .873, total bases and doubles, second in batting average, third in RBI, fourth in home runs and on-base percentage, and seventh in the nation in hits.

Rooker was named First Team All-SEC and is the second MSU first baseman to be named All-SEC in the last two seasons. Last season, Nathaniel Lowe earned First Team All-SEC at first base.

Short stop Ryan Gridley joins Rooker on the First Team All-SEC, and outfielder Jake Mangum landed on the Second Team All-SEC. Mangum landed on the All-Defensive team as well.

Rooker beat out a trio of players from the University of Southern Mississippi and one from Delta State University for the 2017 C Spire Ferriss Trophy. He is the sixth MSU player to win the award in the 14 years it has been handed out.

Every winner for the Bulldogs has come in back-to-back years. Thomas Berkery was the first MSU player to win the award in 2006, and Ed Easley won in 2007. Chris Stratton took home the trophy in 2012, and Hunter Renfroe won in 2013.

Rooker’s current teammate, Mangum, took home the award last season. The University of Mississippi has produced five winners, Southern Miss has two past winners, and Belhaven University has one winner.

Taylor Braley, Matt Wallner and Dylan Burdeaux of USM, and Zack Shannon of DSU of were the other 2017 Ferriss Trophy finalists. Rooker led the fan-voting with 1,728 votes, Burdeaux ended up second with 987 votes, Braley ended up third with 548, Shannon landed in fourth with 197 votes, and Wallner came in fifth with 57 votes.

May 23, 2017

SEC and C-USA Baseball Tournament Preview

By bryanflynn

Texas Southern University outlasted eight other teams, including Jackson State University and Alcorn State University, and won the 2017 SWAC Baseball Tournament. TSU is one of a handful of teams that have already earned a spot into the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Baseball Tournament.

Two other tournaments that feature teams from our state with spot in the NCAA tournament on the line begin this week. Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi will both try to win the 2017 SEC Tournament, and the University of Southern Mississippi will try to take the tournament title in the 2017 Conference USA Tournament.

Both the Bulldogs and Rebels will play on day one of the SEC tournament. The opening day is single elimination, with the teams that advance moving to a double-elimination format.

MSU enters the tournament as the No. 5 seed against No. 12 seed, the University of Georgia, at 8 p.m., Tuesday, May 23, on the SEC Network. Georgia shocked MSU when it won the three-game series between the two teams during the regular season.

If Mississippi State advances, No. 4 seed the University of Arkansas is awaiting the next day. The Razorbacks swept the Bulldogs in the regular-season series.

MSU comes stumbling into the tournament after losing five of their last seven games. This stumble cost the Bulldogs a chance at the SEC and West Division titles.

The Rebels open the tournament on day one at 4:30 p.m. against Auburn University. UM is the No. 9 seed, and the Tigers are the No. 8 seed.

These teams met in the final SEC series of the regular season. Auburn took two out of three games, but the Rebels won the final one of the series.

If UM advances, top seed University of Florida is up next for the team. The Gators swept the Rebels in the regular-season series the teams played earlier this month.

Southern Miss enters the top seed in the C-USA tournament and is on a 14-game winning streak. It is the longest winning streak in program history and the longest winning streak in the nation.

The C-USA Tournament, which is in Biloxi, Miss., at MGM Park, is a double-elimination tournament until the championship game. The top eight teams in the conference earned a spot.

The teams are split into two brackets with the winners of both brackets playing in title game.

USM opened the tournament at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24, against No. 8 seed University of Texas, San Antonio. The Golden Eagles swept UTSA in the final conference series of the regular season.

In the next round Southern Miss will face either the No. 4 seed, University of North Carolina, Charlotte or the No. 5 seed, Louisiana Tech University. USM didn’t face Charlotte in the regular season.

The Golden Eagles swept Louisiana Tech in ...

May 23, 2017

Rebels Advance to Softball Super Regionals

By bryanflynn

The University of Mississippi softball team didn’t show any signs of nerves despite hosting its first regional in program history. Playing at home in Oxford, the Rebels didn’t have any problems dispatching the other three teams in the tournament.

The Rebels opened the regional with an 8-0 win over the University of Southern Illinois. UM used its eight hits to score five runs in the second inning and three more runs in the fifth inning to close the game out.

Arizona State University tried to upset the Rebels, as the Sun Devils were able to keep UM off the scoreboard through five innings. In the bottom of the sixth inning, however, the Rebels hit two runs that proved to be the difference in their 2-0 win.

In the regional final, the University of North Carolina jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two innings but didn’t score again. UM tied the game with two runs in the top of the fourth inning and scored two more runs in the top of sixth inning. The Rebels added more insurance with another three runs in the top of the seventh inning, but the Tar Heels couldn’t answer. UM pounded out 14 hits in its 7-2 win and advanced to the Super Regionals, which take place Thursday, May 25, through Sunday, May 28.

Next, UM will face the University of California, Los Angeles in a best-of-three series beginning May 25 and ending May 27, with the winner moving on to the NCAA Women’s College World Series.

After the weekend, only 16 of the 64 teams that made the Super Regionals will be left standing. The path to the Women’s College World Series has basically become the SEC-Pac-12 invitational, with those two conferences holding 13 of the final 16 spots.

The SEC put all 13 of its teams in the Super Regionals, and eight of those teams are still standing. Mississippi State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Arkansas, the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina are the five teams eliminated from the tournament.

There were eight teams from the Pac-12, but the Oregon State University, Arizona State and the University of California, Berkeley have been eliminated. The only crashers at the SEC-Pac-12 party are the University of Oklahoma, Baylor University and Florida State University.

Two of the Super Regional matchups feature SEC teams against Pac-12 teams, as the University of Oregon hosts the University of Kentucky and the above-mentioned UCLA hosts UM. Two of the matchups feature two SEC teams going head to head, as the University of Florida hosts the University of Alabama, and the University of Tennessee hosts Texas A&M University. FSU will host Louisiana State University, and Auburn University will host Oklahoma to round out the rest of the SEC teams.

The Pac-12 will have two of its conference teams facing off, with the ...

May 18, 2017

Always Dreaming Favorite for the Preakness

By bryanflynn

A field of 10 horses will try to win the second leg of the Triple Crown, the 142nd Preakness Stakes, on Saturday, May 20. Five horses, including winner Always Dreaming, are in the field after running in the Kentucky Derby.

Always Dreaming is the morning-line favorite and will break from the No. 4 post with 4-5 odds. There is some good luck breaking from the No. 4 post, as well. Thirteen winners have come from that spot, with 2007 winner Curlin being the most recent.

Second choice Classic Empire, who is at 3-1 odds, will break in the No. 5 post. Classic Empire finished fourth in the derby two weeks ago after he got caught up in the traffic of the 20-horse race.

Lookin At Lee, who finished second two weeks ago, will be in the No. 9 post and is the third choice at 10-1 odds. In the derby, Lookin At Lee was at 33-1 odds but ran through the field at the end of the race.

Cloud Computing didn’t race in the derby and will break from the No. 2 post at 12-1 odds. Horses that didn’t run the Kentucky Derby are known as “new shooters” in the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

Gunnevera in the No. 6 post and Conquest Mo Money in the No. 10 post are both at 15-1 odds. Gunnevera finished seventh in the derby, but Conquest Mo Money is a new shooter whose owners paid $150,000 supplemental to be in the Preakness and Belmont.

Hence finished in 11th place at the derby and will break from the No. 3 post at 20-1 odds. It was a poor showing overall for Hence two weeks ago, as he never really got going in the race.

A trio of new shooters round out the field at 30-1 shots to win at the Preakness. Multiplier will break from the No. 1 post, Term of the Art will be in the No. 7 post, and Senior Investment will be in the No. 8 post.

The Preakness Stakes at one and three-16ths miles is the shortest of the three Triple Crown races. The Kentucky Derby is one and a quarter miles, and the Belmont Stakes is the longest at a mile and half.

Rain caused the derby to have a sloppy track, but it did little to slow down Always Dreaming. Weather isn’t expected to be a problem at the Preakness on Saturday, which forecasts say will be cloudy and 70 degrees.

NBC Sports Network begins coverage at 1:30 p.m., and NBC picks up the coverage at 4 p.m. The Preakness Stakes itself is scheduled to run at 5:45 p.m., but expect it to take longer with the pre-race festivities.

May 17, 2017

2017 Ferriss Trophy Finalists

By bryanflynn

Three University of Southern Mississippi players, one Mississippi State University player and one Delta State University player are the five finalists for the 2017 C Spire Ferriss Trophy. This is the 14th year that the award will go to the best college-baseball player at a four-year college or university in Mississippi.

Southern Miss is enjoying an outstanding season on the diamond, as the team has already wrapped up the regular-season title in Conference USA. At the beginning of the final weekend of the regular season, USM is 41-12 overall and 22-5 in conference play.

Taylor Braley, Matt Wallner and Dylan Burdeaux are the impressive trio of finalists from USM. All three have performed well in the batter’s box, but Braley and Wallner have shined on the pitcher’s mound as well.

Burdeaux leads the team in hitting with a .355 batting average with 88 hits, 61 RBI, 55 runs, 21 doubles and nine home runs. He has started 53 games for the Golden Eagles, which shows his toughness during the long season.

Braley is hitting .337 with 61 hits, 50 RBI, 46 runs, 12 home runs and 10 doubles while making 52 starts. He is 2-0 as a pitcher in eight appearances with a 1.84 ERA and 15 strikeouts.

Wallner has appeared in 53 games and made 52 starts this season and is hitting .335 with 63 hits, 50 RBI, 43 runs, 15 home runs, 12 doubles and two triples. On the mound, he owns a 5-2 record with 11 starts and a 3.48 ERA while piling up 64 strikeouts.

Mississippi State faces LSU with the SEC West division on the line this weekend. The Bulldogs are 34-19 overall and 17-10 in SEC play.

If MSU is going to win the West, the team will need superstar Brent Rooker to have one of his best series of the season. Rooker has led the nation at various points in multiple statistical categories.

He is hitting an outstanding .406 with 78 hits, 71 RBI, 49 runs, 26 doubles, 20 home runs and three triples. He has started 53 games this season and leads the team in nearly every major offensive stat.

Delta State is set to host an eight-team regional in the 2017 NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament beginning on Thursday, May 18, and the team is top-ranked in the South Region. DSU is Gulf South Conference regular season and tournament champion, as the team is 41-11 overall and 25-8 in conference play.

The Statesmen feature Zack Shannon, who is terrorizing opposing pitching this season. He is hitting .451 with 88 hits, 84 RBI, 60 runs, 18 home runs, 11 doubles and one triple. Shannon has dabbled on the mound this season with a 0-1 record and five appearances with a 1.50 ERA and seven strikeouts.

College coaches in the state and professional scouts chose these five ...

May 17, 2017

Big Weekend for Rebels and SEC Softball

By bryanflynn

This weekend happened to be historic for the University of Mississippi softball team and the SEC itself. No one expected to the Rebels to be in the May 13 championship game of the 2017 SEC Tournament.

UM entered the tournament as the No. 8 seed and started things off by taking out the team’s main rival, No. 9 seed Mississippi State University, 2-1 on the opening day. The Rebels shocked the nation when they knocked off No. 1 seed and top-ranked University of Florida 2-0 and became one of the final four teams standing.

Even the weather couldn’t slow down the No. 19th-ranked Rebels after the May 12 semifinals experienced a rain delay. Both the semifinals and the championship game were moved to Saturday.

In the semifinals, UM took down No. 5 seed and 15th-ranked University of Alabama 4-1, advancing to the title game. There was no stopping the Rebels as they defeated No. 6 seed and 21st-ranked Louisiana State University 5-1 and took the crown.

This is the first SEC Softball Tournament Championship in program history for the Rebels. While hot bats were part of the story, UM pitcher Kaitlin Lee was the star, as she pitched all 28 innings that the Rebels played.

Lee is the first pitcher to take the mound for every inning in the SEC Tournament since Alabama pitcher Kelsi Dunne accomplished the feat over just 19 innings in 2010. The Rebels played in four games this year, while Alabama played in just three games in 2010.

The SEC Conference made history on Sunday, May 14, as the entire 13-team league earned a bid into the 2017 NCAA Division I Softball Tournament. Vanderbilt University not fielding a softball team is the reason only 13 teams reached the tournament.

Half of the 16 national seeds are from the conference, with Florida earning the No. 1 overall seed. Auburn University is the No. 7 seed, the University of Tennessee is No. 8, Texas A&M University is No. 9, Mississippi is No. 12, the University of Kentucky is No. 14, and Alabama is No. 16.

MSU landed in the Salt Lake City Regional with No. 11 seed University of Utah. The Bulldogs open regional play against Brigham Young University on May 18.

The University of South Carolina is in the Tucson Regional with No. 2 seed University of Arizona. In the Norman Regional, the University of Arkansas will visit No. 10 seed University of Oklahoma.

Another tough draw for the SEC is the fact that the University of Missouri is heading west to in the Eugene Regional, which No. 3 seed University of Oregon is hosting. The University of Georgia rounds out the SEC teams in the field as it heads to the Tallahassee Regional with No. 4 seed Florida State University.

This isn’t the first time that a conference got every one of its teams into the NCAA tournament. The Pac-12 ...

May 17, 2017

Real Possibility for President The Rock

By bryanflynn

Oh my gosh, it is like my dreams have come true. In a recent interview with GQ, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson told the magazine he might consider one day running for president. He says “it’s a real possibility” that he will run one day.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has followed Johnson’s career since his time in the WWE. Well, then it was the WWF, until the World Wildlife Fund did to Vince McMahon what the federal government couldn’t do: beat him in court.

Johnson came into wrestling after playing football at the University of Miami in Florida and a brief professional career. McMahon had huge dreams for the third-generation Superstar.

His grandfather happened to be Peter Maivia, and his father is Rocky Johnson. Originally given the nickname of “Blue Chipper” and his in-ring name was Rocky Maivia so the WWE could play up his family’s history with the company.

And you know what? The fans hated him. In the early part of his career, it wasn’t unheard of to hear fans chant, “Die Rocky, die,” and “Rocky sucks,” during his early run as a baby face (a good guy in wrestling terminology).

Slowly, he dropped the Maivia part of his name, becoming just Rocky, and eventually he dropped Rocky, becoming The Rock. Along the way he became one of the best talkers in professional wrestling.

Seriously, go to YouTube and check out some of his best work during the WWE Attitude Era. He is known for such great lines as “a jabroni-beating, la-la-la-la pie eating, trailblazing, eyebrow raising, heart stopping, elbow dropping, people’s champion: The Rock

,” or “know your role, and shut your hole,” or “it doesn’t matter what you think,” among a million others. In his time with the WWE, Johnson was a catchphrase-making machine who made the crowd eat out of his hands.

If you need any more proof, watch “This is your Life Rock,” which was one of the highest rated moments in WWE history. Johnson was must-see TV each Monday night, and when he came to ring, you couldn’t wait to see what he would say.

Even after he left for Hollywood, crowds still go nuts when his music hits, and as he makes his way down to the ring. Johnson has the ability and charisma to captivate the crowd even though he is more than 40 years old now.

When Johnson left the WWE to work in film, most figured he would end up like Hulk Hogan. He would do OK at the movies but never become a mega star in film, but instead his career was like 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he has become one of the biggest action stars in the world.

But Johnson isn’t just an action star. He has excelled at comedy. If you haven’t see, “Be Cool,” the sequel to “Get Shorty,” you need to because Johnson is gold. Check out the video of him ...

May 16, 2017

SWAC Baseball Tournament Preview

By bryanflynn

The 2017 SWAC Baseball Tournament kicks off Wednesday, May 17, in New Orleans at the MLB Urban Youth Academy for the third straight year. Jackson State University is the No. 1 seed out of the East Division, and Alcorn State University is the No. 4 seed from the East.

Jackson State and Alcorn State are in opposite brackets of the double-elimination tournament. Grambling State University is the No. 1 seed out of the West Division and opens the tournament against Alcorn. GSU is opposite from JSU in the bracket.

Mississippi Valley State University failed to make the tournament, as it finished fifth in the East Division, and only the top four teams from both divisions make it in. The University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff failed to make the tournament out of the West.

JSU opens the games on Wednesday against No. 4 seed out of the West, Southern University, at 3 p.m. The Tigers own the best record in the SWAC at 36-15-1 overall and 20-4 in conference play.

Jackson State surprisingly didn’t win any individual postseason SWAC awards but did place four players on the First Team All-SWAC and one player on the Second Team All-SWAC. As a team, the Tigers have the best batting average at .322 and ERA at 3.46 in the conference.

First Team All-SWAC third baseman Jesus Santana is tied for first in the conference in home runs with nine and RBI with 62. He is fifth in the conference in doubles with 15 and total bases with 99.

Outfielder Lamar Briggs, who is second in the league in batting average with .379, first in the SWAC in hits with 77 and tied for first in doubles with 17, joins Santana on the first team. He is fourth in the conference in runs with 46, RBI with 45 and total bases with 102.

Bryce Brown joins Briggs as first-team outfielder and is third in the SWAC in batting average with a .368. Starting pitcher Miguel Yrigoyen is the final Tiger to make the first team All-SWAC. He is 9-2 in 12 appearances this season with a 2.93 ERA and 62 strikeouts.

Outfielder C.J. Newsome is the lone JSU player on the second-team All-SWAC. He is eighth in the conference in batting average with a .342 average, second in triples with 5 and third in stolen bases with 23.

Southern placed one player on the second-team All-SWAC in designated hitter John Pope. The Jaguars enter the tournament with a 16-25 overall record and 10-14 conference record. SU is seventh in the SWAC in team batting average at .253 and third in team ERA at 5.72.

JSU will face either the No. 2 seed out of the West, Texas Southern University, or the No. 3 seed out of the East, Alabama A&M University, on the second day. The games on day two start at 9 a.m. with the loser of the

May 16, 2017

Four Teams From Our State Could into Regionals

By bryanflynn

None of the universities from our state got into the Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The University of Mississippi was the only close-but-no-cigar team, as they went to the National Invitational Tournament.

That should not be the case with the Division I NCAA Men’s Baseball Tournament. Our state could see as many as four teams get in.

Note: these rankings and standings were as of May 12, 2017.

A lot can change over the last two weeks of the season and in conference tournaments, but Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi seem to be solidly in the field. Jackson State University is in only if it wins the SWAC Tournament, and UM seems to be having some trouble.

One of the biggest things for MSU is it being one of the top eight seeds. In four recent projections (Baseball America, College Sports Madness, Perfect Game USA and D1Baseball), the Bulldogs are a national seed. Baseball America has the team as the No. 7 seed, and every projection has it as a host for a regional.

Over the next two weeks, the Bulldogs can work their way up the projections and earn one of the top eight seeds. MSU can help itself by winning the SEC West title, along with the SEC title, and get help if other teams falter over the next couple of weeks.

Not all of the projections consider Southern Miss as a possible host for a regional. USM is a host in Baseball America, Perfect Game USA and D1Baseball, but College Sports Madness does not see the Golden Eagles possibly hosting. If USM were to win the C-USA regular season title, it should help the team get locked in for hosting a regional.

The Rebels are in the game in every projection but Baseball America, which has the team as one of the first four teams out. Perfect Game has the Rebels as one of the last three teams into the field, and D1Baseball has them as a third seed in a regional.

The good news for UM is the team closes the season hosting Texas A&M University and at Auburn University. Both the Aggies and Tigers are nationally ranked, and taking two-of-three in a three-game series would put the Rebels on solid ground.

The SWAC is only going to get one team in the tournament, and that is the team that wins the conference tournament this week in New Orleans. Jackson State has won the East Division and could be considered the top team in the conference.

If JSU does get into the tournament, there is no consensus on where the Tigers might be headed. Three of the four projections actually place the field in four-team regionals, and Jackson State doesn’t land in the same spot in any of them.

D1Baseball has JSU as the No. 4 seed in the Starkville Regional that Mississippi State is hosting. Baseball America puts the Tigers ...

May 10, 2017

JSU Wins the East, USM and MSU in Line for Titles

By bryanflynn

A little while back, I touched on Jackson State University, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi all fighting for division or conference titles in baseball. Jackson State finished its quest by winning the SWAC East title over Alabama State University.

JSU finished SWAC play with a 20-4 record and the best record in either the East or West Division. Alabama State ended conference play with an 18-6 record, finishing two games behind the Tigers.

In Conference USA, Southern Miss completed a huge sweep over Florida Atlantic University this past weekend. The Golden Eagles hold a three-game lead at 19-5 in C-USA play over second-place Old Dominion University at 16-8, with six conference games left to play.

USM hosts the University of Alabama at Birmingham this weekend and will finish the season at the University of Texas at San Antonio. UAB is 10th in the current standings at 8-16 in conference play, and UTSA is sixth in the standings at 13-11.

Meanwhile, ODU will finish the season at home against Florida International University and on the road against Florida Atlantic. FIU is ninth in the conference standings at 11-13, and FAU is third in the conference at 15-9.

If both USM and ODU stumble, Florida Atlantic could make a move for the top spot. FAU finishes the regular season with a road game against Western Kentucky University and a home game against ODU. WKU is currently in last place at 4-20 in C-USA play.

Southern Miss just has to avoid imploding over the final two weekends to win the regular-season title. It will also give USM the No. 1 seed heading into the C-USA Tournament.

Over in the SEC, Mississippi State currently sits at 16-8 in conference play. MSU leads the SEC West over Louisiana State University by a single game and is tied with the University of Florida for the best record in the conference.

The Bulldogs have two SEC series left to play—one on the road against the University of Georgia this weekend and another at home against LSU to end the season. Georgia is in last place in the SEC East at 7-17 in conference play, and only the University of Alabama has a worst conference record.

LSU is 15-9 in SEC play and is a game behind MSU in the West, lurking around for the conference crown, as well. The Tigers end the season with games at home against Auburn University, who is 14-10 in SEC play, and on the road against MSU.

Florida, at 16-8 in conference play, will try to hold off the University of Kentucky for the SEC West crown and overall conference title. The Gators end the season with a game at Alabama, who is 5-19 in SEC play, and another at home against Kentucky.

Kentucky ends the regular season with a home game against the University ...

May 8, 2017

College Softball Tournaments Around Our State

By bryanflynn

While most NCAA Division I softball conference tournaments around the country are getting started this week, Division II and Division III tournaments are already underway or have crowned their champions.

Belhaven University wasn’t able to reach the postseason as the Blazers continued their transition to Division III, but the Millsaps College Majors, who are also in Division III, made it all the way to the Southern Athletic Association title game.

The Majors won their first two SAA Softball Tournament games before falling 2-1 to Berry College. Millsaps then defeated Hendrix College 7-0 in its next game in the tournament and had to wait a week before playing in the conference title game due to rain. Ultimately, the Majors still couldn’t get past Berry and fell 4-2, which will end the season unless they earn an at-large bid to the Division III tournament.

In Division II, Delta State University failed to reach the Gulf South Conference Softball Tournament, but Mississippi College entered as the third seed. The Choctaws charged through the field and reached the title game, crushing the University of Alabama in Huntsville 18-5 to earn the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

This is Mississippi College’s first-ever GSC title in softball and the first GSC title for the college’s athletic program in general since the 1994-1995 men’s basketball team won a championship in the conference.

The Division I schools in our state will try to repeat the performance of Mississippi College when their tournaments start on Wednesday, May 10.

Alcorn State University is the No. 1 seed out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference East Division and will play Southern University, the No. 4 seed out of the West Division at 6 p.m. In the second round, the Braves will face either the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which is the No. 2 seed out of the West, or the No. 3 seed from the East, Alabama A&M University.

In the other half of the SWAC bracket, Mississippi Valley State University is the No. 4 seed from the East and has to face the No. 1 seed from the West, Texas Southern University, at 3 p.m. The Delta Devils will then face either the No. 2 seed in the East, Alabama State University, or Prairie View A&M University, which is the No. 3 seed in the West, in the second round.

The SWAC Softball Tournament is a double-elimination tournament, with the top four teams from the East and West getting into the event. Jackson State University finished fifth in the East Division and will not participate in the tournament.

Meanwhile, the SEC Softball Tournament will be good news and bad news for Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi. The Bulldogs and Rebels clash in the first round at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, with the good news being that one of them is guaranteed to reach the second round.

Then comes the ...

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