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Staff blogs

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 23, 2017

MS Legislative Black Caucus Calls for Karl Oliver's Resignation

By adreher

The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus has called for Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona, to resign from his post representing District 46, after he made a Facebook post on Saturday calling for the "LYNCHING" of those who brought down the Confederate monuments in New Orleans.

Yesterday, Oliver removed the post and issued an apology. House Speaker Philip Gunn condemned Oliver's statements and stripped him of his vice-chairmanship.

Below is the full verbatim statement from the Legislative Black Caucus, published by Chairwoman Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfort, on Twitter this morning:

The MS Legislative Black Caucus is calling for the immediate resignation of State Representative Karl Oliver for his statement calling for the lynching of people responsible for the removal of Confederate statutes in New Orleans, LA.

"Members of the MS legislature already struggle to work across party, racial and gender lines. Rep. Oliver's continued presence in the legislature would deter-and diminish any further progress among members," says MS Black Caucus Chairperson, Sonya Williams-Barnes. "Rep. Oliver's apology for using the word 'lynching,' does not mitigate the sentiment behind the statement and his presence will continue to be a sore spot on the work of the Mississippi legislature."

The MS Legislative Black Caucus is boycotting the upcoming Southern Legislative Conference as a part of its ongoing protest against the Confederate symbols on the state flag.

"We remain steadfast in our commitment to fight racism and to move our state forward. MS is losing millions of dollars in tourism and economic development because of our unwillingness as a state to move past our sordid racial history," Williams-Barnes continued.

Rep. Oliver's statement and the Confederate symbol on the state flag go hand in hand in sending the message that all are not welcome. Changing the flag is a direct action moving in the right direction as a collective body and it is the right thing to do. An apology is just mere protocol; it is not enough. If these comments are truly not the mindset of the body, change the flag and demand the resignation of Karl Oliver.

May 19, 2017

Updated: Three teens now identified with abduction of Kingston Frazier

By WKelly101

There are now three teenagers said to be involved with 6-year-old Kingston Frazier's abduction and death. The teens are at risk of being charged with capitol murder.

WAPT reported that Byron McBride, 19, was identified as the killer of Frazier, who is said to have several wounds from bullets. McBride was taken into custody U.S. Marshall's in Ridgeland, WLBT reported. The other suspects, Dwan Wakefield, 17, and D'Allen Washington, 17, were taken into custody on Thursday according to authorities.

There have been no recent updates from the Jackson Police Department Twitter account.

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 18, 2017

Updated: Child Found Dead in Stolen Car, Three Persons of Interest in Custody

By adreher

Updated: Three persons of interest have been taken into custody, WAPT reports, after a 6-year-old who was kidnapped early this morning was found dead in the back of a stolen vehicle in Madison County.

The Jackson Police Department has now confirmed that they found a deceased child in the backseat of the stolen Toyota. He was six years old. A multi-jurisdictional investigation is still underway, according to JPD tweets. JPD, Hinds County Sheriff's Department, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Madison County Sheriff's Office are working collectively on this case.

WJTV and WAPT reported that the child, Kingston Frazier, was in the back of the Toyota, when the car was stolen from the I-55 Kroger parking lot.

A Hinds County Sheriff told WAPT that the deceased boy was found in Gluckstadt in Madison County at 9:30 a.m. WJTV is reporting "it is believed the child died from a gunshot wound."

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and JPD issued an Amber Alert for a missing boy, Kingston Frazier, early this morning.

JPD is posting on its Twitter account with updates. This post will be updated.

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 ...

May 5, 2017

Possible Late Free-Agent Pickups for the Saints

By bryanflynn

Shopping in the bargain bin isn’t something some people like to talk about, but most of us love to get a good deal when possible. At this point in the NFL offseason, teams are now looking for bargains on veteran players.

There are still some good players left on the market looking for jobs. Some of these athletes could even help a team such as the New Orleans Saints. They might have to do some magic to work some cap space but could look for a free agent to step in as a pass rusher.

One of the better names on the market is Dwight Freeney, who played for the Atlanta Falcons last season. He only posted three sacks last year but still can create pressure on a quarterback. At age 37, he will likely only sign with a team that he believes is a contender for the Super Bowl.

The Saints could go with 32-year-old veteran Mario Williams, who spent last season with the Miami Dolphins. He only recorded 1.5 sacks then, but if healthy and motivated, he could raise that total.

A couple of other names on the market are Jared Odrick and Devin Taylor. Odrick spent last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars and played only six games with one sack. The 29-year-old defensive end might sign cheap on a one-year “prove it” deal. Taylor played with the Detroit Lions last season but recorded just 4.5 sacks in 16 games played.

There are some pass-rushing linebackers still on the market, as well. The Saints are loaded at linebacker right now but need a pass rusher. If any of these players fit the scheme and price, he could be a good fit.

Two names that stand out at linebacker are Elvis Dumervil and Erik Walden. Dumervil has spent his entire career with the Baltimore Ravens, and Walden played for the Lions last season.

Dumervil only played in eight games last season with three sacks. Walden recorded 11 sacks in 16 games but never had more than six sacks before last year. The question is whether last year was a sign of things to come for a few seasons or just a fluke.

Looking at a different position, if the Saints want to add help at wide receiver, there are still a few names out there. Getting most of these players is all about signing at the right price.

Anquan Boldin is about to be 37 years old, but last season, he caught 67 passes for 584 yards and eight touchdowns. He is a proven leader and could help mentor the young receivers in New Orleans.

Injuries robbed former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz of what he might have been otherwise. In a limited role last season, he caught 39 passes for 586 yards and one touchdown. His celebratory salsa dancing would also seem like a ...

May 4, 2017

Dak Prescott Second on Merchandise Sales List

By bryanflynn

NFL fans can argue whether or not the Dallas Cowboys are “America’s Team,” but they can’t argue that the men with stars on their helmets can move merchandise. Two rookies led Dallas to the playoff last season and led the NFL Players Association’s Top 50 players year-end sale list for March 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017.

Rookie Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott landed in the top spot and is the first rookie to finish the year on top of the sales list. Fellow Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott followed him.

After Dallas drafted Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, he landed a starting role Dallas after No. 1 quarterback Tony Romo and No. 2 quarterback Kellen Moore got injured. It was a role Prescott excelled at last season, so much that it pushed Romo into retirement.

Dallas finished with three of the spots in the top five, and wide receiver Dez Bryant came in fourth. The young Cowboys core is poised to take over the league on and off the field if they can repeat or better the feat from 2016.

Ageless tight end Jason Witten of Dallas finished 12th on the list, and Romo finished at No. 15 even though he played just a few snaps in the season finale. Dallas was the only team that had five players land in the top 15 of the list.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished in third even though he was suspended for four games at the beginning of last season. The finish was perfect, as he led an epic comeback from 25 points down to win the Super Bowl.

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. rounds out the top five. Wall posters of his insane catch against the Cowboys might have led to his lead in the wall-mural sales on Fathead.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is No. 6, Philadelphia Eagles Carson Wentz came in at No. 7, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reached No. 8, Brady’s teammate tight end Rob Gronkowski reached No. 9—even with missing the Super Bowl to injury—and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton closed out the top 10.

Quarterbacks landed the most spots on the list with 19 single-callers making it. Wide receivers were second with 17 players, and nine defensive players made the list with three running backs and two tight ends.

Dallas wasn’t the only team to land five players on the list, as the Seahawks pulled off the feat as well. Joining Wilson on the list is cornerback Richard Sherman at No. 24, wide receiver Tyler Lockett at No. 43, safety Kam Chancellor at No. 47 and wide receiver Doug Baldwin at No. 49.

Five teams, the Patriots, Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders, landed three players each on the list. The Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and New York Giants each placed two players on the list. ...

May 4, 2017

Insurance Commissioner Anticipates 'Significant Changes' after House Repeals Obamacare

By adreher

In case you missed it, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, jokingly referred to as "Trumpcare" by some, this afternoon. The bill repeals several parts of the Affordable Care Act, more often called "Obamacare," replacing it with legislation that will cut Medicaid funding, allow seniors to be charged more for healthcare as well as allow states to determine what pre-existing conditions insurance companies must cover for their residents. (The ACA required insurers to cover preexisting conditions.)

The bill also repeals several taxes implemented by the ACA, which were used to make insurance plans available to more Americans, while requiring all Americans to have insurance or be fined. The AHCA repeals that penalty and mandate to have health insurance, too; however, as BBC reports, Americans who forgo health insurance for more than 63 days after the bill passes would have to pay a 30 percent surcharge on their insurance payments for a year.

The Senate still has to pass the bill before President Donald Trump could sign it into law, but the bill's passage signals the coming change to healthcare in the nation--and the state with Republicans in charge of the White House and Congress.

Commissioner Mike Chaney issued a statement on the passage of the AHCA, saying he had just returned from Washington D.C. where he met with the new head of the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, about the possible challenges Mississippi could face in the midst of "significant changes" in healthcare policy.

"In speaking with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, he assured me and other commissioners that the administration is aware of the problems facing states like Mississippi who have just one or no carriers on the Federal Marketplace," Chaney said in a press release. "I am confident we are all working to provide the best healthcare coverage for all Mississippians.”

Chaney said there are "many innovations" in the bill to stabilize health care costs.

"These include new tax credits, elimination of the individual mandate, access to expanded health savings accounts, more state innovation and an amendment addressing preexisting conditions," Chaney said in the release. "Mississippians will have the option of having new, flexible healthcare plans and more choices of health care providers."

May 3, 2017

Posts and Odds for the 143rd Kentucky Derby

By bryanflynn

The winner of the 143rd Kentucky Derby will need to navigate a full field of 20 this Saturday, May 6. Officially, 22 horses are eligible for the race, with Royal Mo and Master Plan as alternates, but they need two horses to withdraw by early Friday morning to be in the field.

Ben Huffman, Churchill Downs Racing Secretary, and Dan Bork, Churchill Downs Assistant Racing Secretary, pulled the post numbers at the event held at the Churchill Downs. The post-draw and early-line odds for the first leg of the Triple Crown of horse racing this morning, Wednesday, May 3 sets the stage for the one and one-quarter mile race.

Classic Empire drew the No. 14 post, and the horse is the early 4-1 favorite. Only two have won from the No. 14 post, with the last happening in 1961 when Carry Black won.

Good news for Classic Empire is that the betting favorite has won the derby the past four years, which is the longest winning streak for the favorite since the 1970s.

The co-second favorites at 5-1 odds are Always Dreaming, who drew the No. 5 post, and McCraken, who drew the No. 15 post. The last winner from the No. 5 post was California Chrome in 2014, and the last winner from the No. 15 post was Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015.

Irish War Cry will break from the No. 17 post at 6-1 odds. No horse has won the derby from that position. At 6-1, Irish War Cry is the last of the four horses listed with single-digit odds.

No. 7 post Girvin is the first of four horses at 15-1 odds, with Hence next to him in the No. 8 post. Gunnevera out of the No. 10 post and Gormley from the No. 18 post are the other two horses at 15-1 odds.

Six horses are at 20-1 odds, with Lookin At Lee in the No. 1 post. Lookin at Lucky, the sire to Looking At Lee, also drew the No. 1 post in 2010 and was the favorite at 6-1 before the race, but he finished sixth.

Thunder Snow drew the No. 2 post, Irap drew the No. 9 post, J Boys Echo drew the No. 13 post Tapwrit drew the No. 16 post, and Practical Joke round all the horse at 20-1 odds. The rest of the field is full of extremely long shots.

Untrapped in post No. 4, State of Honor in post No. 6, Battle of Midway in post No. 11 and Patch in post No. 20 are at early 30-1 odds. Patch is an interesting horse in this race, as he is missing his left eye.

Fast and Accurate, which Olympic skier Bode Miller partially owns, will break from the No. 3 post. That horse and Sonneteer out of the No. 12 post are listed at 50-1 odds. Sonneteer hasn’t won a race in his career, and if ...

May 2, 2017

Mississippi’s Undrafted Rookie Signings

By bryanflynn

When the Denver Broncos selected former University of Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly, the draft officially came to an end. However, the work wasn’t done yet for the teams, and players who went undrafted still can live their pro-football dreams.

NFL history is full of players who went undrafted that went on to long careers, such as Kurt Warner, Wes Welker, Tony Romo and Jackson State University’s Coy Bacon among others. Most of the players hope to prove teams wrong for not drafting them.

Things change a little with undrafted rookie free agents. The players can pick their team, if more than one team is vying over their services. That means a player can pick the team offering the most money or the team that will be the best fit.

Undrafted rookies that can do several things, such as playing multiple positions and special teams, have a better chance of making a team. If an offensive lineman can play tackle and guard or center and guard, that player will be tougher for teams to cut later.

I spent the last two days scouring the Internet and watching Twitter to see which players from universities in our state signed with NFL teams. This list is broken down by NFL team with thoughts on some of their signings.

Arizona Cardinals

Javancy Jones, linebacker, Jackson State University

Arizona drafted a linebacker in the first round and signed another rookie free agent. The Cardinals have a solid defense, so it will be tough for most rookies to make the team.

Atlanta Falcons

Will Freeman, offensive line, University of Southern Mississippi

The Falcons are the defending NFC Champions but did have guard Chris Chester retire. That opens a spot, even if the team drafted a guard in the fourth-round and signed four other undrafted rookies.

Baltimore Ravens

Quincy Adebayo, wide receiver, University of Mississippi

Xavian Bingham, cornerback, Jackson State University

Baltimore didn’t draft a wide receiver but did sign three other undrafted rookies. The Ravens drafted a cornerback in the first round and signed an undrafted safety.

Carolina Panthers

Fred Ross, wide receiver, Mississippi State University

Carolina drafted a wide receiver in the second round and signed one undrafted rookie wide receiver, but this team needs receiving help so there is a chance to make the team.

Detroit Lions

Nick James, defensive tackle, University of Mississippi

The Lions only signed one other undrafted rookie but did draft a couple of defensive ends and signed an undrafted rookie defensive end. There is a chance to make this roster as a defensive tackle.

Green Bay Packers

Johnathan Calvin, linebacker, Mississippi State University

Green Bay took a linebacker in the fourth round and just one undrafted rookie. This is a good team, so it will be tough for rookies to make the roster.

Houston Texans

Daniel Ross, defensive tackle, ...

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