Best baseball season in Miss. history? It’s getting there
The question was asked this past weekend: Is this the best college baseball season in Mississippi history?
It was a good weekend to ask it: Ole Miss swept Auburn. Mississippi State took two of three at LSU. Southern Miss took two of three one-run games from Rice. All three Mississippi teams are nationally ranked. All three have Top 20 RPIs. All three are in the conversation about who will host regionals.
Delta State, nationally ranked in Division II as usual, won another league series this past weekend. Stat of the week: DSU coach Mike Kinnison, in his 20th season, already has 842 coaching victories. That’s 42 per season and there’s still plenty games to play in this one.
But there are lots and lots of gaudy stats where Mississippi college baseball is concerned. And, yes, this might well be the best season ever, collectively.
• Ole Miss entered mid-week play with a 31-10 record (10-8 in league play) and a No. 5 RPI rating. The Rebels were 8-3 against Top 50 competition.
• Mississippi State entered the week at 27-10-1 (10-8 in SEC) and a No. 13 RPI rating. The Bulldogs have won series at Florida, Vanderbilt and LSU, all top 10 teams. State is 10-5-1 against Top 100 teams.
• Southern Miss, which played error-less ball this weekend, entered the week at 29-12, and a league leading 14-4 in Conference USA.
So, three of the top 19 RPI teams in college baseball are from Mississippi. That’s as many as Florida and Texas and two more than California. That’s one more than Louisiana and three more than Alabama and Georgia.
There’s still much baseball left to play: four big conference series for each team. Let’s take a look:
• Ole Miss plays host to LSU, then goes to Georgia before returning home to play Kentucky. The Rebels finish at hard-hitting Texas A & M. There’s nothing easy about any of it.
• State, which has already played the top shelf SEC teams, has a remaining schedule that appears more manageable. The Bulldogs go to Alabama, play Missouri at home, go to Auburn and then finish with Arkansas at home.
• Southern Miss plays at tough Florida Atlantic this weekend, before home series with Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech and a final road series at Florida International. The Golden Eagles will host the Conference USA Tournament, quite an advantage when you consider USM is 18-3 at home. Remarkably, Southern Miss has not broken stride since losing slugging third baseman Taylor Braley (10 home runs in just 27 games) to a season ending knee injury 14 games ago.
With so much team success, you know many individual standouts exist. Major League scouts and college coaches will have plenty to choose from when they select the C Spire Ferriss Trophy winner at regular season’s end. The Ferriss Trophy, named for Mississippi baseball legend Boo Ferriss, will be awarded at a May 23 luncheon in Ferriss’s hometown of Cleveland.
State, Ole Miss and USM all have pitchers and position players who merit strong consideration, and don’t forget Delta State’s Will Robertson, who has a story USM’s Braley might want to read.
Two years ago, Robertson, a slugging outfielder who also pitched out of the bullpen, led the Gulf South Conference in hitting with a .388 average. But Robertson missed all of 2015 after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
So, this spring Robertson returns and once again leads the league in hitting with a robust .443 average, including 27 doubles, seven home runs and a team-leading 64 RBIs. He has reached base more than half the times he has gone to the plate, a splendid stat in a most splendid Mississippi baseball season.