-Andy O’Brien, Assistant Editor
Last week, MLB pitchers and catchers arrived to their spring training facilities, beginning the six-week process that will decide roster spots and prepare teams for another season.
At the collegiate level, the season is already well underway. The Choctaws compiled a 7-4 record already, but have lost both of their last series.
MC opened the season at home, playing host to Jackson’s Tougaloo College for a three-game series. The Choctaws outscored the NAIA Bulldogs 51-9 in the weekend, punctuated by a 25-1 onslaught in the second game of Saturday’s double header. In that game, all 15 Choctaw batters either scored a run or drove one in.
The following Tuesday, the team traveled to Memphis to take on their first Division II opponent of the year, Lemoyne-Owen. The Choctaws outscored the Magicians 28-1 in the doubleheader. In the second game of the afternoon, Choctaw pitching surrendered only a single hit. Starter Kyle Cumlander hurled four innings, walked one while he struck out seven of the 13 batters he faced.
The Choctaws played in Memphis again over Valentine’s Day weekend to open Gulf South Conference play for the first time in over 15 years. The Choctaws plated three runs as they rallied behind Brooks Fortenberry’s seven-inning, two-run start in Friday afternoon’s series opener against Christian Brothers University. The Bucs won both of Saturday’s games, outscoring MC 24-8 on the day to win the series.
Weather conditions in Jackson, Tenn. were not fit for baseball, so last weekend’s series against Union University was moved to Clinton. In game one, senior staff ace Fortenberry struck out 10 and walked none in eight innings of six-hit, one-run baseball. The effort was diminished as relief pitching allowed a go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning. Fortunately, the Choctaws responded in the bottom of the frame with an RBI single from Logan Ferrell that tied the game at two. Pushed into extra innings, Tyler Scholl took the mound for Mississippi College. In five and a third innings, Scholl gave up one hit and struck out five, throwing 81 pitches in relief. In the bottom of the 16th, Akiko Thompson drew a five-pitch walk to lead off the inning. Thompson was moved around to third on a sacrifice and a throwing error, and scored the walk-off run on a fielder’s choice ball off the bat of Hunter Hall.
Once again, MC lost the last two games of the series, 10-3 and 9-8. In the final game, the Choctaws were down 9-2 in the eighth inning, but scored three runs in each of the last two frames. Unfortunately, the comeback came up short. Caleb Upton hit a two-run home run, and Hunter Bolin and Colton Caver both went 3-5, scored three runs, and tallied an RBI.
This weekend, the Choctaws will be back in action against Alabama-Huntsville with another series at home on Frierson Field. The Chargers are 7-1-1 on the year and are anchored by Daniel Kroger, who carries a 1.37 ERA after three starts. UAH closer Luke Mould has not allowed a base runner in seven and a third innings in four appearances. The first game will be at 2 p.m. on February 28, with the second of a doubleheader to follow. The series will conclude with a Sunday game at one.