Sideline View by Dale McKee

Published: Feb. 15, 2021 at 9:51 AM CST
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Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Mississippi will open the 2021 baseball season this Friday. Mississippi State and Ole Miss will be in action at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, in the State Farm College Baseball Showcase. The Showcase features six top 10 teams as No. 3 Texas Tech, No. 6 Ole Miss, No. 7 MSU, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 9 Texas and No. 10 TCU will participate. Ole Miss and MSU will face off against the Big 12 kingpins Texas, Texas Tech and TCU. State will play at 11 a.m. each day while Ole Miss will play at 3 p.m. Southern Mississippi, the top pick in the preseason C-USA rankings, will host Northeastern Louisiana in a three-game set at the “Pete.”

Rebel cagers are hot

Ole Miss knocked off No. 10 Missouri in Oxford and then downed South Carolina to extend their winning streak to four games. Mississippi State had a rough week as they were downed by both LSU and last place Vanderbilt. The SEC announced on Sunday that LSU would travel to Ole Miss on Wednesday night as the conference is trying to balance home and away games as they maneuver through COVID-19. The Tigers downed Rebels (12-8, 7-6) earlier in the season in Oxford. Ole Miss will also host Mississippi State on Saturday night while State (11-11, 5-8) will make the trip over to the Plains on Tuesday of this week before heading north on Saturday. Southern Mississippi (7-14, 3-11) fell to North Texas this week and will travel to FIU this weekend.

Braves & Shuckers ready to play ball!

The Biloxi Shuckers and the Pearl based Mississippi Braves will be staying put until   2031. The teams were two of the 120 minor league clubs that agreed to a 10-year contract with Major League Baseball’s newly formed Professional Development League (PDL). MLB has reorganized their minor leagues as they dropped 40 affiliates from the 2019 minor league system. For future minor league players, this will mean better salaries, better facilities, less travel and better play. Salaries of players will increase from 40-70 percent while each series will be six games in six days to reduce travel. The 138-game schedule will begin in May and run through September. The leagues have not been named, but the Braves and Shuckers will play for now in the Double A South with Pensacola and Montgomery. The Double A North will have teams in Birmingham, Huntsville, Chattanooga and Knoxville.

The boys of spring have called all catchers and pitchers to report this week with the rest of the players reporting by next Monday. The opening day of MLB spring training games in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues are scheduled for February 28.  The 2021 MLB regular season will open on Thursday, April 1.

Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton has signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians. The 30-year-old centerfielder, who had stolen over 300 bases in his MLB career, will be playing for his sixth different team in the last three seasons.

College Football

The much-anticipated opening of Hall of Fame football star Deion Sanders and his Jackson State Tigers’ 2020 football season will take kickoff this Sunday at 1 p.m. in Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson versus Ed Water College of Jacksonville. The game will be streamed on ESPN3. The Tigers will have six games televised this season on the ESPN Network.

Alcorn State made it official as they opt out of the spring 2020 football season, as they will prepare for the 2021 fall season. The Braves have won the last two SWAC championships and six consecutive SWAC Eastern Division titles.

Belhaven (0-2) fell to East Texas Baptist, 44-16, this past Saturday while Millsaps (0-2) fell to Trinity, 37-7. Both squads head to Texas this Saturday as the Blazers will face Southwestern Texas, in Georgetown while the Majors will head to Austin College.

Dale is a Waynesboro resident who has written sports in Mississippi since 1973.

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