JaCoby Jones’ tough season took a turn for the worse on Saturday when the ex-Richton High star was hit in the mouth by a pitch. Detroit’s rookie center fielder left the field with a mouthful of blood and received nine stitches in his lip at a Minnesota hospital but reportedly is otherwise OK. The Tigers put Jones, batting just .150 with a homer and four RBIs, on the 10-day disabled list. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told the Detroit Free Press the sight of Jones’ injury made him “squeamish.” (Cue up the video; it is scary.) The pitch was a fastball thrown up and in by Twins reliever Justin Haley. The Tigers had hit two home runs earlier in that third inning off Adelberto Mejia. When Tigers starter Matt Boyd threw a pitch behind Miguel Sano later in the game, tempers flared and benches cleared. Boyd and Sano were ejected. Detroit went on to win 5-4. The teams play again today at Target Field.
Here’s a fun fact: Seven Mississippians (natives or college alums) have hit leadoff for seven different teams in the big leagues this season. They come in all shapes and sizes and profiles, from the power-hitting Corey Dickerson to small speedsters Billy Hamilton and Jarrod Dyson. Dickerson, the Meridian Community College alum, doesn’t look like the classic leadoff type – a stocky 6 feet 1, 205 pounds – and he’s not a base-stealing threat. But he has fit the bill at the top of the order for Tampa Bay. He belted a leadoff homer on Friday night in a loss to Houston and is batting .317 (.358 on-base percentage) with four homers, eight RBIs and nine runs. Ex-Taylorsville High star Hamilton does look like a leadoff batter, and he might be the fastest man in the game. After a good start for Cincinnati, however, he has dipped to .224 with eight runs and seven steals. Southwest Mississippi CC product Dyson has been used occasionally as Seattle’s leadoff man and is batting .228 with nine runs and four bags. Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star, brings a blend of power and speed to the top of Minnesota’s order. He is off to a sluggish start at .226 with two homers and five stolen bases. He was a 42/18 man in 2016. Ole Miss product Seth Smith typically bats leadoff for Baltimore against right-handed starters; he has been out since Tuesday with a hamstring problem. Smith is a solid hitter who, like Dickerson, is more about power than speed. He is batting .259 (.355 OBP) with two homers, three RBIs and seven runs in his first year with the Orioles. Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central CC standout, hits leadoff on occasion for the Chicago White Sox but is off to a slow start (.169 with six runs) in his sophomore campaign. The slender Anderson is expected to develop into a base-stealing threat and also has surprising pop. Pittsburgh uses Adam Frazier, the Mississippi State alum, all over the field and the lineup, including some leadoff opportunities. Frazier is hitting .289 with a homer, four RBIs and five runs. In addition to those seven, there are three other Mississippians in the big leagues who could get looks in the leadoff spot: Ole Miss product Zack Cozart (Reds), UM alum Chris Coghlan (Toronto) and former Richton High star JaCoby Jones (Detroit). Jones, scuffling at the moment, is projected as a 20 homers/20 steals type. P.S. Ex-State standout Chris Stratton is back in the big leagues with San Francisco, taking the roster spot that opened up when Madison Bumgarner went on the disabled list. Stratton had a 7.84 ERA in two starts at Triple-A Sacramento but has a 3.99 career ERA in the minors and posted a 3.60 in a brief MLB trial last year. … Fellow Bulldogs alum Tyler Moore was assigned to Triple-A New Orleans by Miami.
Jackson State rules the SWAC. At this moment. JSU will have to prove itself again in the SWAC Tournament next month, but there can be little debate about whether the Tigers are the SWAC’s best team right now. Omar Johnson’s club has won 11 straight games to improve to 29-11 overall and 15-3 in the conference heading into a weekend series against Alcorn State at Lorman. Tigers hitters and pitchers lead the SWAC in just about everything. They’re batting .327 with an amazing 338 runs. The 3.45 staff ERA is almost two runs better than the second-best number in the league. JSU hitters also lead the SWAC in slugging, steals, doubles and triples, and the pitchers lead in strikeouts, shutouts, complete games and saves. All-SWAC candidates abound: Lamar Briggs, Miguel Yrigoyen, Jesus Santana, Bryce Brown, Cornelius Copeland. Two of the Tigers’ three SWAC losses came against Alabama State in early March; JSU got some payback by sweeping the Hornets three straight on the road last weekend. The other loss was to Alcorn in Biloxi on March 17. Johnson has rather quietly built a nice resume at JSU with well over 300 wins in 11 seasons, two SWAC championships and several division titles. More hardware may be coming. Baseball America projects the Tigers as SWAC champs and an NCAA regional participant. With an RPI that likely will be around 200, they’ll have to win the tournament to get in. P.S. William Carey University, ranked 23rd in the latest NAIA poll, gets a crack at No. 2 Faulkner in a three-game SSAC series this weekend in Montgomery, Ala. Faulkner, which had been No. 1 the previous six weeks, is 39-8, 14-4, just a notch ahead of the Crusaders (29-14, 15-6) in the league standings. Faulkner’s T.J. Condon leads the SSAC in home runs (18) and RBIs (57). Carey’s James Land, who has 15 homers, is the league’s top hitter at .392. Faulkner’s Israel Fuentes and Ivan Pelaez rank 2-3 in ERA, with Carey’s Lane Fazende and Cole Edgens at 4-5. … Belhaven is ranked 10th in the NCCAA poll released this week and may be positioned for an invitation to the organization’s national tournament. The Blazers are 23-14 heading into their last American Southwest Conference series of the season at LeTourneau. BU, in transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III, is not eligible for the ASC Tournament.
Power is the tool that will carry Bobby Bradley upward, and the ex-Harrison Central High star has tapped into it again at Double-A Akron with home runs in his last two games. One of Cleveland’s highest rated prospects, the 20-year-old Bradley now has three homers and 11 RBIs, five of those collected on Wednesday. The lefty-hitting first baseman is batting just .184 with 16 strikeouts in 38 at-bats – but he has walked 11 times and has a .360 on-base percentage. … Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central standout and a top Atlanta prospect, had a four-hit game on Wednesday, perhaps a sign that he is finding a rhythm. Riley, playing third base at high Class A Florida, is hitting .250 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 14 games. … Petal High product Anthony Alford, one of Toronto’s top prospects, is rocking along at .475 with nine hits in his last five games for Double-A New Hampshire. … Mississippi State product Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2016, is 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA in three starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs. … Jacob Robson isn’t highly rated on Detroit’s prospect charts – yet – but the former State standout is surely getting some attention with his hot start at low-A West Michigan. The lefty-hitting outfielder, drafted last June, went 3-for-4 Wednesday to boost his average to .348. … Dakota Hudson, the first Mississippian picked in the ’16 draft (34th overall out of MSU by St. Louis), is 1-0, 2.31 at Double-A Springfield. He has 11 strikeouts and five walks in 11 2/3 innings. He worked only 13 1/3 innings in the minors last summer. … Ex-Ole Miss star J.B. Woodman, the second Mississippian drafted last summer (second round, Toronto), is off to a .267 start at low-A Lansing. … Angel Rosa and Wade Wass are familiar names on the roster of the Mobile BayBears, the Los Angeles Angels affiliate currently appearing at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Rosa, an infielder, is an Alcorn State alum, Wass, a catcher, a Meridian Community College product. Both played in Wednesday’s matinee, a 5-1 loss to the Mississippi Braves.
The way Jones County Junior College is barreling along, it appears that everyone else is playing for second place in the MACJC. Today, in Poplarville, Pearl River and Hinds actually will play for second place in the standings. Pearl River, under first-year coach Michael Avalon, currently sits at No. 2, 12-4 in the league, 21-9 overall. Hinds, led by veteran skipper Sam Temple, is third at 11-5 and 22-10. Lucas Scott, a George County High product, is PRCC’s leading hitter at .366, and Taylorsville’s Austin Moffett is batting .323 with 18 steals. But the Wildcats’ scariest offensive threat may be Simon Landry, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound freshman from Louisiana who has 11 home runs. Peyton Lee (4-0, 1.78 ERA), from Picayune, and Colby White (3-1, 1.83) have been PRCC’s best pitchers. Hinds has an ace in Caleb Morgan (4-0, 1.60), a Grenada product, and several well-credentialed hitters: Kyle Shimpf (.385, five homers), Brandon’s Jackson Mitchell (.373), Hernando’s Will Craft (.357) and Natchez’s Quinton Logan (.353, 30 RBIs, 32 runs). While the Wildcats and Eagles are battling it out at Wildcat Field, Jones (15-1, 33-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II) will host Gulf Coast for a twinbill in Ellisville.
Twenty hits, a 10-run inning, a 16-8 victory – eye-popping numbers from Southern Miss against Nicholls State on Tuesday night at MGM Park in Biloxi. “It seemed like everything we hit we squared up,” coach Scott Berry told the Biloxi Sun-Herald. Of course, that’s a familiar refrain for these Golden Eagles, who are 29-19 and ranked in most of the major polls. They’ve scored 13 or more runs in 12 games and are averaging 8.4 runs per game. They have nine players with 20 or more runs. The 10-run inning wasn’t even their best this season; they put up an 11 spot at Taylor Park back in February. The 20 hits was a season-high, but they average 11.2 per game. They’ve got five regulars batting .317 or better. Matt Wallner, the imposing freshman from Minnesota, leads the team in hitting (.346) and homers (11), but Dylan Burdeaux, Mason Irby, Taylor Braley and Hunter Slater are also having big offensive years. This is a team that should be fun to watch during tournament and regional time.
He arrived in Jackson with a great deal of fanfare, a former first-round draft pick from California who batted .354 with 80 RBIs in 95 games in high-A ball before getting promoted to Double-A at age 19. Gregg Jefferies hit .421 in five games for the Jackson Mets in 1986. He was named Baseball America’s minor league player of the year and returned to Jackson, with even more hype, for the 1987 season. Thirty years later, that season at Smith-Wills Stadium still resonates. Jefferies, a switch-hitting shortstop, put up great numbers for the JaxMets: .367, 20 homers, 101 RBIs, 81 runs, 26 steals, 48 doubles, a .598 slugging percentage. He was shaky at shortstop and wound up moving to third base. And, yes, he was a little cocky. But he could ever more hit, and he led the team, managed by former Ole Miss player Tucker Ashford, to a Texas League East Division second-half title. Alas, the New York Mets summoned Jefferies as a September call-up, and he missed the TL playoffs, including the championship series loss to Robbie Alomar-led Wichita. Jefferies repeated as BA’s player of the year in ’87 and also won Texas League MVP honors. He became a regular with the New York Mets in 1989, displacing Wally Backman at second base, but hit just .258. He became a target of fan and media criticism in the Big Apple. Traded from New York after the 1991 season, he played nine more years in the big leagues, 14 seasons all told. While some would say he didn’t live up to the great expectations, Jefferies batted .289 with 1,593 hits and was a two-time All-Star. In 1993 in St. Louis, he batted .342 with 16 homers and 46 steals. That was the kind of season he seemed destined for in 1987. The 30th anniversary of that big year in Jackson is worthy of a salute.