21 Feb

what’s in a box

If you love baseball and you love history, you look up box scores. It’s what you do. There is a profound delight in ferreting out an old box, whether it’s in a newspaper clipping or, more likely these days, a data base on a website. You’re bound to find something that will suck you in and take you back to a bygone time. To wit: Joe Gibbon, the former Ole Miss star from Hickory who died on Wednesday, made his big league debut on April 17, 1960. How’d it go? Thanks to baseball-reference.com, you can pull up the box score and find out in rich detail. It was Game 2 of a Sunday doubleheader at Forbes Field, Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh. There were 16,000-plus in the park at the start of the day. Gibbon came on for the Pirates in the eighth inning of a game the Bucs trailed 5-0. The big lefty worked two scoreless innings, yielding three hits and a walk, against a Reds lineup that included Frank Robinson, Billy Martin and Vada Pinson. Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski and Dick Groat played for Pittsburgh that day. In the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates scored six times. Hal Smith, pinch-hitting for Gibbon, hit a three-run homer. Bob Skinner hit a two-run, game-winning blast off Ted Wieand. Gibbon got the win. You can’t tell from the box score how he felt, but it had to be pretty darn good. And it was just the start of a magical rookie season that culminated with a World Series championship.

20 Feb

small talk

Busy schedule at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium (with its artificial surface) this weekend: Millsaps College will play Wisconsin-Platteville on Friday at 2, followed by a Belhaven University-UWP game. On Saturday at 10, Millsaps and UWP will meet again, followed by a doubleheader between Belhaven and Centenary. Millsaps and Centenary will hook up on Sunday at 11, followed by a doubleheader (at 2) between Mississippi College and Gulf South rival West Georgia. That series will conclude on Monday with a noon start. … Unbeaten Delta State bolted to No. 7 – up eight spots – in the new NCBWA Division II poll. The Statesmen are 9-0 heading into a three-game series vs. Union University this weekend at Cleveland’s Ferriss Field. Mississippi College (7-3), ranked as high as No. 7 in one preseason poll, is 18th in the writers poll. … MUW opened its second season with a doubleheader sweep, 10-2 and 12-6, of Lane College on Monday at Columbus High’s field. Owls leadoff batter Heath Ford went 3-for-8 with three RBIs in the two games, and Leon Petite had two hits, three runs and three RBIs. … Tougaloo College and Rust College faced off in a Gulf Coast Athletic Conference series over the weekend, with the host Bulldogs winning both games to improve to 2-5. Rust is a new member of the GCAC this season. … Pearl River Community College’s Shemar Page and Jones County JC’s O’Neil Burgos were named the MACJC pitcher and hitter of the week. Page, a sophomore right-hander from Raleigh, threw five hitless innings with 10 strikeouts in a win last weekend against St. Louis CC. Burgos, freshman out of Brookhaven Academy, went 7-for-13 with a homer and four RBIs in the Bobcats’ 4-0 week. … Meridian CC, ranked No. 4 in preseason by Collegiate Baseball, is off to a 2-2 start with a doubleheader slated for Sunday against Copiah-Lincoln CC at Hartfield Academy in Flowood, just down the highway from Smith-Wills.

20 Feb

hit parade

If he produces a typical season, Brian Dozier will easily top 1,000 career hits in the big leagues in 2019. The Fulton native and former Southern Miss star is the active leader in hits among Mississippi-born players in MLB with 954 through six-plus seasons. Notching a thousand career hits is an impressive feat, requiring a combination of skill, opportunity and longevity. Dozier, 32 in May, will need another six or so productive seasons to reach 2,000 hits, which only four Mississippi-born players have managed to do. Grenada native Dave Parker tops that list with 2,712, followed by Ellisville’s Buddy Myer (2,131), Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks (2,107) and Greenville’s Frank White (2,006). Dozier, who’ll play second base for the Washington Nationals in 2019, could also reach another hits milestone this season. The record for a USM alum is 1,142, by Jim Davenport. Kevin Young is second with 1,007. … Former Mississippi State star Rafael Palmeiro is among the 32 players with 3,000 hits; his 3,020 are by far the most by a Mississippi college alumnus. Ex-Bulldogs great Will Clark had 2,176. The most by an Ole Miss product is 1,991 by Gee Walker, a Gulfport native who played in the 1930s and ’40s. Don Kessinger had 1,931. Dave Clark leads Jackson State alums with 518. … Amory’s Mitch Moreland, another Mississippi State product, is No. 2 on the state’s active hits list with 857. (Jackson’s Seth Smith, presumably retired, is sitting on 934.) Moreland, Boston first baseman, probably won’t get to 1,000 this year – his career-high for a season is 131 – but should make it in 2020. … … Bobby Abreu, who played for the Jackson Generals in the mid-’90s, is the leader, with 2,470 hits, among former Jackson area Double-A players. Hubie Brooks leads former Jackson Mets with 1,608, and Brian McCann, still active, is tops among ex-Mississippi Braves with 1,521.

18 Feb

numbers of note

So many numbers to absorb in the young college season, but there is one that blinks like a blinkin’ beacon: 0.89. That would be Delta State’s staff ERA nine games — and nine wins — into the year. Hunter Riggins, a sophomore from Hernando, is leading the way with two wins and a spotless ERA.
Another shiny object: 17,660, the total attendance for the two dates at newly renovated Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, where Mississippi State celebrated its rich history and also found time to bushwhack Youngstown State in three games, outscoring the Penguins 36-5. Tanner Allen moved to the top in the way-too-early Ferriss Trophy race, going 7-for-13 with two homers and a ridiculous 13 RBIs.
At Oxford, Ole Miss drew 17,634 faithful for its two-game split with Wright State. Thomas Dillard, junior from Oxford, went 5-for-6 with a homer for the Rebels.
At Hattiesburg, Southern Miss swept Purdue in three games — starting with an epic walk-off in Friday’s opener — as 11,030 turned out at Taylor Park. Hunter Slater paced the Golden Eagles’ attack with eight hits, including a homer, with four RBIs and four runs.
In Clinton, Mississippi College lost two of three to Quincy, surrendering 29 runs. But only one of those runs was allowed by Ryan Lane, who turned in a two-hit, 11-strikeout performance in the 7-3 Choctaws’ lone victory.
There was no joy at Braddy Field in Jackson, where the J-State Tigers lost three games to Boston College, which was visiting the Magnolia State for the first time since winning the NCAA Oxford Regional in 2016.
Meanwhile, Millsaps (1-5) went on the road and allowed 38 runs in three losses. William Carey University (3-7) went on the road and scored just two runs total in a pair of losses to LSU-Alexandria.

16 Feb

spring flings

A must-follow story in this spring training is Aaron Barrett’s comeback attempt with the Washington Nationals. Sidelined much of the last three years by a couple of major arm injuries, the ex-Ole Miss standout threw a bullpen session in the Nats’ Florida camp this week. “(T)his was a good first step,” the 31-year-old right-hander told nbcsports.com while acknowledging he still faces a long road back to The Show. Barrett was a ninth-round pick by Washington out of UM in 2010, quickly established himself as a prospect and made the big leagues in 2014. In 90 games over two seasons with the Nationals, he posted a 3.47 ERA. But an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery and then a horrific fractured arm injury cost him the 2016 and ’17 seasons and almost ended his career. Re-signed by Washington, he finally made it back to the mound in a pro game last summer and wound up with a 1.74 ERA in 20 appearances at the short-season Class A level. Re-signed again, Barrett got a non-roster invitation to big league camp, where he has a lot of folks rooting for him. … Mississippi State product Nate Lowe is not on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster but will be in spring camp getting a long look as the first baseman of the not-too-distant future. Lowe mashed 27 homers, drove in 102 runs and batted .330 over three minor league levels in 2018. Yes, he was the organization’s minor league player of the year — in a loaded farm system — and is now its No. 13 prospect. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound, lefty-swinging first baseman, 23, is starting just his fourth pro season, and the Rays may not want to rush his MLB arrival. Yandy Diaz and Ji-Man Choi are the first-base candidates on the club’s current roster. Should they falter, Lowe stands ready. … Kansas City craves speed, something Billy Hamilton has in abundance. The Royals signed the former Taylorsville High star as a free agent and will deploy him in Kauffman Stadium’s spacious center field. “If you play in our ballpark,” Royals GM Dayton Moore said in an mlb.com piece, “you have to be able to defend. Billy Hamilton will give us that.” Hamilton’s bat, found wanting in Cincinnati, needs to perk up if his speed is to be impactful on the bases. After averaging almost 60 bags a season over four years, Hamilton’s total fell to 34 last season. It wasn’t because he has slowed down or that the Reds were holding him back. “You got to get on base to run,” Hamilton told mlb.com. “It’s not their fault. It’s all on me.” He hit .236 in 2018 with a .299 on-base percentage. He has a .298 career OBP.

14 Feb

what’s new in new season

Each of the state’s Big 3 is ranked in multiple preseason polls, testament to the talent they return from championship teams in 2018. But there will be opportunities for newcomers to step up. With the start of the 2019 NCAA Division I season upon us, here are some newbies of note at Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss: At State, freshman J.T. Ginn should need no introduction. Already pegged as a second-team All-America by Baseball America, the ex-Brandon High star — and first-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers last June — is expected to pitch and hit for the Bulldogs. Slightly less heralded among the State newcomers is Gunner Halter, a junior college transfer who could also have a major impact. The son of former major leaguer Shane Halter, Gunner figures to start at second base. He goes 6 feet 3, 180 pounds and slugged 29 homers in two years at Seminole (Okla.) State. He was drafted in 2017 and 2018. “He can do a lot of special things,” State coach Chris Lemonis said of Halter at media day. … The newcomer generating most of the buzz at Ole Miss is Gunnar Hoglund, the two-way star from Florida who was the 36th overall pick by Pittsburgh in last summer’s draft. But another freshman to watch is outfielder Josh Hall. Considering how stacked the Rebels are in the outfield, Hall may find playing time hard to come by, but he has a certain set of skills that could prove valuable. The Alabama native set a national prep record with 224 career steals, including 82 bags as a senior. In addition to his speed, he is also reputed to be a great bunter. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Hall was a first-team prep All-America pick and his state’s Class 6A player of the year. … At USM, true freshman Danny Lynch is expected to start at third base, filling the job vacated by C-USA hitter of the year and pro draftee Luke Reynolds. Florida native Lynch is the younger brother of ex-USM star Tim Lynch, who played three years in the New York Yankees’ system. Danny Lynch, listed at 6 feet 2, 225 pounds, is expected to provide some left-handed power for the Golden Eagles. “We really just have this great lineup. It’s easy, I just have to go out and play my role,” Lynch told the school newspaper, the Student Printz.

13 Feb

boys of spring

Big league camps in Florida and Arizona are buzzing with activity this week, and here’s the list of Mississippi-connected players living the dream:

40-man roster members
Position players
Anthony Alford (Petal), Toronto; Tim Anderson (East Central CC), Chicago White Sox; Bobby Bradley (Harrison Central), Cleveland; Zack Cozart (Ole Miss), Los Angeles Angels; Brian Dozier (Southern Miss), Washington; Corey Dickerson (Meridian CC), Pittsburgh; Jarrod Dyson (Southwest CC), Arizona; Adam Frazier (Mississippi State), Pittsburgh; Billy Hamilton (Taylorsville), Kansas City; JaCoby Jones (Richton), Detroit; Mitch Moreland (MSU), Boston; Hunter Renfroe (MSU), San Diego
Pitchers
Cody Carroll (USM), Baltimore; Chris Ellis (Ole Miss), Kansas City – Rule 5; Kendall Graveman (MSU), Chicago Cubs; Jonathan Holder (MSU), New York Yankees; Dakota Hudson (MSU), St. Louis; Lance Lynn (Ole Miss), Texas; Mike Mayers (Ole Miss), St. Louis; Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss), San Francisco; Cody Reed (Northwest CC), Cincinnati; Justin Steele (George County High), Chicago Cubs; Chris Stratton (MSU), San Francisco; Spencer Turnbull (Madison Central), Detroit; Jacob Waguespack (Ole Miss), Toronto; Bobby Wahl (Ole Miss), Milwaukee; Brandon Woodruff (MSU), Milwaukee

Non-roster invitees
Position players
Trent Giambroni (Delta State), Chicago Cubs; Jack Kruger (MSU), Los Angeles Angels; Braxton Lee (Ole Miss), New York Mets; Nathaniel Lowe (MSU), Tampa Bay; Austin Riley (DeSoto Central), Atlanta; Chuckie Robinson (USM), Houston; Jacob Robson (MSU), Detroit; Brent Rooker (MSU), Minnesota; Kade Scivicque (Southwest CC), Detroit
Pitchers
Aaron Barrett (Ole Miss), Washington; Louis Coleman (Pillow Academy), Detroit; Scott Copeland (USM), Washington; Tim Dillard (Itawamba CC), Texas; Zac Houston (MSU), Detroit; Jacob Lindgren (MSU), Chicago White Sox; Dalton Moats (Delta State), Tampa Bay

11 Feb

small talk

So, who won the weekend among the small colleges? Gotta go Delta State, which remained undefeated (5-0) with wins on Saturday over Southern Arkansas and Henderson State in an event at Arkadelphia, Ark.; David Herrington is raking at a .471 clip for the Statesmen, and Darek Sargent is hitting .412 with 10 RBIs. … Props also to Mississippi College, which moved to 6-1 by taking three of four from Lindenwood, including a sweep by the counts of 15-2 and 10-0 on Sunday. Garrett Hollinghead and Zack Ingram provided the pitching brilliance for the Choctaws, and Blaine Crim homered in both games. Crim is batting .346; Billy Cameron leads the MC attack at .417. … Belhaven opened its season by going 2-1 at Smith-Wills Stadium, including a Saturday upset of Rhodes, which is nationally ranked in NCAA Division III. Trip Benson had the game-tying and winning RBIs for the Blazers. … Millsaps, led by a four-hit effort from William Wagner, opened its season with a win over LeTourneau on Saturday but squandered an early lead on Sunday and fell 17-7 to Maryville. … Blue Mountain split four games with Central Baptist and is now 5-2-1. Trey Hathaway is 10-for-30 with six doubles and six RBIs for the Toppers. … One of the best individual performances of the weekend was delivered by William Carey’s J.C. Sanner, who threw a three-hit shutout at NAIA nationally ranked Campbellsville. The Crusaders are off to a 3-5 start. … Tougaloo lost three at NAIA power LSU-Shreveport to fall to 0-5.

08 Feb

on the juco watch

The bull’s-eye will be on Meridian Community College at the start of the juco season in Mississippi. The Eagles, who open Monday against Spring Hill JV in Mobile, are ranked No. 4 in the nation by the NJCAA and No. 9 by Collegiate Baseball. Dillon Sudduth’s Eagles finished 39-13 in 2018 and reached the Division II Region 23 Tournament final. Gone from that club are Milton Smith Jr., Davis Bradshaw and Trace Jordan, but a strong pitching staff led by David Dunn and Luke Wallner (both 6-game winners in 2018) fuels the cause for optimism this year. Houston Parker and Keegan Westbrook are among a small group of returning position players. … Defending state champion Pearl River CC, which opens Sunday at home against nationally ranked Jefferson College, is ranked eighth by the NJCAA and 13th by CB. PRCC features a pair of aces: Shemar Page, a 10-game winner in 2018, and Miles Smith, who won six times. Former Wildcats star Braxton Lee, who made his big league debut last spring, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for PRCC’s opener. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC is ranked 14th by the NJCAA. “Somebody thinks we’re pretty good, so we’ve got a lot to live up to,” Bulldogs coach Rodney Batts said in a school release. It helps that his team returns slugger Brandon Parker, the NJCAA D-II player of the year in 2018. Gulf Coast launches on Saturday at home against Jefferson College. … Jones County JC, ranked 15th in the Collegiate Baseball poll, hosts Coastal Alabama-East on Tuesday. The Bobcats’ sparkplug is Trace Henry, a .399 hitter who stole 39 bases and scored 60 runs in 2018. … Itawamba CC, which was ranked second in the nation early in 2018, isn’t currently ranked but shouldn’t be overlooked. The Indians return lefty Houston Harding, a nine-game winner and a Mississippi State signee, and top slugger LaBryant Siddell, who hit .348 with six homers. … Another player to watch in the MACJC is Southwest CC’s Michael Buck, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound sophomore who hit .387 with six homers last year. He is a Delta State signee.

08 Feb

around the horn

Tony Sipp, the veteran left-hander out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College who is unsigned for 2019, might be a nice fit with the New York Mets. “(A)s the final addition to a bullpen that has seen three major acquisitions this season, Sipp makes perfect sense,” a blogger writes on amazinavenue.com. “He’d give the Mets a 7th inning option that projects as above-average and has a recent track record of elite performance. … At a cost of $5 million or less, Sipp would make for a great last move.” Sipp is 35 with a career ERA of 3.67 and is coming off a strong 2018 season, when he put up a 1.86 ERA for Houston. Mickey Callaway’s Mets already have added free agent lefties Justin Wilson and Luis Avilan (a former Mississippi Braves star) to their bullpen mix. … Add Mississippi State product Nate Lowe and Delta State alums Dalton Moats and Trent Giambrone to the list of Mississippians receiving non-roster invitations to big league camp. Lowe and Moats are in the Tampa Bay system, Giambrone in the Chicago Cubs’. … Perfect Game lists three Mississippi natives on its High School All-America First Team, though only two of them play ball in the state. Jerrion Ealy, the much-ballyhooed senior at Jackson Prep, and Blaze Jordan, the power-hitting sophomore at DeSoto Central, made the grade, as did Kendall Williams, an Olive Branch native who plays for IMG Academy in Florida. Hayden Dunhurst of Pearl River Central made PG’s second team. PG ranks DeSoto Central (No. 20) and Gulfport (No. 32) in its preseason Top 50. … The final showing of “Kansas City: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues” is slated for Sunday at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson. The show, hosted by the City of Jackson Department of Parks and Recreation Champion Dance Center and Montage Theatre of Dance from Hinds Community College, is a musical presentation that, per the billing, “will retell the story of Black baseball greats such as Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball, is chosen by Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers who is determined to integrate the league.” Mississippi, it is worth noting, produced a fair number of Negro Leagues stars, including Hall of Famer Cool Papa Bell, who worked with Robinson as he prepared to join the Dodgers, Hall of Famer William Foster, Howard Easterling, Sam Hairston, Rufus Lewis, Dave Hoskins and Luke Easter, the first black Mississippian in the majors.