Here are a few names to know heading into the weekend: Cameron Baranek, Dominick Cammarata and Wes Degener. … Baranek is the leading hitter for Hope International, which is William Carey University’s first-round opponent on Friday in the NAIA World Series at Lewiston, Idaho. Baranek is batting .356 with 13 homers for a Royals team that is playing just its second season. The California-based Royals (35-16) can mash (66 homers) and dash (101 steals), but their pitching staff has a 4.48 ERA. … Cammarata is the hitting star for Pitt (N.C.) Community College, which is Hinds CC’s first-round foe on Saturday in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla. Cammarata has put up a .349 average, 17 homers and 69 RBIs for a Bulldogs team that is 41-7 with 16 straight wins. … Degener is the catalyst for Lindenwood (Mo.) University, which is Delta State’s first-round opponent on Saturday in the NCAA Division II World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas. Degener is hitting .399 with 21 steals and 54 runs for the Lions (39-18), who won the Central Region title in their first regional appearance. … But enough about those guys. Here are some picks to click for the home boys: Adrian Brown, Quinton Logan and Clay Casey. … Brown, Carey’s senior center fielder from McComb, does a lot of things in a loaded lineup that also features James Land and a band of Tylers (Graves, Odom, James). Brown is hitting .300 with four homers, 16 doubles, five triples, 44 RBIs, 60 runs and 36 steals. If the Crusaders make a run in Lewiston, Brown will be in the thick of things. … Logan, a sophomore from Natchez, is not Hinds CC’s best hitter – that’s Jackson Mitchell (.385, six homers) — and he’s not the Eagles’ ace – that’s Caleb Morgan (8-1, 2.23). Logan is a two-way threat for Hinds, posting a 1.19 ERA and seven saves and a .333 batting average with 11 doubles, 47 RBIs and 42 runs. Somehow, someway, he’ll be a factor in any success in Enid. … Casey, a transfer from Houston (by way of Northwest CC and DeSoto Central), has had a big year for Delta State that has been largely overshadowed by the ginormous year enjoyed by Zack Shannon. Casey is batting .346 (.673 slugging) with 17 bombs, 62 RBIs and 58 runs. If Shannon gets pitched around in Grand Prairie, Casey is certainly capable of picking up any slack.
Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier, a Georgia boy, homered at Atlanta’s new launching pad, SunTrust Park, on Thursday to help Pittsburgh beat the Braves 9-4. Frazier also homered on Wednesday in another Pirates victory. All told, he was 4-for-13 in the four-game series with seven walks, five runs and six RBIs. Frazier is batting .361 in 28 games. … Hunter Renfroe, a Mississippi boy who also played at State, continues to swing a big bat for San Diego. Including a 2-for-4 effort on Thursday in a win against the New York Mets, the Crystal Springs native is batting .316 with three homers, seven RBIs and nine runs in his last 10 games. He’s at .232 with nine bombs. … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz delivered a much-needed quality start for Boston, which beat Texas 6-2 at Fenway Park. After three straight wobbly efforts, Pomeranz went six innings, allowing two runs on four hits and fanning 11. “Felt lost for a couple of starts,” Pomeranz told The Associated Press. A Red Sox broadcaster called Thursday’s outing a “clinic of curveballs.” It was also a clinic of punchouts, as the Rangers whiffed 20 times against five Boston pitchers. Former Mississippi Braves standout Craig Kimbrel struck out four – yes, four – in the ninth inning. He has retired 53 of the last 56 batters he has faced and now has 40 K’s in 20 2/3 innings with a 0.87 ERA. … Gregor Blanco, one of the three original M-Braves (2005) still playing, has filled in nicely as the center fielder and leadoff batter for Arizona with A.J. Pollock out. Blanco went 3-for-4 with a home run on Thursday in a win over Milwaukee. He is batting .293 with three steals in 16 games. … With Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki expected to be activated from the disabled list today by Toronto, Ole Miss alum Chris Coghlan’s roster spot might be in jeopardy.
Dakota Hudson, a dominant starter at Mississippi State, has handled the move to pro ball with aplomb. Working in Double-A in his first full season in the St. Louis system, Hudson is 2-2 with a 3.35 ERA for Springfield. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is scheduled to start tonight, after a nine-day layoff, at Corpus Christi in a Texas League game. The 34th overall pick last June is already a top 10 prospect in the Cardinals’ organization. “He challenges hitters, and he relies on and trusts the stuff he has,” farm director Gary LaRocque told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In 40 1/3 innings over seven starts, Hudson has 36 strikeouts and 12 walks. The Cardinals eased Hudson into pro ball last summer, pitching him in relief. In 13 1/3 innings at two levels, he registered an 0.68 ERA, two wins and three saves. He got a look in big league spring camp this year and made an impression, especially with his signature slider, according to a recent Baseball America story. “As good as advertised,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
Long, loud home runs – like the ones hit by Hunter Renfroe and Adam Frazier on Wednesday night – are exciting. Scoring from first on a single – as Billy Hamilton did – moves the needle even more. Ex-Taylorsville High standout Hamilton raced home on a two-out bloop hit by Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart in the ninth inning, giving Cincinnati a 4-3 lead – and ultimately a victory — at Cleveland. Hamilton’s ludicrous speed had already had an impact. He beat a throw to first base on a potential double play that would have ended the game. Initially called out, he was correctly ruled safe after replay review. When Cozart’s hit dropped in front of a sprawling Michael Brantley in left field, Hamilton scored easily. “Not many other guys are going to beat that ball out or score that run, but that’s Billy Hamilton,” Reds manager Bryan Price said in an Associated Press story. Despite taking an 0-for-4 Wednesday, Hamilton is hitting .295 over his last 10 games, boosting his average to .258. He leads MLB in steals with 23 and is second on the Reds in runs with 34 in 43 games. P.S. From the Didn’t See That Coming Department: Southern Miss, which had blasted Texas-San Antonio in a three-game sweep last weekend, lost to the Roadrunnners 9-2 in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament in Biloxi. Top-seeded USM (44-13) might not need to win the tournament to secure a host bid for an NCAA regional, but going 2-and-out could really hurt.
The day after getting his first big league knock, former Petal High star Anthony Alford has landed on the disabled list with a fractured hamate bone in his left wrist. Reports say Alford could be out six weeks. One of Toronto’s highest-rated prospects, Alford was batting .325 with three homers, 11 RBIs and nine steals in his Double-A debut when he was called up last week. He is 1-for-8 for the Blue Jays. The 22-year-old outfielder has been snakebit with injury issues the last two seasons.
By the numbers and under the circumstances, it was Lance Lynn’s best start of the season and among the best in his seven-year big league career. Alas, the Ole Miss product got a no-decision and his team, the St. Louis Cardinals, took a loss, 2-1 in 13 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Lynn went up against Clayton Kershaw in a battle of aces at Dodger Stadium and certainly held his own. In eight innings – 123 pitches – Lynn allowed just two hits and one run – a homer by Yasmani Grandal in the first inning – while striking out 10. Kershaw went nine, also struck out 10 and yielded just three hits. But a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth cost him a run and sent the game into extra innings. “(Y)ou knew when we headed into this, I figured it was going to be a well-pitched game on both sides,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told The Associated Press. “It was just going to be who got that big hit, and it was them.” Specifically, that would be a Logan Forsythe RBI double in the 13th. Lynn, a pending free agent who missed 2016 after Tommy John surgery, is 4-2 with a 2.53 ERA and 50 punchouts in 53 1/3 innings. P.S. Mark it down: Former Petal High star Anthony Alford got his first MLB hit on Tuesday, a pinch double in the seventh inning for Toronto against Milwaukee’s Rob Scahill.
Mississippi is having a heck of a year on the college diamonds, and it ain’t over yet. Southern Miss’ Dylan Burdeaux won Conference USA player of the year honors today, giving the state four such honorees. Burdeaux joins Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker (SEC), Delta State’s Zack Shannon (Gulf South) and William Carey’s James Land (SSAC) as top dogs in their league. (Rooker beat out Burdeaux and Shannon for the Ferriss Trophy that goes to the state’s best player.) For what it’s worth, Jackson State’s Bryce Brown had a pretty good case for SWAC POY, and Itawamba Community College’s Tyreque Reed (a State commit) led NJCAA Division II in hitting with an amazing .504 average. DSU, Carey and Hinds CC are all bound for the World Series at their respective levels. The NCAA Division I schools are only just beginning their quest for Omaha, with USM looking like it might have a realistic shot.