27 Feb

throwing an ace

Keep an eye this season on Derek Thompson, a senior right-hander at William Carey. Thompson beat Tougaloo today with a three-hit shutout, fanning seven over his seven innings of work. Thompson, from Mendenhall, is 5-0 in five starts for a Crusaders team that has won 11 games. Now that’s an ace. He also reduced his ERA to 1.57.
P.S. Back to the big leagues: Former Southern Miss star Jarrett Hoffpauir had a couple of hits for the St. Louis Cardinals today in a spring game that was televised on the MLB Network. Considering the Cardinals’ unsettled situation at second base, Hoffpauir may have a real shot at making the big club. He had a solid year at Triple-A Memphis in 2008, hitting .273.

25 Feb

a few atta-boys

Former Ole Miss standout Stephen Head, who apparently received a late invitation to the Cleveland Indians’ spring camp, homered in his first and only at-bat Wednesday. The Indians lost to San Francisco 10-7, and former Mississippi State pitcher Brandon Medders got the win for the Giants with 2 scoreless innings. … Meridian CC alumnus Jason Smith. a non-roster invitee with Houston, had a hit and an RBI while playing shortstop for the Astros in their win over Washington. … Jackson native Donald Veal, a Rule 5 draftee now on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster, got the win for the Pirates against Philadelphia. … And former (probably) Mississippi Brave Jordan Schafer homered for Atlanta in its loss to Detroit.

25 Feb

at long last

Baseball fans are in heaven today. The desolate weeks of winter are officially over: Spring training games have begun. The Braves are playing the Tigers on XM radio at this very moment. They have two on with two out in the top of the first. Former Mississippi Brave Jeff Francoeur is up – and he bounces out to end the inning. Hope that’s not an omen, Braves fans. A big issue in Atlanta camp after the signing of free agent Garret Anderson is what happens to former M-Braves Brandon Jones and Gregor Blanco in a crowded outfield. Jones had a tough year in 2008, split between Triple-A and Atlanta. He has such a sweet left-handed swing, yet he needs to hit for more power as a left fielder. That may come as he matures. Atlanta should not give up on him. Speed is Blanco’s main skill; the enduring image of Blanco from his days at Trustmark Park is of him hitting a ball to one of those deep gaps and scooting around the bases for a triple. He can fly. He hit .251 in 144 big league games as a rookie in 2008. But he is primarily a center fielder, and the Braves have Josh Anderson and Jordan Schafer (not to mention rising star Gorkys Hernandez) lined up to bid for that job, as well. That doesn’t bode well for Blanco’s future in the organization. … Meanwhile, back on XM, the Braves have fallen behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Yeesh.

23 Feb

opening acts

Just a quick review, complete with grades, of how Mississippi’s Big 3 Division I schools fared in their openers over the weekend.
Southern Miss: A+. They pitched, they hit, they fielded. You can’t do much better than what the Golden Eagles did in their 3-game sweep of Lehigh. Granted, USM was at home. Perhaps the competition wasn’t great. But still, USM won 18-1, 13-0 and 12-2. That’s pretty darned impressive.
Mississippi State: B. The Bulldogs went 3-1, beating North Florida twice and splitting with Northern Illinois, all at Dudy Noble Field. They won new coach John Cohen’s debut, which was very important. And they capped the weekend with Jet Butler’s walk-off homer. But they gave up 11 runs in one game and seven in another. That’s an indication that Cohen has some work to do in building a pitching staff.
Ole Miss: C. And that’s a generous C. The nationally ranked Rebels went 1-2 in a tournament at Mobile. They lost 3-2 to South Alabama and 13-11 to Mercer. In the one win, Ole Miss blew an early 4-0 lead and a 5-4 lead before beating Liberty 6-5. Yes, it’s a marathon not a sprint, but that’s not the kind of start the Rebels wanted.
P.S. Give Jackson State a B for winning two of three at Florida A&M.; It’s just so hard to gauge JSU baseball; the Tigers program would be better served in many ways if it played more early season games outside the ranks of historically black schools.

22 Feb

all kidding aside

It would have made a great April Fool’s Day story. Alas, it’s only February. In case you missed it, David Dellucci, the former Ole Miss standout now with the Cleveland Indians, is going to be stalled for a brief while because of a cut on his left thumb. Dellucci told some enraptured reporters on Saturday that he was injured while saving a small boy from an attacking alligator. He was kidding. The truth, he would admit, was that he hurt his thumb slamming the tailgate on a trailer as he packed for spring training last week. The wound required stitches, and Dellucci reportedly will miss the Indians’ first three spring games. No big deal. Maybe. The 35-year-old Dellucci is no lock to make the Indians’ 25-man club. He is entering the last year of an $11.5 million contract and coming off a season in which he hit just .238 as the semi-regular left fielder. He missed most of 2007 with an injury. The Indians have some young players bidding for spots this spring. Dellucci, who is with his sixth team since breaking into the big leagues in 1997, could wind up looking for a seventh. No fooling.

19 Feb

great game, take 1

A nomination for College Game of the Year, Mississippi Division: Delta State 7, William Carey 6, Wednesday, at WCU’s Milton Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. The stars: For DSU, Devin Goodwin (game-tying homer in the seventh); Will McGinnis (go-ahead pinch homer in the ninth); and Levi Bishop (3 strikeouts in the ninth for the save). For Carey, Jason Terrell (4 RBIs). The plot: Carey leads early 4-1. DSU goes up 5-4. Carey recaptures the lead 6-5 and takes it into the seventh. Enter the tragic figure: Carey’s Matt Carter, who surrenders the homers to Goodwin and McGinnis, the only runs he allowed in five innings of work. Best supporting actor: DSU’s Nathan Hardy, who throws three scoreless innings before allowing two baserunners in the ninth. The compelling closing scene: Bishop, a senior by way of Saltillo and Itawamba CC, fans the top of the Carey order. Curtain falls. Wish you’d been there? Of course.
P.S. The junior college season is young but already two no-hitters have been posted. Copiah-Lincoln’s Joseph Evans threw one (a five-inning game) against East Mississippi on Feb. 11, and last Sunday, East Central’s Timothy Maloney (5 innings), Scott Lowrey (1) and Quin Stokes (1) teamed up for one, also against EMCC.

13 Feb

a stumbling start

Spring training hasn’t even begun yet and already another Mississippian in the big leagues has gone down with an injury. Nettleton native Bill Hall will be sidelined 4-6 weeks because of a calf injury, the Milwaukee Brewers announced today. Hall, expected to be Milwaukee’s regular third baseman, apparently was injured while working out on his own. He got a fat contract after blasting 35 home runs for the Brewers in 2006 but has struggled ever since. He hit just .254 with 14 homers in 2007 and .225 with 15 last year. This is not the kind of start he wanted to his 2009 campaign.