Mississippi College’s dormant offense awoke on Tuesday, putting up 15 hits and a season-high 16 runs in a wild win over Millsaps. The Choctaws’ 16-10 victory squared the Maloney Trophy Series; all three schools (Belhaven included) are now 1-1. Every MC starter had at least one hit and six had two. Spencer Brunson belted his second homer of the year, and Jeremy Simmons drove in three runs. … Hinds Community College’s Beau Wallace, a sophomore from Vicksburg, had a six-hit day on Monday as the Eagles swept a pair of games from Panola (Texas) CC in Ruston, La. The 8-2 Eagles will play Northeast, which swept second-ranked Jones County last weekend, on Thursday. … The Mid-Mississippi Baseball Classic, featuring 18 top high school teams from the Magnolia State and Alabama, is slated to begin Thursday and run through Saturday. Five sites in the Jackson metro area are being used: Northwest Rankin, Brandon, Pearl, Madison Central and Jackson Academy. In addition to those schools, Terry, Clinton, Warren Central, Vicksburg, Brookhaven, Pascagoula and North Pike are participating. A full schedule can be found at www.northwestrankinbaseball.com.
Joe Terdoslavich, a strong candidate to make the Mississippi Braves’ roster this spring, is working out at third base as a non-roster invitee in Atlanta’s camp. The switch-hitting slugger, rated the top power hitter in the Braves’ minor league system by Baseball America, apparently will move from first base to third this season. “It’s not tough,” he told mlb.com. “I’ve played it my whole life. Third base is like hitting. It’s a reaction position.” Terdoslavich played third in high school and again at Long Beach State before Atlanta drafted him in the sixth round in 2010. He played primarly outfield during a season at Miami (Fla.) in 2008 and was a first baseman last season at Class A Lynchburg. Terdoslavich batted .286 with 20 homers and a Carolina League-record 52 doubles in his first full pro season. He isn’t rated among the Braves’ Top 10 prospects but certainly will be a player to watch this season in Pearl.
Just some eye-opening numbers from the college season: Mississippi State, off to a 6-1 start (every game in Starkville), has a staff ERA of 1.88. … Southern Miss, 4-3 after taking two of three from Troy this weekend, has a staff ERA of 1.65. … Golden Eagles freshman Mason Robbins, Mr. Baseball last season at George County, is hitting .417. … Alex Yarbrough is off to a .385 start for Ole Miss, 5-1 after a weekend sweep of UNC-Wilmington. … Delta State is 8-1 (the only defeat coming at the hands of NCAA Division II No. 1 Tampa on Saturday) and is averaging 11.3 runs per game. … Anthony Doss is hitting .413 with 19 runs and 15 RBIs for 14-5 Belhaven, which won two of three at Truett-McConnell in Southern States Athletic Conference play this weekend. … Slow-starting Mississippi College won two of three from Hardin-Simmons to reach 4-6; the Choctaws’ top four pitchers have ERAs under 2.50. … Will Edwards, an East Mississippi Community College transfer, is 2-1 with a 1.56 ERA for Millsaps, which is 8-2. … William Carey (7-7) has gotten 15 RBIs from Mitch Bohon, a junior from West Point. … Charles Epperson was 4-for-14 with six RBIs for Jackson State (3-4) in a four-game series at Morehead State; five of his RBIs came in the only game JSU won, a 16-0 romp on Saturday. … Jones County Junior College, ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA preseason poll, was swept in a doubleheader at home by Northeast CC on Saturday. The Bobcats are 6-4.
Today’s subject: Bob Didier. The Hattiesburg native reached the major leagues in 1969 at the age of 20, helping the Atlanta Braves win the National League West as their regular catcher. Didier, a switch-hitter who was drafted in the fourth round by the Braves in 1967, batted .256, drove in 32 runs and scored 30 in 114 games as a rookie. But whatever he had that year, he quickly lost. He batted just .149 in 1970 and .219 in 1971 as first Hal King and then Earl Williams displaced him behind the plate. Didier wound up moving to Detroit in 1973 and then finishing his career with Boston in ’74. Final batting average: .229. He never homered in the majors. He spent many years as a manager in the minor leagues.
P.S. Tyler Pastornicky was the 58th Mississippi Braves alumnus to rise to the major leagues, though he did not play a game in Atlanta last season. He figures to be the starting shortstop on opening day, however. Who’ll be the next M-Braves alum to make The Show? Watch out for Gorkys Hernandez and Paul Clemens. Hernandez, who played a splendid center field and hit .310 for the 2009 M-Braves, is on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster and will vie for a job this spring. Clemens, among the plethora of strong arms that passed through Pearl last summer, is on Houston’s 40-man. The rebuilding Astros might have a spot for him very soon. … Two of Ole Miss’ prep recruits for 2013 made Baseball America’s preseason All-America first team: catcher Stryker Trahan from Lafayette, La., and infielder Gavin Cecchini from Lake Charles, La. A third Rebels recruit, right-hander Ty Hensley of Edmond, Okla., was a second-team pick. The only Mississippian on the chart is Petal outfielder Anthony Alford, a Southern Miss signee who made the BA third team.
The season is so young and, yet, there is an important series this weekend in Clinton. Mississippi College, off to a sluggish start, faces Hardin-Simmons in a three-game set (twinbill today, single game Saturday) at Frierson Field. The Choctaws are 2-5. They’re hitting .235 with no home runs. The staff ERA is 4.78. They’ve made 16 errors, eight by third baseman Spencer Brunson, one of the team’s best players. “Weird” is how Brian Owens describes it. “We’ve been totally different in games than in practices.” There are a lot of new faces on this club, with very few remaining from the one that won a school-record 39 games in 2010. MC was nationally ranked in NCAA Division III in preseason in 2011 but started slow and wound up 24-18. Owens thinks this team can improve on that win total. He has a lot of experienced pitchers on hand, which could be key. “One or two games can get it turned around,” Owens said. Maybe it’ll happen this weekend.
Here is the list of Mississippians (natives or college alums) in major league camps — officially — this spring.
40-man roster members
Julio Borbon (Starkville), Texas; Chris Coghlan (Ole Miss), Miami; Zack Cozart (Ole Miss), Cincinnati; Jarrod Dyson (Southwest CC), Kansas City; Desmond Jennings (Itawamba CC), Tampa Bay; Tyler Moore (Mississippi State), Washington; Mitch Moreland (MSU), Texas; Alex Presley (Ole Miss), Pittsburgh; Seth Smith (Ole Miss), Oakland; Craig Tatum (MSU), Arizona; Eli Whiteside (Delta State), San Francisco
Robert Carson (Hattiesburg), New York Mets; Louis Coleman (Schlater/Pillow Academy), Kansas City; Tim Dillard (Itawamba CC), Milwaukee; Cliff Lee (Meridian CC), Philadelphia; Lance Lynn (Ole Miss), St. Louis; Paul Maholm (MSU), Chicago Cubs; Matt Maloney (Ole Miss), Minnesota; Jonathan Papelbon (MSU), Philadelphia; Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss), Colorado; Tony Sipp (Gulf Coast CC), Cleveland; Donnie Veal (Jackson), Chicago White Sox
Brian Dozier (USM), Minnesota; Ed Easley (MSU), Arizona; Bill Hall (Nettleton), New York Yankees; Jarrett Hoffpauir (Southern Miss), Washington; Fred Lewis (Gulf Coast CC), Cleveland; Edwin Maysonet (DSU), Milwaukee; Paul Phillips (Meridian CC), Milwaukee; Matt Tolbert (Ole Miss), Chicago Cubs
Dusty Hughes (DSU), Atlanta
As yet unsigned
Roy Oswalt (Holmes CC)
Today’s subject: Kevin Rogers. The left-hander from Cleveland and Mississippi Delta Community College posted a 3.17 career ERA in the majors. Unfortunately, his career lasted just 79 games over three seasons. He was a ninth-round pick by the San Francisco Giants out of MDCC in 1988, passed through Jackson and Smith-Wills Stadium as a Shreveport Captain in 1991 and made his major league debut in 1992. Rogers was undone in 1994 by a blod clot in his arm; he had rung up a 2.63 ERA in 64 games for San Francisco in 1993 and looked to be a fixture in the big leagues. But he missed most of the ’94 and ’95 seasons, and his attempted comebacks finally ended in 1998. What a shame.
P.S. Don’t be surprised if Blue Mountain, in its second season, improves on the 16-35 (4-20 TranSouth Conference) record it finished with in 2011. Coach Curt Fowler has the Toppers on the right path. With Seth Kennedy (.353 last season) and Gardner Richey (a transfer from Division I Samford) in the lineup, BMC will hit. … Noticed that former Jackson Generals ace Scott Elarton is in Philadelphia’s camp as a non-roster invitee. He is one of a handful of ex-Gens still playing: Lance Berkman, Bobby Abreu, Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, Julio Lugo and Raul Chavez are the others. Ramon Castro played in 2011 but is unsigned. Melvin Mora retired during last season.
Players are flocking to major league camps in Florida and Arizona, and the first spring training games are just around the corner. Baseball is blooming again.
It’s an exhilarating time for many Mississippians in the game. Take Tyler Moore, for instance. The former Northwest Rankin High, Meridian Community College and Mississippi State star is in big league camp officially for the first time, having made the Washington Nationals’ 40-man roster in the off-season.
“It’s a blessing,” Moore said in a recent interview. “I’m really excited about it.”
Moore played at the Double-A level in 2011. He enhanced his stock with the organization by blasting 62 homers over the past two seasons — but he’s a longshot to make the Nationals’ 25-man roster this spring. He’s just happy to be there. His time will come.
Jonathan Papelbon (another MSU product), Paul Maholm (MSU) and Seth Smith (Ole Miss) are in new places where they’ll be key figures this season. Papelbon, the former Boston closer, signed with Philadelphia and Maholm, a starting pitcher, with the Chicago Cubs as free agents. Smith, an outfielder, moved to Oakland in a trade.
Itawamba Community College product Desmond Jennings, who had big league trials the past two seasons, is likely to break camp with Tampa Bay as a starting outfielder for the first time. Lance Lynn, an Ole Miss alumnus, won a ring with St. Louis last year and is expected to have a role in the Cardinals’ bullpen again.
Zach Cozart, another ex-Rebels star, will be given every opportunity to claim the starting shortstop job with Cincinnati after an injury-curtailed 2011 debut. Southern Miss alumnus Brian Dozier, a top prospect for Minnesota, will be in camp as a non-roster invitee and will battle for a job in the Twins’ infield. He’s another whose time will come.
For quite a few other Mississippians, there is some anxiety this spring. Delta State product Eli Whiteside faces a fight for the backup catcher job in San Francisco, as does ex-MSU standout Craig Tatum with Arizona. Neither is assured of a big league roster spot when camp breaks.
Southwest Mississippi CC’s Jarrod Dyson (Kansas City), Starkville native Julio Borbon (Texas), Ole Miss’ Alex Presley (Pittsburgh) and UM’s Chris Coghlan (Miami) are all young outfielders on 40-man rosters who could wind up back in the minors if they don’t have a strong spring.
Former Rebels hurler Matt Maloney, a waiver claim by Minnesota from Cincinnati last October, faces a similar fate in Twins camp.
Even more stressful is the situation confronting the likes of Delta State’s Dusty Hughes (Atlanta), Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s Fred Lewis (Cleveland), Nettleton native Bill Hall (New York Yankees), Ole Miss’ Matt Tolbert (Chicago Cubs) and USM’s Jarrett Hoffpauir (Washington).
All are going to big league camps on minor league contracts. They face high hurdles in making the 25-man opening day roster and could even be released if things don’t go well.
There were quite a few strong opening acts by individuals on Friday, when the state’s NCAA Division I schools opened play. Top of the list: Alcorn State’s Joshua Powell went 4-for-4 with three RBIs as the Braves rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat Air Force 7-5 in LSU’s tournament. … Jackson State’s Charles Epperson had four hits, two runs and two RBIs in the Tigers’ 15-6 win over Florida A&M;, then scored another run in a 2-1 victory against Eastern Illinois. … Ole Miss’ Alex Yarbrough, a .350 hitter in 2011, went 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs to help the Rebels repel TCU 7-4. … Chris Stratton, a weekend starter for Mississippi State last season, pitched a near-perfect four innings out of the bullpen as the Bulldogs topped Washington State 6-2. Darryl Norris had three hits in State’s 11-hit attack. … Highly touted freshman Connor Barron, batting leadoff for Southern Miss, went 2-for-5 with an RBI and freshman pitcher Cody Livingston worked 4 1/3 sparkling innings (one run) in relief in the Golden Eagles’ 5-4 loss to Nicholls State.
P.S. Belhaven’s Anthony Doss is as hot as anyone going right now. The former Southern Miss player, who had an injury plagued season with the Blazers in 2011, was at .404 with 11 runs, 11 RBIs, a homer, two steals and a .462 on-base percentage through 12 games. … Hinds Community College is off to a 4-0 start and has scored 42 runs in the process.
As the state’s NCAA Division I schools begin play, here’s nine things to ponder about the 2012 season:
1) Will Bobby Wahl’s move from the bullpen to the front of the Ole Miss rotation work out?
2) What impact will the Rebels’ new hitting coach, Cliff Godwin, and the new volunteer, ex-Rebels star Stephen Head, have on the UM attack?
3) Is UM freshman outfielder Senquez Golson as good as the Boston Red Sox thought when they offered him all that money to sign last summer?
4) Will Mississippi State’s pitching, which made great strides in 2011 (4.39 ERA), be good enough to carry a questionable offense?
5) Will MSU’s Hunter Renfroe, who blasted an MAIS record 20 homers as a senior at Copiah Academy in 2010, break out this season?
6) What kind of impact will freshmen Mason Robbins (the state’s Mr. Baseball in 2011) and Connor Barron (a third-round draft pick) have at Southern Miss?
7) Can sophomore right-hander Boomer Scarborough, another former state prep legend, be a force for a wiped-out USM pitching staff?
8) Is Alcorn State, which won the SWAC title for the first time in 2011 and returns stalwarts Steve Easter and Eduardo Gonzalez, for reals?
9) What will Jackson State’s diminutive Bahaman, Desmond Russell, do for a sophomore encore after batting .310 with 49 RBIs and posting a 4-6, 4.54 ledger on the mound?
All six D-I’s are in action today: Ole Miss is at TCU, State is home against Washington State, USM hosts Nicholls State, Alcorn plays Air Force in a tournament at LSU and Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State are in the JSU tournament.