It didn’t come with the fanfare of Bryce Harper’s debut on Saturday, but Tyler Moore got his first taste of the big leagues today with Washington and did just fine. The Northwest Rankin High, Meridian Community College and Mississippi State product started in left field and went 1-for-3 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Moore got his hit, a single, in his second at-bat against Chris Capuano. Uber-prospect Harper went 1-for-3 in his Nationals debut. Moore, who blasted 62 home runs the previous two seasons in the minors, had seven in 77 ABs at Triple-A Syracuse when he was called up.
Fred Lewis has signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets and will begin his 2012 season at Triple-A Buffalo. The Stone County and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product was released by Cleveland at the end of spring training. A lefty-hitting outfielder, Lewis batted .231 with Cincinnati last season. He previously played in Toronto and San Francisco and has a .267 career average.
Though the Mississippi Braves continue to have problems scoring runs — they rank last in the Southern League through 20 games — there have been some bright spots in the attack. Ian Gac, the power-hitting first baseman, is batting .314 with two home runs (the club’s only two) and 14 RBIs. Phil Gosselin, a promising second baseman, is hitting .296 and Andrelton Simmons, the hot-shot shortstop, is at .295. All three are first-year Double-A players. On the downside, there is this group, all returnees from the 2011 club: Matt Kennelly, the backup catcher, is batting .194; outfielder Cory Harrilchak is at .191; and outfielder Mycal Jones is at an abysmal .121. They need to pick it up. Somewhere between those highs and lows is Christian Bethancourt, the catcher who is rated among Atlanta’s Top 10 prospects. Bethancourt is hitting just .219 with one extra base hit and three RBIs in 56 at-bats. But measure this against the fact that the Panama native is only 20 years old in an advanced league. There were concerns about his commitment last season, but he reportedly made strides while batting .303 at low-A Rome and .271 at high-A Lynchburg. Baseball America tagged him the No. 10 prospect in the Carolina League. Bethancourt goes 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, and while he hasn’t hit much for power so far, he should develop some. He has a good arm and is improving defensively. This isn’t a make-or-break year for him, but the team certainly would benefit if he starts to produce a little more. P.S. Despite the lack of punch, the M-Braves are 8-12 heading into a five-game homestand that starts tonight. They’re just 3 games out of first place in the SL South.
A new poll is due out today for NJCAA Division II schools, but the greater anticipation is for what might happen on various fields across Mississippi. As the jostling for MACJC playoff positions continues, Itawamba (16-4 North) is at Northeast (12-9 North); Northwest (12-9 North) hosts Delta (11-9 North); Hinds (14-7 South) is at Gulf Coast (12-12 South); Jones County (12-7 South) is at Southwest (9-11 South); and East Central (11-9 South) hosts Pearl River (9-11 South). Stay tuned. … Meanwhile, Meridian CC (29-19 after a win over Shelton State on Tuesday) is tied for first place with Baton Rouge at 5-4 in the Miss-Lou Conference. They’ll meet this weekend in a three-game series at Baton Rouge to decide the championship in that NJCAA D-I league. MCC’s Wade Wass, an Alabama signee, is batting about .450 with 19 home runs, and Wes Stokes, a former West Lauderdale standout, is 4-0 with a 2.85 ERA. P.S. Former Hattiesburg High star Robert Carson has been summoned to the big leagues by the New York Mets. The hard-throwing left-hander, who made the Mets’ 40-man roster over the winter, had a 3.18 ERA in five appearances at Double-A Binghamton this season.
Mason Robbins has had a sensational freshman campaign for Southern Miss, batting a team-best .352 heading into tonight’s contest against Mississippi State at Trustmark Park in Pearl. MSU’s offensive ills have been well-chronicled, but Adam Frazier has been largely immune to that malaise. The sophomore is batting .342. Those hot hitters aside, the most interesting aspect of the game might be the pitching matchup between USM’s Boomer Scarborough, a sophomore out of St. Stanislaus, and State’s Brandon Woodruff, a freshman from Wheeler. They are potential future aces for these clubs. Scarborough, who pitched well against the Bulldogs in this game last year, is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. Woodruff, who hasn’t gotten as much work as his Golden Eagles counterpart this year, is 0-1, 4.76 but was a centerpiece in the 2012 recruiting class. Both teams are playing well. The Bulldogs come in 24-16, the Eagles 23-16. State leads the all-time series 76-36 and won last year’s Atlanta Regional matchup, but USM has gained ground in this rivalry in recent years. A good game is in the offing. P.S. Ran across a list of the attendees at the recent Fenway Park 100th anniversary celebration. Among the 200-plus ex-Boston players to show up were Mississippians Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, Wes Chamberlain, Steve Dillard, Jerry Moses and Bill Selby.
Seth Smith, the former Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss standout, hit his first home run as a member of the Oakland A’s on Sunday. Smith, who has 40 at-bats through the A’s 17 games, is a little behind his career home run pace of about 1 every 25 ABs (51 in 1,285 entering 2012). He is also hitting just .205, 70 points under his career average, and has only four RBIs. Oakland acquired Smith from Colorado in the off-season for his left-handed power. Smith has time to pick it up, but one has to wonder now how his playing time (mostly at DH) will be affected when Manny Ramirez is eligible to play again at the end of May. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves outfielder Jordan Schafer, now with Houston, hit his first career grand slam on Sunday. Wonder if the Braves miss Schafer? Nah.
Tournament time is upon us. Millsaps, Mississippi College, Belhaven and William Carey enter the fray this week. Millsaps (25-14) lost two of three at powerhouse Birmingham Southern over the weekend and will enter the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Majors open with old rival Trinity, ranked fourth in NCAA Division III, on Thursday in Millington, Tenn. Mississippi College (18-21) won two of three at Ozarks to clinch a berth in the American Southwest Conference postseason. MC will travel to Texas Lutheran on Friday for a best-of-3 opening round series, with the winner going to the ASC Tournament proper. William Carey (28-25) swept Brewton-Parker in a three-game set to clinch the No. 6 seed in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, which begins Thursday in Columbus, Ga. Belhaven (32-22) lost three straight to NAIA third-ranked Lee at Smith-Wills Stadium but managed to claim the No. 8 seed. The defending tourney champion Blazers will meet top-seeded and fifth-ranked Faulkner on Thursday, while Carey plays 3-seed Auburn-Montgomery. P.S. Delta State moved into a tie for first place in the Gulf South Conference standings with a weekend road sweep of old rival Christian Brothers. DSU, nationally ranked in Division II, is 30-11 and 14-7 GSC, tied with North Alabama. Of course, it might not be quite accurate to term the DSU-Christian Brothers series a rivalry. The Statesmen lead it 74-11. … Blue Mountain has hit a rough patch, losing nine straight games to fall to 21-26.