24 May

it’s a start

The first MLB start for former Picayune High star T.J. House didn’t go all that well. House, 24, a left-hander who made his debut (a scoreless inning) for Cleveland last Saturday, worked six innings at Baltimore tonight, had a lead at one stage but left the game trailing 5-4. House yielded 11 hits, including home runs by Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis, walked two and fanned one. Baltimore won the game 8-4 on the 58th birthday of manager Buck Showalter, the ex-Mississippi State standout. P.S. Orioles radio broadcasters (as heard on XM) noted that House: signed with Cleveland for $700,000 as a 16th-round pick in 2008 rather than attend Tulane; had family members who had driven some 15 hours from Mississippi in attendance at Camden Yards; and got the name “T.J.” from his childhood nickname, Tiger Jr. (his dad apparently was called Tiger).

21 May

bring ’em on

Hinds Community College’s first-round foe in the NJCAA Division II World Series will be Lincoln Land CC of Illinois. The Loggers are 44-15 and ranked 11th in the nation. Forgive the Eagles if they shrugged at those numbers. After all, Hinds had to get through the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the nation just to get to the 10-team national tournament, which begins Saturday in Enid, Okla. Hinds (35-19) beat top-ranked Jones County JC in the Region 23 title game at Ellisville last Saturday. Sam Temple’s Eagles, who also beat No. 2 LSU-Eunice (twice) in the regional, are in the Juco World Series for the fifth time but for the first time since 1999. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Hinds’ first World Series trip (see previous post). Casey Sutton, who beat Jones in the region finale to move to 8-2 for the year, is the Eagles’ likely starter in the opener. Austin Sanders notched his eighth save in the title game, and the Eagles got big hits from Casey Echols (son of former Mississippi State star Tracy Echols), Luke Reynolds and Caleb Upton.

21 May

could be worse

The Philadelphia Phillies put Cliff Lee, the ex-Meridian Community College ace, on the 15-day disabled list today with what was described as a mild elbow strain. Not good for a 35-year-old pitcher, but not the worst case scenario. There were some concerns that he might be headed for Tommy John surgery. Left-hander Lee, who last pitched on Sunday, is 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA. P.S. Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz won his third straight start for Oakland on Tuesday as the A’s beat Tampa Bay 3-0. How’s this for consistency? Since moving to the rotation, lefty Pomeranz has worked five scoreless innings in each of his three starts. He is 4-1 with a 0.94 ERA for the season. … Mitch Moreland is heating up in Texas. The former Mississippi State standout is 4-for-11 with a homer in his three starts at first base (his former position) in place of the injured Prince Fielder and is batting .345 over his last 10 games. For the year, the Amory native is batting .294 with two homers and 15 RBIs.

20 May

worth noting

When former Picayune High star T.J. House made his big league debut last Saturday for Cleveland, he became the 23rd Mississippi-connected player to appear in the majors in 2014. House, a left-hander, pitched a scoreless inning in his only appearance to date. He was called up last season but didn’t get in a game. The only other Mississippian to debut this year is Aaron Barrett, the Ole Miss product who has been outstanding working out of Washington’s bullpen. Barrett, a righty, has a 0.53 ERA and a 2-0 record in 18 games for the Nationals, who are battling Atlanta for first place in the National League East.

17 May

and another one’s gone

The uniforms said “Delta State,” but the performance at the NCAA Division II South Regional didn’t seem to fit. DSU, 38-11 going in, went 2-and-out in Tampa, Fla., losing to Florida Southern on Thursday and No. 1-ranked Tampa today. The Statesmen, who batted an amazing .331 as a team this season and averaged 7.4 runs per game, scored a total of seven in their two losses. What’s more, standout pitchers Michael Manley and Jonathan Moody, a combined 17-5 with an ERA around 2.50 this year, both took losses. Manley, an All-Gulf South Conference pick from Raymond, was KO’d by Florida Southern in its seven-run sixth inning on Thursday, an 8-4 loss for DSU. Manley’s line: five-plus innings, six hits, two walks, four runs. Today, Moody went seven, allowing four runs on six hits and a walk, but he left with the Statesmen trailing. Standout reliever Taylor Stark then yielded three more runs in his one inning-plus as DSU fell 7-3 to Tampa, a 39-2 juggernaut. The unfortunate timing of this uncharacteristic showing means DSU’s dreams of returning to the College World Series for the 10th anniversary of its 2004 championship have ended.

16 May

the other guys

With all due respect to the Mississippi Braves, sometimes the talent on the visiting team can be the attraction at Trustmark Park. The Tennessee Smokies are currently in Pearl, and this club features several of the Chicago Cubs’ top prospects. Foremost among this group is third baseman Kris Bryant, who was picked second overall in the 2013 draft (after blasting 31 homers in college last season) and is already knocking on Wrigley Field’s door. Bryant, 6 feet 5, 215 pounds, is batting .324 with 11 homers and 34 RBIs for a 23-17 team. Right fielder Jorge Soler, rated as high as No. 4 on the Cubs’ prospect chart, is hitting .333 with seven RBIs in seven games, though he did exit Thursday night’s contest with an undisclosed injury. Right-hander C.J. Edwards (1-2, 2.61 ERA in four starts) and former M-Braves standout Arodys Vizcaino, also top 10 prospects, are on the Smokies’ pitching staff. Another player of note is catcher Rafael Lopez, batting .330 with four homers, including one on Thursday. By the way: The M-Braves (21-19) won Thursday’s game 6-5 on a walk-off hit in the 11th inning by former big leaguer Cedric Hunter, who is having a solid season. The five-game series continues with Game 2 tonight. P.S. Ole Miss alumnus Zack Cozart, hovering beneath the Mendoza Line most of the season with Cincinnati, got three hits (and two RBIs) in Game 1 of a twinbill on Thursday and climbed to .208. He is batting .278 over his last 10 games, which might be a good sign. Cozart is valued more for his defense at shortstop, but he needs to hit a bit better. He batted .254 last year with 12 homers. He has just one homer this year.

15 May

the hot spot

It’s a quiet day at college ballparks around the state — except in Ellisville, where fireworks are in the offing. No. 1-ranked Jones County Junior College plays East Central and Hinds tangles with No. 2 LSU-Eunice in the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament. … Belhaven University’s season ended Wednesday at Smith-Wills Stadium when the Blazers lost for a second time to NAIA No. 3 Oklahoma Wesleyan. No shame in that. BU (42-21) went 2-2 in the NAIA regional, including a win over Houston-Victoria, coached by former major leaguer Terry Puhl. … At Tampa, Fla., Delta State takes on Florida Southern in the NCAA Division II South Regional. … At New Orleans, Jackson State and Alcorn State, both upset winners in the SWAC Tournament’s opening round, are back on the field today. JSU, coming off a win over West Division champ Arkansas-Pine Bluff, plays Alabama A&M; Alcorn gets tourney favorite Alabama State. … The Division I Big 3 are all on the road to finish conference play. League tournaments are next week. Southern Miss, third in Conference USA, is at Charlotte. Ole Miss and Mississippi State, which rank 1-2 in the SEC West standings, play at Texas A&M and Alabama, respectively.

15 May

feeling a draft

The college season is winding down, which can only mean the MLB draft is sneaking up on us. It starts June 5 with the first round. No Mississippians are projected to go in that big-money round in Baseball America’s latest rankings, but things can change and often do. Columbia High shortstop Ti’Quan Forbes remains the top-rated Mississippi prospect, checking in at No. 55. Harrison Central first baseman Bobby Bradley is also on the BA list at No. 84. Two Mississippi college players are rated in the top 100: Ole Miss right-hander Chris Ellis (69) and Mississippi State lefty Jacob Lindgren (89). Last year’s top pick from the state was State’s Hunter Renfroe, 13th overall by San Diego. He is now at high Class A Lake Elsinore and hitting .255 with seven homers, 27 RBIs and eight stolen bases. East Central Community College product Tim Anderson also went in the first round last June, 17th to the Chicago White Sox. He is batting .243 with six RBIs, 17 runs and five steals at high-A Winston-Salem. P.S. Cody Satterwhite, a second-round pick by Detroit out of Ole Miss way back in 2008, is making a nice comeback in the New York Mets’ system. Playing at Double-A Binghamton, right-hander Satterwhite has a 0.89 ERA in 13 appearances. Now 27, Satterwhite has soldiered through injuries and surgeries and a tour of independent ball to get this second chance at making the majors. “The whole process, it’s helped me in the long run,” he told ESPN New York in a recent story.

14 May

it could happen

Funny things do happen in tournament baseball, and unlike last year, that might be Jackson State’s best hope in the SWAC Tournament that started today in New Orleans. J-State was the league’s best team heading into the 2013 event and then won it, earning an NCAA regional berth. Omar Johnson’s Tigers go in this year as a No. 4 seed. They went just 9-15 in the league (27-23 overall). They open with West Division champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and looming large over the entire field is East champ Alabama State, which went 21-3 in the league (5-1 vs. JSU) and recently beat nationally ranked Miami. JSU features league newcomer of the year Tilur Smith, a first baseman from Richton, who batted .340 with three homers and 26 RBIs. Desmond Russell (7-4, 3.44 ERA) is the ace of a staff that put up a respectable 4.17 ERA. Third baseman Melvin Rodriguez batted .298 with three homers and 40 RBIs and made All-SWAC first team. The Tigers could use some production from Charles Tillery, the preseason player of the year who has struggled (.219). They could also use some funny bounces that go their way.

13 May

big league chew

Oakland will hand Drew Pomeranz the ball again tonight for his second start of the season. The former Ole Miss standout threw five scoreless innings as a starter last Wednesday after working only in relief in his first nine appearances and posting a sub-2.00 ERA. The former first-round draft pick is 16-9 with a 2.97 ERA as a starter in the minors but has not had that kind of success in the big leagues. His career ERA is 4.75, working primarily as a starter for Colorado since 2011. The A’s got left-hander Pomeranz in an off-season trade. He’ll go tonight against the Chicago White Sox at O.Co Coliseum. … Mississippi State product Tyler Moore, back up with Washington, hit his third home run of 2014 (in 37 at-bats) on Monday night. He hit just four last season in 167 ABs after blasting 10 in 156 as a rookie in 2012. … Keep an eye on Ole Miss product Seth Smith, of the San Diego Padres, who was named the National League player of the week on Monday on the heels of a 14-for-28 streak that has lifted his average to .330. Ex-Itawamba Community College star Desmond Jennings, with Tampa Bay, is 2-for-24 since winning American League player of the week honors on May 5.