30 Jun

hard knocks

Big day at the plate for B.A. Vollmuth on Sunday. The former Southern Miss star, playing for the Beloit Snappers in the Class A Midwest League, went 3-for-4 with three doubles, three runs and an RBI. Trouble is, the big days have been few and far between for Vollmuth this season. Dealing with failure is a big part of a player’s development in pro ball, and that’s what Vollmuth is confronted with in 2014. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound third baseman is batting just .189. He has six home runs but hasn’t hit one in the entire month of June. Vollmuth, from Biloxi, was arguably the state’s best player as a junior at USM in 2011. He was drafted in the third round by Oakland and showed enough that first season that he was rated the A’s No. 9 prospect heading into 2012. He batted .261 with 14 homers at two levels of A-ball in 2012 and was rated the No. 17 prospect following that season. Vollmuth spent 2013 at Stockton in the high Class A California League and enjoyed some success, hitting 21 homers and knocking in 70 runs. But he hit only .212 and struck out way too much (161 times). He was sent back this season to the low-A Midwest League, where apparently he is still trying to figure things out in what may be a pivotal season. P.S. Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College standout, went 2-for-4 for Colorado on Sunday and has 10 multi-hit games in June. He is batting .343 with 10 homers, 33 RBIs and 34 runs in 60 games. Too bad his name isn’t on the All-Star ballot. … Tony Sipp, the Mississippi Gulf Coast CC product, registered his first save of the year in Houston’s 6-4 win over Detroit. Sipp threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 1.61. Primarily a set-up or situational left-hander, Sipp has only four career saves. … Picayune’s T.J. House was back in The Show and pitched well for Cleveland, allowing just two runs in six innings against Seattle. Unfortunately, the rookie lefty was matched against Felix Hernandez, who allowed just one hit over eight innings as the Mariners won 3-0. House is 0-2 with a 4.54 ERA in seven games, six starts.

29 Jun

something new

The Mississippi Braves, 6-4 in the second half, will have a new look when they take the field at Trustmark Park today to begin a five-game series with Huntsville. All-Star shortstop Elmer Reyes is gone, sent to Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday. Kyle Wren, an outfielder, and Daniel Castro, an infielder, were promoted from Class A Lynchburg. Neither played in the series finale at Birmingham, so they could make their Southern League debuts today. Wren, son of Atlanta general manager Frank Wren, was batting .296 with 33 steals at Lynchburg. The lefty-hitting center fielder was an eighth-round pick last June from Georgia Tech. Castro, a Mexico native who can play second base and shortstop, was hitting .292. The M-Braves also lost right-hander Aaron Northcraft, who led the team with seven wins, to promotion last week. They do come home on a roll, having won the last two games at Birmingham in dramatic fashion: with a nine-run ninth inning on Friday and with a go-ahead, eighth-inning home run by Cedric Hunter on Saturday. Hunter, a onetime big leaguer, is batting .311 with seven bombs. Second baseman Jose Peraza, who arrived from Lynchburg during the previous homestand, is hitting .425 in nine games. P.S. Some big league chew from Saturday: Former M-Braves star Christian Bethancourt got his first big league hit for Atlanta in a 5-1 win over Philadelphia that completed a twinbill sweep. … Itawamba Community College product Desmond Jennings, who went 0-for-9 in a doubleheader on Friday, led off Saturday’s game with a homer (No. 7) that propelled Tampa Bay to a 5-4 win over Baltimore. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton got three hits and a steal — he’s batting .282 with 34 bags — and Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart added a couple of hits to help Cincinnati win its fourth straight, 7-3 over San Francisco in 11 innings. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Alex Presley went 2-for-4 with a homer (No. 4) and three RBIs as Houston fell to Detroit 4-3. … UM product Lance Lynn, coming off a brilliant outing at Colorado, lasted just two innings at Dodger Stadium, yielding nine hits, two walks and six earned runs in St. Louis’ 9-1 loss to Los Angeles.

27 Jun

season in review

Whappp. Hear that? It was the book closing — a bit belatedly — on the college season in the Magnolia State. It was a page-turner, from beginning (Belhaven lost to LSU-Alexandria on Jan. 31) to end (Ole Miss fell to Virginia in the College World Series on June 21). Lots of good stuff for the highlight pen. Each of the state’s Big Four NCAA Division I schools posted winning seasons, and three of them made the NCAA postseason. Ole Miss might have had the best season — and best team — its ever had. The Rebels, who featured good power, speed and pitching, went 48-21 and had nine players drafted by MLB clubs. Mississippi State finished 39-24 and fell in the NCAA regional at Lafayette, La. Jackson State (32-25), which won the SWAC Tournament, made the same regional, beating No. 1-ranked Louisiana-Lafayette in its first game. Southern Miss (35-25) saw its season end in the Conference USA Tournament, one win shy of playing for the title. Alcorn State (9-40) and Mississippi Valley (4-38) endured tough years, though the Braves beat JSU four of six times and the Delta Devils also took a series from the Tigers. Delta State went 38-13, finished first in the Gulf South Conference race and played in a D-II regional. Belhaven finished 42-21 and hosted an NAIA regional. William Carey (31-26), Millsaps (23-19) and Mississippi College (21-19) posted winning seasons; the Choctaws had a winning record in the American Southwest Conference in their last season in D-III. Blue Mountain (12-36), still a fledgling program, scuffled in its first year in the Southern States Athletic Conference, and Tougaloo, also in a building mode, went 12-31-1. The junior colleges also provided some compelling storylines. Jones County JC held the NJCAA No. 1 ranking for a big chunk of the year, and East Mississippi enjoyed one of its best seasons on record. And then there was Hinds, which could hardly have scripted a more exciting season. The Eagles won the Region 23 Tournament, beating the top two teams in the nation, and then marched all the way to the juco World Series championship game. All in all, the 2014 campaign had the feel of a best seller.

26 Jun

getting lucky

Jarrod Dyson is on the board. In the fifth inning on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, Dyson went yard for the Kansas City Royals. “I get lucky every 1,000 at-bats,” the McComb native and ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star told mlb.com. Actually, the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Dyson has hit four homers in 715 career ABs. Point is, he doesn’t get many. The one he hit Wednesday off Dan Haren of the Los Angeles Dodgers was his first in just over a year. Dyson has been hot of late, batting .343 over his last 10 games; he’s at .303 for the year and has 12 stolen bases. But his team has gone cold. A 10-game win streak had propelled Ned Yost’s Royals into first place in the American League Central. But the former Jackson Mets catcher has seen his club drop six of seven since and fall 4 games back of Detroit. P.S. Ti’Quan Forbes, the state’s Mr. Baseball from Columbia High, is off to a hot start in his pro career. Forbes, a second-round pick by Texas, is 8-for-24 for the rookie-level Arizona League Rangers. He has a double, a triple, two RBIs, six runs and a steal in five games. Blake Anderson from West Lauderdale, the first Mississippian drafted (by Miami), is 0-for-8 in two games for the Gulf Coast League Marlins.

25 Jun

under the radar

In a recent article posted on SI.com, Brian Dozier was tagged as “the most underrated and underappreciated player in baseball.” There is evidence to support that assertion in the voting at second base for the American League All-Star team. Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout from Tupelo, is a distant fifth in the latest numbers. Robinson Cano is the runaway winner, with over 2 million votes, but one would have thought Dozier would generate more than the 800,000 or so he has received. After all, the game will be played in his home ballpark — Target Field. And he is having a pretty terrific season for Minnesota. A recent hot streak — nine hits in his last five games — has boosted his average to a modest .252, but his other numbers are very impressive and speak to his versatility: .366 on-base percentage, 15 home runs, 38 RBIs, 59 runs and 15 steals in 74 games. He is a good glove man, and he has an excellent WAR rating, for whatever that’s worth. To the voting public, it must not be worth much. Dozier will have to find an alternate route to the All-Star Game, but he certainly deserves to be there.

24 Jun

seeing stars

Former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe, who already has reached Double-A in his first full pro season, will play in the All-Star Futures Game at Target Field in Minneapolis on July 13. Renfroe, an outfielder drafted 13th overall by San Diego last summer, was batting .295 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs at high Class A Lake Elsinore when he was promoted to Double-A San Antonio last week. The Crystal Springs native is 2-for-18 in five games but does have a home run. … Mississippi Braves second baseman Jose Peraza will play for the International team in the Futures Game. P.S. The 78th Texas League All-Star Game will be played tonight at North Little Rock, Ark., with former Mississippi Braves skipper Phillip Wellman, now with the Arkansas Travelers, running one of the clubs. More noteworthy here, however, is that it was 30 years ago this month when Billy Beane homered in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the TL All-Star Game in Jackson. Beane, then with the Jackson Mets, now general manager of the Oakland A’s, was not picked for the game initially but came when called because, he said, he felt like he owed it to the fans in Jackson. He was in his third year with the JaxMets in 1984 and would end that season in the big leagues. His home run in the All-Star Game rates as one of the greatest moments in Smith-Wills Stadium’s long history.

24 Jun

ghostbuster

Lance Lynn seems to have the counter curse for the demons that haunt pitchers at Coors Field. The ex-Ole Miss star threw eight shutout innings on Monday night, yielding just three hits with seven strikeouts in St. Louis’ 8-0 win over Colorado. The skidding Rockies were shut out at home for the first time in almost a year. Lynn, now 8-5 with a 2.90 ERA, has faced 77 batters at Coors in his career and never yielded a home run. The big right-hander reportedly has made some changes in his delivery to avoid tipping pitches, and he has allowed just two runs in his last 22 innings. He retired 17 of the first 18 batters he faced on Monday. Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, who always seems to be in the middle of something (witness his pratfall between third base and home on Sunday), had two of the Rockies’ three hits. P.S. Jarrod Dyson, the former Southwest Mississippi CC standout, went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, a run and a pair of stolen bases in helping Kansas City beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3. Dyson is batting .305 with 12 stolen bases in 51 games (105 at-bats). … UM product Aaron Barrett (1.75 ERA) pitched a scoreless inning as Washington beat Milwaukee 3-0 in a matchup of National League division leaders.