31 Mar

observations

On the day he was officially reassigned to minor league camp, Pascagoula’s Joey Butler hit a called-shot, game-tying, ninth-inning home run for Tampa Bay. Butler’s homer Monday against Baltimore was his second of the spring. He is batting .257 (after an 0-for-3 today) with six RBIs. Butler was a non-roster invitee to the Rays’ camp, and he surely made an impression. Expected to start the season in Triple-A, the right-handed hitting outfielder may yet get another big league opportunity. … Meanwhile, Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings, the ex-Itawamba Community College star who had a down year in 2014 that ended with an injury, has been in rare form this spring. He has 17 hits in 38 at-bats (.447). … For the second straight day, Billy Hamilton hit seventh in Cincinnati’s lineup. The Taylorsville High product, who batted leadoff and hit .250 last season, is struggling to hit his weight (160) this spring. … Paul Maholm had a 2.19 ERA in five appearances for Cincinnati, but the 34-year-old former Mississippi State standout wasn’t going to make the rotation and apparently didn’t want to go to the bullpen. Hence, his release on Monday. Another club might have need for a “crafty” left-hander with 77 career wins and a 4.30 ERA. … Ole Miss alum Chris Coghlan might be hearing footsteps. He is the Chicago Cubs’ starting left fielder, a job he won with a strong 2014. But reports are that mega-prospect Kris Bryant will see time in left field as well as third base in Triple-A this year. Some believe Bryant, who appears big-league ready as a hitter, might be better suited to left field when he returns to the Cubs, which will be soon. … Silento Sayles, the ex-Port Gibson High star who set the prep stolen base record with 103 in 2013, got an at-bat for Cleveland this spring. Unfortunately, Sayles didn’t get to flash his speed – he struck out. Sayles hit .262 with 16 bags in the rookie-level Arizona League in 2014. Other minor leaguers with Mississippi ties who got a brief look in big league camps include Bobby Bradley, Adam Frazier, Ti’Quan Forbes, D.J. Davis, Colin Bray, Angel Rosa and Travious Relaford.

30 Mar

job hunting

Former Picayune High star T.J. House has earned a spot in the Cleveland Indians’ rotation, the team said Sunday. House, a left-hander, is 2-2 this spring with a 5.70 ERA. He made his big league debut in 2014, posting a 5-3, 3.35 ledger with some strong work down the stretch. The Indians’ pitching coach is former Ole Miss hurler Mickey Callaway, who was House’s coach in A-ball in 2011 when, as the story goes, he delivered a stern postseason lecture that turned House’s foundering career around. House, reportedly on the brink of being released, responded with a solid year in Double-A in 2012 and made the big leagues (though he didn’t get in a game) in 2013. … Mississippi State alumnus Kendall Graveman appears to have won a job in Oakland’s rotation with a brilliant spring. Graveman is 3-0 with a 0.42 ERA in five games. The former 2013 eighth-round pick went from A-ball to the majors with Toronto last season and was acquired by the A’s as part of the Josh Donaldson deal. “He’s pretty cerebral in the way he (pitches),” A’s manager Bob Melvin told mlb.com. … Drew Pomeranz out of Ole Miss, also vying for a rotation spot with Oakland, pitched today and blanked Colorado for six innings on two hits with six strikeouts. He has a 2.04 ERA this spring. P.S. Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College standout from McComb, earned some high praise from a scout speaking to Sports Illustrated (March 30 issue): “He’s probably got as good a barrel-to-the-ball ability as any young hitter I’ve seen in a long time.” Dickerson is having a good spring (.273, a homer, six RBIs) for Colorado after hitting .312 with 24 home runs in 2014. … Ed Easley, the longtime minor leaguer and MSU product, was sent down to Triple-A Memphis by St. Louis, and ex-Bulldogs star Paul Maholm, a big league vet, has been released by Cincinnati.

29 Mar

a major day

On a special day at Twenty Field, Millsaps extended what is shaping up as a special season. The surging Majors rode the power of Isaac Glenn and the pitching of Keith Shumaker to a Southern Athletic Association sweep of Centre on Saturday. It was an emotional day: Former Majors star Tait Hendrix, who died in a motorcycle accident last summer, was honored with a big crowd in attendance. His No. 14 was formally retired. The Majors won Game 1 of the twinbill 11-2 as Glenn belted two home runs and then took Game 2 2-0 behind Shumaker’s four-hitter. Millsaps, winner of nine straight, is 18-4 and 9-2 in the SAA. Glenn, from Madison, is batting .449 with three homers and 36 RBIs. Shumaker, a preseason NCAA Division III All-America pick from Brandon, improved to 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA. He is also batting .390. The Majors are coming off a 23-19 2014 season that began with much higher hopes. They went to the D-III World Series in 2013, winning 38 games. Jim Page’s current club, led by a group of eight seniors, looks to have designs on another NCAA postseason run.

27 Mar

on the big stage

DeSoto Central High bounced back from an opening round loss (to Whitewater of Georgia) to whip Trinity Prep of Florida 10-0 on Thursday in the National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C. Tre Spann drove in four runs, Austin Riley knocked in a pair and Keegen James threw a three-hitter over six innings. The Jaguars (10-5) are scheduled to play Lambert, Ga., today in the NHSI consolation bracket. DeSoto is ranked No. 21 in the latest Baseball America poll, which has Brandon at No. 24. The Bulldogs (12-1) are No. 23 in the MaxPreps poll. Brandon, facing a big game today against defending Class 6A champion Oak Grove, has gotten great production from Hunter Wilson, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior first baseman who is batting .400 with five home runs and 27 RBIs.

26 Mar

trending

Delta State is moving in the right direction heading into a Gulf South Conference series against West Georgia this weekend in Cleveland. The Statesmen have won six of eight to climb to 7-10 overall. They are 6-5 in the GSC after taking two of three from NCAA Division II No. 6 Alabama-Huntsville last weekend. Jacob Swinney (8-for-13, five RBIs) and Jonathan Moody (10-strikeout complete game) were named GSC players of the week after their performance in the UAH series. Swinney, a Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer out of St. Martin, is hitting .370, second on the club to Brandon Cummins (.382). … Also riding a wave into the weekend is William Carey, which took two of three games from NAIA No. 2 Faulkner at Montgomery, Ala., last weekend. The Crusaders, who started slow this season, are 17-15 and 9-6 in the Southern States Athletic Conference with Blue Mountain coming to Hattiesburg for a three-game league series. In the rubber game of the Faulkner series — a 9-5 win against Eagles ace Kurt Lipscomb — Tyler Richardson scored four runs and Alex Buechler and Michael Wells drove in three apiece. Even bigger: Larson Barkum delivered seven strong innings in relief to get the win. … Melvin Rodriguez, a senior from Puerto Rico, has been a driving force for Jackson State, which has won three straight to move to 15-8. Rodriguez went 3-for-5 with three RBIs in a win over Southern University at Braddy Field on Tuesday night. For the year, the left-handed hitting second baseman is batting .444 with nine doubles, a homer and 30 RBIs. … Millsaps, 15-4 and on a seven-game win streak, hosts Southern Athletic Association rival Centre this weekend. … Either Alcorn State or Mississippi Valley State, both struggling, will get a lift when the rivals play a SWAC series in Itta Bena this weekend. The Braves, 7-19 and 2-6 in the league, took a 10-game losing streak into a Wednesday twinbill with Tougaloo, which the Braves swept. The losing skid started with 13-0 and 21-0 losses at Oklahoma State in early March. The Delta Devils, under first-year coach Aaron Stevens, are 4-14-1, 1-7 with six consecutive losses, including a couple to JSU. P.S. The outcome was predictable when East Mississippi CC met Coahoma on Wednesday in Scooba — the first-place Lions took two from the last-place Tigers — but there is a wow factor in the details. EMCC, now 10-0 in the MACJC, won by scores of 31-2 and 13-2. The Lions scored 14 runs in the first inning of the first game. Drew Standland drove in six runs in the opener, and Kyle Liberto and David Pimentel picked up seven RBIs apiece on the day. Coahoma dropped to 1-19, 1-9.

25 Mar

trophy time, act one

Belhaven University visits Mississippi College tonight in the first game of the Maloney Trophy Series. BU, still an NAIA member, is 23-12, led by the terrific trio of Emilio DeSilva (.347, 26 steals, 36 runs), Paul Pickerrell (.344, 34 RBIs, 36 runs) and Adam Kowalczyk (.333, six homers, 37 RBIs). MC, in its first year back in NCAA Division II, has taken some lumps. The Choctaws are 9-17 – but are 7-2 outside the Gulf South Conference and have won six of 13 games at Frierson Field in Clinton. Starkville Academy product Hunter Bolin has been MC’s steadiest hitter, batting .383 with 17 RBIs and 18 runs. A 5.84 staff ERA tells a lot about the Choctaws’ season. … Millsaps, the other Maloney Trophy participant, is rolling along at 15-4 after an impressive sweep of the University of Chicago on Monday. Former Madison Central High star Isaac Glenn has paced the D-III Majors with a .433 average, a homer and 28 RBIs. … Millsaps meets Belhaven on April 8 at Smith-Wills Stadium and hosts MC at Twenty Field on April 21 to conclude the Maloney games.

24 Mar

spring flings

Brian Dozier signed a 4-year, $20 million contract extension today, then celebrated with a home run in his first at-bat of Minnesota’s Grapefruit League game. The former Southern Miss star belted his third homer off the spring (off former Mississippi Braves ace Todd Redmond of Toronto) and is now batting .448. … Former Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss standout Seth Smith hit his first home run and stole his first base of the spring today for Seattle. … Milwaukee sent David Goforth to its Triple-A team on Monday, but you have to expect he’ll be in a Brewers uniform before too long. The Ole Miss product from Meridian pitched well in big league spring games, posting a 1.42 ERA, three saves and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. In his first full season as a closer in 2014, right-hander Goforth registered 27 saves and a 3.76 ERA for Double-A Huntsville in the Southern League. Goforth, drafted in the seventh round in 2011, made the Brewers’ 40-man roster in the off-season. Milwaukee recently re-signed Francisco Rodriguez to be its closer this season, but if the 33-year old “K-Rod” falters, Goforth just might get his shot. … For what it’s worth, Billy Hamilton hasn’t hit this spring, nor has the former Taylorsville High star done much running. Hamilton is batting .160 in nine games for Cincinnati. He has stolen two bases and scored three runs. After his slump last year, are the Reds worried?