The emotional rollercoaster passed through Detroit on Friday, taking the Tigers from elation to anger with a final stop at dejection. Richton High product JaCoby Jones was in the middle of the dogpile in the 10th inning after delivering what was first thought to be a game-winning knock against Pittsburgh. Replay said otherwise. Tigers runner Nicholas Castellanos was ruled out at the plate, with McComb native Corey Dickerson – in his Pirates debut – getting an assist on what was a pretty sad throw from left field. Former Jackson Mets star Ron Gardenhire – in his debut as Detroit manager – was ejected arguing the reversal. The game went on, and, as fate would have it, the Pirates won in 13 innings in just under 5½ hours. Football-like weather produced a football-like score – 13-10 – on opening day at Comerica Park. The Tigers blew a save in the ninth and fell behind 10-6 before scoring four in the bottom half to extend the game. Then came the soul-crushing 10th. Jones, who entered as a pinch runner in the seventh inning, had a good day: 2-for-2 with a walk and a run. Of course, he’d have felt a whole lot better about it if he’d also gotten that RBI. For the Pirates, ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier went 3-for-7 and scored twice. He was aboard in the 13th when Gregory Polanco hit the game-winning three-run homer. Dickerson, the Meridian Community College alum acquired from Tampa Bay in February, had one hit and an RBI in six trips. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout Braxton Lee from Picayune made his big league debut for Miami, going 0-for-4 in the 17-inning win against the Chicago Cubs. … Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton, batting ninth for Cincinnati, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts as the Reds opened their season with a loss to Washington.
Focus on Wildcat Field in Poplarville. This should be good. Itawamba Community College makes the long trip south to meet Pearl River CC today in a battle of two of the top three teams in the MACJC standings. ICC is 19-3 and ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll, the school’s highest ranking ever. But the Indians, at 5-1, aren’t in first place in the league. PRCC is – at 6-0. (East Central is actually second at 7-1.) The 18th-ranked Wildcats (20-4) are pumped up from a hard-fought sweep of rival Gulf Coast earlier this week. PRCC’s Connor Lewis, a sophomore from Corinth, has been a sparkplug, batting .329 with four homers, 17 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. Justin Medlin leads the team in hitting at .373, and Kyle Crigger follows at .361. The ace of the staff is lefty Houston Harding, who is 5-0 with a 2.78 ERA and 43 strikeouts. For PRCC, Simon Landry, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore from Louisiana, brings the thunder: .420, nine homers, 34 RBIs. The Wildcats are deep in arms, topped by Shemar Page (5-0, 1.75), Camden Dusang (5-0, 2.49) and Miles Smith (3-1, 3.20).
Tim Anderson picked the wrong opening day to go off. The former East Central Community College star hit two home runs for the Chicago White Sox on Thursday but was topped by teammate Matt Davidson, who launched three round-trippers in a 14-7 win against Kansas City. Davidson joins Vicksburg native Dmitri Young and two others as the only players with three homers on an opening day. For Anderson, it’s a good start as he attempts to bounce back from a trying 2017 season (see previous posts). … Southwest Mississippi CC alum Jarrod Dyson had a sweet debut for Arizona, going 2-for-4 with a triple, a stolen base, two runs and an RBI in an 8-2 win vs. Colorado. … Ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart delivered three hits, including a homer, in his first game with the Los Angeles Angels, who lost to Oakland 6-5 in 11 innings. Cozart went deep against former Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman, who also had the dubious distinction of surrendering the first hit by the Angels’ touted Japanese import Shohei Ohtani. … UM alum Mickey Callaway got a win in his debut as New York Mets manager, and ex-East Central CC standout Marcus Thames, now the Yankees’ hitting coach, watched his club – and new addition Giancarlo Stanton — whip Toronto. … Former Mississippi Braves Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies homered as Atlanta rallied to beat Philadelphia, and Biloxi Shuckers alum Orlando Arcia got the game-winning hit in the 12th inning as Miwaukee topped San Diego. … Ole Miss product Braxton Lee was added to Miami’s 25-man roster on Thursday but did not make his big league debut in the Marlins’ loss to the Chicago Cubs. Stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, Northwest CC alum Cody Reed was recalled by Cincinnati on Thursday; the Reds’ game with Washington was postponed until today.
Star power abounds on the Los Angeles Angels’ roster. Mike Trout. Albert Pujols. Justin Upton. Shohei Ohtani (well, maybe). Into this galaxy comes Zack Cozart, the Ole Miss alum who arrived as a free agent in the off-season with a little brilliance of his own. An All-Star in Cincinnati, where he enjoyed a career year in 2017, Cozart will debut for the Angels today in Oakland, playing not just for a new team but at a new position. A shortstop virtually all of his baseball life, Cozart, at age 32, takes over at third base for the Angels. His situation is one of the most compelling storylines to watch among Mississippians in the majors in 2018. Cozart, who hit .297 with 24 homers last year, swung the bat well in the spring (.347, four homers). He wasn’t tested much in the field, handling just 15 chances (with one error) in 16 games. The Angels are projected by many to be a playoff team; their new third baseman could be a big factor in that quest. P.S. The A’s scheduled starter is Kendall Graveman, the former Mississippi State standout who went 6-4 with a 4.19 ERA in an injury-interrupted 2017 season. … Pittsburgh’s lineup at Detroit will include State product Adam Frazier leading off as the DH and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson playing left field and batting fifth in his Pirates debut. The game will be the first as Tigers manager for Ron Gardenhire, the former Jackson Mets infielder and ex-Minnesota skipper. … Also making a debut today will be ex-UM star Mickey Callaway, the longtime Cleveland pitching coach now managing the New York Mets, who open at CitiField against St. Louis. The Big Apple is not the place where you want to get off on the wrong foot. … MSU product Jacob Lindgren has undergone a second Tommy John procedure and will miss the 2018 season. Now in Atlanta’s organization, left-hander Lindgren missed all of 2017 and most of 2016 after making the big leagues with the New York Yankees in 2015.
Delta State’s 26-4 win at Southern Arkansas on Tuesday grabs your attention. Zack Shannon and Clay Casey smashed two home runs each for the Statesmen, 21-6 and ranked as high as No. 6 in NCAA Division II. Shannon’s numbers are just ridiculous: 21 homers, .462 average, 58 RBIs. … In Oxford, Thomas Dillard’s seventh bomb of the year helped Ole Miss rally past Southern Miss 7-6 in a matchup of nationally ranked D-I teams. After USM KO’d Rebels starter Jordan Fowler in the first inning, the UM bullpen yielded just one earned run thereafter. UM is 23-3, USM 17-6. … Mississippi State appears to be in some trouble. The Bulldogs fell to 13-13 after a 7-4 loss at Nicholls State, which entered the game with an 8-15 record. … Nationally ranked juco foes East Central Community College and Jones County JC split a big doubleheader in Ellisville. Wyatt Ball and Ken Scott drove in three runs each in the Warriors’ 12-6 win in Game 1, and the Bobcats’ Tyler Spring and Will Hicks threw a combo two-hitter in the second game, a 1-0 victory. Jones managed only one hit, an RBI single in the second inning by Stephen Matthews. The loss was the first in league play for ECCC, now 7-1. … Elsewhere in the MACJC, Pearl River moved to 6-0 with a sweep of Gulf Coast in Poplarville. … On today’s docket, William Carey, 21-9, ranked 11th in NAIA and coming off a huge road sweep at Martin Methodist, hosts D-II West Alabama at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Christian Smith continues to fuel the Crusaders’ attack, with a .330 average, 31 runs and 27 steals. … In the big leagues, former State star Chris Stratton, in his final tuneup for the regular season, threw five shutout innings for San Francisco against Oakland at AT&T Park. Stratton had a 3.29 ERA this spring.
Here’s a number to know for today: 125. Old rivals Ole Miss and Southern Miss meet tonight in Oxford, for the 125th time. They played for the first time on April 10, 1916, in Oxford. Ole Miss beat Mississippi Normal College, which we now know as USM, by a 10-3 count, according to the UM media guide. (It’s not true that David Kellum and John Cox broadcast that game.) Here are few other numbers to know about the two teams:
74 – Wins for Ole Miss in the series, including two last year, one in Pearl, the other in Hattiesburg.
4 – UM’s rank in four different national polls. USM is ranked as high as 14th.
30 – Homers by the Rebels (22-3).
26 – Homers by the Eagles (17-5), seven in their previous three games.
32 – Stolen bases for the Rebels.
19 – Steals for the Eagles.
2.54 – UM’s staff ERA.
3.40 – USM’s ERA.
17 – Errors by the Rebels.
20 – Errors by the Eagles.
177 – Runs scored by the Rebels, 7.1 per game.
194 – Runs for the Eagles, 8.8 per game.
3.83 – Strikeouts-to-walks ratio for UM pitchers, best in the nation.
41 – Runs scored by USM in the first two innings; their opponents have six.
14 – Days until the teams meet again, April 10, at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
Big day for the junior colleges. The new NJCAA Division II poll comes out later today, and several MACJC schools are poised to move up. And there are games of note, in particular first-place East Central Community College at Jones County JC and Mississippi Gulf Coast at Pearl River. ECCC, currently ranked 13th, stayed unbeaten in league play (6-0) by sweeping Holmes on Saturday. No. 3 Jones (17-5, 4-2) beat Northwest twice on Saturday. PRCC, ranked 14th, is 4-0 in the league (18-4 overall) as it braces for the arrival of No. 18 Gulf Coast (20-4, 4-2) and national homer and RBI leader Brandon Parker (13 and 47). Itawamba (19-3, 5-1), off today, was ranked No. 5 in last week’s poll and is coming off an impressive sweep of No. 19 Meridian in Saturday’s biggest showdown. ICC’s Houston Harding, a freshman lefty from Walls, struck out 14 in picking up his fifth win in a 5-0 victory in Game 1, and Trey DeSantis, a freshman outfielder from Laurel, threw out a runner at the plate to seal a 4-3 win in Game 2. ICC next plays on Friday at Pearl River. Meridian (16-6, 3-3) welcomes Hinds today; unranked (at the moment) HCC is 17-3, 3-1 (including two wins over Jones).
Presumably the dust has finally settled at Rat McGowan Field in Lorman, where Alcorn State and Jackson State played a three-game SWAC series which may have set a new standard for wacky. JSU won all three games, 17-10, 9-2 and 13-8. Alcorn committed a jaw-dropping 10 errors in Friday’s Game 1, and yet somehow led in the ninth inning. JSU’s Stephen Vidal tied it at 10-all with a two-run homer, and the Tigers proceeded to score seven times in the 10th, aided by three of the Braves’ miscues. There was some pitching in Game 2 on Saturday as JSU’s Kevin Perez (5-1) threw a seven-hitter. Dezmond Chumley and Wesley Reyes got three hits apiece in a 14-hit attack for the Tigers, who again benefitted from Alcorn’s shabby defense (three errors, five unearned runs). In Game 3 on Sunday, the Braves forged an early 8-4 lead, but the Tigers roared back with nine runs (four unearned) over the final four frames. Alcorn pitchers walked 12 batters (29 for the series) and JSU stole six bases on the day. Wacky, indeed. Chumley, a junior from Texas, had a great series, with seven hits, seven runs, seven RBIs and two homers. JSU is 17-6 overall and alone in first place in the SWAC East at 9-3. Alcorn (6-17) sank further into the cellar at 1-8. The rivals meet again in late April at Braddy Field in Jackson. We can’t possibly know what to expect.
Mike Mayers, Jonathan Holder and Brandon Woodruff got good news over the weekend, and Hunter Renfroe and JaCoby Jones also would appear to have reason to smile. With opening day just three days off, tough decisions are coming down on big league roster spots. Former Ole Miss star Mayers, who has had a brilliant spring (12 scoreless innings), was informed on Saturday that he’s earned a spot in St. Louis’ bullpen. “I got hugs from everybody,” he told mlb.com. Mississippi State product Holder will make the New York Yankees’ 25-man club thanks to new manager Aaron Boone’s decision to carry eight relievers. Woodruff, another former Bulldogs standout, earned a spot in Milwaukee’s rotation. MSU alum Renfroe reportedly will stick with San Diego as the Padres’ fourth outfielder. Jones, the former Richton High star, reportedly will make Detroit’s club, also as a reserve outfielder. Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed was optioned to Triple-A by Cincinnati, and ex-Ole Miss standout Alex Presley, in Baltimore’s camp as a non-roster invitee, was reassigned to the minors.
Tony Sipp got the word on Thursday that he was going to make Houston’s opening day roster. On Friday night, the veteran left-hander out of Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College responded with a three-strikeout, scoreless inning against Washington in a Grapefruit League contest. It hasn’t been a great spring for Sipp, now 34 and about to start his 10th MLB campaign. He has a 5.19 ERA. He didn’t have a great 2017 for the Astros, either — 5.79 ERA, eight homers allowed in 37 1/3 innings – and wasn’t on the roster for their World Series run. Still, Sipp has a career ERA of 3.83 and will be the lone lefty in the Astros’ bullpen. “We’ve wanted Tony on the team to give us some balance and also because we feel like he’s got a track record where he can help us,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch told msn.com on Thursday. An injury to former Mississippi Braves star James Hoyt apparently paved the way for Sipp to make the 25-man roster. How long he keeps that job is up in the air. P.S. Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State standout from Wheeler, yielded four runs in five innings for Milwaukee against the Chicago Cubs on Friday. The right-hander, bidding to make the opening day roster, saw his spring ERA swell to an inconvenient 7.11. … With both Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija down with injuries, there is little doubt now that State alum Chris Stratton has won a job in San Francisco’s rotation. He has pitched well this spring with a 4.03 ERA in six outings. … Former Bulldogs star Hunter Renfroe, competing for a role in San Diego’s outfield, smacked his sixth homer of the Cactus League season on Friday and is batting .254 with 13 RBIs this spring.