Dalton Minton threw seven shutout innings to pace Delta State to a 2-0 win against Mississippi College on Sunday in the rubber game of a Gulf South Conference series in Cleveland. Minton allowed seven hits and struck out eight batters in running his record to 8-1 and cutting his ERA to 3.74. DSU rolls into the GSC Tournament — at Ferriss Field starting this week — with a 38-8 record. … Mason Strickland tossed 3 1/3 near-perfect innings in relief to help Southern Miss beat host Old Dominion 9-2 on Sunday and complete a C-USA sweep. Strickland allowed one hit and walked none for the Golden Eagles, now 32-11, 16-4 in conference, with nine straight wins. … Rahman Williams smacked a three-run homer to cap a five-run eighth inning as Jackson State beat Alcorn State 7-4 in the rubber game of a SWAC series on Sunday at Braddy Field. JSU is 28-15, 17-7. … On Saturday in Oxford, before a crowd of 12,000-plus, Thomas Dillard’s three-run bomb in the seventh inning carried Ole Miss to a 9-8 win over LSU in the rubber game of an SEC series. Dillard is hitting .306 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs for the Rebels (34-11, 12-9). … Also on Saturday, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Kole Kittrell threw a five-inning no-hitter in a 13-0 win vs. East Mississippi CC. Kittrell fanned six and walked just one.
Nathaniel Lowe, a former Mississippi State standout, had a day in the Florida State League on Friday. Lowe went 4-for-5 with two home runs and six RBIs for Port Charlotte, Tampa Bay’s high Class A club. The left-handed hitting first baseman, a 13th-round pick out of State in 2016, is actually having quite a season, leading the FSL in hitting at .390 and hits with 32. He has four homers and 21 RBIs. “As long as I play like I know how to play, then everything is going to be all right,” Lowe told milb.com. He hit .348 with five homers and 49 RBIs in his one season in Starkville. Among Lowe’s teammates this season is his younger brother Josh, who was a first-round pick by the Rays out of high school in 2016 and is considered the better prospect. Maybe there’s some sibling rivalry at work there. … The minor league hot list includes former Northwest Rankin High star Daniel Sweet, who is batting .356 in the FSL for Daytona, a Cincinnati affiliate. Sweet, a switch-hitting outfielder, was a 29th-round pick out of Dallas Baptist in 2016. … Ole Miss product Tate Blackman is among the top hitters in the low-A South Atlantic League, batting .359 with three homers for Kannapolis in the Chicago White Sox system. Second baseman Blackman was a 13th-round pick last June.
Zack Ingram, a sophomore right-hander at Mississippi College, was named both the Gulf South Conference and NCAA Division II South Region pitcher of the week this week. He is 4-0 with a 3.16 ERA this season, and he threw a no-hitter for the Choctaws in 2017. Ingram is the well-credentialed ace of a pitching staff that will be challenged, to say the least, when MC visits Delta State for a GSC series this weekend in Cleveland. They’ll play a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday at Ferriss Field. Highly ranked DSU, which already has clinched the GSC regular season title, is 36-7 (21-4), led by an offense that is batting .340, slugging .522 and tallying 10 runs a game. Clay Casey is the reigning GSC player of the week and is batting .362 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs. He’s not even the Statesmen’s best hitter. That’s Golden Spikes Award candidate Zack Shannon (.439, school-record 27 homers, 80 RBIs). Oh, and Emil Ellis is hitting .395. MC is 28-13 (17-8 GSC) and enjoying one of its best years in a while. Chris Crosby (5-3, 3.73), Hunter Mullis (5-3, 4.39) and Brandon Kennedy (3.34) are other high-performing members of the pitching staff. The Choctaws can hit a little, too, with seven regulars at .300 or better, led by Blaine Crim at .370. DSU leads this old rivalry 119-41-2, but the series stands 6-3 since MC returned to the GSC. And Ingram beat the Statesmen – with much the same lineup — last year, so there’s a blueprint.
Highs: The No. 1 highlight for Mississippians in the majors on Thursday was provided by Corey Dickerson, whose first career walk-off home run gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 win over Detroit. The Meridian Community College product is batting .314 with two homers, 13 RBIs and 13 runs for the Pirates, who acquired the 2017 All-Star in a curious spring trade with Tampa Bay. … Jarrod Dyson, another McComb native and an ex-Southwest Mississippi CC star, went deep for surging Arizona, his new team, in a victory at Philadelphia. Dyson is 4-for-11 in his last three games and is at .197 with six RBIs and eight runs on the year. … Former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff is back in the big leagues with Milwaukee and may soon find his way back into the first-place Brewers’ rotation. The right-hander was 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three Triple-A starts after posting a 5.14 in three games for Milwaukee before being sent out. Lows: Ex-State star Kendall Graveman was sent to Triple-A Nashville by Oakland on Thursday. The A’s opening day starter, he is 0-5 with an 8.89 ERA after suffering a loss against Texas on Wednesday. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier went 0-for-4 on Thursday and was 1-for-16 in slumping Minnesota’s four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees. … MSU product Hunter Renfroe is eligible to come off the disabled list for San Diego this weekend but there has been no indication that will happen. Renfroe, batting .200 with two homers in 17 games, has been troubled by pain in his right arm. P.S. Four Magnolia State products appear in the top 58 in MLB Pipeline’s new list of the Top 100 draft prospects. Ole Miss left-hander Ryan Rolison is No. 12, Brandon High infielder/pitcher J.T. Ginn No. 36, MSU lefty Konnor Pilkington No. 57 and Hattiesburg High outfielder Joe Gray No. 58. The full chart was published on mlb.com Thursday.
At Trustmark Park, the prized arms just keep coming. Of Atlanta’s top 15 prospects (as ranked on mlb.com), 11 are pitchers. Seven of those 11 have climbed the bump at the TeePee in the past couple of years, and that number doesn’t include 2016 Mississippi Braves star Sean Newcomb, who has moved off the prospect chart and into Atlanta’s rotation. The marquee pitchers in 2017 were Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Luiz Gohara; Fried and Gohara already have made The Show. The centerpiece of the 2018 M-Braves staff is Kyle Wright, Atlanta’s No. 2 prospect and the scheduled starter tonight in Pearl in the opener of a series against the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals. (Jon Duplantier, Arizona’s top prospect, is slated to start for Jackson.) Ex-Vanderbilt ace Wright was drafted fifth overall — $7M bonus – last June and worked only 17 innings in the low minors last summer. A 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander, he got his first Double-A win in his last outing, going six innings at Mobile. He is 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 14 2/3 innings. Wright throws the requisite upper-90s fastball and two good breaking pitches, according to the MLB Pipeline scouting report. He is forecast to make the big leagues next year, as is Touki Toussaint, another top 15 prospect on the current M-Braves staff. And remember the names Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller and Bryse Wilson. All are top 15 prospects pitching in A-ball who’ll be in Pearl soon. This wealth of pitching should pay dividends in Atlanta for years to come. P.S. Kudos to Jonny Venters, who toiled for the M-Braves in 2008-09, for making it back to the majors after a six-year absence. Venters, a star in Atlanta from 2010-12, has endured multiple arm surgeries and setbacks. He retired the only batter he faced for Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
Both Kendall Graveman and Lance Lynn were saddled with another loss on Wednesday, but there was a difference in their outings. Former Mississippi State star Graveman may have found something; ex-Ole Miss standout Lynn is still searching. Graveman fell to 0-5 for 13-12 Oakland, allowing three runs in six innings of a 4-2 loss to Texas. But utilizing his changeup more frequently and effectively, he struck out seven batters and actually trimmed his ERA to 8.89. “I thought the changeup was really good,” Graveman told mlb.com. “Got a lot of swing-and-misses. For me, that’s a big plus, something I’m working on … .” Lynn, in his fourth start for Minnesota, was KO’d by the New York Yankees in the fourth inning of a 7-4 defeat, the 8-11 Twins’ sixth straight L. Lynn (0-2) yielded six runs – including two homers – and saw his ERA jump to 7.71. “When I made pitches, I would get outs, but I didn’t make them when it counted,” Lynn said in an mlb.com article. P.S. Cool to see five former Mississippi Braves combine for eight hits, three runs and three RBIs in Atlanta’s 5-4 victory at Cincinnati. Included was Ronald Acuna’s first big league hit and Ozzie Albies’ seventh homer. In addition, M-Braves alums Jesse Biddle tossed two scoreless innings and A.J. Minter notched his first save.
Dominant may not be a strong enough word to describe Will Freeman’s performance on Tuesday in Ellisville. The Jones County Junior College sophomore struck out 18 batters in a seven-inning, 2-0 win over Pearl River Community College. The Alabama signee is 6-1 with a 3.32 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 57 innings. In the day’s second game, Jones’ Tyler Spring and Bryce Fagan combined on a three-hitter in a 4-1 win. This twinbill was a showdown for first place in the MACJC standings, which third-ranked Jones, 33-7 and winner of 14 straight, now leads at 18-4. Fourth-ranked PRCC is 17-5, 32-8. … It’s a midweek, neutral-site game that doesn’t count in the SEC standings, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone among the 8,500-plus in Pearl on Tuesday night who would dismiss the Governor’s Cup as just another game. Mississippi State’s dramatic walk-off win against Ole Miss was the Bulldogs’ third straight victory in the Cup series and eighth in the last nine games overall vs. the Rebels. Worth noting: Jake Mangum, the Jackson Prep product who had a two-run double for the Bulldogs and scored the game-winning run, is 22-for-51 (.431) against UM in his career. … Delta State, ranked as high as No. 3 in NCAA Division II, put up 20 runs in a win against Ouachita Baptist on Tuesday in Cleveland and is averaging 10 runs a game. How does DSU, 36-7, ever lose? … A hitter making his big league debut couldn’t pick a much better venue than Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, a masher’s paradise. Ronald Acuna, the former Mississippi Braves star and Atlanta’s top prospect, is expected to be in the Braves’ lineup tonight at what some jokingly call “the Great American Small Park.” Acuna passed through Trustmark Park in Pearl last season en route to being named Baseball America’s minor league player of the year. The Reds’ scheduled starter is left-hander Brandon Finnegan. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier saw his 17-game hitting streak end as Minnesota suffered its fifth straight loss, 8-3, on Tuesday night against the New York Yankees. “Couldn’t care less about the streak,” Dozier told mlb.com. “The beautiful thing about it is, we play tomorrow.” Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, seeking his first win as a Twin, will get the start today at Yankee Stadium. … They’ve set a date in Laurel. Opening day for the city’s National Urban Professional Baseball League team is May 25. Tickets are on sale. The team will be called the Josh Gibson All-Stars in honor of the Hall of Famer from the Negro Leagues and will play at Wooten Legion Field. Tryouts are ongoing. (Visit nupbl.com for more information.) A number of Mississippians are expected to be on the Laurel team roster.
It’s much too early in the season to be alarmed, but Bobby Bradley – the highly regarded Cleveland prospect from Gulfport – is off to a noticeably rough start in his second Double-A campaign. The 21-year-old first baseman is batting .103 with two home runs and 20 strikeouts in 58 at-bats for Akron. Bradley reported for spring training – he went to big league camp, where he batted .312 – having dropped about 25 pounds from last year. He lists at 6 feet 1, 225. “I am focused on what I started to focus on at the end of last year, which is staying with a consistent approach, becoming a better defender and becoming a better base runner,” he told the Akron Beacon Journal earlier this month. It’s the power in his bat that has made Bradley the No. 3 prospect in the Indians’ system, according to the ratings of MLB Pipeline, Baseball America and Perfect Game. He hit 23 homers (with a .251 average) for Akron last year and has 89 bombs (with a .255 average) in five pro seasons since Cleveland picked him in the third round out of Harrison Central High in 2014. Surely he’ll start to hit as the weather improves in the Eastern League.
The longest current hitting streak in the majors belongs to Brian Dozier, who went 2-for-5 on Sunday to extend his run to 16 games. That also happens to be a Minnesota Twins record to begin a season. Former Southern Miss star Dozier just keeps doing these things, steadily establishing himself as one of the game’s premier players. In what might be his last tour with the Twins – he’s a free agent at season’s end – Dozier is batting .310 with four homers and nine RBIs. Over the past four years, he has been an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner, set a record for homers by a second baseman (with 42 in 2016) and earned two team MVP and Heart and Hustle awards. He drove in more than 90 runs each of the previous two years, hit at least 20 homers and scored more than 100 runs each of the last four and topped 30 doubles and 10 steals each of the last five. He batted a career-high .271 with 34 homers last season and helped the Twins reach the postseason for the first time in seven years, then homered to lead off the wild card game at New York’s Yankee Stadium. Dozier and the Twins will be back on that stage today, opening a four-game series against the Yanks and their array of stars. Dozier will hold his own. P.S. Also on the MLB hot list: Mitch Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State standout who is batting .438 with two homers and nine RBIs in his last five games for Boston, and JaCoby Jones, the Richton High product who is hitting .375 with two homers and five RBIs in his last seven games for Detroit.
Well, now, that was some kind of weekend in college baseball. Mississippi State swept Arkansas. Ole Miss took two of three from Georgia. Southern Miss took three from Middle Tennessee State. Jackson State won a series against Alabama State. Alcorn State took two of three from visiting Mississippi Valley. Delta State claimed the Gulf South championship with a sweep at North Alabama as Zack Shannon broke the school’s single-season homer record. William Carey won a Saturday rubber game against Blue Mountain. Millsaps put up a fight at the SAA Tournament, going 2-2. But let’s focus for a moment, if that’s possible, on Mississippi College. The Choctaws beat West Alabama two of three at Frierson Field in Clinton, clinching a berth in the GSC Tournament for the second straight season. MC is 28-12, 17-8 in the league. Remember that the Choctaws were 17-30 two years ago in Jeremy Haworth’s first season there and 12-34 the year before he arrived. That’s some kind of progress. MC’s best hitter has been Blaine Crim, who homered and drove in three runs in Saturday’s series clincher. He is batting .380 with nine home runs and 48 RBIs, all team-bests. MC’s pitching also has improved dramatically under Haworth. The weekend starters – Chris Crosby, Hunter Mullis and Zack Ingram – are a combined 14-6 with a 3.73 ERA. So, what’s next? For MC, there’s a trip to Delta State next weekend. Buckle up.