After winning Gulf South Conference Tournament MVP honors and leading Mississippi College to an NCAA Division II regional, Blaine Crim did not head for the beaches of Mobile, Ala., his hometown. He headed to the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, where he has continued to shine. Crim, a rising senior first baseman, is batting .395 with seven homers and 46 RBIs for the Southern Ohio Copperheads. He also started and won a game as a pitcher. Crim hit .383 with 13 homers and 66 RBIs for the 2018 Choctaws, who went 36-17 and won the GSC Tournament title. He was an academic All-American as well as an All-South Region and second-team All-GSC pick. … Matt Wallner, currently playing in the Cape Cod League, is the most celebrated returnee at Southern Miss, but don’t overlook Gabe Montenegro, the 5-foot-7 Guatemala native who earned freshman All-America honors in 2018. Montenegro backed up his strong season with a good showing in the Valley Baseball League. In 22 games, he hit .311 with 14 runs, 10 RBIs and five steals. As USM’s leadoff batter, he hit .295 with 49 runs and 38 RBIs in 59 games. … Mississippi State’s Peyton Plumlee, who missed the 2018 season under NCAA suspension, went 4-0 with a 2.32 ERA in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Plumlee, who transferred to State from Northwest Mississippi Community College, posted a 4.01 ERA for the Bulldogs in 2017. … Finishing with five straight wins, the Tupelo Thunder claimed the regular season title in the Cotton States League with a 15-5 record. The North Delta Dealers dropped their last two games to finish 14-6 in the wood-bat college summer league. Both earned berths in the playoff semifinals, set for Saturday in New Albany. Trey Jolly, a onetime Mississippi State player, leads the Thunder with a .529 average and 16 RBIs, and Northeast Mississippi CC alum Anthony Lipsey is at .354. On the mound, Kyle Raburn is 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA. John Wesley Ray, a former Ole Miss and Delta State player, was a two-way standout for the Dealers, batting .328 with 16 RBIs and posting a 5-1, 2.06 pitching ledger. Northwest CC product Reed Logsdon is 4-1, 2.40.
Mississippi-connected pitchers were in the MLB news on Tuesday. And much of the news wasn’t good. Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss star, came off the disabled list to make his first start for Boston since May 31. He lost. Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff, who has been on the elevator between Milwaukee and Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, went down again. For ex-State standout Kendall Graveman, the news was far worse. Oakland announced that Graveman will have Tommy John surgery, which could mean he’ll miss all of 2019. “It’s going to take him a little while to get back,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told mlb.com. “So we’re all feeling that a little today.” Then there’s Southern Miss product Cody Carroll, who was among the three minor leaguers traded by the New York Yankees to Baltimore for Zach Britton. For Carroll, who has been pitching very well at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the move from the powerhouse Yankees to the moribund Orioles might mean a clearer path to the big leagues. So there’s that. … Pomeranz allowed six hits – two homers – two walks and four runs in 4 2/3 innings vs. Baltimore and fell to 1-4, 6.91 in nine starts for the Red Sox. He did not seem discouraged. “Literally two bad pitches, so that’s about it,” he told mlb.com. … Woodruff has a 4.80 ERA in 12 games with the Brewers. Optioned out for the fifth time in 2018, he’ll no doubt be back with the big club soon. … Graveman was 1-5, 7.60 for the A’s this year and was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in late April. He made four Triple-A starts before being shut down in late May. … Carroll, in his fourth pro season, was rated the No. 15 prospect in the Yankees’ system. He was 3-0 with nine saves and a 2.38 ERA at SWB and over his last 10 games had a 0.82 ERA and four saves. He might get a look with the O’s before season’s end.
Baseball loves its history and its numbers, the good, the bad and the ugly. Much to Mike Mayers’ chagrin, he made history with some ugly numbers on this date – July 24 – two years ago. In his big league debut for St. Louis, the former Ole Miss standout allowed nine runs on eight hits – two of them homers — plus two walks in 1 1/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s an ERA of 60.90. It was statistically the worst debut ever for a pitcher, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Mayers became the first player to allow nine or more earned runs in fewer than two innings in his first appearance since earned runs became a stat in 1912. From that humbling start, Mayers has evolved into a fairly reliable reliever for the Cardinals. In 29 appearances this season, the right-hander – who hits the upper 90s on the gun – has a 3.86 ERA, a 2-1 record and a save. He was up and down from Triple-A numerous times in the season’s first two months, but he has stuck since his June 8 recall and carved out a role in the bullpen. New Cards manager Mike Shildt, who took over July 15, has gone to Mayers in key situations. It’d be only fitting for Mayers to get into today’s game at Cincinnati, an anniversary gift of sorts. Baseball also loves that kind of thing.
Travis Demeritte is one of the most intriguing players on the Mississippi Braves’ roster. He is a former first-round draft pick. He has played in an All-Star Futures Game and two minor league all-star games. He has hit as many as 28 homers in a season and swiped as many as 17 bases in a season. He stands 6 feet, weighs 180 pounds and can play second base, third and left field. MLB Pipeline rates him the 19th-best prospect in a strong Atlanta system. Yet many M-Braves fans must be wondering, When is Demeritte going to break out? With roughly a month and a half left in his second Double-A campaign, Demeritte is hitting .221 with 11 homers and four bags. He has struck out an even 100 times in 308 at-bats. If the M-Braves, currently 15-14 and 6 games out of first, are going to make any kind of run at a playoff spot in the Southern League South, more production from the 23-year-old Demeritte would be a big help. When the Braves acquired him from Texas (for two pitching prospects) in the summer of 2016, the trade generated some buzz. Demeritte was batting .272 with 25 homers and 13 steals in 88 games in the Class A California League. He added three homers and four steals in 35 games for the Braves’ high-A club. But he did punch out a bunch, and that trend continued in his Double-A debut last year. He hit 15 homers in 124 games – and made the SL All-Star Game – but all in all, it was a disappointing year. There hasn’t been much to shout about in 2018, either, but there is still time – for him and his club. The M-Braves begin a stretch of 10 straight home games tonight, facing Mobile at Trustmark Park. P.S. One of Mobile’s hottest hitters is Jack Kruger, the ex-Mississippi State star drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. Kruger, a catcher, has hit .333 his last 10 games and is at .308 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 25 games. He was promoted to Double-A Mobile on June 21, when Meridian Community College alum Wade Wass, also a catcher, retired and opened a roster spot.
In a Carolina League contest in North Carolina on Sunday, a couple of former Mississippi college stars played their own little game of “top that.” Southern Miss product Chuckie Robinson ultimately came out ahead. He hit a grand slam in the third inning and then added a tie-breaking three-run blast in the eighth as Buies Creek (a Class A Houston affiliate) beat visiting Down East (Texas Rangers) 10-7. LeDarious Clark, the former East Mississippi Community College standout, went deep twice for Down East, which rallied from a 7-0 deficit and eventually tied the score on Clark’s three-run homer in the seventh inning. Clark, a 12th-round pick in 2015 by the Rangers out of West Florida, had three hits and raised his average to .278 with five homers and 11 RBIs in 27 games for the Wood Ducks. Robinson, a 21st-rounder in 2016 by the Astros out of USM, hit homers No. 5 and 6 on the year for Buies Creek and now has 23 RBIs. A recent surge (.324 in his last 10 games) has boosted his average to .218. “It’s always good and rewarding when you have a good game at the plate, but I’ve been working hard and I’ll continue to work hard,” Robinson told milb.com. He was a Midwest League All-Star at catcher in 2017 and is the Astros’ No. 26 prospect (per MLB Pipeline).
The suddenly surging Pittsburgh Pirates, the hottest team in baseball, are getting a lot of their juice from Corey Dickerson. The ex-Meridian Community College standout homered for the fourth straight game on Sunday as the Pirates beat Cincinnati 9-2 to extend their winning streak to nine games. Don’t look now, but the Bucs, under former Jackson Mets manager Clint Hurdle, are 51-49 and back in the wild card picture in the National League. Dickerson, once thought to be a possible trade chip, may now be sticking around. An All-Star with Tampa Bay in 2017 before being inexplicably cut loose by the Rays, Dickerson is batting .315 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs for the Pirates. He’s been a steady hitter all season but through the first three months had not shown the power he displayed previously in his career. He went from May 5 to June 30 without a homer. He has hit six in July, five in his last four games, including the 447-foot bomb on Sunday at Great American Ballpark. “My approach changes every day,” Dickerson told mlb.com, noting that he doesn’t always try to hit home runs. Batting mainly in the leadoff spot, he has 10 hits in his last four games and is batting .400 in his last 15. Dickerson and his Pirates mates are in Cleveland today, where their rejuvenation will be challenged by Corey Kluber, ace of the American League Central leader.
Welcome to the century club, Corey Dickerson. Dickerson, the Meridian Community College and Brookhaven Academy product, smacked his 100th career home run on Saturday, when he went deep twice for Pittsburgh in a win against Cincinnati. Dickerson, in his sixth big league campaign, has 10 homers on the year and is batting .307 with 40 RBIs. … Lance Lynn’s rocky season continues. The ex-Ole Miss standout allowed six walks, three hits and three runs over five innings for Minnesota in a loss to Kansas City and saw his record dip to 7-8 with a 5.23 ERA. His potential trade value would seem to be sinking. … Drew Pomeranz, another former UM star, is slated to return to active duty on Tuesday for Boston. The left-hander has been out since the end of May with arm problems. A 17-game winner in 2017, he is 1-3, 6.81 this season. … Pittsburgh’s plan to get Adam Frazier more regular at-bats in Triple-A has had mixed results. The former Mississippi State star has a six-game RBI streak at Indianapolis but is batting just .228 over 30 games. He has 18 RBIs and 10 runs all told. Frazier, who spent all of 2017 in the big leagues, opened this season with the Pirates; he has a .239 average in 58 games with the big club. … Ole Miss alum Bobby Wahl has changed teams but not levels. The hard-throwing right-hander went from Oakland to the New York Mets in the Jeurys Familia trade but reportedly will stay in Triple-A with his new organization. Wahl was 3-2 with 11 saves and a 2.27 ERA at Nashville this year. He made seven MLB appearances with the A’s in 2017. … Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy had a run-scoring hit in Friday’s Under Armour All-America Game in Chicago; he joins former Starkville High star — and current Ole Miss receiver — A.J. Brown in the small group of players to participate in Under Armour’s baseball and football all-star games. MLB Network will show the Under Armour game today at 7 p.m. … Ealy is also slated to play in the Aug. 12 Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego, along with Pearl River Central’s Hayden Dunhurst, George County’s Logan Tanner and Olive Branch’s Kendall Williams.
On July 21, 1951, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Crawford native Sam Hairston made his major league debut, becoming the first black American to play for the White Sox. Hairston played in only four MLB games – but his legacy is much, much larger than that. He is the patriarch of the only black three-generation family in MLB history. Hairston had two sons, Jerry and John, who played in the majors and two grandsons, Jerry Jr. and Scott, who also reached that summit. Sam Hairston, a catcher, was a Negro Leagues star, winning a Triple Crown in 1950, before signing with the White Sox. He was 31 when he debuted. He played on in the minors until 1960, winning an MVP award in 1953 and hitting .304 for his career. He scouted and coached in the White Sox’s system before his death in 1997. Eight years ago, the city of Columbus, just a few miles from Crawford, held a Sam Hairston Celebration day with plans to name a baseball field in his honor.
In a dugout interview during ESPN’s coverage of Thursday night’s game, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon sang the praises of former Mississippi Braves star Jason Heyward, calling his first-half performance a key ingredient in the team’s charge into first place. Heyward rose to the occasion with a three-hit, two-RBI game as the Cubs beat St. Louis 9-6 to begin the second half. After a couple of seasons of scuffling in Wrigleyville, Heyward is hitting .290 with six homers and 43 RBIs in 2018. Resurgent seasons by Heyward and Gorkys Hernandez, All-Star campaigns by Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies and the unyielding brilliance of Craig Kimbrel give rise to the idea that you could put together a competitive team of former M-Braves now in the big leagues. An infield of Freeman, Albies, Andrelton Simmons and Martin Prado is pretty darn solid. At catcher, there’s the seven-time All-Star Brian McCann, backed by Jesus Sucre. In the outfield, Heyward, Hernandez and either Ronald Acuna or Mallex Smith would be outstanding defensively. Evan Gattis is a scary man at DH. On the bench: Choose from Johan Camargo, Jose Peraza, Dansby Swanson, Tommy La Stella, Jose Martinez. Charlie Morton, also a 2018 All-Star, would head up a rotation that includes Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Sean Newcomb and Mike Minor. All-Star Kimbrel would be the closer in a bullpen with some combination of Arodys Vizcaino, Jesse Biddle, A.J. Minter, Chasen Shreve, Randall Delgado, Luis Avilan and Cory Gearrin. Such a team could probably win the American League Central this year.
Zack Shannon, whose 31 home runs for Delta State this past season were the most ever hit by a Mississippi collegian, is in a long-ball dry spell in rookie ball. Shannon has three homers in 25 games for Missoula in the Arizona chain but hasn’t gone yard since July 2. This is not to say he is slumping, however. The big first baseman, a 15th-round pick in June by the Diamondbacks, is batting .291 (.406 on-base) and has 11 extra-base hits all told, good for a .500 slugging percentage. … Shannon may not have been the top power prospect in the state this year. Simon Landry of Pearl River Community College set a Wildcats record with 19 home runs in 2018 and apparently impressed the Los Angeles Dodgers in a pre-draft workout. “It’s probably the best raw power we’ve ever seen at a workout,” the Dodgers’ scouting director told Dodgers Insider. The Dodgers took the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Landry in the 22nd round. He has played just one official pro game, going 1-for-1 with a double and a walk in the Arizona League. Landry hit .392 for PRCC this year while breaking the school mark for homers set by Wildcats assistant – and ex-big leaguer – Rhyne Hughes. … While neither Shannon nor Landry homered on Thursday, there were long balls to celebrate around the minors. To wit: Former Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley hit No. 20 – his third in five games – at Double-A Akron (Cleveland system). Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker belted his 16th for Double-A Chattanooga (Minnesota); he is hitting .261 with 56 RBIs in his second pro season. Ex-Itawamba CC star Tyreque Reed bopped his seventh homer for Class A Hickory (Texas). And the red-hot Hunter Stovall hit his fourth in nine games for rookie-level Grand Junction (Colorado). MSU product Stovall, a 21st-rounder this year, has 17 hits and a .447 average.