Pearl River Community College is off to a hot start – eight wins in nine games – and one of the hitters providing the fuel is Wiley Cleland. The former Columbia Academy star has four home runs and 15 RBIs – and is among quite a number of MACJC players showing up on the lists of national leaders. Cleland is tied for second in NJCAA Division II in homers and tied for 14th in RBIs. Wildcats teammate Dexter Jordan, from Hattiesburg, has three homers, tied for fifth with a group that also includes Blake Johnson (Gulfport) of Jones County JC and Ben Van Cleve (Indianola) of Northwest. Mississippi Delta’s Ty Richie, from Brandon and Northwest Rankin, has 12 steals, tied for fifth nationally. Cole Johnson of Holmes and Oak Grove alum Mack Pickering of Meridian are hitting .556, tied for eighth in the nation. Johnson has nine runs and five RBIs in six games. Tyler Lantz of MCC has pitched only 4 1/3 innings but has 10 strikeouts, a rate of 20.77 per nine that ranks third nationally. Northwest CC’s Jackson Smith, a Central Hinds product, has three saves, tied for second in D-II, plus a win for the 7-1 Rangers. P.S. Hinds and Southwest put up video game numbers on Wednesday, with both teams scoring 28 runs in doubleheader sweeps. The Eagles blew away Arkansas Baptist, while Southwest humbled Nunez. … New East Mississippi coach Brett Kimbrel is slated for his home debut on Friday, when Wallace State-Hanceville visits Scooba. The Lions won two of eight road games to start the season.
In their one season together at Mississippi State, Brent Rooker and Nate Lowe showed flashes of the tool – power — that has propelled them to the doorstep of the major leagues. In 2016, Rooker hit 11 home runs for the Bulldogs, and Lowe belted five. Lowe was drafted by Tampa Bay that summer and exploded as a prospect in 2018, rising from A-ball to Triple-A while hitting 27 homers all told. Rooker was drafted by Minnesota in 2017 – after hitting 23 homers for State and winning the SEC Triple Crown – and made it to Double-A last year. He hit 22 bombs for Chattanooga. By some cosmic coincidence, Rooker and Lowe hit their first homers in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday. Rooker went yard against Philadelphia in Clearwater, Fla., a two-run, seventh-inning shot that carried the Twins to a 4-2 win. Lowe, a lefty hitter, blasted a tape-measure homer against Boston in Port Charlotte. Neither is on their club’s 40-man roster, but both appear on the brink of breaking through, especially Lowe. “He might be ready now,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said in an mlb.com article after Wednesday’s game. “He’s definitely making a good impression.”
Jarrod Dyson, who missed the second half of the 2018 season with a groin injury, has yet to appear in a spring training game for Arizona because of another injury: a strained left oblique. The 34-year-old McComb native reportedly hurt himself playing catch earlier this week. Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told mlb.com: “He’s not going to miss a big chunk of time.” Still, oblique injuries can be tricky, and Dyson has a history of hurts. In 2017, with Seattle, he hit .251 with 28 bags while missing the last few weeks of the season with another groin injury. He also had an oblique issue in Kansas City in 2016, when he had his best MLB campaign, batting .278 with 30 steals. He won a ring with the ’15 Royals. In his second season with Arizona, Dyson is expected to back up Ketel Marte in center field and also play a role as a pinch runner and hitter. In 67 games last year, Dyson batted .189 with 16 steals. P.S. Mitch Moreland has yet to appear in a game for Boston, but the ex-Mississippi State star from Amory isn’t hurt. Red Sox manager Alex Cora reportedly is holding back some of the older veterans. Moreland, 33, played 124 games last year and 11 more during the long postseason for the world champion BoSox. … Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart was back in the lineup today for the Los Angeles Angels after being scratched from a Monday start as a precaution over shoulder soreness. Cozart is coming back from shoulder surgery that curtailed his 2018 season.
Mississippi Valley State finally got on the field Tuesday for its first game of the season after a couple of postponements. The Delta Devils lost 4-2 at Arkansas State, giving up a lead in the eighth inning. The bigger news from the Delta on Tuesday comes from Cleveland, where Delta State beat Arkansas Tech 9-2 to improve to 13-0 – matching its best-ever start – and also learned that it has jumped to No. 1 in the NCBWA’s NCAA Division II poll. The Statesmen returned just one regular position player from the outstanding 2018 team, but Mike Kinnison has kept the green machine humming, as he always seems to do. DSU is hitting .301 with 87 runs, led by David Herrington (.431), Darek Sargent (.340, 17 RBIs) and the remarkable Jake Barlow, who hit for the cycle on Sunday, belted a grand slam on Tuesday and is batting .412 with three homers and 15 RBIs. Not to be overlooked by any means is DSU’s pitching staff, which has a ridiculous 0.90 ERA. Hunter Riggins is 4-0 with an 0.33, Seth Hougesen 3-0, 0.73 and Melvin Frazier 3-0, 1.29. The Statesmen play Arkansas Tech again today at Ferriss Field, then head to Georgia for a weekend Gulf South series against Shorter.
As a 25th-round draft pick, an undersized infielder from a small school, Trent Giambrone had some things to prove in pro ball. He’s doing just that. The ex-Delta State standout had a day in the Cactus League on Monday, going 2-for-4 with a double and a home run for the Chicago Cubs against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Giambrone, 5 feet 8, 175 pounds, is currently the Cubs’ No. 20 prospect (per MLB Pipeline) and is in big league camp as a non-roster invitee. He was named an organization All-Star after the 2018 season, when he batted .251 with 17 homers and 26 steals at Double-A Tennessee. He had a three-homer, nine-RBI game for the Smokies last summer. Then he went to the Arizona Fall League and hit .327 there. Giambrone, who played second base on Monday, has played six different positions in the minors, the kind of versatility Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes. A scouting report also hails Giambrone’s “full-tilt style of play.” He’ll likely begin his fourth pro season in Triple-A, perhaps the final proving ground.
The Southern Miss-Mississippi State series in Starkville, which ended with a walk-off win for the Bulldogs in Sunday’s rubber game, deserved the lion’s share of attention this weekend. Ethan Small and J.T. Ginn appear to be a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of State’s rotation. USM didn’t hit (.158 in the series) and was hurt also by seven errors. But there was a whole lot else goin’ on over the weekend that is also worth noting. To wit: Ole Miss’ red-hot Thomas Dillard (a .522 hitter) had a two-homer, eight-RBI game at Tulane – and a three-homer, 13-RBI week – in a contest the Rebels lost, 13-12, when All-America closer Parker Caracci yielded a walk-off homer. Former Jackson Prep star Caracci gave up just one homer in 48 innings in 2018. … Delta State’s Jake Barlow, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound redshirt freshman from Louisiana, hit for the cycle in a Sunday win against Gulf South foe Union, the first cycle for a Statesman in eight years (Kellen Bozeman). Hunter Riggins threw eight shutout innings in that game to move to 4-0 for 10-0 DSU. … Mississippi College (9-3, 2-0 GSC) swept a twinbill from West Georgia on Sunday at Smith-Wills Stadium as starters Chris Crosby and Ryan Lane and closer Tommy Taborda combined to allow one run over 16 innings. Crosby fanned 13 in 8 2/3, Lane eight in seven. … Belhaven’s Justin Milam, a junior from Madison by way of Northwest Mississippi Community College, went 4-for-8 with a homer and four RBIs and threw two scoreless innings as the Blazers won two of three games at Smith-Wills. Milam is batting .382 and has a 0.00 ERA in four appearances for 4-5 BU. … Millsaps went 1-2 in its three games at busy Smith-Wills, including a 21-6 win vs. Wisconsin-Platteville that featured Mason Little’s 3-for-5, five-RBI performance. … And in big league spring training on Sunday: Former USM star Chuckie Robinson belted a three-run homer for Houston against the New York Mets, and ex-State standout Hunter Renfroe went 2-for-2 with a walk and a homer for San Diego vs. the Chicago White Sox.
Spencer Turnbull, the former Madison Central High star, got the start in Detroit’s Grapefruit League opener today and got six quick outs against reigning NAIA national champ Southeastern University, 11-2 and averaging over 10 runs per game against its college competition. Turnbull yielded a hit to the game’s first batter, who was caught stealing, and retired the next five. Turnbull, 26, went 0-2 with a 6.06 ERA in four games as a rookie for the Tigers in 2018 and is competing for a starter’s job this spring. “I think he’d be best served, if he doesn’t make our rotation, to start in Triple-A,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said in an mlb.com story. “This kid’s going to be a good one.”
If you love baseball and you love history, you look up box scores. It’s what you do. There is a profound delight in ferreting out an old box, whether it’s in a newspaper clipping or, more likely these days, a data base on a website. You’re bound to find something that will suck you in and take you back to a bygone time. To wit: Joe Gibbon, the former Ole Miss star from Hickory who died on Wednesday, made his big league debut on April 17, 1960. How’d it go? Thanks to baseball-reference.com, you can pull up the box score and find out in rich detail. It was Game 2 of a Sunday doubleheader at Forbes Field, Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh. There were 16,000-plus in the park at the start of the day. Gibbon came on for the Pirates in the eighth inning of a game the Bucs trailed 5-0. The big lefty worked two scoreless innings, yielding three hits and a walk, against a Reds lineup that included Frank Robinson, Billy Martin and Vada Pinson. Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski and Dick Groat played for Pittsburgh that day. In the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates scored six times. Hal Smith, pinch-hitting for Gibbon, hit a three-run homer. Bob Skinner hit a two-run, game-winning blast off Ted Wieand. Gibbon got the win. You can’t tell from the box score how he felt, but it had to be pretty darn good. And it was just the start of a magical rookie season that culminated with a World Series championship.
Busy schedule at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium (with its artificial surface) this weekend: Millsaps College will play Wisconsin-Platteville on Friday at 2, followed by a Belhaven University-UWP game. On Saturday at 10, Millsaps and UWP will meet again, followed by a doubleheader between Belhaven and Centenary. Millsaps and Centenary will hook up on Sunday at 11, followed by a doubleheader (at 2) between Mississippi College and Gulf South rival West Georgia. That series will conclude on Monday with a noon start. … Unbeaten Delta State bolted to No. 7 – up eight spots – in the new NCBWA Division II poll. The Statesmen are 9-0 heading into a three-game series vs. Union University this weekend at Cleveland’s Ferriss Field. Mississippi College (7-3), ranked as high as No. 7 in one preseason poll, is 18th in the writers poll. … MUW opened its second season with a doubleheader sweep, 10-2 and 12-6, of Lane College on Monday at Columbus High’s field. Owls leadoff batter Heath Ford went 3-for-8 with three RBIs in the two games, and Leon Petite had two hits, three runs and three RBIs. … Tougaloo College and Rust College faced off in a Gulf Coast Athletic Conference series over the weekend, with the host Bulldogs winning both games to improve to 2-5. Rust is a new member of the GCAC this season. … Pearl River Community College’s Shemar Page and Jones County JC’s O’Neil Burgos were named the MACJC pitcher and hitter of the week. Page, a sophomore right-hander from Raleigh, threw five hitless innings with 10 strikeouts in a win last weekend against St. Louis CC. Burgos, freshman out of Brookhaven Academy, went 7-for-13 with a homer and four RBIs in the Bobcats’ 4-0 week. … Meridian CC, ranked No. 4 in preseason by Collegiate Baseball, is off to a 2-2 start with a doubleheader slated for Sunday against Copiah-Lincoln CC at Hartfield Academy in Flowood, just down the highway from Smith-Wills.
If he produces a typical season, Brian Dozier will easily top 1,000 career hits in the big leagues in 2019. The Fulton native and former Southern Miss star is the active leader in hits among Mississippi-born players in MLB with 954 through six-plus seasons. Notching a thousand career hits is an impressive feat, requiring a combination of skill, opportunity and longevity. Dozier, 32 in May, will need another six or so productive seasons to reach 2,000 hits, which only four Mississippi-born players have managed to do. Grenada native Dave Parker tops that list with 2,712, followed by Ellisville’s Buddy Myer (2,131), Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks (2,107) and Greenville’s Frank White (2,006). Dozier, who’ll play second base for the Washington Nationals in 2019, could also reach another hits milestone this season. The record for a USM alum is 1,142, by Jim Davenport. Kevin Young is second with 1,007. … Former Mississippi State star Rafael Palmeiro is among the 32 players with 3,000 hits; his 3,020 are by far the most by a Mississippi college alumnus. Ex-Bulldogs great Will Clark had 2,176. The most by an Ole Miss product is 1,991 by Gee Walker, a Gulfport native who played in the 1930s and ’40s. Don Kessinger had 1,931. Dave Clark leads Jackson State alums with 518. … Amory’s Mitch Moreland, another Mississippi State product, is No. 2 on the state’s active hits list with 857. (Jackson’s Seth Smith, presumably retired, is sitting on 934.) Moreland, Boston first baseman, probably won’t get to 1,000 this year – his career-high for a season is 131 – but should make it in 2020. … … Bobby Abreu, who played for the Jackson Generals in the mid-’90s, is the leader, with 2,470 hits, among former Jackson area Double-A players. Hubie Brooks leads former Jackson Mets with 1,608, and Brian McCann, still active, is tops among ex-Mississippi Braves with 1,521.