Hill Denson. You’d be hard-pressed to find a baseball fan in Mississippi who doesn’t know that name. In fact, a large percentage of them probably know him personally. He has been involved in the game here for much of his 75 years, playing it, coaching it and elevating it along the way. Belhaven University, where Denson has coached the last 19 years, is throwing a party Saturday at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium in honor of the Hall of Famer’s pending retirement. The Blazers will play Texas-Tyler at 1 p.m. The celebration will start well before that and won’t end ’til long after the game finishes. Denson played high school ball at Bay Springs, his hometown, then at Jones Junior College and Southern Miss. He is something of a state semi-pro legend. He coached high school ball, including 10 years at Callaway, before taking the job at USM, which he built into a first-rate program during a 14-year tenure. He’s also had tremendous success at Belhaven, winning more than 600 games. He’s part of the fabric of the game here, and Saturday’s celebration is richly deserved.
Drew Waters banged out three hits and C.J. Alexander went 1-for-4 with an RBI in their Double-A debuts on Thursday, and Ian Anderson yielded one run in four innings. But the Mississippi Braves couldn’t hold a late lead and lost their season opener at Tennessee 7-5. The M-Braves took the lead in the eighth with two runs against Smokies reliever Wyatt Short, the former Ole Miss closer from Southaven. But Short cherry-picked the win – in his 100th minor league game – when Tennessee rallied against the M-Braves bullpen. … Biloxi’s opener against Birmingham was rained out at MGM Park. Mississippi State product Daniel Brown, a lefty pitcher, is on the Shuckers’ roster, and former Columbia High star Ti’Quan Forbes, a third baseman, is with the Barons. … Back in Buffalo for the start of the minor league season, ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run to help Toronto’s Triple-A club beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 8-3. Ole Miss alum Jacob Waguespack pitched six innings for the win. Alford, up and down with the Blue Jays over the past three years, was in the majors on Tuesday and went 0-for-3. … If you watched it, you know this already: Former M-Braves pitcher Max Fried was ridiculously good (one hit, no walks, five strikeouts in six innings) for Atlanta against the Chicago Cubs in a 9-4 victory. “The stuff is off the charts,” Braves catcher Brian McCann told mlb.com. … Ole Miss and M-Braves alum Chris Ellis was designated for assignment by Kansas City and, if he passes through waivers as expected, will be offered back to St. Louis. Ellis, on the Royals’ roster as a Rule 5 pick, worked a scoreless inning in his MLB debut last Saturday but was squeezed off the roster by other moves. “We liked his stuff,” said K.C. manager Ned Yost, the old Jackson Mets catcher. … On the subject of stuff, ex-Madison Central standout Spencer Turnbull struck out 10 and allowed just two earned runs in six innings Thursday for Detroit, which beat the Royals 5-4. … Brian Dozier and Zack Cozart, Mississippi college products itching to get off to good starts in 2019, have not. Former Southern Miss star Dozier is 2-for-22 for his new club, Washington, while Ole Miss alum Cozart, coming back from injury in 2018, is 1-for-23 for the Los Angeles Angels. … Pittsburgh put Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College standout, on the injured list with a shoulder issue. Richton High product JaCoby Jones, also on the IL with a shoulder injury suffered in spring training, isn’t close to a return to Detroit’s lineup, reports say.