Fifty years ago, the first round of the major league draft included quite a few now familiar names, players who went on to make an impact in The Show. Jeff Burroughs went No. 1 overall to Washington – the old Senators – and J.R. Richard second to Houston. Alan Bannister, Don Gullett, Roger Metzger and Gorman Thomas were also among the top 24 picks. The third overall selection in 1969 never made the big leagues but still rates a prominent place in Mississippi baseball lore. Ted Nicholson, a product of Laurel’s old Oak Park High, was taken by the Chicago White Sox at No. 3, the highest any Magnolia State high schooler has ever been drafted. Reportedly scouted and signed by Crawford native and ex-Negro Leagues star Sam Hairston, Nicholson played parts of three seasons in the low minors – his career was interrupted by military duty – and hit .252 with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs. He was out of the pro game by 1972. … Though none are expected to go in tonight’s televised (MLB Network) first round, Mississippi-connected players have popped up in the opening round with some regularity. In the very first draft in 1965, Delta State’s Joe DiFabio was the 20th overall pick by St. Louis. Ole Miss’ Ryan Rolison was the 22nd selection last year, and Brandon High product J.T. Ginn was No. 30. The highest pick from the state is Mississippi State alum Will Clark, taken No. 2 in 1985. Others of note: State’s B.J. Wallace went third in 1992, UM’s Drew Pomeranz No. 5 in 2010, Tupelo High’s Kirk Presley eighth in 1993, State’s Paul Maholm No. 8 in 2003 and Jackson State’s Dave Clark 11th in 1983.
Mississippi State and Ole Miss got what they needed from starters Peyton Plumlee and Gunnar Hoglund, respectively, in Sunday’s regional clinchers. Plumlee went five-plus, yielding two runs for the Bulldogs, who used four relievers to close out the 5-2 win against Miami at Starkville. Hoglund worked 5 1/3 for the Rebels, allowing just one earned run, before three relievers finished up the 19-4 romp vs. Jacksonville State in Oxford. But the most impressive mound performance on Sunday might have came from a pitcher who took a loss, the one that ended Southern Miss’ season. In a must-win game, against LSU at night in a packed Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, the Golden Eagles’ Josh Lewis delivered six-plus innings, taking a lead into the seventh, against the national No. 13 seed. Left-hander Lewis, a junior transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, hadn’t pitched since May 17. He had only one previous start, and his ERA in 15 games was approaching 6.00. But the Eagles’ pitching depth was depleted after the wild 13-12 win over Arizona State earlier Sunday and an 8-4 loss to LSU on Saturday; they trotted out 11 pitchers in those two games. So Lewis got the ball with the season on the line. “Really, it’s a moment I’ve been waiting for,” Lewis told the Hub City Spokes. “I’m glad I went out there and gave us a chance to win.” After allowing a leadoff homer and then two more runs in the second inning, the undaunted Lewis settled in, and the Eagles rallied to take a 4-3 lead before the game got away from them in the seventh. Lewis was charged with eight hits, a walk and five runs in the 6-4 defeat. Those numbers don’t tell the story a truly valiant effort.