In his third year at Mississippi College, Jeremy Haworth appears to have things trending in the right direction. The Choctaws are 8-1 as they head into their first Gulf South Conference series of the season, a single game today and a doubleheader on Saturday at West Georgia. It’s the team’s best start in eight years. Haworth’s first MC team, still in transition to NCAA Division II, went 17-30 (7-25 GSC) and his second started 2-17 (0-9). While there was no word of buzzards circling Frierson Field, surely there was some anxiety in Clinton. But suddenly – things turned around. The Choctaws ripped off 18 wins in their next 26 games, finished 15-17 in the league and qualified for the conference tournament. That momentum seemingly has carried into 2018. They rallied to beat nationally ranked Lindenwood (Mo.) 12-11 in their opener, took that series 2-1 and haven’t lost since. Chris Crosby, a transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, has been the ace, posting a 2-0 mark with a 1.26 ERA in three starts. Another juco transfer, Billy Cameron from East Central CC, is batting .455 with two home runs and seven RBIs in six games. Grant Barber, a first-team All-GSC selection in 2017, is at .359 with 14 RBIs and 13 runs. Returnees Hunter Sykes (.452, eight doubles) and Kyle Smith (.432, 16 runs) also have been swinging hot bats. West Georgia will give MC an early gauge on its progress. The Wolves, ranked No. 9 in D-II, are 10-1 – they lost for the first time on Wednesday — and are averaging more than 11 runs a game.
Pittsburgh announced today that it has acquired Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College star, in a trade with Tampa Bay for reliever Daniel Hudson, a minor league infielder and cash. Dickerson, a 2017 All-Star, was designated for assignment by the Rays last week. The 28-year-old outfielder has a .280 career average with 90 homers and a .504 slugging percentage in 563 MLB games.
Grapefruit and Cactus League games start Friday, and Mississippians Corey Dickerson, Lance Lynn, Seth Smith and Tyler Moore, among others, don’t yet have a team to play for. Zack Cozart, Jarrod Dyson, Alex Presley and T.J. House are suiting up for new teams. Hunter Renfroe may soon be doing that, too. Brian Dozier is finally in camp after a detour to have a kidney stone removed. Austin Riley, Cody Carroll and Dakota Hudson are in big league camp as non-roster invitees for the first time. Mickey Callaway is now a manager, and Ron Gardenhire, the old Jackson Met and ex-Minnesota skipper, is back in the saddle. So, yeah, there’s a lot of interesting stuff to keep tabs on. Start with Renfroe, the former Mississippi State standout who hit 26 homers as a rookie for San Diego last year but may now be squeezed out of a roster spot. The Padres’ signing of Eric Hosmer and shifting of Wil Myers to right field has fueled rumors that Renfroe will be traded. “We’re all chess pieces in a huge game here – that’s the way you look at it,” Renfroe told mlb.com. … Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star, signed a two-year, $7.5M deal with Arizona earlier this week. A good defensive outfielder, Dyson, 33, had a strong offensive season with Seattle in 2017, batting. 251 with 56 runs and 28 steals in 111 games. He has 204 career steals over eight seasons. … Ole Miss product Presley signed a minor league deal with Baltimore, which had been seeking a lefty-hitting outfielder. Presley, 32, hit .314 in 71 games last year with Detroit, the fifth different MLB club he has played for over eight seasons. … Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, reportedly won’t play in Minnesota’s games on Friday and Saturday as he eases into the spring routine. A pending free agent after this season, he batted .271 with 34 homers last year and says he wants to remain a Twin. Stay tuned. … UM alum Bobby Wahl is in Oakland’s camp as a non-roster pitcher this year, trying to bounce back from a shoulder injury that required surgery and cost him his spot on the A’s 40-man roster. Wahl, who pitched just 7 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2017, used to throw 100 mph. Can he get there again? “The way the ball’s coming out, it feels easy,” he said last week in an mlb.com article. “So far, this is the best I’ve felt throwing a baseball in a long time.” … Tim Anderson, the former East Central CC star who had a tough year with the Chicago White Sox in 2017, said he feels refreshed this spring. “Getting away from it definitely helped me and kind of gave me some breathing room,” he told mlb.com. “I’m hungry and excited about this season coming up.” Anderson lost a close friend to a shooting and scuffled at times on the field, batting .257 with 28 errors at shortstop. … This should be a fun spring for Marcus Thames, another former East Central CC standout. Thames, recently named hitting coach of the New York Yankees, gets to work with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, et al., an array of sluggers that some expect to threaten the MLB home run record. Once the games begin to count, there might be a little pressure there for Thames.
He hit one home run last season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and says he never hit one in high school. But there sits Dylan Menhennett, leading all NJCAA Division II batters with five homers. “I’ve been working out non-stop, just getting better,” he said in a release by the school. “I’ve been swinging every night, coming up here (to Farris Field) and getting extra work.” The third baseman from Biloxi is 11-for-18 with 12 RBIs for the undefeated Bulldogs, who have pounded their opponents 74-12. Gulf Coast is among three MACJC teams off to a 6-0 start. … Jones County JC, preseason No. 1 in the NJCAA poll, is also 6-0 and has outscored its opposition 51-17. Luke Hudson, one of several freshmen in the Bobcats lineup, is 9-for-16 with two homers and seven RBIs. … Itawamba CC moved to 6-0 with a sweep of Columbia State on Tuesday, notching career wins No. 501 and 502 for longtime coach Rick Collier. The former Delta State player has one Juco World Series appearance, two region titles and two state titles on his ICC resume. … East Central CC is 4-0 after sweeping Bevill State on Tuesday. The Warriors won their first two games last weekend on walk-off hits by Kenneth Scott and Hunter Harper. Harper homered on Tuesday. … Hinds CC, the defending Region 23 champion, is 5-1 after rolling over Bishop State 13-2 and 9-4 on Tuesday.
On Aug. 28, 1981, Kelvin Moore made his MLB debut for Oakland and went 1-for-4 in a loss to Bobby Ojeda and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Moore’s first game in the big leagues was also the first in The Show for any Jackson State alumnus, a milestone worthy of note during Black History Month. Moore – one of those rare players who threw lefty but batted from the right side — played in 76 games over three seasons for the A’s and hit eight home runs. His debut seemed to open a door for JSU, an historically black school with a modest enrollment. Between 1981 and 1996, eight JSU products reached the major leagues, according to baseball-reference.com, and several had significant careers. The colorful and controversial Oil Can Boyd followed Moore in 1982; he went on to pitch 10 years in the majors. Then came Curtis Ford, Dave Clark (a first-round draft pick), Marvin Freeman, Howard Farmer, Wes Chamberlain and Mike Farmer. Dewon Day, who pitched in 13 games for the Chicago White Sox in 2007, is the only other Tigers alum to make it, an unfortunate sign of the times in MLB, which has seen a decline in the numbers of African-American players in recent years. All nine of the JSU big leaguers were coached by Bob Braddy, a recent inductee into both the College Baseball and Mississippi Sports Halls of Fame. Among SWAC schools, only Southern University, with 16, has produced more big leaguers than JSU. … The Tigers, now coached by Omar Johnson and coming off a 38-17 season, open their 2018 campaign tonight at the University of New Orleans and will then host Mississippi State at Braddy Field on Wednesday. Among the current Tigers, third baseman Jesus Santana and outfielder Lamar Briggs may have pro potential.
While so much attention was focused this weekend on Hattiesburg – where Southern Miss swept Mississippi State in a tremendous season-opening series – Delta State’s accomplishments in Quincy, Ill., should not go unrecognized. The Statesmen, ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II, won three games against nationally ranked foes, beating Southern Indiana 7-0 on Saturday and sweeping host Quincy 6-5 and 11-2 on Sunday. The Statesmen (7-1) are batting .312 with 10 home runs as a team. But we knew they could hit. A key for this season is going to be how a rebuilt pitching staff performs, and there were good signs over the weekend. Seth Birdsong, a 10-game winner on last year’s College World Series club, found his form against Southern Indiana, throwing 5 2/3 shutout innings to notch his first win. He has 16 strikeouts in 12 innings of work. Expect him to start further cutting into that 6.75 ERA. Hayden Davey, a newcomer from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College, improved to 2-1, 2.12 by beating Quincy in Sunday’s opener. He has 20 punchouts in 17 innings. Dalton Minton, a Northwest Mississippi CC product, and Tyler Walton, a Memphis transfer, combined for six scoreless innings in Game 2 against Quincy. Returnee Peyton White has stepped up with three saves, and Melvin Frazier, out of Baton Rouge (La.) CC, has a 2.53 ERA over three appearances. … DSU next plays D-I Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena on Tuesday in what is a rivalry – sort of. DSU leads the series 84-15.
Veteran outfielder/DH Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College standout from McComb, was designated for assignment by Tampa Bay on Saturday. Who saw that coming? Dickerson was a starter in the All-Star Game last season and batted .282 with 27 homers and 62 RBIs despite a second-half slump. He is a career .280 hitter. The Rays made the move to clear 40-man roster space after acquiring first baseman C.J. Cron from the Los Angeles Angels. Dickerson was slated to make $5.9 million (not guaranteed money) this season, so finances likely also played a role. There is speculation the Rays already have worked out a trade for Dickerson, 28, whose left-handed power should carry some value. Among the teams said to be seeking a lefty-hitting outfielder is Baltimore, which lost ex-Ole Miss star Seth Smith to free agency. Bottom line is, Dickerson, whose career began in Colorado, will be playing for a third MLB club in 2018.