When he’s good, he’s very good. And Billy Hamilton was at the top of his game on Sunday, slashing hits, stealing bases, scoring runs and splashing down on the PNC Park warning track after one of the great catches of the season. The former Taylorsville High star produced three hits, three runs and two stolen bases in Cincinnati’s 8-6 win at Pittsburgh. But it was his defense that stole the show. The speedy center fielder tracked down a fly ball in right-center to make a catch that, according to Statcast, had a 2 percent probability of being made. He reportedly covered 83 feet in 4.3 seconds. “It’s like video game stuff,” said Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani in an mlb.com article. Francisco Cervelli, who hit the ball, applauded the play, as did Pirates fans. Hamilton needed a good day at the plate. The 3-for-4 boosted his average to .197, and he now has 13 stolen bases and 34 runs in 67 games. … At Dodger Stadium, Chris Stratton, the former Mississippi State standout from Tupelo, threw six impressive innings – three hits, one walk, no earned runs – to notch his eighth win of the year for San Francisco in a 4-1 victory against Los Angeles. It was the first career win for Stratton in four decisions vs. the Dodgers. He is 8-4, 4.22 ERA on the year and tied for second in the National League in wins. … At Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Tony Sipp, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum from Pascagoula, worked a scoreless seventh inning and earned the win as Houston extended its streak to 11 by beating the Royals 7-4. Sipp has made four scoreless appearances during the Astros’ run. Coming off a couple of rough years, the 34-year-old lefty has sliced his ERA to 2.16 and has 16 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings over 20 appearances overall.
It’s a Dog Day in Omaha, where Mississippi State plays Washington in a College World Series opener. Meanwhile, some former Dogs enjoyed a day of their own on Friday in the big leagues. Atlanta Braves TV broadcasters, Jeff Francoeur in particular, were effusively impressed with the arm of Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State star who made a couple of cannon-shot throws from deep right field to third base for San Diego. More impressive was the two-strike, two-out, two-run single Renfroe stroked in the seventh inning, putting the Padres up a run in a game they would go on to win 9-3. Renfroe has been in the throes of a skid and was batting just .229 at the time. He got another hit in the ninth and finished with a .245 average. At Yankee Stadium, Bulldogs alum Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless sixth inning for his third hold of the year as New York beat Tampa Bay 5-0. Holder trimmed his ERA to 2.28. At Seattle’s Safeco Field, former State standout Mitch Moreland drove in a run and scored in Boston’s six-run third inning against Mariners ace James Paxton, but the Red Sox squandered a lead and lost 7-6. P.S. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier hit his 10th homer — off Cleveland’s Corey Kluber — to help Minnesota beat the Indians 6-3. It was Dozier’s 161st career bomb, moving him into sixth place alone on the all-time list of Mississippi natives. … Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (shoulder) was placed on the 10-day disabled list by the Los Angeles Angels.
Tie game, seventh inning, two outs, one on. Minnesota manager Paul Molitor decided to let starting pitcher Lance Lynn face one more Detroit batter. That batter was JaCoby Jones. It was a Mississippi baseball aficionado moment Thursday at Comerica Park. Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High, hit a 3-1 fastball from Lynn, the former Ole Miss star, over the left-field wall, sending Lynn to the dugout and the Tigers to a 3-1 win. The slumping Jones, who had fanned in his first two at-bats against Lynn, said he guessed fastball and got one. It was his fifth homer of the year; he is batting .222 with 18 RBIs in 62 games. The Tigers have resisted the urge to send Jones to the minors to work on his hitting. His defense in left field remains a plus. “And with the energy that he brings, I love the kid,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, the old Jackson Met, told mlb.com. Lynn, who was 3-0 in his previous four starts and took a shutout into the seventh, fell to 4-5, 4.98 ERA. “I need to be better next time,” he told The Associated Press. P.S. With his fifth homer, Jones has caught Zack Cozart and Corey Dickerson for fourth place in the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby race, which has slowed to a crawl. Leader Tim Anderson has 11 but none since May 28. Mitch Moreland hit his 10th on June 3, same day Brian Dozier got No. 9. Cozart hasn’t gone deep since May 9, Dickerson since May 4.
After a sluggish start at the Triple-A level, Mason Robbins has kicked into gear the last couple of weeks. The former George County High and Southern Miss star is batting .385 over his last 10 games for Charlotte, the Chicago White Sox’s top minor league affiliate. Robbins was hitting just .227 through 18 games for the Knights when he hit his first homer on May 29. Something may have clicked. In his next game, the lefty-hitting corner outfielder went 3-for-4, and he’s been rolling ever since, lifting his average to .284. He has two homers, 17 RBIs, 14 runs, four doubles and three triples. Robbins, 25 and in his fifth pro season, has hit at every level, sporting a .285 career average. He has acknowledged that he needs to hit for more power. For some, that’s the last tool to develop, and it might be the key for Robbins to reach the big leagues. P.S. Robbins’ brother Walker, a fifth-round pick out of George County by St. Louis in 2016, is on the roster of the rookie-level Johnson City club, which opens next week. Walker Robbins, also a lefty-hitting outfielder, has hit .179 over his first two seasons. Expect him to pick it up in 2018. … A third Robbins brother, Logan, went 7-1 with a 4.66 ERA this season as a redshirt junior at Louisiana Tech. The left-hander was not drafted. Logan Robbins was undefeated (18-0) as a starter at Jones County Junior College and his only loss at LaTech came in a C-USA contest against USM.
Ryan Rolison, the 22nd overall pick in the draft and the first Mississippian chosen, has signed with Colorado; no financial details were announced. The left-hander was the first Ole Miss player to be drafted in the first round since Drew Pomeranz in 2010. The list of signees from this year’s draft also includes Zack Shannon (Arizona), James McArthur (Philadelphia), Brady Feigl (Oakland) and Dallas Woolfolk (Oakland). … T.J. House, the former Picayune High standout, has been released from Triple-A by the Chicago White Sox. The erstwhile big leaguer, 28, had a 1-6 record and a 6.81 ERA in nine starts for Charlotte. He has 29 MLB appearances on his ledger, the last with Toronto in 2017. … Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman remains on the shelf in Oakland’s system with a forearm problem. Graveman last pitched on May 24 for Triple-A Nashville. The A’s opening day starter, he is 1-5, 7.60 in big league duty this year. … Ex-Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan, who signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs in late March, has not played this season because of a shoulder injury. The 32-year-old MLB veteran is a career .258 hitter and won a World Series ring with the Cubs in 2016.
The Biloxi Shuckers’ magic number for clinching the division title is 4. They finish the first half of the Southern League season with a five-game, promotion-packed homestand that starts tonight at MGM Park and runs through Father’s Day. Could be very festive. The potential party pooper here, as fate would have it, is their Magnolia State rival, the Mississippi Braves. The M-Braves (27-38) are in last place in the SL South and have been out of the title chase for some time. The All-Star break, which begins Monday, lays ahead. But perhaps the M-Braves will draw some incentive from playing the role of spoiler. The Shuckers (38-27) lead second-place Mobile (35-28) by 2 games; Mobile finishes the first half with a five-game series at Pensacola. The Shuckers are a well-balanced club with power and speed and the top closer in the league, Nate Griep, who has a ridiculous 21 saves. Biloxi had nine players chosen for the All-Star Game. One of them, Thomas Jankins, is on the mound for tonight’s series opener. The M-Braves will throw Kyle Wright, who, despite his mediocre 2018 numbers, is Atlanta’s No. 2 prospect. Mississippi also has highly regarded prospects starting Games 2 and 3: Touki Toussaint – the league strikeout leader – and recent addition Bryse Wilson. So give the M-Braves a puncher’s chance at taking the series and perhaps quelling the Shuckers’ celebration.
Ole Miss players will be plentiful in the venerable Cape Cod League, which starts its 133rd season today. Greer Holston, Cooper Johnson and Grae Kessinger are on the roster of the Bourne Braves. Thomas Dillard is with Cotuit, Will Ethridge with Falmouth and Jordan Fowler and Houston Roth with Hyannis. Mississippi State’s Jordan Anderson is listed on the Falmouth roster, though Bulldogs players will be a little delayed in reaching their summer assignments. They have more pressing business, of course: the College World Series. … Southern Miss has four players, including outfielder Fred Franklin, with the Acadiana team in the Texas Collegiate League. … Ole Miss’ Parker Caracci and USM’s Matt Wallner are on the roster for Team USA’s college national squad. Caracci, drafted this month as an eligible sophomore by Toronto, had 10 saves and a 2.31 ERA for the Rebels in 2018. Wallner, a rising junior who batted .351 with 16 homers last season, has been projected to go ninth overall in the 2019 draft by an mlb.com writer. … The New Albany-based Cotton States League is up and running in its 10th season. The HillCountry Generals, featuring a bevy of Blue Mountain College players, are off to a 4-1 start. Ty Wooten, an Arkansas-Little Rock player, is hitting .467 for the Generals. In addition to BMC alums, players from Belhaven, Ole Miss, Mississippi Valley State, MUW and several state jucos are in the league. … Hinds Community College coach Sam Temple will be on the staff of the NJCAA National Team in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita in late July. The all-star squad has yet to be announced. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s Brandon Parker and Meridian CC’s Trace Jordan were named to the NJCAA Division II All-America first team and Pearl River’s Simon Landry to the second team. P.S. If anyone is wondering, former State star Rafael Palmeiro is batting .212 in 10 games for Cleburne in the independent American Association. The 53-year-old ex-big leaguer hasn’t homered since his one bomb on May 21 (see previous post).