22 Mar

hot spots

Keep an eye on Fulton on Saturday, and keep the other on Perkinston. Those are the hottest spots in MACJC play. Fourth-ranked Pearl River Community (17-2, 4-0 in the league) visits No. 13 Itawamba CC (16-3, 3-1) for a doubleheader, and Holmes CC (17-3, 2-2) travels to Mississippi Gulf Coast CC (12-4, 4-0) for a battle of Bulldogs teams that aren’t ranked but could be next week. Pearl River, which got one first-place vote in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, is coming off a monster performance against Copiah-Lincoln on Tuesday. Led by Dexter Jordan, among others, the Wildcats put up eight homers and 29 runs in a twinbill sweep. In one of Saturday’s games, PRCC is likely to face ICC ace Houston Harding, a sophomore lefty who is 5-0 with a 0.98 ERA. Holmes is coming off a Tuesday split against No. 2-ranked Jones County; in their win, the Goodman Bulldogs got a three-hit shutout from Nate Oswalt (apparently no relation to Holmes alum and ex-big leaguer Roy). They’ll run into a Gulf Coast club that has won 11 in a row. Perkinston’s Bulldogs feature reigning D-II player of the year Brandon Parker, who’s batting .347 with five homers and has yet to really heat up. (For the record, Meridian’s Kace Garner leads the state with eight homers.)

22 Mar

on prep scene

George County High is getting a lot of love in the national polls, especially from Collegiate Baseball Magazine. CB has the Rebels at No. 5 in its most recent rankings (March 11); Brandon Davis’ team has won three times since that poll was released to improve to 12-0. MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 poll puts George County at No. 7, and Perfect Game has the Rebels ninth in the nation. Catcher/pitcher Logan Tanner, a Mississippi State commit, is the team’s star attraction. He is batting .448 with two homers and 18 RBIs and is 4-0 with a 0.81 ERA on the bump. But Tanner is hardly a lone star: Senior Ethan Coleman is batting .529 with 20 runs, and senior Trevor McDonald is 5-0, 0.29. DeSoto Central (13-2) also shows up in the Perfect Game Top 50 poll at No. 29. MaxPreps produces a computer ranking, and on that chart, Brandon is the top team in the state and 38th in the nation. The Bulldogs (11-4) are led by Kellum Clark, a junior who’s raking at .500 with seven home runs, and Trey McCormick, 3-0 with a 1.31. No. 2 in the state per MaxPreps’ computer is Biloxi (13-2). The Indians feature Cade Mohan (.351) and Matthew Delano (4-0, 0.78). … Jerrion Ealy, generally regarded as the state’s top prep pro prospect, is off to a great start in his senior season at Jackson Prep, batting .425 with nine doubles, 12 RBIs, 16 runs and eight steals in 13 games. The two-sport star has signed with Ole Miss.

21 Mar

one of those days

It was a great day for baseball in Oxford on Wednesday. The game itself didn’t hold up its end. Ole Miss beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 25-0. The Rebels hit six home runs, four in one inning. UAPB didn’t muster a hit. It was the most runs in a game for the Rebels in 16 years, and their first no-hitter since 1966. Ole Miss’ Tyler Keenan was 5-for-6 with two homers and seven RBIs. UAPB had four baserunners. Obviously, this is a good Ole Miss team. The Rebels, who beat UAPB 12-2 on Tuesday, are 16-6 and have been nationally ranked much of the season. UAPB, which has yet to play a home game, is in the throes of an unusually bad season: 2-18, 1-8 in the SWAC. The Golden Lions went 20-25 last year, their fifth 20-win season in six years. They were 12-10 in the SWAC and have won three division titles since 2014. Sometimes these midweek games just go haywire. Pitching runs short. The Lions, after using four pitchers on Tuesday, went through seven on Wednesday, four of whom couldn’t get more than two outs. Hard to imagine that either team truly enjoyed Wednesday’s game — or that either will make too much of it. They have to turn the page. It’s back to conference play this weekend.

20 Mar

numbers game

They say you shouldn’t put much stock in spring training stats, but it’s hard not to notice that Hunter Renfroe’s numbers lag behind the other players competing for playing time in San Diego’s crowded outfield. Ex-Mississippi State star Renfroe returned to the Padres’ lineup on Tuesday after getting some time off for rest and went 1-for-4 with an RBI. That puts him at .182 with a homer and seven RBIs. Among the other outfielders on the 40-man, Jose Pirela is hitting .333 with three homers, Manuel Margot .268, Franmil Reyes .268 (two bombs), Franchy Cordero .237 and Wil Myers .206. Cordero is the only left-handed batter. Renfroe finished strong in 2018, his second full MLB tour, and wound up at .248 with 26 homers. His power – and his arm in either right field or left – should keep him in the mix for playing time this year. Still, a strong finish to the Cactus League season wouldn’t hurt. … Meanwhile, Taylorsville High alumnus Billy Hamilton is having a good spring with his new club, Kansas City. Signed in large part for the defense he’ll provide in center field, the speedy Hamilton is batting .333 (.391 on-base percentage) with six doubles, seven runs and four steals in 16 games. Hamilton’s weak bat ultimately made him expendable in Cincinnati.

19 Mar

just rewards

Good week to be a hitter from a Mississippi college. Three – count ’em, three – won conference player of the week honors at three different levels. Hats off to Mississippi State’s Elijah MacNamee, Mississippi College’s Grant Barber and William Carey’s Sloan Dieter. MacNamee, who claimed the SEC award, went 9-for-17 (.529) with two homers (one a grand slam) and eight RBIs in four games last week, including a 2-1 weekend at Florida. MacNamee, a senior outfielder, is batting .380 with three homers and 22 RBIs for the 18-2 Bulldogs. Barber was named the NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference POW after a week that saw him bat .615 with four doubles, five runs and three RBIs, including a walk-off that capped a Choctaws sweep of Lee University. Barber, a junior second baseman, tops MC in batting at .369. (His teammate Blaine Crim could easily have won the GSC award; he hit .429 with two homers and nine RBIs last week.) Dieter, who won the NAIA Southern States Athletic Conference award, batted .636 with eight RBIs as Carey took two of three from Mobile. Senior first baseman Dieter, who also won the SSAC top player honor the week before last, is batting .375 with four bombs and 17 RBIs for the Crusaders. Worth noting: Southern Miss’ Hunter Slater didn’t get a C-USA award but certainly had an honors-worthy weekend in the Golden Eagles’ sweep of Louisiana Tech, batting .462 with two homers, six RBIs and five runs, and SWAC voters somehow passed over Alcorn State’s Travaris Cole. All he did was hit .389 with three homers, seven RBIs and four runs in a SWAC weekend series against Prairie View A&M. The NJCAA names its players of the week on Wednesday, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see an MACJC hitter earn the Division II award.

18 Mar

roster rumination

Despite his fine spring numbers, former Southern Miss standout Cody Carroll was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk by Baltimore over the weekend. Carroll, who made his big league debut for the Orioles last summer, has a 2.57 ERA and three saves in seven Grapefruit League games. The right-hander likely will get another shot with the O’s sometime this season. Other Mississippi-connected 40-man roster players already optioned out include: Bobby Bradley (Cleveland), Jacob Waguespack (Philadelphia) and Justin Steele (Chicago Cubs). … Anthony Alford is expected to be sent out by Toronto, but the outfielder, having a productive spring, is poised for a recall. Pitchers Dakota Hudson (St. Louis), Cody Reed (Cincinnati), Chris Stratton (San Francisco) and Spencer Turnbull (Detroit) are still battling for roster spots and/or roles, and veteran right-hander Louis Coleman remains in Detroit’s camp as a non-roster invitee. Lefty Reed, a starter at the end of last season, was shifted to the bullpen by Cincinnati midway through camp. Hudson, slated to start today against Philadelphia, is vying for the final role in the Cardinals’ rotation after Carlos Martinez was shut down. Stratton, up and down with the Giants last year, is again a rotation candidate, and Turnbull, a rookie in 2018, has made a strong bid to crack the Tigers’ rotation. … Brandon Woodruff, yet to allow a run in three spring starts on the heels of his strong postseason, appears to have won a job in Milwaukee’s rotation. … Jarrod Dyson, sidelined early in camp by an oblique injury, made his first appearance for Arizona on Sunday; the veteran’s status for the Opening Day roster was clouded a bit when the Diamondbacks signed Adam Jones. … Bobby Wahl will start the season on the injured list for Milwaukee. Wahl tore an ACL while throwing a pitch in early March and likely will be out until September if not the entire season. The Ole Miss alum was acquired in an off-season trade with the New York Mets. … Kendall Graveman, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, will be on the IL for the Cubs for most of the season.

16 Mar

birthday note

Don Blasingame, born on this date in 1932 in Corinth, did a little bit of everything in a whirlwind baseball career. He played for five teams, played in both leagues, made an All-Star team, appeared in a World Series, played and managed in Japan. He hit .258 for his 12-year MLB career (1955-66), the first five years of which were spent with St. Louis. Four times in his career, Blasingame got the only hit by his team in a game. An adept bunter, he played hard and he played fast, a style he once said he adopted from reading about Ty Cobb. Nicknamed “Blazer” and the “Corinth Comet,” Blasingame stole as many as 21 bases in a season and three times had eight triples or more. In 5,296 at-bats, he hit into just 43 double plays, one very 123.2 ABs. For reference: Billy Hamilton, the “Taylorsville Tornado,” one of the fastest players in the game today, has hit into one DP every 146.5 ABs. Blasingame, who died in 2005, was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.

15 Mar

measuring stick

The Magnolia State’s NCAA Division I schools should get some good barometer readings this weekend. Mississippi State, 16-1 and ranked in everybody’s top 10, gets its first true road test of the season when it opens SEC play at nationally ranked Florida (14-5). Nationally ranked Ole Miss (12-5) starts league play with a home series against Alabama, 16-2 but unranked. Southern Miss, wobbling a bit at 8-6, begins defense of its C-USA regular season title at Louisiana Tech (11-5), which features a bunch of Mississippi connections, including coach Lane Burroughs, a former USM assistant. And at Magnolia Field in Itta Bena, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State, both still feeling their way, will lock up in a big SWAC series. JSU is 5-13 (1-2 SWAC) against a schedule that has included Boston College, Mississippi State, UNO and Miami (Fla.). Weather issues have limited Valley to six games; the Delta Devils are 1-5 (0-1 SWAC), including an 8-1 loss at Memphis on Tuesday, and have not played a home game. Equon Smith leads JSU hitters with a .348 average and has scored 15 runs. Raul Hernandez is at .309 with two homers and 16 RBIs. Wesley Reyes (.208) and Dezmond Chumley (.190), preseason All-SWAC picks, have yet to click. Morgan Lomax is hitting .409 for Valley, and Billy Leflore checks in at .381. Neither club has pitched particularly well, and that’ll probably be the key to the series. JSU has a 5.89 ERA, though Kevin Perez (2-1, 3.38) and Garth Cahill (2.18 in nine appearances) have been solid. Valley is at 9.56, having only once held an opponent to fewer than eight runs. Aaron Barkley has the lone win and a 1.50 ERA in six innings of work.

13 Mar

new team, key role?

Fifteen days before the season opener, Tony Sipp has found a new team, the Washington Nationals. The veteran left-hander out of Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College reportedly has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million contract with a mutual option for 2020. The 35-year-old Sipp had a strong bounce-back year in 2018, putting up a 1.86 ERA in 54 appearances for Houston. He made $6M last year. Sipp has a career 3.67 ERA in 580 games, working exclusively as a reliever. He had a 0.90 ERA against left-handers in 2018, and a Washington Post reporter is already predicting a special role for him: “Expect to see a lot of Sipp versus (Bryce) Harper in the coming season.” The former Nationals left-handed slugger is now with division rival Philadelphia. Sipp joins Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier on what shapes up as a strong Nationals club. Dozier also signed a one-year deal as a free agent.

13 Mar

keeping watch

They met in Columbus on Tuesday, in a doubleheader at Columbus High’s field, and the box score listed the attendance as 0. Surely – hopefully? – there were a few fans watching, ’cause Blue Mountain College and Mississippi University for Women put on what had to be an entertaining show. The W – in its second season as a non-scholarship program – climbed out of a five-run hole to win the opener 6-5, and BMC overcame a late deficit to win Game 2 5-4. Heath Ford, from West Point, sparked the Owls in their win, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Latalo Newson, from Senatobia, homered, doubled and drove in two runs to fuel the NAIA Toppers in the second game. “Overall, playing two one-run, competitive games against a really good Blue Mountain team shows us that we’re heading in the right direction,” said MUW coach Matt Wolfenbarger, whose club is now 8-3, including two wins over Rust College, another NAIA school. BMC, in its 10th season, is also on the rise. Curt Fowler’s team (11-14-1) has posted back-to-back winning seasons. Last weekend, the Toppers beat Southern States Athletic Conference power Faulkner, No. 3 in NAIA, for the first time. They visit nationally ranked SSAC foe Middle Georgia State this weekend. Someone will be watching.