08 Jun

three stars

Drew Pomeranz was good. Lance Lynn was a little better. Brandon Woodruff was the best of the three Mississippi college alumni who started big league games on Friday night. Ole Miss product Pomeranz, pitching for San Francisco, went toe-to-toe with Clayton Kershaw and hung up five scoreless innings, striking out seven. But it took Pomeranz 92 pitches to get through five against Los Angeles, and he wasn’t around when the Giants scored two off Kershaw in the sixth. They went on to a 2-1 win. Pomeranz remains at 1-6, though he did slice his ERA to 7.16. Lynn, also a former Rebels star, threw six innings for Texas, yielding two runs and fanning eight. It was his sixth straight quality start, and he stood to get the win after the Rangers scored three against Oakland in the bottom of the sixth. Alas, the Rangers’ pen blew the save, and the A’s won 5-3. Lynn is 7-4 with a 4.39. That brings us to Woodruff. The ex-Mississippi State standout from Wheeler worked six strong innings for Milwaukee, allowing three runs and fanning 10 in a 10-4 blowout against Pittsburgh. Woodruff is now 8-1 with a 3.87, and the first-place Brewers are 11-2 in his starts. “He’s confident in what he’s doing,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told mlb.com in a bit of an understatement. P.S. Former State star Mitch Moreland came off the injured list for Boston on Friday, went 0-for-2 and left the game with “quad tightness.” … Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, out since April 4 for Pittsburgh with a shoulder injury, is set to be activated today.

07 Jun

derby dreamin’

Too bad fans don’t get to pick whom they’d like to see in the MLB Home Run Derby. San Diego fans – and no doubt a bunch of folks in Mississippi, too – would surely cast votes for Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs. Not only can the 6-foot-1, 220-pound outfielder really mash, but he is deserving of the recognition, ranking among the MLB leaders in homers with 18. He hit his latest on Thursday, a 422-footer at Petco Park that helped the Padres beat Washington 5-4. In this year of the long ball, Renfroe is on pace to shatter his season-best of 26, a mark he reached each of the last two seasons. He has 74 career homers, averaging one every 14.3 at-bats. (Giancarlo Stanton’s average is 13.8.) Injuries have thinned the Padres’ once-crowded outfield, and Renfroe has reaped the benefits of regular duty. He is batting .250 with 35 RBIs and 26 runs in 57 games. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier, who was the last Mississippian to participate in the home run derby in 2014, hit his ninth homer of the year Thursday for the Nationals. Grenada native Dave Parker won the first derby competition in 1985. The only other Mississippians to compete are Ellis Burks in 1996 and Rafael Palmeiro in 2002. The 2019 derby is set for July 8 at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.

06 Jun

draft doodles

A total of 34 Mississippians were chosen in the three-day MLB draft, from Mississippi State’s Ethan Small at 28th overall to Itawamba Community College’s Jackson Lancaster at No. 1,146 (38th round). … Seven high school players were taken, including Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy, generally rated as the best prospect in the state but firmly committed to playing football and baseball at Ole Miss. Ealy was drafted in the 31st round by Arizona. Not included in the seven is Kendall Williams, an Olive Branch native who played at IMG Academy in Florida. He was the 52nd overall pick. The top pick from a state prep was James Beard of Loyd Star; he went in the fourth round to the Chicago White Sox. … Clinton High saw two players get picked: Christian Johnson by Tampa Bay in the 19th round and Hilton (Dallas) Dyer by Philadelphia in Round 21. … For just the second time ever, a Mississippi College player was drafted. Blaine Crim, an Alabama native and the Gulf South Conference player of the year in 2019, went to Texas in the 19th round. … Four junior college players were picked, led by Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s Brandon Parker, who went to Atlanta in the 10th round. The Braves also drafted Smithville High star pitcher Jared Johnson. … Milwaukee picked MSU’s Small, the SEC pitcher of the year, and grabbed Ole Miss’ Thomas Dillard in the fifth round. … Eleven MSU players — a program record — were drafted. Ole Miss had eight picked and Southern Miss two. Each of the Big 3 had a player picked on Day 1: Small, USM’s Matt Wallner and UM’s Grae Kessinger. … Colorado drafted five Mississippians, including UM’s Will Ethridge in Round 5. Houston took three, topped by Kessinger in the second round, and the New York Mets also pegged three, including State’s Jake Mangum in the fourth round.

05 Jun

just stuff

The wolves are howling again in Queens, where Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway’s job as manager of the New York Mets appears in serious jeopardy. The Mets dropped their third straight on Tuesday after Callaway’s controversial decision to pull starter Noah Syndergaard with a lead in the seventh inning. Callaway later said he regretted making the move. The Mets are 28-32, 5½ games back in the National League East. … What more can one say about Austin Riley? The DeSoto Central product hit a go-ahead homer to spark Atlanta’s win on Tuesday and is now batting .324 with nine bombs and 25 RBIs in his first 18 MLB games, one of the best starts in history. … Former Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland could come off the 10-day injured list on Friday for Boston, according to the Boston Globe. He leads the team with 13 home runs. … Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, enjoying a resurgence at the plate for resurgent Washington, left Tuesday’s game with a forearm contusion after an HBP and is considered day-to-day. Dozier is batting .283 over his last 15 games, boosting his season average to .223 with eight homers. … T.J. House, the former big leaguer from Picayune, is pitching for the Milwaukee Milkmen in the independent American Association. The 29-year-old left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.10 ERA in three starts. House was in Triple-A in the Chicago White Sox’s organization in 2018 before being released in June. He last pitched in the majors in 2017 with Toronto. As a rookie with Cleveland in 2014, House put up a 5-3 record and 3.35 ERA in 18 starts but never replicated those numbers in limited opportunities thereafter. … Former Petal High standout Demarcus Evans, recently promoted to Double-A in Texas’ system, yielded a couple of runs on Tuesday but wound up earning a win when his Frisco team rallied to beat Amarillo. Evans had made two scoreless appearances before Tuesday. He had an 0.81 ERA and six saves at Class A Down East. … USM product Bradley Roney has yet to yield an earned run in four appearances at Class A Florida in the Braves’ chain as he continues his comeback from injuries that had kept him out since mid-2017. … Brandon Parker grew up on the Coast rooting for the Braves. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been a Braves fan,” he told Biloxi’s WLOX. On Tuesday, the Braves, shopping for a power bat, drafted the former West Harrison High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star in the 10th round. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound right fielder, a Dallas Baptist signee, hit 38 home runs the last two seasons at MGCCC. He was the NJCAA Division II player of the year in 2018 when he batted .424 with 24 homers and 81 RBIs.

04 Jun

all about potential

The first Mississippian to come off the board today, Day 2 of the three-day MLB draft, was James Beard, an outfielder from Class 2A Loyd Star High. He went in the fourth round, 110th overall and eight picks before Jake Mangum, the highly decorated Mississippi State senior outfielder who holds the SEC’s all-time hits record. Granted, Beard is generally regarded as the fastest player in the draft, but Mangum can run a little bit, too. And even though he lacks power, Mangum is certainly battle-tested after four years in the country’s best college conference. Oh well, the draft is all about potential. Beard went to the Chicago White Sox and Mangum to the New York Mets, who drafted him in the 32nd round in 2018. The Yankees drafted Mangum in Round 30 in 2017. Of the top 200 picks in the draft, which runs into Wednesday, a total of 10 players with Mississippi ties had their names called. Day 1, the first two rounds (plus supplemental picks), saw four Magnolia Staters taken, led by Mississippi State left-hander Ethan Small, the SEC pitcher of the year, at No. 28 to Milwaukee. (We could see him in Biloxi in a couple of years.) Southern Miss outfielder Matt Wallner, who is long on power, went just outside the first round at 39th overall to Minnesota. Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a pitcher, went in the second round to Toronto and Ole Miss shortstop Grae Kessinger in Round 2 to Houston. (Grae’s father, Kevin, was a 22nd-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 1992 out of Ole Miss. Grandfather Don, a longtime big league star, entered pro ball with the Cubs before the draft began.) Three more UM players were picked among the top 200: Will Ethridge (by Colorado), Thomas Dillard (Milwaukee) and Cooper Johnson (Detroit). MSU’s Colby White (Tampa Bay) also made that cut.

03 Jun

back in ’69

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.

03 Jun

stepping up

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.

02 Jun

a very dynamic duo

Biloxi Shuckers pitchers get their chance this week to do what others in the Southern League have not. That is, put the clamps on the Mississippi Braves’ Drew Waters and Cristian Pache, the young Atlanta prospects who have been a major force at the top of the M-Braves’ lineup. Waters is leading the league in hits, runs, doubles and triples. Pache is second in hits and triples and third in doubles. They rank 4-5 in the league in slugging. Waters is batting .313, third in the SL, with three homers, 18 RBIs and seven steals. Pache is at .296, sixth in the loop, with four homers, 26 RBIs and six bags. The M-Braves’ 25-28 record is largely indicative of the struggles of the rest of the lineup. Waters, 20, jumped a level in the Braves’ system this year to tackle Double-A, and he has certainly met the challenge. Pache got a taste of Double-A last summer at age 19. He is regarded as one of the best defensive outfielders in all of the minor leagues. The Shuckers come to Pearl today at 31-24, second in the SL South with two weeks left in the first half. Oddly enough, this five-game series at Trustmark Park is the first of the season between the in-state and division rivals. Biloxi’s staff features several highly rated Brewers pitching prospects.

01 Jun

big league chew

Of the three Mississippi high school products on the field Friday at Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, it was Spencer Turnbull who took the star turn. The Madison Central alum, the starting pitcher for Detroit, shackled the Braves on five hits and allowed just one earned run in six-plus innings in the Tigers’ 8-2 win. Richton High’s JaCoby Jones, the Tigers’ center fielder, continued his recent surge at the plate, going 1-for-3 with a triple, a walk and a run. DeSoto Central’s Austin Riley, the Braves’ left fielder, was 0-for-3 with a walk. Overshadowed on this night by Nico Goodrum’s 5-for-5, two-homer performance, Turnbull’s effort was also significant. Braves TV broadcasters raved about his stuff. The rookie right-hander earned his first win since April 30, though he had not pitched poorly in May. He is now 3-4 with a 2.94 ERA for a struggling team. Jones’ triple was his first of the season, and he is now batting .221, up some 50 points over the last week. … Hunter Renfroe, the former Copiah Academy and Mississippi State star, hit his 15th home run of the season for San Diego, helping set the MLB record for homers in month at 1,135. … Also going deep on Friday was former Biloxi Shuckers star Keston Hiura, a recent call-up by Milwaukee who is batting .296 with four bombs in 15 games. Hiura appears to have nailed down a role with the Brewers. … The tough times continued for ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, who gave up six runs in the first inning against Baltimore, eight runs in 1 1/3 innings all told and fell to 1-6 with an 8.08 ERA for San Francisco. After winning a ring with Boston last year, when he also had lackluster results, Pomeranz signed as a free agent with the Giants.

31 May

silver lining

While St. Louis has been in a downward spiral this month, Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson has enjoyed a resurgence. The former Mississippi State standout put a cap on his strong May by beating Philadelphia 5-3 on Thursday. Hudson yielded one run in six innings, pitching out of a couple of minor jams, to improve to 4-3 with a 3.94 ERA, second-best among Cardinals starters. His ERA through April was 5.63, but St. Louis manager Mike Shildt reassured Hudson that his spot in the rotation was not in jeopardy. “Hey, you’re going to have time to figure this out,” Hudson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Shildt’s message. “This is the learning process. I was able to kind of settle.” In May, while the Cardinals have gone 7-18, Hudson is 2-2, 2.80 in six starts – and could easily have won all six. The right-hander made an impact as a rookie reliever in 2018, posting a 2.63 ERA, four wins and 11 holds in 26 appearances.