11 Apr

pressing on

Tuesday was a test of resilience for three college programs that endured serious disappointment over the weekend. Ole Miss, William Carey and Millsaps all showed a little something. The No. 4-ranked Rebels, coming off an SEC series loss to scuffling Mississippi State, bounced back with an 11-3 win against No. 12 Southern Miss before a crowd of 5,772 at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Chase Cockrell and Thomas Dillard drove in three runs each and Houston Roth improved to 5-0 for the Rebels (28-6), who’ll take a 7-5 conference record to Vanderbilt this weekend. Carey, ranked 11th in the latest NAIA poll, was swept at home by top-ranked Faulkner in a big Southern States Athletic Conference series last weekend. The Crusaders rebounded Tuesday with a 7-1 win in the opener of a doubleheader at LSU-Alexandria behind the bat of Marcus Buckley and the arm of Lake Robertson. WCU lost Game 2 7-4. The Crusaders (26-14, 10-5 SSAC) travel to Loyola (La.) for their next league series this weekend. Millsaps, hoping to make a late push in the Southern Athletic Association standings, was swept at home by Sewanee over the weekend, falling to 8-10 in the conference. Fueled by the hitting of Christian Cooper and six innings of stellar relief from Chris Guerin, the Majors responded Tuesday with a 6-4 victory at East Texas Baptist. NCAA Division III Millsaps (20-16) finishes SAA play at Centre this weekend. P.S. On the day he was named to the Golden Spikes Award Watch List, Delta State’s Zack Shannon smacked his nation-leading 23rd home run in an 8-3 win vs. Harding. Shannon is batting .445 with 70 RBIs for DSU, 29-6 and ranked as high as fifth in Division II.

10 Apr

pitching in — and out

Lance Lynn was good on Monday night. Unfortunately for the ex-Ole Miss star, Justin Verlander was better. Looking much sharper in his second start for Minnesota than in his first, Lynn tossed five shutout innings with nine strikeouts, but the Twins fell to Verlander and Houston 2-0 at frigid Target Field. Lynn, a free agent signee in Minnesota after several years with St. Louis, allowed five runs in his first inning with the Twins last week. “I feel like I’ve gotten off to the worst start I’ve ever got off to in the big leagues,” the big right-hander told mlb.com. “Good thing is there’s a lot of season left, so I’ll be all right.” Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed, in his 2018 debut with Cincinnati, endured a rocky start at chilly Philadelphia, allowing three earned runs on four hits and a walk in three innings. Poor starts have been a theme for Mississippi-connected pitchers this season. Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman, Oakland’s No. 1 starter, is 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in three starts, having yielded five homers. (He has had the misfortune of facing the Los Angeles Angels twice.) Ex-State standout Chris Stratton, who won a job in San Francisco’s rotation in the spring, is 0-1, 4.35 in two starts. Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers had a 4.50 ERA in two appearances with St. Louis before being sent down when Greg Holland was activated. Brandon Woodruff, an MSU product, posted a 5.14 in three games (one start) for Milwaukee before he, too, was demoted to the minors, and fellow Bulldogs alum Jonathan Holder was sent down by the New York Yankees lugging a 20.25 ERA over three appearances. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, who started the season on the disabled list for Boston, had made one rehab appearance, allowing two earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in a Triple-A start. He should be ready for prime time soon.

08 Apr

managerial matters

Seven Mississippi-connected men are managing in the big leagues this season – and not one of them holds the reigns of a club expected to be a strong contender for the postseason. Can any of them pull off a playoff appearance? It’s a race within the races that will be interesting to watch. Mickey Callaway, the former Ole Miss standout, is debuting as the New York Mets’ manager, but the others are veterans at this thing: Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter in Baltimore; ex-Jackson Mets Ned Yost in Kansas City, John Gibbons in Toronto and Ron Gardenhire in Detroit; former JaxMets manager Clint Hurdle in Pittsburgh; and ex-Mississippi Braves skipper Brian Snitker in Atlanta. Showalter and Gibbons have talented clubs but must contend with American League East heavyweights New York and Boston. Callaway’s Mets were picked by Sports Illustrated as a National League wild card team but coming off a 70-win campaign, that might be a stretch. Yost’s Royals have slipped quite a bit since their 2015 championship season, and both the Pirates and Tigers appear to be in rebuild mode. The Braves, in their second full year under Snitker, could make a push if their young talent (see former M-Braves Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Luiz Gohara, Ronald Acuna) steps up. That’s a significant if.

06 Apr

make a toast

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Jackson Mets’ first playoff team. The ’78 JaxMets beat Arkansas in the Texas League East playoffs and then fell to El Paso in the title series. Mookie Wilson was the hub of the offense, batting .292 with seven homers, 15 triples and 72 RBIs. Kelvin Chapman, another future big leaguer, hit .266 and led the club with 84 runs. Juan Monasterio batted .289, and Bobby Bryant belted eight homers. Jeff Reardon was the ace, going 17-4 with a 2.54 ERA. Neil Allen led the league in ERA. Scott Holman won 11 games and Kim Seaman 10. The ’78 season was the fourth year the Mets’ Double-A club operated at Smith-Wills Stadium, an affiliation that lasted 16 years. The OJMs missed the playoffs in 1979 but then went on a rip where they made it eight straight years and won three league titles. The ’78 JaxMets were managed by Bob Wellman, no relation to Phillip Wellman, who, 30 years later, managed the Mississippi Braves to the Southern League pennant. That remains the only title claimed by the M-Braves, now entering their 14th year at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The ’08 M-Braves featured a great young pitching staff: Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Todd Redmond, James Parr, et al. Kala Ka’aihue led the team in homers (14) and RBIs (61) and swung a big bat in the postseason. But the club was defined more by the scrappiness of Matt Young and J.C. Holt, who combined for 52 steals. Wellman loved to get aggressive on the bases, and the M-Braves scored the pennant-winning run against Carolina on a walk-off double steal. … This season also marks the 25th anniversary of the first Jackson Generals team to win a Texas League title. The 1993 season was the third at Smith-Wills Stadium for the Houston Astros affiliate. Stars of that club, managed by Sal Butera, included Brian Hunter, Roberto Petagine, Jim Dougherty, Tom Nevers and Jackson native Fletcher Thompson.

04 Apr

count to three

On this date in 2005, opening day at Comerica Park in Detroit, Vicksburg native Dmitri Young achieved a feat managed by only three others on an opening day in baseball history. He belted three home runs for the Tigers in an 11-2 win against Kansas City. The Chicago White Sox’s Matt Davidson did it last week, joining Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and George Bell (1988) as the other members of this exclusive club. Young was 4-for-4 with five RBIs on his big day. Young was in the 10th of his 13 big league seasons in ’05. He hit 171 career home runs, including 29 in one season. Nicknamed “Da Meat Hook” during his playing days, Young was more than just a slugger, however. He batted .292 and made two All-Star Games, including the one in 2007, when he would go on to win National League comeback player of the year honors with Washington.

03 Apr

progress report

Four Magnolia State four-year schools sit at the head of the class, sporting Superior marks, as the college season barrels into April. Ole Miss, ranked third in the country by Baseball America, tops the SEC West at 6-3 and is 25-4 overall. Jackson State leads the SWAC East at 9-3 (17-10 overall). Delta State leads the NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference at 14-3 (24-6), and William Carey is tied for first in the NAIA Southern States Athletic Conference at 10-2 (25-10). Both are nationally ranked. The Crusaders are knotted with NAIA No. 1 Faulkner (33-3, 10-2), which comes to Hattiesburg this weekend. In the Satisfactory category we have nationally ranked Southern Miss (6-2, second in C-USA), Mississippi Valley State (6-6 SWAC), Mississippi College (11-6 GSC), Blue Mountain (7-5, fifth in SSAC), Millsaps (8-7, fourth in the D-III Southern Athletic Association) and unclassified independent MUW (14-9 in its inaugural campaign). That leaves the Needs Improvement group. Alcorn State is 3-9 and last in the SWAC East. Belhaven (7-18 overall) is 4-11 against D-III American Southwest Conference competition, and NAIA Tougaloo (12-15) is 0-6 in Gulf Coast Athletic Conference play. And then there’s Mississippi State, a team that was ranked in preseason but is now 14-15 overall, 2-7 and last in the SEC West. Ready or not, the Bulldogs get Ole Miss this weekend in Starkville. … In the MACJC, Pearl River Community College swept Itawamba CC last Friday to move to 8-0 in the league, alone in first place. ICC was ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll last week. It’ll be interesting to see just how high PRCC, ranked 18th last week, jumps in the new poll that comes out today.

02 Apr

come out swinging

Brian Dozier’s power plays at the top of Minnesota’s lineup. The former Southern Miss star hit his 28th career leadoff home run on Sunday, then added a second homer in the sixth inning to propel the Twins to a 7-0 win at Baltimore. The leadoff bomb came on the first pitch, the fourth time in his career Dozier has done that, according to mlb.com. “There’s a process behind it,” he said. Dozier is 5-for-14 as one of a handful of Mississippians in the majors who came out clicking in the opening series of 2018. Ole Miss product Zack Cozart is 7-for-19 with a homer and three RBIs as the leadoff batter for his new club, the Los Angeles Angels. The converted shortstop has moved from third base to second – another position he had not played previously – following an injury to Ian Kinsler. Ex-Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier, also batting leadoff, is 4-for-10 for Pittsburgh and scored the only run in the Pirates’ Game 1 victory against Detroit on Sunday. Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson is 3-for-8 with two homers – on opening day – three RBIs and a steal in two games for the Chicago White Sox. P.S. Sad to hear about the passing of Jerry Moses, the Yazoo City native who played parts of nine seasons in the big leagues. He died March 27 at age 71. Moses is the youngest Boston Red Sox player to hit a home run, going deep at age 18 against Jim “Mudcat” Grant on May 25, 1965, at Fenway Park. Moses hit .251 with 25 homers for his career and made the 1970 All-Star Game for the Red Sox.