Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner hit his first Cape Cod League home run on Monday, going 3-for-4 in his second game since joining the Falmouth team in the vaunted summer circuit. Wallner, a third-team All-America pick as a sophomore in 2018, had been playing for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He hit .154 in four games. … Ole Miss’ Parker Caracci is still with Team USA and has a win, two saves and a 0.00 ERA in five appearances. The team just finished a series with a club from Japan and next plays a series in Cuba. … Milton Smith Jr., former Starkville High and Meridian Community College standout, had an interesting Monday. He started for Miami’s rookie Gulf Coast League team, going 1-for-2 to boost his average to .356, then joined the Marlins’ Class A Florida State League club, also located in Jupiter, Fla., and got in the Hammerheads’ game as a pinch runner. Smith was a 22nd-round pick last month out of MCC. … Mississippi State alum Hunter Stovall followed up his two-homer pro debut (see previous post) with a four-hit game on Sunday and is now 7-for-9 for the rookie-level Grand Junction Rockies. … The Biloxi Shuckers walloped Jackson (Tenn.) 12-2 on Monday at MGM Park to become the first Southern League club to notch 50 wins. Corey Ray, a top Milwaukee prospect, drove in five runs and Zack Brown improved to 8-0. The Shuckers won the first half in the SL South and are 9-8 in the second half. … Tough year for former Jackson Mets star Ned Yost, who watched his Kansas City Royals lose their 10th straight game on Monday and fall 40 games under .500. Yost was ejected – for the first time in 2018 — in the fourth inning after disputing a third-strike call. … MSU product Hunter Renfroe, playing right field for San Diego, picked up his third assist on Monday, cutting down the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Justin Turner at second base with a great throw from the right-field corner at Petco Park. … Ex-Meridian CC star Corey Dickerson, batting leadoff for Pittsburgh, went 2-for-5 with a triple, an RBI and two runs as the Pirates beat Washington 6-3. Dickerson is batting .458 in his last seven games and .309 for the year. … Billy Hamilton is cutting it loose again. The Taylorsville High alum got his 22nd stolen base of the year – plus two hits and two runs — in Cincinnati’s 7-5 win over Cleveland on Monday. He now has seven bags, seven runs and 10 hits in his last seven games. “It’s mayhem,” Reds broadcaster and former MSU standout Jeff Brantley said of the impact Hamilton can have when he gets on base.
The preseason magazines didn’t give Mitch Moreland much attention. Sports Illustrated’s Boston Red Sox preview didn’t mention him at all. The Amory native and former Mississippi State standout had re-signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in mid-December with no guarantee of a spot in the lineup. But Moreland did what he does: Keep grinding. And on Sunday, Moreland got a spot on the American League All-Star roster, voted in by his fellow players. It’ll be the first trip to the Midsummer Classic for the humble nine-year veteran. Funny how things work out. Boston had five players make the All-Star squad. When Boston manager Alex Cora informed the team of this news, his announcement of Moreland’s selection reportedly got the loudest response. “Out of all of them — I’m very proud of all of them — but to tell the team that he’s an All-Star, that was amazing,” Cora said in an mlb.com article. Moreland wasn’t in the lineup for Games 1 or 2 of the season, coming in late as a defensive replacement at first base for Hanley Ramirez. When his at-bats did come, Moreland started slowly. But by mid-May, he had taken the everyday job. Ramirez was released at the end of that month. As a 17th-round draft pick, Moreland said he always felt like he had to battle for everything he got in the game. “I might not be the fastest or have the quickest hands or whatever, but I’m going to work as hard as anybody out there,” he told masslive.com on Sunday. That lunch-pail mentality has served him well. He reached the big leagues with Texas in 2010 – his fourth pro season — and has been in The Show ever since. He’s had some good years. He has 143 career homers. He has a Gold Glove. And, hey now, he’s an All-Star. P.S. Props also to former Mississippi Braves Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Craig Kimbrel and Biloxi Shuckers alum Josh Hader for making the All-Star rosters.
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.
All the news wasn’t great for Mississippi State on Monday. The Tallahassee Regional champs saw two of their top recruits for 2019 picked in the first round of the MLB draft, which likely means they’ll never wear the maroon and white. Brandon High’s J.T. Ginn, the state Gatorade player of the year, went to the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 30th pick and Carter Stewart, a highly touted pitcher from Florida, was taken eighth overall by Atlanta. Three other players from Mississippi schools were chosen among the 78 players drafted on Monday: Ole Miss’ Ryan Rolison 22nd by Colorado, Hattiesburg High’s Joe Gray 60th by Milwaukee and Southern Miss’ Nick Sandlin 67th by Cleveland. … We could be seeing Gray – an Ole Miss commit who, per Baseball America, “has plus raw power, plus speed and a plus throwing arm” — in a Biloxi Shuckers uniform in a few short years. Atlanta’s second-round pick on Monday – 49th overall — was Wichita State first baseman/outfielder Greyson Jenista, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound left-handed hitter with power who was the Cape Cod League MVP last summer. It wouldn’t be a total surprise to see him move quickly and arrive in Mississippi by 2019. … Day 2 of the draft includes Rounds 3-10. State’s Konnor Pilkington, expected to go on Day 1, and Jake Mangum and Ole Miss’ Ryan Olenek and Nick Fortes are among the names to watch for. P.S. Keep in mind that you don’t even have to be drafted to make the major leagues. Greenville native Frank White wasn’t. As the story goes, White was playing at a junior college in Missouri when he was recruited by the Kansas City Royals to attend their newly created baseball academy in 1970. Three years later, he made The Show and went on to enjoy an All-Star career that lasted 18 years. Former Ole Miss star Bobby Kielty, who played seven years in MLB, was signed as an undrafted free agent by Minnesota in 1999 after leading the Cape Cod League in hitting in the summer of ’98. He debuted with the Twins in 2001.
Brandon Woodruff tossed 1 1/3 perfect innings Monday to notch his first win of the season for Milwaukee. But the Mississippi State alum from Wheeler didn’t get much love for the effort. That’s because Josh Hader, a fellow former Biloxi Shuckers pitcher, struck out all eight batters he faced – a first in MLB history – to record his fourth save in the Brewers’ 6-5 win over Cincinnati. Hader, a slender left-hander with nasty stuff, has a 1.00 ERA and 39 K’s in 18 innings. He was with the Shuckers in 2015 and ’16, posting an 0.95 ERA in 11 starts the latter season. Woodruff, by the way, has made two clean appearances since he was recalled from Triple-A and now has a 3.86 ERA for the season in five games. P.S. Ex-MSU star Mitch Moreland and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson each hit his third home run on the last day of April, joining Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart in a tie for third in the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby. Former Southern Miss standout Brian Dozier and East Central CC alum Tim Anderson each has four.
Catching up on many fronts in pro ball: Chris Coghlan, the ex-Ole Miss star and veteran big leaguer, signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs earlier this month but has not yet been assigned to a club. Coghlan, who played for the Cubs during their championship run in 2016, was released by Toronto last summer. … UM product Drew Pomeranz is expected to be activated from the disabled list by Boston on Friday; the Red Sox will be at Oakland, facing former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman of the A’s. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, is 4-for-14 in five games on a rehab assignment with Class A Dunedin in the Toronto system. Alford, who made his big league debut last year, was injured in spring training. … Southern Miss alum Scott Copeland, Starkville native Julio Borbon and Hattiesburg’s Robert Carson have signed with teams in the independent Atlantic League. Copeland and Borbon, both ex-big leaguers, are with Somerset, Carson with York. A number of former Mississippi Braves also have signed on in the league, which opens next weekend. … Southwest Mississippi Community College product Kade Scivicque, released by Atlanta last week, signed with Detroit, the club that drafted him out of LSU in 2015. Scivicque, who played for the M-Braves in 2016-17, had just four at-bats with Triple-A Gwinnett this season. The Tigers sent him to Double-A Erie. … Rehabbing big leaguer Luiz Gohara, expected to be a key rotation piece in Atlanta, worked 3 1/3 innings (62 pitches) for the M-Braves against Pensacola on Tuesday night and yielded five hits, three walks and five runs (one earned). … Former M-Braves star Ronald Acuna hit his first homer and picked up his first two RBIs of 2018 for Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday. Acuna is batting just .175 after having a huge spring with the big league Braves. … Jacob Nottingham became (by unofficial count) the 18th Biloxi Shuckers alum to advance to the big leagues when he debuted with Milwaukee on Monday. … Former Jackson Generals ace and ex-big leaguer Freddy Garcia, at age 41, is pitching for Yucatan in the Mexican League; he’s 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA. The right-hander has logged more than 3,000 innings in a pro career that started in 1995.
Tim Anderson picked the wrong opening day to go off. The former East Central Community College star hit two home runs for the Chicago White Sox on Thursday but was topped by teammate Matt Davidson, who launched three round-trippers in a 14-7 win against Kansas City. Davidson joins Vicksburg native Dmitri Young and two others as the only players with three homers on an opening day. For Anderson, it’s a good start as he attempts to bounce back from a trying 2017 season (see previous posts). … Southwest Mississippi CC alum Jarrod Dyson had a sweet debut for Arizona, going 2-for-4 with a triple, a stolen base, two runs and an RBI in an 8-2 win vs. Colorado. … Ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart delivered three hits, including a homer, in his first game with the Los Angeles Angels, who lost to Oakland 6-5 in 11 innings. Cozart went deep against former Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman, who also had the dubious distinction of surrendering the first hit by the Angels’ touted Japanese import Shohei Ohtani. … UM alum Mickey Callaway got a win in his debut as New York Mets manager, and ex-East Central CC standout Marcus Thames, now the Yankees’ hitting coach, watched his club – and new addition Giancarlo Stanton — whip Toronto. … Former Mississippi Braves Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies homered as Atlanta rallied to beat Philadelphia, and Biloxi Shuckers alum Orlando Arcia got the game-winning hit in the 12th inning as Miwaukee topped San Diego. … Ole Miss product Braxton Lee was added to Miami’s 25-man roster on Thursday but did not make his big league debut in the Marlins’ loss to the Chicago Cubs. Stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, Northwest CC alum Cody Reed was recalled by Cincinnati on Thursday; the Reds’ game with Washington was postponed until today.