06 Jul

into the record book

Move over, Jose Canseco. Pardon, Jake Marisnick. Trent Giambrone, the former Delta State star, has joined Canseco, Marisnick and three others as the only players in the long history of the Southern League to drive in nine runs in a single game. Giambrone hit three home runs as part of a 4-for-5 performance on Thursday night as he led Double-A Tennessee to a 16-3 victory over Jackson. Batting in the 3-hole for the Chicago Cubs affiliate, Giambrone, a 5-foot-8, 175-pound middle infielder, hit a solo homer, a two-run homer, a grand slam and a two-run double. The grand slam came in the ninth inning. He also had a hand in two double plays. He is batting .264 with 14 homers, 37 RBIs and 19 steals for the year. Giambrone was an All-Gulf South Conference player and GSC Tournament MVP in 2016 at Delta State. He batted .386 with nine homers and 11 steals as a senior for the Statesmen that year. The Cubs drafted Giambrone in the 25th round, and he has moved up swiftly. He’s had some good nights, but none like Thursday.

26 Jun

it’s a wrap

Time to box up the 2018 college season. Put away the bats and balls for a few weeks and make a few acknowledgements:
If there were an award for Team of the Year, it would have to go to Mississippi State, which didn’t win as many games as Ole Miss or Southern Miss (or Delta State, for that matter) but made a captivating postseason run for the ages that ended one win short of the College World Series finals. The banana-powered Bulldogs finished 39-29 and should be nationally ranked across the board when the final polls come out. Gary Henderson did a great job as an interim coach, taking over in an adverse situation, and not retaining him seems a curious and possibly regrettable move in Starkville.
There are many other kudos to hand out. Ole Miss went 48-17, won the SEC Tournament and hosted an NCAA regional. USM (44-18) swept both C-USA titles and also went to a regional. Jackson State finished 34-18. Delta State went 42-11 and made an NCAA Division II regional, as did Mississippi College, which ended the year 36-17, one of its best seasons ever. William Carey went 36-25 and hosted an NAIA regional. Blue Mountain finished 29-23, Division III Millsaps went 25-19 and MUW, in its inaugural season, came home at 21-15 after participating in the USCAA Small College World Series. Alcorn State (13-39), Mississippi Valley State (11-35), Belhaven (12-27) and Tougaloo (19-23) were the only four-year schools to post losing records.
Among the jucos, MACJC champion Pearl River (No. 4), Meridian (14), Jones County (15) and Mississippi Gulf Coast (18) were ranked in the final NJCAA Division II poll.
Game of the year? If you limited it to games between state schools, it’d be hard to top the State-UM game at Pearl’s Trustmark Park on April 24, which the Bulldogs won on Luke Alexander’s two-run double in the bottom of the ninth before a crowd of 8,500-plus. Runner-up: MC beating Delta State 7-4 in an elimination game in the D-II South Regional at Lakeland, Fla. The Choctaws’ Billy Cameron drove in the go-ahead run with a two-run single in the seventh. Worth mentioning: Jackson State-Alcorn in Lorman on March 25. The Tigers rallied from 8-4 down in the sixth inning to win 13-8 and ended the game with a triple play.
No position player in the state had a better year than DSU’s Zack Shannon. He hit .406 with a record 31 homers and 93 RBIs and has picked up all kinds of national honors. USM’s Nick Sandlin, who also garnered national awards and beat out Shannon (and others) for the state’s Ferriss Trophy, was certainly the state’s pitcher of the year, going 10-0, 1.06 ERA in 15 starts. Gulf Coast CC’s Brandon Parker won a juco national player of the year award and both Shannon and Sandlin were semifinalists for the biggest of individual prizes, the Golden Spikes Award, a testament to the quality of ball played in the Magnolia State.
Three state schools (DSU, Carey and Hinds CC) made it to the World Series level in 2017. Only one did so this season, but it was hardly a down year.

24 Jun

big league chew

East Central Community College alumnus Tim Anderson celebrated his 25th birthday on Saturday with a fine display of his multiple skills, slugging his 13th home run and stealing his 15th base for the Chicago White Sox. Anderson leads all Mississippians in the majors in homers and is tied with Billy Hamilton atop the steals chart. (Taylorsville’s Hamilton also got his 15th bag on Saturday for Cincinnati.) … Mitch Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State star from Amory, extended his hitting streak to six games with a 2-for-4 day for Boston that included his fourth triple of the year. He is 11-for-23 during the streak and has lifted is average to .300 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs. … Hunter Renfroe, former State standout from Crystal Springs, belted his fourth homer of 2018 for San Diego. Renfroe returned to the big league club from an injury-induced stint in the minors in late May but has just two homers since he got back. He hit 26 last season. … Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson returned to Pittsburgh’s lineup after being away for three days on family leave and went 1-for-3. Dickerson is batting .303 with five homers but hasn’t gone deep since May 4. He hit 27 bombs for Tampa Bay in 2017. … Dickerson’s return to the Pirates’ active roster meant a return to the minors for State alum Adam Frazier. P.S. Worth noting from the minors: Zack Shannon, who hit 50 homers the past two seasons for Delta State, hit his first pro round-tripper on Friday for rookie-level Missoula in the Arizona organization.

22 Jun

breaking in

Ryan Rolison, the first player picked – 22nd overall by Colorado — from Mississippi in this month’s MLB draft, is on the roster of the Grand Junction Rockies but has yet to pitch in the rookie-level Pioneer League. Will Golsan, Rolison’s former Ole Miss teammate and a 26th-round selection by the Rockies, has played for Grand Junction and has some good numbers. The Columbus native is 6-for-13 with a homer and two RBIs. … Nick Sandlin, drafted by Cleveland in the second round out of Southern Miss, made his pro debut on June 18 and threw a scoreless inning for the Arizona League Indians. Sandlin won a national pitcher of the year award as well taking C-USA top pitcher honors and the Ferriss Trophy. … USM alum Luke Reynolds, C-USA player of the year and a 10th-round pick by the Chicago Cubs, has not yet made his debut. … Former Delta State star Zack Shannon, whose 31 homers in 2018 set an all-division state record, is 2-for-10 with no extra base hits in three games for the AZL Diamondbacks. … Ole Miss product Brady Feigl (fifth round by Oakland) pitched for the Vermont Lake Monsters (New York-Penn League) on Thursday night and yielded two runs in an inning of work. … UM alum Nick Fortes (fourth round, Miami) is 1-for-4 with two RBIs in one appearance, on June 16, for Batavia in the NYP League. … On the Marlins’ Gulf Coast League team are former Meridian Community College teammates Davis (Will) Bradshaw and Milton Smith Jr. Bradshaw is 0-for-7 in two games, Smith 1-for-9. … James McArthur, another Ole Miss alum (12th round, Philadelphia), is on the roster of the GCL Phillies West but has not pitched. … Pascagoula High product Willie Joe Garry Jr. made his debut for the GCL Twins on June 19 and went 0-for-4. … Of note: Former Ole Miss standout and erstwhile big leaguer Chris Coghlan is also playing in the AZL, with a Chicago Cubs affiliate. Coghlan, getting his game back in shape after many months off, is 1-for-7 in two games.

06 Jun

draft update

Drafted in the 35th round out of McLaurin High in 2017 by Milwaukee, Davis Bradshaw elected to eschew pro ball and go to Meridian Community College. He told the Meridian Star last year that he loved the campus, loved Scaggs Field and loved the coaching staff headed by Dillon Sudduth. A year later, Bradshaw’s love will be tested. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound outfielder was drafted again, in today’s 11th round, this time by Miami. The signing offer will be better, which may make for a tougher decision on whether to go pro or stick at MCC for another season. Scouting reports on Bradshaw rave about his speed. The first state juco player to be selected this year, he batted .442 with eight homers and 22 steals for an Eagles team that made it to the NJCAA Region 23 championship game. He hit a jaw-dropping .756 as a senior at McLaurin, a small school in Rankin County. P.S. Also picked today, in the 15th-round by Arizona, was Delta State All-American Zack Shannon, who set the state’s all-division home run mark this year with 31. … Dallas Woolfolk, who left the Ole Miss team late in the season after a difficult year, was drafted in the 13th round today by Oakland. … Willie Joe Garry Jr. of Pascagoula High was perhaps the most intriguing pick from the state on Day 2, going in the ninth round to Minnesota. Garry, an outfielder and Pearl River CC commit, didn’t appear on either the Baseball America or mlb.com lists of top draft prospects. In the 10th round, the Twins picked Madison Central High pitcher Regi Grace.

03 Jun

mr. 500

Baseball America found room for 16 Mississippi college and high school players in its recently released Top 500 MLB draft prospects list. No. 500, the last one in, is Simon Landry, a right-handed hitting first baseman from Pearl River Community College who has some intriguing power. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Landry, a Louisiana native and University of Houston signee, belted 35 homers for the Wildcats the last two seasons, 19 for the MACJC champions in 2018. He also batted .392 this year. His name won’t be called in the early rounds, but it’s one to watch for on the last day of the three-day draft. The highest-rated Mississippi product on the BA list is Ole Miss left-hander Ryan Rolison at No. 21; mlb.com has him at No. 17. He likely will be chosen in Round 1 on Monday — but you never know. Some team might also take a first-round flier on Brandon High’s J.T. Ginn (BA No. 39), Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray (No. 52) or Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington (No. 60). State’s Jake Mangum, Southern Miss’ Nick Sandlin and UM teammates Ryan Olenek and Nick Fortes also made the top 200. In addition to Ginn and Gray, three other state prep players made BA’s Top 500: Hattiesburg’s Dexter Jordan, Oxford’s Drew Bianco and Madison Central’s Regi Grace. The top-ranked juco player — and the only other one in the Top 500 — is Will Freeman, a big right-hander at Jones County JC, at No. 489. Freeman was a strikeout machine for the Bobcats. Meridian CC’s Davis Bradshaw is another juco player with a specific tool — speed, in this case — that might interest a big league club. Delta State’s record-setting slugger Zack Shannon didn’t make the Top 500 and is ranked the No. 22 prospect in the state by BA. Seems a little low. … For the record, the highest any Mississippi college product has been picked is second overall (State’s Will Clark in 1985). The highest a prep player has gone is third overall (Laurel Oak Park’s Ted Nicholson in 1969).

23 May

green machine

The scorebook has closed on Zack Shannon’s career at Delta State, which saw its season end with a loss to Mississippi College in the NCAA Division II regionals on Tuesday. In his two years with the green-and-white, the big man from Cincinnati stuffed that scorebook with some jaw-dropping numbers. Start with his home run totals – and take a deep breath. He hit his 31st of the season in the final game (Game No. 53); that’s not only a school record but also the most all-time by any player in any division in the state. That number also leads the nation, all divisions included. Shannon’s total of 50 career homers at DSU ranks second to Dee Haynes, who hit 69 over three seasons (1998-2000) in Cleveland. For the year, Shannon hit .406 with 93 RBIs (best in the nation) and a .955 slugging percentage (also No. 1). Also noteworthy, he struck out just 27 times and walked 35 times in 202 at-bats. Though he didn’t win a Ferriss Trophy, plenty of awards and accolades have poured in the last two years and more may be coming. Earlier this week, Shannon was named one of 25 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which goes to the nation’s best player. He is the first D-II player to be named a semifinalist. He won Gulf South Conference player of the year both this year and last and received several D-II national player of the year awards in 2017. Surely he’ll get picked in the MLB draft. Regardless, he won’t soon be forgotten in the Magnolia State. P.S. Before Shannon broke it, the state’s college homer record was shared by former Mississippi State stars Rafael Palmeiro and Bruce Castoria, according to John W. Smillie’s Mississippi Baseball Record Book. Castoria hit 29 in 1981, Palmeiro in 1984. Will Clark smacked 28 for MSU in 1984 (and got 25 the next year). DSU’s Haynes hit 26 in 1999. Three Southern Miss players cranked out 23: Fred Cooley (1989), Bill Selby (1992) and Jeff Cook (2003). The Ole Miss single-season mark is 21 by Brian Pettway in 2005. … MC’s remarkable season also ended on Tuesday with a loss to Tampa in the rain-soaked South Region tourney in Lakeland, Fla. The Choctaws, who made their first D-II regional appearance, finished 36-17.

21 May

college stuff

Not so long ago, Mississippi State was a .500 team starved for runs and searching for answers. Today, State cracked the Top 25 in Baseball America’s new poll and, as the magazine’s editors suggest, may have “lifted itself off the NCAA bubble.” BA’s projected NCAA field last week didn’t have State among the 64 teams. The Bulldogs (31-24) swept No. 1-ranked Florida at Dudy Noble Field over the weekend, putting up 31 runs against a Gators team that, it should be noted, had already clinched the SEC title and a Top 8 national seed for the NCAA Tournament. Still, it has been an impressive late surge by State, which was 19-19 on April 18 after a loss to Memphis. While the Bulldogs’ NCAA regional fate may already be determined, it would certainly help their cause if they beat LSU in the SEC Tournament opener on Tuesday. State is not in the d1baseball.com Top 25, also released today. … Ole Miss (42-14) held steady at No. 4 in the BA poll and appears assured of hosting an NCAA regional. Southern Miss (39-15) finished the regular season with a flourish, scoring 35 runs in a sweep at Marshall, and is ranked 17th. The C-USA champions are the top seed headed into this week’s conference tournament in Biloxi and are a lock for the NCAAs. … Rain has made a mess of the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament, which started last Thursday in Lakeland, Fla. Delta State, which beat Mississippi College in the first round, is scheduled to play Tampa in a winner’s bracket game today. MC is slated for a loser’s bracket game today vs. Albany State. The D-II World Series starts Saturday in Cary, N.C. … Jackson State, the last Mississippi team standing in the SWAC Tournament, bowed out Saturday when Jose Tirado, the league’s relief pitcher of the year, yielded a game-tying run in the ninth and a game-winner in the 10th of a 10-9 loss to Texas Southern. … The last state juco team standing was Meridian Community College. The Eagles upset No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice in the NJCAA Region 23 championship round on Saturday but were eliminated by the Bengals on Sunday. MACJC champion Pearl River was eliminated by Meridian on Friday. … Rust College has transitioned from NCAA Division III to NAIA and formally becomes the eighth member of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference this fall. The Bearcats will be the fourth GCAC school with a baseball team, joining in-state rival Tougaloo, Talladega and Edward Waters. Rust, coached by Aurby Burdine, went 0-2 against Tougaloo and 0-4 vs. Talladega in 2018. Founded in 1866 in Holly Springs, Rust is one of the nation’s oldest historically black colleges and universities.

17 May

clearing the bases

The contrast is striking. Delta State has won 96 postseason games, 68 in region play, and claimed 12 regional titles, including the 2017 NCAA Division II South Region, and one national crown. Mississippi College has been playing baseball a long time and had some good years, but the Choctaws had never played in an NCAA D-II regional before this season. The longtime rivals are meeting today in Lakeland, Fla., in the first round of the D-II South Region Tournament. Delta State is 40-9 and seeded third in a loaded field. MC, which won the Gulf South Conference Tournament for the first time ever, beating DSU along the way, is 33-15. This is MC’s best run since 2010, when it played in a Division III regional. The school left Division II and the GSC in the mid-’90s and returned in 2015. … What else is going on? Lots. In Pearl, at Trustmark Park, the MHSAA state finals continue today. … In New Orleans, Jackson State opened SWAC Tournament play on Wednesday with a 13-3 pounding of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Four Tigers drove in three runs, including Jesus Santana, who hit his ninth homer of the year. JSU moves into a winner’s bracket game today against defending SWAC champ Texas Southern. Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State both lost on Wednesday and face elimination games today. … In Hattiesburg, William Carey stayed alive in the NAIA Opening Round tourney with a 6-2 victory against Indiana-Southeast but then saw its season end with a loss against top-seeded St. Thomas. … In Eunice, La., in the opening round of the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College beat MACJC champ Pearl River, Itawamba topped Meridian and Hinds fell to No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice. The double-elimination event continues today. … MUW went 2-2, bowing out Wednesday, in something called the ASCAA World Series in Dubois, Penn. Matt Wolfenbarger’s Owls finished their inaugural season with a 21-15 record.

14 May

who ya got?

The 2018 Ferriss Trophy winner will be announced a week from today at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. Boy, this is going to be interesting. Bill Blackwell, the executive director of the Hall of Fame, says it might be “the toughest choice in the history of the event,” which dates to 2004. The five finalists for best college player in the state are Jake Mangum, Ryan Olenek, Luke Reynolds, Nick Sandlin and Zack Shannon. Consider for a moment some of the players who didn’t make the final five. Ole Miss closer Parker Caracci (1.95 ERA, nine saves for a top 10 team). Mississippi College’s Blaine Crim (.405, 12 homers, 63 RBIs, GSC Tournament MVP). Jackson State’s Raul Hernandez (.384, SWAC Newcomer of the Year). William Carey’s Christian Smith (.330, 52 stolen bases, All-SSAC first team and Gold Glove). Then there’s the finalists. Shannon, of GSC regular season champ Delta State, has had a monstrous season: .425, a nation-leading 29 homers, 86 RBIs. Southern Miss ace Sandlin has been amazing: 7-0, 1.15 ERA, 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings for the likely C-USA champion. His Golden Eagles teammate Luke Reynolds leads the league in hitting at .384 and has 13 homers. Olenek of Ole Miss leads the star-studded SEC in batting at .396. Mississippi State’s Mangum is batting .342; he won the award in 2016 and certainly has not regressed. Plus, he’s considered a solid pro prospect, and scouts do the voting (with minimal fan input). So, Mississippi baseball aficionados, who ya got?