Blaze Jordan, the phenom from Southaven, is the centerpiece in a Baseball America story (posted today on the magazine’s web site) about the issue of early – or, more precisely, very early — commitments in the college game. It’s a good read. Jordan is a freshman at DeSoto Central High. He committed to Mississippi State as an 8th-grader. Jordan reportedly has prodigious power, having won a national home run contest in January – at age 14 — with a 504-foot blast at Marlins Park in Miami. He hit two homers in 13 games for the DeSoto varsity last season. He also impressed coaches and scouts during last month’s Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association World Championships in Florida. Jordan’s coach at the event compared him to Mookie Betts, Boston’s star right fielder. Keep in mind, the 6-foot, 215-pound first baseman is in the recruiting – and pro draft – class of 2021. … Also quoted in the BA piece are Hattiesburg High senior Joe Gray, another highly recruited player who committed to Ole Miss last January, and Rebels coach Mike Bianco.
High school draftees from Mississippi generally have had a tough time making it to the big leagues, Billy Hamilton being a noteworthy exception to that rule. But Austin Riley’s power, in both his bat and his arm, apparently convinced the Atlanta Braves to pick the DeSoto Central High product as a third baseman in the Competitive Balance Round A of Monday’s MLB draft. Riley was the 41st overall pick and Atlanta’s third of its five selections on the draft’s first day. Baseball America had Riley No. 164 in its last pre-draft rating. Riley, 6 feet 3, 230 pounds, played mostly shortstop for the Jaguars when he wasn’t on the mound, where his fastball reportedly reached 95 mph. Riley batted .423 with 11 homers and 14 doubles for the state champions this year. Riley is a Mississippi State signee, but he’ll likely get a sweet enough financial offer from the Braves to make him forgo college ball. The Braves need some power in their minor league system; there isn’t much on the Double-A Mississippi Braves’ roster.
DeSoto Central High bounced back from an opening round loss (to Whitewater of Georgia) to whip Trinity Prep of Florida 10-0 on Thursday in the National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C. Tre Spann drove in four runs, Austin Riley knocked in a pair and Keegen James threw a three-hitter over six innings. The Jaguars (10-5) are scheduled to play Lambert, Ga., today in the NHSI consolation bracket. DeSoto is ranked No. 21 in the latest Baseball America poll, which has Brandon at No. 24. The Bulldogs (12-1) are No. 23 in the MaxPreps poll. Brandon, facing a big game today against defending Class 6A champion Oak Grove, has gotten great production from Hunter Wilson, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior first baseman who is batting .400 with five home runs and 27 RBIs.
DeSoto Central High, arguably the best prep team in the state, will participate in the National High School Invitational hosted by USA Baseball from March 25-28 at Cary, N.C. DeSoto Central, 28-10 and Class 6A runner-up (to Oak Grove) last year, is ranked 14th in Baseball America’s preseason poll and is currently No. 24 in MaxPreps’ rankings. The Jaguars will play Whitewater High of Fayetteville, Ga., in the NHSI, a 16-team event being held for the fourth time. DeSoto is the first Mississippi school invited. The Jags’ Austin Riley, a Mississippi State signee, may be the best player in the state. He went 8-3, 1.51 as a pitcher and batted .465 with nine homers as a third baseman in 2014. … Brandon, a 6A semifinalist last season led by outfielder Erick Hoard, is No. 22 in BA’s preseason poll. That’s two Magnolia State schools among the nation’s top 22 — another feather in the state’s baseball cap. … Mississippi did not have a player make Baseball America’s preseason All-America teams, which are selected by MLB scouting directors. But, Ke’Bryan Hayes of Texas, a first-team pick at third base, has a Mississippi connection. The Tennessee signee is the son of Hattiesburg native Charlie Hayes, the longtime MLB star who won a World Series ring with the New York Yankees in 1996. … Still can’t get over the numbers Jackson Prep’s Gene Wood, a Louisville Slugger All-America pick, put up for the MAIS state champs in 2014: .596 average, 68 runs and 52 RBIs – in 36 games! The Alabama signee has certainly set the bar high for himself this year.
Hunter Renfroe hit his first Arizona Fall League home run on Thursday night and is now batting .385 with four RBIs in three games. The former Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs, a San Diego outfield prospect, helped Surprise beat Glendale 7-4 in a game in which former East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson made his AFL debut. Anderson, a shortstop in the Chicago White Sox system, went 1-for-5 with four strikeouts for Glendale. Anderson made his Double-A debut with Birmingham at Trustmark Park this summer, going 10-for-22 in five games vs. the Mississippi Braves. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn will start Sunday’s Game 2 for St. Louis in the National League Championship Series against San Francisco. Lynn got a no-decision in his division series start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing two runs in six innings. A 15-game winner this year, the big right-hander lost his only start against the Giants on June 1, yielding four earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. Giants star Buster Posey went 3-for-3 against Lynn in that game. … Freshman Kyle Watson has made a splash during fall scrimmages at Ole Miss. The former DeSoto Central High standout, an infielder, has three home runs during the first three sets of intrasquad scrimmages. Watson hit .345 in his prep career but belted just one homer, according to his UM bio. The Rebels scrimmage again today and Saturday.
Keith Shumaker, a rising senior at Millsaps, is having a good summer in the Prospect League. The Brandon native is batting .294 with a homer, 29 RBIs and 20 runs in 50 games for Danville (Ill.) and made the collegiate summer league’s all-star game as a third baseman. He has also made four pitching appearances, posting an uncharacteristic 6.96 ERA in 10 1/3 innings. Shumaker batted .354 with three homers and 33 RBIs and went 6-1 with a 2.82 ERA on the mound for the 2014 Majors, who finished 23-19. He’ll again be the team’s centerpiece next spring. … Congratulations to the Tallahatchie Rascals, who won the New Albany-based Cotton States Baseball League title with a 14-6 record. The Rascals were coached by former Delta State All-American Andy Dillard, son of former big leaguer Steve Dillard. … Cooper Farris’ Wareham Gatemen will miss the Cape Cod League postseason for the second straight year after winning the title in 2012. Farris, the former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College coach, is in his 14th season in the Cape and has won three pennants. … DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley, a third baseman/pitcher, is slated to play in the Perfect Game All-American Classic on Aug. 10 in San Diego and in the Under Armour All-American Game in Chicago on Aug. 16. Riley, a Mississippi State commit, batted .465 with nine homers and went 8-3, 1.51 as a pitcher for DoSoto Central this past season.
Jones County Junior College takes the field in Ellisville today with a target on its back. The Bobcats are, for the first time in school history, the No. 1-ranked team in NJCAA Division II. The 17-1 Bobcats tangle today with Itawamba Community College in a twinbill at Community Bank Park and open MACJC South Division play on Saturday at Pearl River. JCJC coach Christian Ostrander appears to have a well-balanced club: Four regulars are batting above .350 and three frontline pitchers have ERAs under 1.40. Trent Giambrone leads the JCJC attack with a .452 average and 21 RBIs. Chase Hensley is hitting .375, Joshua Pankratz (from Taylorsville) .362 and Alex Shermer (Northwest Rankin) .352. Chris Morgan (Madison Central) has 22 runs and eight steals. Former Terry High star Wes Stringer is the Bobcats’ ace, with a 5-0 record and a 0.26 ERA. Lane Ratliff (Purvis) is 3-0, 1.35 and Hensley is 3-0, 1.38. P.S. Three other state schools are ranked in the latest juco D-II poll. East Mississippi is No. 6, Northwest (the only team to beat JCJC) is 13th and Northeast is 19th. … DeSoto Central High is No. 19 in Baseball America’s first in-season prep poll. Clay Casey, an Ole Miss commit, is 7-for-19 with seven RBIs for the Jaguars (5-2).