Once Brent Rooker formally signs with the Minnesota Twins and joins a team in their system, he’ll become the fifth Ferriss Trophy winner active in pro ball. Three are in or have been in the big leagues. Drew Pomeranz (Boston), the 2010 winner, and 2013 winner Hunter Renfroe (San Diego) are currently in The Show, and 2012 winner Chris Stratton (San Francisco) has been up but is back in Triple-A. Ed Easley (2007), now retired, is the only other winner to make the big leagues. The award has been given out each year since 2004. Auston Bousfield, the 2014 winner following a brilliant junior season at Ole Miss, has reached Triple-A but currently finds himself at Double-A San Antonio in the Padres’ organization. Bousfield’s team, managed by former Mississippi Braves manager Phillip Wellman, won a first-half title in the Texas League on Thursday, but Bousfield hasn’t had a lot to celebrate personally this year. He is batting .217 and has spent a chunk of time on the disabled list. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound outfielder batted .170 in 71 games for the Missions in 2016 and .204 in 38 games at Triple-A El Paso. Bousfield was drafted by the Padres in fifth round in 2014 and enjoyed an excellent first pro summer, batting .301 with three homers and 13 RBIs in the Northwest League. He was named a short-season All-Star by Baseball America. He is now trying to recapture that form.
Mississippi is having a heck of a year on the college diamonds, and it ain’t over yet. Southern Miss’ Dylan Burdeaux won Conference USA player of the year honors today, giving the state four such honorees. Burdeaux joins Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker (SEC), Delta State’s Zack Shannon (Gulf South) and William Carey’s James Land (SSAC) as top dogs in their league. (Rooker beat out Burdeaux and Shannon for the Ferriss Trophy that goes to the state’s best player.) For what it’s worth, Jackson State’s Bryce Brown had a pretty good case for SWAC POY, and Itawamba Community College’s Tyreque Reed (a State commit) led NJCAA Division II in hitting with an amazing .504 average. DSU, Carey and Hinds CC are all bound for the World Series at their respective levels. The NCAA Division I schools are only just beginning their quest for Omaha, with USM looking like it might have a realistic shot.
Brent Rooker will probably take home the Ferriss Trophy on Monday. He has received national attention while putting up monster numbers for a nationally ranked Mississippi State team that has battled through its share of adversity. Delta State’s Zack Shannon has big numbers, too, for a conference champion – and he would be the first Statesman to win the award named for former DSU coach Boo Ferriss. All three of the Southern Miss finalists have been outstanding for a nationally ranked conference title team: Taylor Braley, Dylan Burdeaux and freshman sensation Matt Wallner. There really isn’t a wrong choice here, but in some ways, there is more to like about Braley than any of the other finalists. The junior is the only true two-way player. A third baseman/DH, he is batting .330 with a .478 on-base percentage, 12 home runs and 50 RBIs. As a pitcher, he is 5-2 with a 3.48 ERA and 64 strikeouts over 11 starts. And the Oak Grove High alum is the only Mississippi native among the finalists. That ought to count for something.
Only one small college player has won the Ferriss Trophy over its 13 years: Belhaven University’s Craig Westcott in 2009. The 2017 coronation is a long ways off, but there are a couple of NAIA players whose hitting exploits this season bear notice. James Land, a senior first baseman at William Carey, belted three home runs at Mississippi College on Tuesday, running his season total to 11. He leads the Southern States Athletic Conference in slugging at .807 and ranks near the top in homers, batting average (.404) and RBIs (38). Land, a former Harrison Central and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, was named the SSAC’s player of the week last week (after batting .591 with 11 RBIs in five games). The reigning SSAC player of the week is Caleb Leach of Blue Mountain. A junior infielder/outfielder from Florida, Leach batted .600 with a pair of homers, five RBIs and eight runs last week and is at .397, five homers and 27 RBIs for the year. He leads the Toppers in slugging (.612) and runs (33). It should help the cases for Land and Leach that both Carey and BMC are having strong years. The nationally ranked Crusaders are 23-9, 9-3 SSAC, and the Toppers are 23-15, 6-6, easily the best start in their short history.
With college classes having begun, it’s time for those “what I did on my summer vacation” stories. Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington and Jake Mangum showed out in the Cape Cod League, earning recognition from Baseball America as top 30 prospects from the prestigious summer circuit. Pilkington, a left-hander from Hurley and East Central High, was 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA in seven games for Brewster. He also made the All-CCBL team, as chosen by the league. At State this past season, he was 3-1, 2.08 in 14 appearances. Mangum, a Jackson Prep product, hit .300 with nine RBIs and 11 steals in 35 games for Bourne. The Ferriss Trophy winner batted .408 for the Bulldogs as a freshman last spring. … Of the Ole Miss players who took part in summer league ball, none has more to boast about than Parker Ciracci, another Jackson Prep product who redshirted at UM last spring. Right-hander Ciracci posted an 0.78 ERA, five wins and seven saves in 21 games in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Fellow Rebel D.J. Miller had a fun time, too, batting .286 with 32 runs and 10 steals in the Cal Ripken League. UM’s Kyle Watson, a DeSoto Central alum, swiped 21 bags in the Alaska League. … Southern Miss’ Mason Irby, a transfer from juco national champ Jones County Junior College, played on the NJCAA National Team that went 3-1 in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. Golden Eagles J.C. Keys and Matthew Guidry were Texas Collegiate League All-Star Game picks. Guidry finished at .331 with 14 RBIs and 24 runs in 40 games for Acadiana, and Keys put up a 4.13 ERA in 13 games for the same club. … Mississippi College’s Hunter Lacefield, a lefty transfer from Northwest CC, went 4-1 with a 0.76 ERA for the North Delta Dealers, the best team in the New Albany-based Cotton States League this summer. … Alcorn State has a new pitching coach, David Duncan, a former Florida A&M pitcher who has some pro experience. The Braves had a staff ERA of 8.03 in 2016, so Duncan has some work to do. … New head coaches are settling in at jucos Pearl River and Mississippi Delta. Michael Avalon left Delta to replace Josh Hoffpauir at PRCC, and longtime Hinds assistant Dan Rives filled the vacancy at Delta, where he played.
Jake Mangum’s excellent adventure will continue in the Cape Cod League playoffs, which start today. Mangum, former Jackson Prep star, led the SEC in hitting with a .427 mark and won the Ferriss Trophy as a freshman at Mississippi State this year. The switch-hitting outfielder has backed that up with a strong showing in the Cape, the premier college summer league. He hit .300 with nine RBIs, 19 runs and 11 stolen bases for the Bourne Braves. He also went 1-for-3 in the CCBL All-Star Game. Mangum was 4-for-5 with a couple of RBIs in Bourne’s last regular season game on Wednesday. Mangum’s State teammate Brent Rooker had an even better year in the Cape, batting .305 with three homers and 22 RBIs, but his team, Brewster, didn’t make the eight-team playoff field. State’s Ryan Gridley (.225) was also on that team. Ole Miss’ Will Golsan and Will Stokes are with Orleans, a playoff team. Stokes posted a 3.37 ERA in 15 games, while Golsan hit .235 with a homer and eight RBIs, finishing the regular season with a 3-for-4, 4-RBI game. Southern Miss’ Kirk McCarty went 2-1 with a 1.98 ERA for Orleans but isn’t on the playoff roster. State’s Trystan Barlow, who had an 8.21 ERA in 12 games for Harwich, is the only other Mississippi collegian in the Cape playoffs.
Having been released by Pittsburgh, Ed Easley may have seen his playing career reach the end of the line. The Mississippi State product was batting .174 as a 30-year-old catcher getting limited playing time at Triple-A Indianapolis. Easley has played 10 years in pro ball and appeared in four MLB games, all last year with St. Louis, going 0-for-6. But don’t get the wrong idea. If indeed it is over, Easley’s career is one worth celebrating. After his senior season at Olive Branch High in 2004, he was the state’s Mr. Baseball, Gatorade player of the year and a Louisville Slugger All-America pick. At MSU, he was All-SEC and won the Ferriss Trophy and the Johnny Bench Award that goes to the nation’s best catcher in 2007. Arizona drafted Easley 61st overall in ’07, and he has batted .260 with 43 home runs in 770 minor league games. He has 683 minor league hits, including a single in what may have been his last game, on June 29.