Game 1 of a four-game International League series in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Monday featured the Triple-A debut of former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley, who went 1-for-5 for Atlanta affiliate Gwinnett. Game 2 could see the Class AAA debut of ex-George County High and Southern Miss standout Mason Robbins, now with Charlotte. Robbins, 25 and in his fifth pro season, was promoted by the Chicago White Sox on Monday. The left-handed hitting outfielder started this season on the disabled list but after being activated hit .350 with a homer and three RBIs in five games for Double-A Birmingham. He batted .265 with three homers in 125 games for the Barons in 2017. “I want to get more out of my swing than what I had last year,” Robbins told the Biloxi Sun-Herald in February, meaning he needs to show more power. In 2016 in high-A ball, he hit five homers with 33 doubles and seven triples while batting .314 and making the Carolina League’s postseason All-Star team. If Robbins starts tonight, he’ll face Gwinnett’s Kolby Allard, the former Mississippi Braves lefty who rates as one of Atlanta’s top prospects.
The 70th anniversary of the 1946 World Series (see previous posts) is worthy of any and all hoopla it receives. St. Louis and Boston, featuring Mississippians Harry Walker and Boo Ferriss, battled it out for seven games in what was truly a Fall Classic. But that World Series didn’t corner the market on thrills that fall, and Walker wasn’t the only Mississippi native toasting a title. In the ’46 Negro Leagues World Series, the Newark Eagles, led by Monte Irvin, Larry Doby and Hattiesburg native Rufus Lewis, beat the Kansas City Monarchs in seven games, winning the clincher 3-2 at Ruppert Stadium in Newark. Lewis, one of the aces of the Eagles’ staff, started and got the victory in Game 7 and went 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA in the series. Lewis never made the major leagues but did pitch in the minors in “organized baseball.” Of course, 1946 was also the year that Jackie Robinson broke the color line and led the Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers farm club, to the International League and Junior World Series championships. Robinson’s manager in Montreal was none other than Clay Hopper, a Portersville native and Mississippi State alum who had a long and decorated career as a minor league skipper.
A sliver of the baseball spotlight will be trained tonight on Memphis’ AutoZone Park, where Hunter Renfroe will lead El Paso against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a one-game showdown for the Triple-A championship. Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs, hit .306 with 30 home runs and 105 RBIs and won Pacific Coast League MVP honors with the Chihuahuas, a San Diego affiliate. International League champ SWB, a New York Yankees affiliate, is managed by former Jackson Mets star Al Pedrique. Both clubs feature several top prospects. Jonathan Holder, another MSU product, spent part of this season with SWB but is now in the big leagues. Renfroe, rated the Padres’ No. 3 prospect by mlb.com, may be in line for a call-up to The Show, but he says all he is focused on at the moment is his current team and tonight’s game. “San Diego will always be there, and when the time comes for them to make a decision, I’ll be here,” he told The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. The NBC Sports Network will televise the 7:05 game. P.S. For the first time in his seven seasons in the majors, Mitch Moreland was ejected from a game. Former State standout Moreland got tossed in the fourth inning Monday by home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley after “disputing,” while walking away, a called third strike during Texas’ game against the Los Angeles Angels. “It was obviously a pitch I didn’t agree with,” Moreland said in an mlb.com article. The Rangers won 3-2 in walk-off fashion, reducing their magic number for clinching the American League West to 3.
The El Paso Chihuahuas’ season goes on, which apparently means Hunter Renfroe’s much-anticipated big league debut is on hold. Former Mississippi State star Renfroe, the Triple-A Pacific Coast League MVP, hit a go-ahead home run on Saturday that propelled El Paso into the PCL Championship Series, which will begin on Tuesday. When San Diego traded Melvin Upton and Matt Kemp in late July, it appeared it was clearing space in the outfield for prospects like Renfroe, who is among the Padres’ most highly regarded. The 2013 first-round pick has had a big year with the bat in the hitter-friendly PCL: .306, 30 homers, 34 doubles, 105 RBIs, .557 slugging percentage. And he’s also a good right fielder with a plus arm. If the Padres wait until El Paso’s playoff run is over to promote Renfroe, he’d still have a couple of weeks to audition for a regular job in 2017. Eight Mississippians (natives or college alums) have debuted in MLB in 2016: Chad Girodo, Chris Stratton, Tim Anderson, Cody Reed, Adam Frazier, Mike Mayers, JaCoby Jones and Jonathan Holder. P.S. Former Southern Miss standout Bradley Roney got the save in Saturday’s clincher as Triple-A Gwinnett beat Columbus 5-4 to advance to the International League finals. Roney is 4-for-4 in save chances with a 3.57 ERA and three wins in 27 games for the G-Braves this season. He had a 2.82 in 17 games for the Double-A Mississippi Braves, who are now in the Southern League title series. Atlanta’s low-A Rome club reached the South Atlantic League finals, fueled in part by DeSoto Central product Austin Riley, who went 3-for-10 with four RBIs in the first round series. Riley, Atlanta’s top pick in 2015, is batting .270 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs.