21 May

back, back, back …

Setting Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine for 90 years takes us to 1930, the year Ludlow native Hal Lee made his big league debut. There was an offensive explosion in the game that season, due in large part to a juiced ball. The average batting average was .294. Both leagues set records for home runs and runs. Hack Wilson drove in 191 runs, a record that still stands. Lee didn’t quite catch that wave. He only got 37 at-bats for the Brooklyn Robins in 1930 and hit .162. Two years later, with the Philadelphia Phillies, he redeemed himself. The right-handed hitting outfielder, nicknamed Sheriff, hit .303 with 18 homers, 45 RBIs, 42 doubles and 10 triples. Nice numbers. Lee was overshadowed on his own team, however, by the likes of Chuck Klein (.348, 38 homers, 137 RBIs, 50 doubles), Don Hurst (.339, 24 homers, 143 RBIs) and Pinky Whitney (.298, 13 homers, 124 RBIs). Yes, hitters generally flourished in the ’30s. Lee, who died in 1989, is one of six former Mississippi College players to reach the majors and is arguably the most accomplished. He hit .275 over seven seasons with 33 homers and 323 RBIs. He played in more games, hit for a better average, drove in more runs and scored more runs than the better-known Harry Craft, who batted .253 over his six seasons (1937-42).

12 Mar

early returns

Has Delta State found its footing? Hard to tell just yet. The Statesmen whipped Arkansas-Monticello 10-5 on Wednesday at Ferriss Field, fueled by hot-hitting leadoff batter Chad Ragland. DSU – 90-9 all-time against the Boll Weevils — has won three of its last five on the heels of a five-game losing streak. Nationally ranked in NCAA Division II early in the season, the Statesmen are 13-10 overall, 6-6 in the Gulf South Conference, which they were picked to win by league coaches. Ragland, a junior college transfer from Florida, has been a major bright spot. He is batting .449 with 21 runs and six steals. Darek Sargent, who homered on Wednesday, leads the club with three homers and has 16 RBIs. Hayden White and Jake Barlow also have been producing runs. Hunter Riggins, a 2019 All-GSC and All-America pick, has been solid, per expectations, but the other starting pitchers have been inconsistent. Moreover, new coach Rodney Batts’ team is 1-7 on the road heading into a GSC series at West Alabama this weekend. … The state’s other D-II program, Mississippi College, went on the road for the first time last weekend and lost two of three to Shorter. The Choctaws, nationally ranked in mid-February, are 11-9, 6-3 GSC; they were pegged for a third-place finish in the league. MC has another road test this weekend at West Georgia. MC is digging the long ball, with a GSC-best 24 home runs as a team. Chauncey Callier, a .357 hitter, leads the way with six bombs. Caleb Reese has five and Ken Scott four. The tradeoff for that power: MC also leads the league in strikeouts. That can be a problem.

18 Feb

impact bats

While there has been no shortage of hitting heroics around the state in the young college season, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more impactful batter than Mississippi College’s Chauncey Callier. The senior outfielder from Alabama is 11-for-30 (.367) with four home runs, eight RBIs and seven runs through nine games. The Choctaws are 6-3 and 3-0 in the Gulf South Conference coming off a weekend sweep of West Alabama. Callier hit .270 with eight homers in 2019 and was a second-team All-GSC selection. Ole Miss’ Anthony Servideo splashed numbers all over the box scores during the Rebels’ series win against top-ranked Louisville; the junior shortstop from Florida was 5-for-10 with three walks, an HBP, a homer, three RBIs and three runs. Jackson State is 1-3 but don’t fault Jaylyn Williams; the senior from Greenville went 9-for-16 with four RBIs and three runs in the opening weekend. Mississippi State, 3-0 out of the gate, got five hits, two walks, three RBIs and four runs from junior outfielder Rowdey Jordan, and sophomore Charlie Fischer – another Minnesota import in Hattiesburg – banged out seven hits, walked twice, drove in four runs and scored two for Southern Miss in its weekend sweep. At Delta State (6-3, 1-2 GSC), Jared Cramer, a senior catcher out of DeSoto Central High, is off to a sizzling start at .448 with two homers, six RBIs and 11 runs. Other hot hitters of note: William Carey’s Jordan Szush (.359, eight RBIs, seven runs); Blue Mountain’s Anthony Lipsey (.387, eight RBIs, six runs); Millsaps’ Jimmy Johnstone (.350, four RBIs, two runs); and Belhaven’s Logan Walters (4-for-10, four doubles, six RBIs, two runs).

03 Feb

it’s a start

Rodney Batts checked off wins Nos. 1 and 2 as Delta State coach over the weekend and, perhaps, relaxed a little bit. There are tough acts to follow, and then there’s the Delta State job. Batts took the reins from Mike Kinnison, recent American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee who won 981 games and a national championship at the NCAA Division II school in Cleveland. No. 2 on the DSU wins list is Dave “Boo” Ferriss, another ABCA Hall of Famer who won 639 games and is immortalized by a bronze statue that stands in front of the DSU playing facility that bears his name. No. 3 on the DSU wins list is the coach whose eight-year tenure bridged the Ferriss and Kinnison eras: Bill Marchant, who won 283 games, including a school record 53 in 1996, and made two trips to the College World Series. Batts played for Marchant. Batts’ first DSU team entered the season ranked as high as 11th nationally and pegged to win the Gulf South Conference. Go get ’em. After splitting a Saturday doubleheader with East Central (Okla.) in Cleveland, the Statesmen took Sunday’s rubber game 8-6 as Wyatt Pratt went 4-for-5 with three runs and Kevin Granger homered. In other opening acts: Mississippi College took a series from Harding in Clinton, getting quality starts from Luke Files and David Dunn in Saturday’s twinbill sweep and some hot hitting from Caleb Reese, who was 5-for-9 with a homer, four RBIs and two runs in the series. … William Carey took a pair from Missouri Baptist in Hattiesburg on Saturday, outscoring the visitors 18-2. Sloan Dieter and Jay Simpson picked up wins with dominant starts, and Quartez Brown went 5-for-8 with four runs. … Blue Mountain is 0-4 after losing two doubleheaders to visiting William Wood.

22 Oct

reelin’ in the years

With Game 1 of the World Series on tap tonight, the time is right to highlight some significant anniversaries with a quick trip through Fall Classics past. Ten years ago, in the 2009 Series, Meridian Community College product Cliff Lee made two starts for Philadelphia and notched the only wins the Phillies managed against the New York Yankees. Left-hander Lee threw a complete game in Game 1, a 6-1 victory, and pitched seven-plus in Game 5, an 8-6 win. He had a 2.81 ERA with 13 strikeouts and three walks in 16 innings. Lee won 143 games in his career and went 7-3 in the postseason, though he never won a ring. Twenty years ago, a Mississippi native appeared in the box score of Game 1 of the Yankees’ sweep of Atlanta. Ocean Springs’ Howard Battle was announced as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning but was replaced (by Keith Lockhart) when New York changed pitchers (bringing in Mariano Rivera). That would be the final MLB “appearance” for Battle, who played a couple more years in the minors. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Earthquake Series, a sweep by Oakland vs. San Francisco that involved three Mississippi-connected players. Grenada native Dave Parker, at age 38, went 2-for-9 with a homer (in Game 1) for Oakland. Will Clark was 4-for-16 for the Giants, and his former Mississippi State teammate Jeff Brantley posted a 4.15 ERA in three relief appearances. Ten years prior, Parker had a big impact in the ’79 Series, helping Pittsburgh beat Baltimore in seven games. He had four hits in Game 1 – a Pirates loss – and finished with a .345 average, four RBIs and two runs. Sixty years ago, West Point native and former Southern Miss two-sport star Bubba Phillips went 3-for-10 for the Chicago White Sox as they fell in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Eighty years ago, in the ’39 Fall Classic, Harry Craft, an Ellisville native and Mississippi College alum, went 1-for-11 for Cincinnati in a four-game sweep at the hands of the mighty Yankees. Craft would win a ring with the Reds the next year but got only one at-bat in that Series. In the 1929 Series, Guy Bush, the Mississippi Mudcat from Aberdeen, started and won Game 3 for the Chicago Cubs, who lost in five games to the powerful Philadelphia A’s. Bush also made a relief appearance in that series and finished with an 0.82 ERA. Two Mississippi natives – Fulton’s Brian Dozier, a second baseman for Washington, and Brookhaven’s Lance Barksdale, an umpire – will be suited up tonight in Houston. Something significant involving one or both seems almost bound to happen.

07 Aug

starry, starry night

A couple of Mississippi products took star turns on Tuesday night in Boise, Idaho, when the Pioneer League and Northwest League All-Stars faced off in the annual clash of rookie-level circuits. Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and earned Top Star honors for the NWL squad. He was upstaged a bit by Sam McWilliams, a Meridian Community College alum from Magee who hit a two-run homer, one of the four homers mashed by Pioneer stars in their 11-7 victory. “It was great to be here with the best guys around the league and just have fun for a night,” Crim told milb.com. “Definitely worth the trip.” Crim, the Gulf South Conference player of the year in 2019, was a 19th-round pick by Texas in June and is having an excellent season at Spokane. The first baseman/DH is hitting .341 with four homers and 24 RBIs. McWilliams, a 19th-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 off a loaded MCC club, is batting .291 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs at Ogden. A second baseman, he hit .276 in the Arizona League last season. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, both promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday, made smashing debuts on Tuesday, Waters going 3-for-5 with an RBI and Pache 2-for-5 with an RBI. Pache is the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, Waters No. 2.

26 Jul

scattered numbers

4 – Runs accounted for by Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland, who had two RBIs and scored twice for Boston, which scored its most runs ever against the New York Yankees in a 19-3 romp on Thursday night.
9 – Holds this season by Tony Sipp, the ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star; his Washington team ultimately lost to Colorado 8-7 on Thursday.
5 – Hits in two games by East Central Community College product Tim Anderson in his rehab stint at Triple-A Charlotte in the Chicago White Sox’s system.
7 – Consecutive strikeouts by Mississippi Braves right-hander Ian Anderson, who collected nine K’s all told in the Double-A M-Braves’ win at Jackson (Tenn.); Anderson leads the Southern League with 138 strikeouts.
4 – Hits in 25 at-bats (.163) for Gulfport native Bobby Bradley since he returned to Triple-A Columbus following a big league stint with Cleveland.
3 – Saves in his last three appearances for Petal’s Demarcus Evans, who has a 1.21 ERA for Double-A Frisco in the Texas system.
5 – Hits in Thursday’s game by Mississippi College alum Blaine Crim, who is batting .340 with four homers for short season Class A Spokane in the Texas system.
1 – Career minor league homers by Grae Kessinger, the Ole Miss product – and second-round draftee — who went yard Thursday for Class A Quad Cities in Houston’s chain.
1 – Minor league appearances to date by ex-MSU star Ethan Small, drafted in the first round last month by Milwaukee; he worked a clean inning with two strikeouts on July 19 for a Brewers rookie club.
2 – Scoreless innings pitched Thursday by former State standout Jacob Lindgren in his first appearance for Class A Winston-Salem in the White Sox’s system; Lindgren, a one-time big leaguer, is trying to come back from two elbow surgeries.
12 – Current hitting streak by Cole Zabowski, the Ole Miss alum who is batting .344 with a Detroit rookie league team.

23 Jul

high cotton

A showdown between the top two teams in the Cotton States League turned into a run-rule rout, with the North Delta Dealers beating the Tippah Tribe 16-3 in four innings Sunday at BNA Bank Park in New Albany. Both are now 10-6 with three games left in the college summer league’s regular season. Tripp Benson, a Belhaven University alum, went 3-for-3 with a homer and five RBIs in Sunday’s game. Connar Gardner (Itawamba Community College) and Ian Biblioni (Lakeland native) drove in three runs each, and Markarius Lee (Mississippi College) scored twice. Lee, batting .373, leads the league in runs with 19, and Benson (.346) is tied for the lead in RBIs with 17. Biblioni (.378) and Gardner (.348) also rank among the top 12 in batting. The Dealers play again tonight against the Golden Triangle Jets. The Tribe is back in action Thursday against the Tallahatchie Rascals. … Sam Williams, a Magee High product, leads the Tribe in hitting at .359, and teammate Braden Quesinberry tops the CSL in wins with four and sports a 1.85 ERA. … The league’s top hitter is Nathan Herron (Belhaven) of the GT Jets at .419. Klay Houston, a Fulton native who pitches for Angelo (Texas) State, has an impressive 38 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings for Tallahatchie. P.S. Mississippi State’s Jordan Westburg extended his hitting streak Monday to seven games for Hyannis in the Cape Cod League. Westburg is 23-for-63 (.365) with three homers and 11 RBIs in 15 games.

10 Jul

summer stock

After getting cut from USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team roster, Mississippi State infielder Jordan Westburg has taken the Cape Cod League by storm. Playing for Hyannis in the prestigious summer league, Westburg notched his fifth straight multi-hit game on Tuesday and is batting .600. He has three homers – two in his July 5 debut – and eight RBIs in five games. Westburg hit .294 for State during its College World Series run this season. Also on the Hyannis roster are State’s Rowdey Jordan (.098 in 12 games) and Ole Miss’ Anthony Servideo (.164 in 17 games). UM’s Tyler Keenan has swung a hot bat for Harwich: .300, a homer, four RBIs in 10 games. … The Collegiate National Team, with State’s Tanner Allen and Justin Foscue and the Rebels’ Doug Nikhazy in tow, is currently playing a series in Taiwain after taking four of five games from Cuba last week in North Carolina. Allen is batting .368 for Team USA and Foscue, 2-for-4 with an RBI in Tuesday’s loss to Chinese Taipei, is at .300 with four RBIs. Both were .300 hitters for the Bulldogs in 2019. Nikhazy, the Rebels’ star freshman lefty, pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings against Cuba on Saturday. … Ole Miss shortstop Justin Bench and Mississippi College third baseman Dylan Duplechain recently were named as starters in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League’s All-Star Game, set for July 16 in Saugerties, N.Y. … Closer to home, in the New Albany-based Cotton States League, Belhaven’s Nathan Herron is leading the loop in hitting at .432 with a homer and 11 RBIs for the Golden Triangle Jets. Herron, from Batesville, hit .241 as a freshman at BU this season. Former Hinds Community College and MSU player Trey Jolly, currently on Southeastern Louisiana’s roster, is at .410 with two homers, 11 RBIs and 11 steals for the Tupelo Thunder. The Tippah Tribe leads the league with an 8-4 record, sparked by the pitching of Harding (Ark.) alum Braden Quesinberry, who is 3-1 with a 1.00 ERA.

12 Jun

star power

Awards season has begun for the colleges. To recap what’s happened so far: Mississippi State’s Ethan Small has been named the College Baseball Foundation’s national pitcher of the year. J.T. Ginn, the State star from Brandon, was named Perfect Game’s freshman of the year and a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American. Ole Miss’ Grae Kessinger was named the nation’s top shortstop, winning the Mizuno-sponsored Brooks Wallace Award. Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner and State’s Small were tabbed first-team All-Americans by Baseball America, which also honored Bulldogs Jake Mangum and Justin Foscue as second- and third-teamers, respectively. That MSU trio made Collegiate Baseball’s All-America list, as well. Delta State’s Jake Barlow and Hunter Riggins have earned NCAA D-II All-America honors, and Mississippi College’s Blaine Crim, the Gulf South Conference player of the year, was named a D-II Academic All-American. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Brandon Parker was an NJCAA Division II first-team All-America, Northwest CC’s Ben Van Cleve made the second team and Itawamba’s Houston Harding and Pearl River’s Wiley Cleland were on the third team. … Former Mississippi Braves are getting a lot of respect from voters in the early returns from the MLB All-Star Game ballots. Ozzie Albies led National League second basemen and Tommy La Stella, now with the Los Angeles Angels, led the AL at the same position. Brian McCann was second among NL catchers and Dansby Swanson second on the shortstop list. Freddie Freeman (first base) and Ronald Acuna (outfield) came in third at their respective positions. (Unfortunately, Austin Riley is not on the ballot.) East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, who has been at or near the top of the AL batting race all season, was fourth in the shortstop voting. … Former Mississippi State standouts Brandon Woodruff and Dakota Hudson likely will get consideration for the NL pitching staff, while Madison Central product Spencer Turnbull and Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn could be candidates in the AL. Pitchers are chosen by a vote of fellow players. … The current Mississippi Braves are slated to send seven players – five pitchers plus outfielders Drew Waters and Cristian Pache — to next week’s Southern League All-Star Game at MGM Park in Biloxi. Nine Shuckers – yes, nine — are on the South roster.