14 Jun

big league chew

With a clutch home run against the New York Yankees on Thursday, Tim Anderson achieved a notable double-double (homers and steals) for the third straight season with the Chicago White Sox. The former first-round pick out of East Central Community College belted homer No. 10, a three-run shot, in the fifth inning, tying the score at 4-4 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The ChiSox went on to win 5-4. “Those moments are the moments you want to be in. Not being afraid to fail,” Anderson, never at a loss for words, told mlb.com. He is batting .317 with 10 homers, 32 RBIs and 15 steals. He had a 20-20 double-double last year. Anderson was fourth in the latest All-Star voting results for American League shortstop, a tough crowd that includes Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Andrelton Simmons, Gleyber Torres, Xander Bogaerts and Jorge Polanco (who led the voting). … Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels became on Thursday the first Japan native to hit for the cycle in the big leagues. How many Mississippi natives have pulled off this rare feat? Five. Gulfport’s Gee Walker (opening day 1937), Moss Point’s Sam Leslie, Ellisville’s Harry Craft, Greenville’s Frank White (who did it twice) and Hattiesburg’s Fred Lewis. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones, whose hot hitting (.344 in his last 30 games) had earned him the leadoff spot in Detroit’s lineup, left Thursday’s game with an elbow contusion after an HBP. He’ll be reevaluated today, reports said. … Mississippi State product Chris Stratton reportedly will make a second rehab appearance before returning to Pittsburgh’s roster. He went on the injured list May 25 with side discomfort. He threw two innings for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. The veteran right-hander from Tupelo has a 5.40 ERA in four games with the Pirates after posting an 8.59 in seven appearances with the Angels before being traded.

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.

10 Jun

where are they now?

Nick Sandlin has made a rapid ascent in the Cleveland organization. A second-round pick and the fourth player drafted out of Mississippi in 2018, the ex-Southern Miss ace was promoted to Triple-A last week and has made two relief appearances for the Columbus Clippers. He allowed two runs in his debut but worked a clean inning on Saturday. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a 1.56 ERA in 15 games at Double-A Akron this year. He climbed through four levels of the minors last summer, finishing with a 3.00 ERA and five saves. He has 67 strikeouts in 43 2/3 pro innings. Rated the No. 17 prospect in the Indians’ system by MLB Pipeline, Sandlin could make the big league team this season. … The first Mississippian chosen in 2018, Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison, is now with Colorado’s advanced Class A Lancaster club. The lefty, the Rockies’ No. 3 prospect, is 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA in nine starts and has made the California League All-Star Game. … Forecast by many as a first-round draft pick in 2018, Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington slipped to the third round, where he was plucked by the Chicago White Sox. The East Central High alum, who moved from low-A Kannapolis to high-A Winston Salem in mid-May, is 1-1, 6.16 in four starts at the new level. He had a 1.62 ERA at the low-A level. … Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, the top high school pick from the state last year who signed a pro contract (first-rounder J.T. Ginn of Brandon went to State), is already rated the No. 7 prospect in Milwaukee’s system though he has yet to play above the rookie level. The 2018 second-rounder hit .182 with two homers in 24 games in the Arizona League, playing through a bout of pneumonia. He’ll likely go to the Pioneer League this summer. “He has the tools, no doubt about it,” Rafael Neda, Gray’s manager last year, told Baseball America this spring. “He’s a really athletic kid with a high ceiling. We’ve started to see that.”

10 Jun

summer sessions

The New Albany-based Cotton States League is under way, with the Tippah County Tribe, featuring several Blue Mountain College players, off to a 3-1 start. Among the league’s top hitters to date are Northeast Mississippi CC alum Landon Wilkerson (.500, eight RBIs for the Tupelo Thunder) and Belhaven’s Nathan Herron (.500, homer, nine RBIs for the Golden Triangle Jets). Northeast CC alum Nikolas Wilcher is 2-0, 1.80 ERA for 3-2 Tupelo. This is the CSL’s 11th season. … In the Texas Collegiate League, the Acadiana Cane Cutters’ roster is replete with Mississippians: Southern Miss’ Hunter LeBlanc, Fisher Norris, Josh Lewis and Drew Boyd, Delta State’s Kris Peet, Hunter Stafford and Bailey Hargrave, Hinds Community College alum Noah Hughes and Jones JC product Trace Henry. … The Cape Cod League season starts today, though none of the Mississippi State or Ole Miss players slated for the high-profile summer league are there yet for obvious reasons. One of the main attractions in the Cape figures to be J.T. Ginn, who starred as a freshman (8-4, 3.36 ERA) for State this season after being a first-round MLB draft pick last summer. Ginn is ticketed to pitch for Orleans. After a star-studded career as a two-way player at Brandon High, Ginn was drafted 30th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers but passed on the pro opportunity to play at State with no apparent regrets. The Hyannis team has a distinct Mississippi flavor, with three MSU players and one from Ole Miss listed on the club’s preseason roster. Bulldogs Tanner Allen, Rowdey Jordan and Jordan Westburg are joined by the Rebels’ Anthony Servideo. UM’s Tyler Keenan and former Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet, now at Tennessee, will play for Harwich, and State’s Justin Foscue is on the Wareham roster.

07 Jun

derby dreamin’

Too bad fans don’t get to pick whom they’d like to see in the MLB Home Run Derby. San Diego fans – and no doubt a bunch of folks in Mississippi, too – would surely cast votes for Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs. Not only can the 6-foot-1, 220-pound outfielder really mash, but he is deserving of the recognition, ranking among the MLB leaders in homers with 18. He hit his latest on Thursday, a 422-footer at Petco Park that helped the Padres beat Washington 5-4. In this year of the long ball, Renfroe is on pace to shatter his season-best of 26, a mark he reached each of the last two seasons. He has 74 career homers, averaging one every 14.3 at-bats. (Giancarlo Stanton’s average is 13.8.) Injuries have thinned the Padres’ once-crowded outfield, and Renfroe has reaped the benefits of regular duty. He is batting .250 with 35 RBIs and 26 runs in 57 games. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier, who was the last Mississippian to participate in the home run derby in 2014, hit his ninth homer of the year Thursday for the Nationals. Grenada native Dave Parker won the first derby competition in 1985. The only other Mississippians to compete are Ellis Burks in 1996 and Rafael Palmeiro in 2002. The 2019 derby is set for July 8 at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.

05 Jun

just stuff

The wolves are howling again in Queens, where Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway’s job as manager of the New York Mets appears in serious jeopardy. The Mets dropped their third straight on Tuesday after Callaway’s controversial decision to pull starter Noah Syndergaard with a lead in the seventh inning. Callaway later said he regretted making the move. The Mets are 28-32, 5½ games back in the National League East. … What more can one say about Austin Riley? The DeSoto Central product hit a go-ahead homer to spark Atlanta’s win on Tuesday and is now batting .324 with nine bombs and 25 RBIs in his first 18 MLB games, one of the best starts in history. … Former Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland could come off the 10-day injured list on Friday for Boston, according to the Boston Globe. He leads the team with 13 home runs. … Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, enjoying a resurgence at the plate for resurgent Washington, left Tuesday’s game with a forearm contusion after an HBP and is considered day-to-day. Dozier is batting .283 over his last 15 games, boosting his season average to .223 with eight homers. … T.J. House, the former big leaguer from Picayune, is pitching for the Milwaukee Milkmen in the independent American Association. The 29-year-old left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.10 ERA in three starts. House was in Triple-A in the Chicago White Sox’s organization in 2018 before being released in June. He last pitched in the majors in 2017 with Toronto. As a rookie with Cleveland in 2014, House put up a 5-3 record and 3.35 ERA in 18 starts but never replicated those numbers in limited opportunities thereafter. … Former Petal High standout Demarcus Evans, recently promoted to Double-A in Texas’ system, yielded a couple of runs on Tuesday but wound up earning a win when his Frisco team rallied to beat Amarillo. Evans had made two scoreless appearances before Tuesday. He had an 0.81 ERA and six saves at Class A Down East. … USM product Bradley Roney has yet to yield an earned run in four appearances at Class A Florida in the Braves’ chain as he continues his comeback from injuries that had kept him out since mid-2017. … Brandon Parker grew up on the Coast rooting for the Braves. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been a Braves fan,” he told Biloxi’s WLOX. On Tuesday, the Braves, shopping for a power bat, drafted the former West Harrison High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star in the 10th round. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound right fielder, a Dallas Baptist signee, hit 38 home runs the last two seasons at MGCCC. He was the NJCAA Division II player of the year in 2018 when he batted .424 with 24 homers and 81 RBIs.

04 Jun

all about potential

The first Mississippian to come off the board today, Day 2 of the three-day MLB draft, was James Beard, an outfielder from Class 2A Loyd Star High. He went in the fourth round, 110th overall and eight picks before Jake Mangum, the highly decorated Mississippi State senior outfielder who holds the SEC’s all-time hits record. Granted, Beard is generally regarded as the fastest player in the draft, but Mangum can run a little bit, too. And even though he lacks power, Mangum is certainly battle-tested after four years in the country’s best college conference. Oh well, the draft is all about potential. Beard went to the Chicago White Sox and Mangum to the New York Mets, who drafted him in the 32nd round in 2018. The Yankees drafted Mangum in Round 30 in 2017. Of the top 200 picks in the draft, which runs into Wednesday, a total of 10 players with Mississippi ties had their names called. Day 1, the first two rounds (plus supplemental picks), saw four Magnolia Staters taken, led by Mississippi State left-hander Ethan Small, the SEC pitcher of the year, at No. 28 to Milwaukee. (We could see him in Biloxi in a couple of years.) Southern Miss outfielder Matt Wallner, who is long on power, went just outside the first round at 39th overall to Minnesota. Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a pitcher, went in the second round to Toronto and Ole Miss shortstop Grae Kessinger in Round 2 to Houston. (Grae’s father, Kevin, was a 22nd-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 1992 out of Ole Miss. Grandfather Don, a longtime big league star, entered pro ball with the Cubs before the draft began.) Three more UM players were picked among the top 200: Will Ethridge (by Colorado), Thomas Dillard (Milwaukee) and Cooper Johnson (Detroit). MSU’s Colby White (Tampa Bay) also made that cut.

03 Jun

stepping up

Mississippi State and Ole Miss got what they needed from starters Peyton Plumlee and Gunnar Hoglund, respectively, in Sunday’s regional clinchers. Plumlee went five-plus, yielding two runs for the Bulldogs, who used four relievers to close out the 5-2 win against Miami at Starkville. Hoglund worked 5 1/3 for the Rebels, allowing just one earned run, before three relievers finished up the 19-4 romp vs. Jacksonville State in Oxford. But the most impressive mound performance on Sunday might have came from a pitcher who took a loss, the one that ended Southern Miss’ season. In a must-win game, against LSU at night in a packed Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, the Golden Eagles’ Josh Lewis delivered six-plus innings, taking a lead into the seventh, against the national No. 13 seed. Left-hander Lewis, a junior transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, hadn’t pitched since May 17. He had only one previous start, and his ERA in 15 games was approaching 6.00. But the Eagles’ pitching depth was depleted after the wild 13-12 win over Arizona State earlier Sunday and an 8-4 loss to LSU on Saturday; they trotted out 11 pitchers in those two games. So Lewis got the ball with the season on the line. “Really, it’s a moment I’ve been waiting for,” Lewis told the Hub City Spokes. “I’m glad I went out there and gave us a chance to win.” After allowing a leadoff homer and then two more runs in the second inning, the undaunted Lewis settled in, and the Eagles rallied to take a 4-3 lead before the game got away from them in the seventh. Lewis was charged with eight hits, a walk and five runs in the 6-4 defeat. Those numbers don’t tell the story a truly valiant effort.

31 May

silver lining

While St. Louis has been in a downward spiral this month, Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson has enjoyed a resurgence. The former Mississippi State standout put a cap on his strong May by beating Philadelphia 5-3 on Thursday. Hudson yielded one run in six innings, pitching out of a couple of minor jams, to improve to 4-3 with a 3.94 ERA, second-best among Cardinals starters. His ERA through April was 5.63, but St. Louis manager Mike Shildt reassured Hudson that his spot in the rotation was not in jeopardy. “Hey, you’re going to have time to figure this out,” Hudson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Shildt’s message. “This is the learning process. I was able to kind of settle.” In May, while the Cardinals have gone 7-18, Hudson is 2-2, 2.80 in six starts – and could easily have won all six. The right-hander made an impact as a rookie reliever in 2018, posting a 2.63 ERA, four wins and 11 holds in 26 appearances.

30 May

the chase resumes

The quest for an elusive national championship begins this weekend for Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss, with both State and UM hosting NCAA regionals. The Magnolia State claims three national titles in baseball, but none in NCAA Division I. Fifty years ago, William Carey University won the NAIA World Series. Fifteen years ago, Delta State took the NCAA D-II crown. And in 2016, Jones County Junior College came home with the NJCAA D-II title. (Pearl River CC’s run ended on Tuesday.) The D-I schools have come close to winning it all in recent years. MSU lost in the best-of-3 final to UCLA in 2013; that’s the Bulldogs’ best showing in 10 CWS appearances. Ole Miss reached the semifinal round in 2014 in its first CWS trip since 1972. (USM made its first and only CWS appearance 10 years ago but didn’t stick around Omaha long). As a No. 6 national seed, the Bulldogs have the clearest path – if it can ever be called that — to Omaha this year. The Rebels, the No. 12 overall seed, likely would have to go on the road (to Arkansas) for their Super Regional. The Golden Eagles go to Baton Rouge as a regional 3-seed but are riding the wave of another C-USA Tournament championship. Baseball is a major source of pride for the state. It has become commonplace for the Big 3 to show up in preseason national polls, contend for conference titles and even get regional host bids. Just imagine what a national championship would do for the state’s growing reputation as a baseball hotbed.