When he’s good, he’s very good. And Billy Hamilton was at the top of his game on Sunday, slashing hits, stealing bases, scoring runs and splashing down on the PNC Park warning track after one of the great catches of the season. The former Taylorsville High star produced three hits, three runs and two stolen bases in Cincinnati’s 8-6 win at Pittsburgh. But it was his defense that stole the show. The speedy center fielder tracked down a fly ball in right-center to make a catch that, according to Statcast, had a 2 percent probability of being made. He reportedly covered 83 feet in 4.3 seconds. “It’s like video game stuff,” said Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani in an mlb.com article. Francisco Cervelli, who hit the ball, applauded the play, as did Pirates fans. Hamilton needed a good day at the plate. The 3-for-4 boosted his average to .197, and he now has 13 stolen bases and 34 runs in 67 games. … At Dodger Stadium, Chris Stratton, the former Mississippi State standout from Tupelo, threw six impressive innings – three hits, one walk, no earned runs – to notch his eighth win of the year for San Francisco in a 4-1 victory against Los Angeles. It was the first career win for Stratton in four decisions vs. the Dodgers. He is 8-4, 4.22 ERA on the year and tied for second in the National League in wins. … At Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Tony Sipp, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum from Pascagoula, worked a scoreless seventh inning and earned the win as Houston extended its streak to 11 by beating the Royals 7-4. Sipp has made four scoreless appearances during the Astros’ run. Coming off a couple of rough years, the 34-year-old lefty has sliced his ERA to 2.16 and has 16 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings over 20 appearances overall.
It’s a Dog Day in Omaha, where Mississippi State plays Washington in a College World Series opener. Meanwhile, some former Dogs enjoyed a day of their own on Friday in the big leagues. Atlanta Braves TV broadcasters, Jeff Francoeur in particular, were effusively impressed with the arm of Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State star who made a couple of cannon-shot throws from deep right field to third base for San Diego. More impressive was the two-strike, two-out, two-run single Renfroe stroked in the seventh inning, putting the Padres up a run in a game they would go on to win 9-3. Renfroe has been in the throes of a skid and was batting just .229 at the time. He got another hit in the ninth and finished with a .245 average. At Yankee Stadium, Bulldogs alum Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless sixth inning for his third hold of the year as New York beat Tampa Bay 5-0. Holder trimmed his ERA to 2.28. At Seattle’s Safeco Field, former State standout Mitch Moreland drove in a run and scored in Boston’s six-run third inning against Mariners ace James Paxton, but the Red Sox squandered a lead and lost 7-6. P.S. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier hit his 10th homer — off Cleveland’s Corey Kluber — to help Minnesota beat the Indians 6-3. It was Dozier’s 161st career bomb, moving him into sixth place alone on the all-time list of Mississippi natives. … Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (shoulder) was placed on the 10-day disabled list by the Los Angeles Angels.
Ryan Rolison, the 22nd overall pick in the draft and the first Mississippian chosen, has signed with Colorado; no financial details were announced. The left-hander was the first Ole Miss player to be drafted in the first round since Drew Pomeranz in 2010. The list of signees from this year’s draft also includes Zack Shannon (Arizona), James McArthur (Philadelphia), Brady Feigl (Oakland) and Dallas Woolfolk (Oakland). … T.J. House, the former Picayune High standout, has been released from Triple-A by the Chicago White Sox. The erstwhile big leaguer, 28, had a 1-6 record and a 6.81 ERA in nine starts for Charlotte. He has 29 MLB appearances on his ledger, the last with Toronto in 2017. … Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman remains on the shelf in Oakland’s system with a forearm problem. Graveman last pitched on May 24 for Triple-A Nashville. The A’s opening day starter, he is 1-5, 7.60 in big league duty this year. … Ex-Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan, who signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs in late March, has not played this season because of a shoulder injury. The 32-year-old MLB veteran is a career .258 hitter and won a World Series ring with the Cubs in 2016.
Ole Miss players will be plentiful in the venerable Cape Cod League, which starts its 133rd season today. Greer Holston, Cooper Johnson and Grae Kessinger are on the roster of the Bourne Braves. Thomas Dillard is with Cotuit, Will Ethridge with Falmouth and Jordan Fowler and Houston Roth with Hyannis. Mississippi State’s Jordan Anderson is listed on the Falmouth roster, though Bulldogs players will be a little delayed in reaching their summer assignments. They have more pressing business, of course: the College World Series. … Southern Miss has four players, including outfielder Fred Franklin, with the Acadiana team in the Texas Collegiate League. … Ole Miss’ Parker Caracci and USM’s Matt Wallner are on the roster for Team USA’s college national squad. Caracci, drafted this month as an eligible sophomore by Toronto, had 10 saves and a 2.31 ERA for the Rebels in 2018. Wallner, a rising junior who batted .351 with 16 homers last season, has been projected to go ninth overall in the 2019 draft by an mlb.com writer. … The New Albany-based Cotton States League is up and running in its 10th season. The HillCountry Generals, featuring a bevy of Blue Mountain College players, are off to a 4-1 start. Ty Wooten, an Arkansas-Little Rock player, is hitting .467 for the Generals. In addition to BMC alums, players from Belhaven, Ole Miss, Mississippi Valley State, MUW and several state jucos are in the league. … Hinds Community College coach Sam Temple will be on the staff of the NJCAA National Team in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita in late July. The all-star squad has yet to be announced. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s Brandon Parker and Meridian CC’s Trace Jordan were named to the NJCAA Division II All-America first team and Pearl River’s Simon Landry to the second team. P.S. If anyone is wondering, former State star Rafael Palmeiro is batting .212 in 10 games for Cleburne in the independent American Association. The 53-year-old ex-big leaguer hasn’t homered since his one bomb on May 21 (see previous post).
If you could gather together in some astral realm all the Mississippi natives who’ve ever played in the big leagues, oh, the stories they could tell. Willie Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth in his first at-bat. Gee Walker cycled on opening day. Claude Passeau threw a one-hitter in the World Series. Dave Parker was an All-Star Game MVP. Jay Powell won a Game 7 in the Series. Billy Hamilton stole four bases in his first start. But for sheer shake-your-head wonderment, it’d be hard to top Marcus Thames’ tale of his first major league at-bat. Sixteen years ago Sunday – June 10, 2002 – Louisville native Thames, playing for the New York Yankees, walked to the plate at Yankee Stadium to face Arizona’s Randy Johnson, reigning Cy Young award winner, and smashed the first pitch he saw for a home run. Thames, a 30th-round pick by the Yankees in 1996 out of East Central Community College, took a while to reach The Show but was not a one-trick pony. He hit 114 more MLB bombs – including seasons of 26 and 25 – over his 10-year career and averaged one homer per 15.9 at-bats, which, a Cut4 article on mlb.com points out, is one of the best ratios in history. Thames is now the Yankees’ hitting coach. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff returned to the majors with Milwaukee on Sunday and, sans red beard, threw four strong innings before being lifted for a pinch hitter in a game the Brewers would lose to Philadelphia. … Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers, back up for a seventh stint this season with St. Louis, worked 2 1/3 innings in two games over the weekend. … Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton contributed a triple, two runs and two outfield assists in Cincinnati’s win against the Cardinals on Sunday. A two-week slump has seen Hamilton’s average dip to .193. … Former State standout Adam Frazier was sent to Triple-A Indianapolis by Pittsburgh, presumably to get regular at-bats. In his third big league season, Frazier is batting .237 in 135 ABs.
If Reid Humphreys misses swinging the bat, it’s not showing. The former Mississippi State two-way standout, who hit .310 with 44 RBIs as a junior in 2016, is pitching exclusively in pro ball and putting up sparkling numbers. The 23-year-old right-hander, with Class A Lancaster in Colorado’s system, returned from a short stint on the disabled list on Friday and recorded his 14th straight scoreless appearance, also picking up a win after his one inning of work. Humphreys has 12 saves — second in the California League — and a 2.21 ERA for the high-A Jethawks. Humphreys is 12-for-13 in save opportunities this year and 25-for-27 in save opps with a 2.59 ERA in his three years in the minors. He throws strikes: 87 strikeouts and 18 walks in 76 innings. “I want to be the same, dependable guy every single time I take the mound. Consistency is something I want to work on, for sure,” he told lifestylesports101.com prior to this season. Consider that mission accomplished. The younger brother of big league free agent Tyler Moore, Humphreys was a dual player at Northwest Rankin High before an arm injury kept him off the mound his senior season. He didn’t pitch again until his junior year at State, where he notched seven saves in 17 games. He was a Ferriss Trophy finalist that year and was drafted, as a pitcher, by the Rockies in the seventh round. Humphreys’ results this year may soon warrant a promotion to Double-A. And because he’s with a National League team, he could get a chance to swing the bat again, which he just might enjoy.
You kinda figured it was just a matter of time, and the time has come. Brent Rooker, the former Mississippi State standout now in his first season in Double-A, is hitting. A ton. Rooker went 4-for-5 for Chattanooga on Thursday night and is 14-for-29 since the calendar flipped to June. The right-handed hitting first baseman has raised his average 31 points to .271 since the end of May. “That adjustment period might have been a little longer than I liked, ideally,” he told milb.com. “But I knew it was going to happen if I trusted myself, and the results would show up.” The SEC Triple Crown (and Ferriss Trophy) winner last year has eight homers and 36 RBIs in 56 games and is slugging .475 for the Lookouts. He was picked in the competitive balance segment of the first round – 35th overall – by Minnesota last June and batted .281 with 18 homers at two levels in his debut campaign. MLB Pipeline rates Rooker eighth among Twins prospects. … The Lookouts played a Southern League series in Biloxi in mid-May but won’t be in Pearl to face the Mississippi Braves until mid-August. Rooker could be gone by then.