The proverbial injury bug continues to plague Zack Cozart. The former Ole Miss star has landed on the 10-day Injured List for the Los Angeles Angels with a stiff neck, which he hurt diving into a base on Monday. He also missed time in spring training with a calf injury. Considering the miserable start (.109, four RBIs in 23 games) he is off to, maybe some downtime will help. Cozart missed a big chunk of 2018, his first season with the Angels, because of a shoulder injury. He was an All-Star in Cincinnati in 2017, when he was relatively injury-free, but ended both the 2016 and 2015 seasons on the old DL with knee injuries. … Cozart joins a small crowd of Mississippians on the IL: Corey Dickerson, Mike Mayers, Bobby Wahl and Kendall Graveman. Dickerson, the ex-Brookhaven Academy and Meridian Community College standout, has been out since April 4 with a shoulder injury; he is expected to begin a rehab assignment for Pittsburgh soon. Ole Miss alum Mayers, now with St. Louis, has a lat strain that may keep him down until July. Wahl, another ex-Rebels star with Milwaukee, tore an ACL in the spring and is likely out for the season, while Mississippi State product Graveman, signed as a free agent by the Chicago Cubs, had Tommy John surgery last July and could return late this season.
Two of the best leadoff hitters in the SEC will be at Trustmark Park in Pearl for tonight’s Governor’s Cup. Unfortunately, fans may see only one of them in the game, the 40th renewal of this classic clash that began as the Mayor’s Trophy at Smith-Wills Stadium in 1980. Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum, the school’s all-time hits leader, is expected to be atop the Bulldogs’ lineup, as usual, but Ole Miss’ Ryan Olenek sat out the Rebels’ weekend series at Auburn because of a lingering hip injury. Perhaps he’ll be back in the 1-hole for tonight’s game, which doesn’t count in the SEC standings but means an awful lot to everyone involved. Both Mangum and Olenek were first-team All-SEC picks and Ferriss Trophy finalists in 2018. Both were drafted last June – Mangum for the second time — but opted to return for their senior season. And both have been catalysts for outstanding clubs in 2019. Mangum is batting .383 with 47 runs, 32 RBIs and 19 steals in 41 games for the 32-9 Bulldogs. Olenek is batting .370 with 32 runs, 26 RBIs and six bags in 36 games for the 27-14 Rebels. He emerged as a potent leadoff man in the high-scoring sweep of Florida on April 5-6, going 7-for-11 in the three games. The Mangum-Olenek matchup would be a compelling sidebar, though this game seldom lacks for storylines. MSU leads the Trophy/Cup series 21-18, having won three straight before standing-room-only crowds at the TeePee.
Jonathan Holder, the Mississippi State product from Gulfport, got the last six outs and earned the win in the New York Yankees’ 4-3, 14-inning victory against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. Holder, the fifth reliever called on by the Yanks, trimmed his ERA to 5.54 and struck out three, running his season total to 14 in 13 innings.
Jarrod Dyson, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College star from McComb, went 1-for-5 with a walk and scored twice as the leadoff batter in Arizona’s 12-4 win over Pittsburgh. Dyson scored in both the seventh and eighth innings as the Diamondbacks rallied for 11 runs to overcome a 4-1 deficit. Getting more regular playing time of late, Dyson is at .286 (.379 OBP) with three homers, seven RBIs, 10 runs and three steals.
Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss standout from Fulton, hit his fourth home run, a three-run shot that gave Washington an early lead in a game the Nationals would ultimately lose 7-5 to Colorado. Dozier, who was batting .080 with no RBIs on April 6, has three homers in his last four games and has lifted his average to .188 with six RBIs.
The great home run race in Mississippi last season involved just one player. Delta State’s Zack Shannon chased and ultimately broke the record for homers in a single season by a state collegian in any division. Shannon’s 31 bombs eclipsed the previous record of 29 shared by ex-Mississippi State stars Rafael Palmeiro and Bruce Castoria. No one is threatening Shannon’s record in 2019, but there is quite a battle for the state long ball lead. State’s Justin Foscue and Mississippi College’s Blaine Crim have hit 11, and Ole Miss’ Tyler Keenan and Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner have 10. At nine are UM’s Thomas Dillard and Cole Zabowski, with State’s Dustin Skelton and Delta State’s Jake Barlow sitting on eight. Foscue hit his 11th against Arkansas on Friday; it was his only hit in the series in which the Bulldogs were swept. Crim, having a monster year, homered in both of MC’s wins at West Alabama; he drove in seven runs in the Friday game. Wallner, starting to heat up for USM, hit three homers over the weekend as the Golden Eagles swept Charlotte; with 45 career bombs, Wallner is tied with Fred Cooley for fourth on USM’s all-time list. UM’s Keenan hit his 10th in the Rebels’ lone win in a three-game set at Auburn. Zabowski also went yard in that game. Barlow leads a Delta State team that has 30 homers, one fewer than Shannon hit in 2018. P.S. Ex-State standout Mitch Moreland leads Mississippians in the majors in home runs with seven. Interestingly enough, McComb native Jarrod Dyson, whose outstanding tool is speed, has the same number – three – as Brian Dozier, the Southern Miss product and a more noted slugger.
Forget Yelich, Grandal and Cain. The hottest hitter for Milwaukee is Brandon Woodruff, the former Wheeler High and Mississippi State standout who is raking at a .714 clip and had a big two-run double in an 8-4 win against St. Louis on Tuesday. According to his baseball card, Woodruff is a pitcher, and he’s been pretty good in that role, too. He went 5 2/3 innings vs. the Cardinals, yielding two runs and fanning six. He is 2-1 with a 5.23 ERA in four starts for the 12-6 Brewers, who lead the National League Central. It is said that Woodruff, who bats lefty and throws righty, puts on quite a show when he takes batting practice. And who can forget the bomb he hit off Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs last year. … East Central Community College alumnus Tim Anderson went hitless for the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday but still leads the American League in batting with a .421 average. He slipped behind Cody Bellinger (.433) for the MLB lead. … After a good start with Kansas City, Billy Hamilton has skidded to .205 through 14 games. The Taylorsville High product has just three steals and six runs. … In the Ugly Numbers category, we find ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier (.152, one RBI in 46 at-bats for Washington) and Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (.091, two RBIs in 44 ABs for the Los Angeles Angels). … Ugly also would describe the outing by the New York Mets’ Steven Matz, who gave up eight runs and failed to retire a batter vs. Philadelphia on Tuesday. He became just the fifth starter ever to do that. One of the others is McComb native Blake Stein, who suffered that indignity on Aug. 31, 1998, pitching for Oakland against Cleveland. To his credit, Stein (21-28, 5.41 ERA over five MLB seasons) struck out eight batters in a row in a 2001 game, also a remarkable feat. … Jacob Webb became the fourth Mississippi Braves alum to debut in the majors this season when he appeared in relief for Atlanta on Tuesday.
There were seven former Ferriss Trophy winners still playing in 2018, three in the big leagues, three in the minors and one still in college. The number is down to six now. Auston Bousfield, the 2014 winner of the prestigious college award while at Ole Miss, announced his retirement prior to the start of spring training. He finished last year in Triple-A in the San Diego system, batting .239 at El Paso. That was also his career average over five seasons. Drafted in the fifth round in 2014, that summer in short-season Class A might’ve been his best. Of the 15 Ferriss winners to date, four have made the majors: the current crop of Drew Pomeranz, Chris Stratton and Hunter Renfroe plus Ed Easley, who retired a couple of years ago. Brent Rooker, the 2017 winner after his monster season at Mississippi State, is currently in Triple-A with Minnesota and will get the big league call soon enough. Southern Miss alum Nick Sandlin, last year’s winner, is currently assigned to Double-A by Cleveland. Jake Mangum, the only freshman Ferriss winner, is still banging out hits at State, having been drafted twice already. He could become the first two-time Ferriss winner.
Forget WAR, BABIP and FIP for a moment. Baseball is about runs, primarily scoring them. As Ole Miss demonstrated in its weekend sweep of Florida, score a bunch and you’re likely to win a bunch. The Rebels tied a school record with 40 runs in the three-game series against the Gators, who just couldn’t keep pace. The Rebels are averaging 8.4 runs per game and boast a 23-10 record heading into today’s rivalry clash with Southern Miss at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Thomas Dillard, who scored seven runs in the Florida series, and Grae Kessinger, who tallied five times, are the Rebels’ leading scorers with 38 each. Leading scorers in baseball aren’t as celebrated as those in basketball and football. That just ain’t right. USM’s top scorer is Gabe Montenegro, who has 32 runs. The Golden Eagles (20-9) are averaging a healthy 6.6 runs per game and coming off a three-game C-USA sweep of Marshall in which they put up 25 runs. Preventing runs is the other part of the equation, and both Ole Miss and USM have had some issues on the bump. But their scoring punch has generally allayed those problems. The Rebels have outscored their opponents 276-158, the Eagles 192-134. Bottom line: Don’t expect a pitchers’ duel at the TeePee. … For the record, Mississippi State is even more prolific than Ole Miss, averaging 8.9 runs a game in its 27-6 start. Jake Mangum, the Bulldogs newly anointed hit king, leads the way with 38 runs, a figure matched by Jordan Westburg. Jackson State’s leading scorer is Equon Smith, who has 30 runs for the 17-18 Tigers, who are one of the higher scoring teams in the SWAC (231 runs). Mississippi Valley State, on the other hand, has scored just 89 runs (4.0 per game) while yielding 190. Hence, the 6-16 record. Delta State’s leading scorer is Jake Barlow with 28 runs for the 26-10 Statesmen, and Blaine Crim and Dylan Duplechain have crossed the plate 35 times each for Mississippi College (22-12).
For Mitch Moreland, it was a milestone home run. For his Boston team, it was a lot more than that. Moreland, the former Mississippi State standout from Amory, blasted his 150th career homer on Sunday, a seventh-inning shot that lifted the Red Sox to a 1-0 win at Arizona in the finale of a brutal road trip. The defending world champs went 3-8 against Seattle, Oakland and the Diamondbacks. Their home opener is Tuesday vs. Toronto. “It’s going to be nice to get back home and get in front of our fans and get rolling,” Moreland told mlb.com. Unlike so many of his teammates, Moreland is off to a good start. He is batting .258 with club-leading numbers of three homers, nine RBIs and a .645 slugging percentage. Now in his 10th MLB campaign and third with Boston, Moreland made his first All-Star Game last year in addition to winning his first ring. He has 40 homers for Boston – plus one in last year’s World Series – plays a Gold Glove-caliber first base and has become a key part of an elite team. Moreland hit his first big league homer for Texas on Aug. 13, 2010, against Boston’s Josh Beckett. His 150 total puts him ninth on the career list of Mississippi natives; Bill Melton and Frank White are tied for seventh at 160.
Drew Waters banged out three hits and C.J. Alexander went 1-for-4 with an RBI in their Double-A debuts on Thursday, and Ian Anderson yielded one run in four innings. But the Mississippi Braves couldn’t hold a late lead and lost their season opener at Tennessee 7-5. The M-Braves took the lead in the eighth with two runs against Smokies reliever Wyatt Short, the former Ole Miss closer from Southaven. But Short cherry-picked the win – in his 100th minor league game – when Tennessee rallied against the M-Braves bullpen. … Biloxi’s opener against Birmingham was rained out at MGM Park. Mississippi State product Daniel Brown, a lefty pitcher, is on the Shuckers’ roster, and former Columbia High star Ti’Quan Forbes, a third baseman, is with the Barons. … Back in Buffalo for the start of the minor league season, ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run to help Toronto’s Triple-A club beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 8-3. Ole Miss alum Jacob Waguespack pitched six innings for the win. Alford, up and down with the Blue Jays over the past three years, was in the majors on Tuesday and went 0-for-3. … If you watched it, you know this already: Former M-Braves pitcher Max Fried was ridiculously good (one hit, no walks, five strikeouts in six innings) for Atlanta against the Chicago Cubs in a 9-4 victory. “The stuff is off the charts,” Braves catcher Brian McCann told mlb.com. … Ole Miss and M-Braves alum Chris Ellis was designated for assignment by Kansas City and, if he passes through waivers as expected, will be offered back to St. Louis. Ellis, on the Royals’ roster as a Rule 5 pick, worked a scoreless inning in his MLB debut last Saturday but was squeezed off the roster by other moves. “We liked his stuff,” said K.C. manager Ned Yost, the old Jackson Mets catcher. … On the subject of stuff, ex-Madison Central standout Spencer Turnbull struck out 10 and allowed just two earned runs in six innings Thursday for Detroit, which beat the Royals 5-4. … Brian Dozier and Zack Cozart, Mississippi college products itching to get off to good starts in 2019, have not. Former Southern Miss star Dozier is 2-for-22 for his new club, Washington, while Ole Miss alum Cozart, coming back from injury in 2018, is 1-for-23 for the Los Angeles Angels. … Pittsburgh put Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College standout, on the injured list with a shoulder issue. Richton High product JaCoby Jones, also on the IL with a shoulder injury suffered in spring training, isn’t close to a return to Detroit’s lineup, reports say.
When Toronto traded Kevin Pillar to San Francisco, it opened the door for ex-Petal High standout Anthony Alford to return to the Blue Jays’ big league roster. He started in center field and went 0-for-3 Tuesday in a loss to Baltimore. … You might have heard that Bryce Harper went 3-for-5 with a homer in his return to Washington, but in other news: Southern Miss product Brian Dozier got his first hit as a member of the Nationals in their loss to Philadelphia. Dozier is 1-for-13. … Former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe hit his first homer of 2019, then hit another in San Diego’s loss to Arizona. … Mississippi Braves alum Dustin Peterson, now with the Detroit Tigers, got his first big league hit. An RBI double. In the ninth. In a tie game. Against Aroldis Chapman. In Yankee Stadium. “I will never forget it. That’s for sure,” Peterson told mlb.com after the Tigers beat New York 3-1. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves introduced a roster on Tuesday that includes nine of Atlanta’s top 30 prospects (per MLP Pipeline). Five of them are pitchers, led by No. 3 Ian Anderson, who’s slated to start Thursday’s season opener at Tennessee. “It’s going to be exciting with the young staff we have here,” the 20-year-old right-hander said at Tuesday’s media day at Trustmark Park. “I’ll try to set the tone on Thursday.” M-Braves manager Chris Maloney said he likes “the vibe” he’s getting from this club. … The Double-A Biloxi Shuckers tuned up for their Thursday opener by bashing William Carey University 15-1 at MGM Park. Six Shuckers pitchers held Carey hitters, using wood bats, to one hit. The NAIA Crusaders (10-19) will try to return to normalcy today when they host West Alabama in Hattiesburg. … Go figure: Ole Miss, 20-9 and rising in the polls, lost to fledgling Division I North Alabama 10-6 in Oxford. The Rebels went deep into their bullpen to call on seven pitchers, who yielded 14 hits to the Lions, now 6-21. … The new NJCAA Division II poll came out Tuesday and seven Mississippi schools were in the Top 20. No. 4 Pearl River Community College celebrated by sweeping a doubleheader from No. 18 Mississippi Gulf Coast, knocking the Bulldogs out of first place in the league. Itawamba is ranked sixth, Jones County seventh, Meridian eighth, Hinds 13th and Northwest 16th. But what do the polls really mean in the MACJC jungle? Suddenly scuffling Jones got swept by East Central on Tuesday, and Hinds took a pair from Meridian.