18 Feb

numbers of note

So many numbers to absorb in the young college season, but there is one that blinks like a blinkin’ beacon: 0.89. That would be Delta State’s staff ERA nine games — and nine wins — into the year. Hunter Riggins, a sophomore from Hernando, is leading the way with two wins and a spotless ERA.
Another shiny object: 17,660, the total attendance for the two dates at newly renovated Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, where Mississippi State celebrated its rich history and also found time to bushwhack Youngstown State in three games, outscoring the Penguins 36-5. Tanner Allen moved to the top in the way-too-early Ferriss Trophy race, going 7-for-13 with two homers and a ridiculous 13 RBIs.
At Oxford, Ole Miss drew 17,634 faithful for its two-game split with Wright State. Thomas Dillard, junior from Oxford, went 5-for-6 with a homer for the Rebels.
At Hattiesburg, Southern Miss swept Purdue in three games — starting with an epic walk-off in Friday’s opener — as 11,030 turned out at Taylor Park. Hunter Slater paced the Golden Eagles’ attack with eight hits, including a homer, with four RBIs and four runs.
In Clinton, Mississippi College lost two of three to Quincy, surrendering 29 runs. But only one of those runs was allowed by Ryan Lane, who turned in a two-hit, 11-strikeout performance in the 7-3 Choctaws’ lone victory.
There was no joy at Braddy Field in Jackson, where the J-State Tigers lost three games to Boston College, which was visiting the Magnolia State for the first time since winning the NCAA Oxford Regional in 2016.
Meanwhile, Millsaps (1-5) went on the road and allowed 38 runs in three losses. William Carey University (3-7) went on the road and scored just two runs total in a pair of losses to LSU-Alexandria.

14 Feb

what’s new in new season

Each of the state’s Big 3 is ranked in multiple preseason polls, testament to the talent they return from championship teams in 2018. But there will be opportunities for newcomers to step up. With the start of the 2019 NCAA Division I season upon us, here are some newbies of note at Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss: At State, freshman J.T. Ginn should need no introduction. Already pegged as a second-team All-America by Baseball America, the ex-Brandon High star — and first-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers last June — is expected to pitch and hit for the Bulldogs. Slightly less heralded among the State newcomers is Gunner Halter, a junior college transfer who could also have a major impact. The son of former major leaguer Shane Halter, Gunner figures to start at second base. He goes 6 feet 3, 180 pounds and slugged 29 homers in two years at Seminole (Okla.) State. He was drafted in 2017 and 2018. “He can do a lot of special things,” State coach Chris Lemonis said of Halter at media day. … The newcomer generating most of the buzz at Ole Miss is Gunnar Hoglund, the two-way star from Florida who was the 36th overall pick by Pittsburgh in last summer’s draft. But another freshman to watch is outfielder Josh Hall. Considering how stacked the Rebels are in the outfield, Hall may find playing time hard to come by, but he has a certain set of skills that could prove valuable. The Alabama native set a national prep record with 224 career steals, including 82 bags as a senior. In addition to his speed, he is also reputed to be a great bunter. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Hall was a first-team prep All-America pick and his state’s Class 6A player of the year. … At USM, true freshman Danny Lynch is expected to start at third base, filling the job vacated by C-USA hitter of the year and pro draftee Luke Reynolds. Florida native Lynch is the younger brother of ex-USM star Tim Lynch, who played three years in the New York Yankees’ system. Danny Lynch, listed at 6 feet 2, 225 pounds, is expected to provide some left-handed power for the Golden Eagles. “We really just have this great lineup. It’s easy, I just have to go out and play my role,” Lynch told the school newspaper, the Student Printz.

13 Feb

boys of spring

Big league camps in Florida and Arizona are buzzing with activity this week, and here’s the list of Mississippi-connected players living the dream:

40-man roster members
Position players
Anthony Alford (Petal), Toronto; Tim Anderson (East Central CC), Chicago White Sox; Bobby Bradley (Harrison Central), Cleveland; Zack Cozart (Ole Miss), Los Angeles Angels; Brian Dozier (Southern Miss), Washington; Corey Dickerson (Meridian CC), Pittsburgh; Jarrod Dyson (Southwest CC), Arizona; Adam Frazier (Mississippi State), Pittsburgh; Billy Hamilton (Taylorsville), Kansas City; JaCoby Jones (Richton), Detroit; Mitch Moreland (MSU), Boston; Hunter Renfroe (MSU), San Diego
Pitchers
Cody Carroll (USM), Baltimore; Chris Ellis (Ole Miss), Kansas City – Rule 5; Kendall Graveman (MSU), Chicago Cubs; Jonathan Holder (MSU), New York Yankees; Dakota Hudson (MSU), St. Louis; Lance Lynn (Ole Miss), Texas; Mike Mayers (Ole Miss), St. Louis; Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss), San Francisco; Cody Reed (Northwest CC), Cincinnati; Justin Steele (George County High), Chicago Cubs; Chris Stratton (MSU), San Francisco; Spencer Turnbull (Madison Central), Detroit; Jacob Waguespack (Ole Miss), Toronto; Bobby Wahl (Ole Miss), Milwaukee; Brandon Woodruff (MSU), Milwaukee

Non-roster invitees
Position players
Trent Giambroni (Delta State), Chicago Cubs; Jack Kruger (MSU), Los Angeles Angels; Braxton Lee (Ole Miss), New York Mets; Nathaniel Lowe (MSU), Tampa Bay; Austin Riley (DeSoto Central), Atlanta; Chuckie Robinson (USM), Houston; Jacob Robson (MSU), Detroit; Brent Rooker (MSU), Minnesota; Kade Scivicque (Southwest CC), Detroit
Pitchers
Aaron Barrett (Ole Miss), Washington; Louis Coleman (Pillow Academy), Detroit; Scott Copeland (USM), Washington; Tim Dillard (Itawamba CC), Texas; Zac Houston (MSU), Detroit; Jacob Lindgren (MSU), Chicago White Sox; Dalton Moats (Delta State), Tampa Bay

31 Jan

decisions, decisions

Jackson Prep two-sport standout Jerrion Ealy will pick a college on football’s National Signing Day next week, and four months later a major league baseball club will pick him, possibly in the first round of the draft. A lot of folks are very interested to see what path Ealy, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound running back/outfielder, will take. “(A)ll options are on the table right now,” he recently told an ESPN writer. Ealy, who was once committed to Ole Miss but is now considering other schools, as well, could pass on the pro offer and play both sports in college. He could try to play pro baseball in the summer and college football in the fall, keeping the NFL in view. Or he could forget football and focus on baseball. Ealy is likely to go high enough in the June draft that he’ll receive an appealing bonus offer. “(He has) upside and athleticism you do see go very early in the draft just because there are such few kids like that throughout the country,” a scout told ESPN. From Perfect Game’s scouting report: “Has all the tools to be an All-Star type player.” For what it’s worth, ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford tried the pro baseball/college football duet and wound up dropping football; he is currently on Toronto’s major league roster. Ole Miss star receiver A.J. Brown, who’ll go high in the upcoming NFL draft, also has a pro baseball contract; a 19th-round pick out of Starkville High by San Diego in 2016, he has gone to extended spring training with the Padres the past three years but has not yet played a minor league game. Former UM defensive back Senquez Golson passed on a lucrative offer to play pro baseball out of Pascagoula High and was ultimately drafted in the NFL; plagued by injuries – always a major concern in that sport – he has yet to play in a regular season game. P.S. Interesting that five of the players named to The Clarion-Ledger’s Dandy Dozen for 2019 are catchers, including the best player on what might be the state’s best team. George County High, runner-up in MHSAA Class 6A in 2018, is the lone Mississippi school appearing in Collegiate Baseball Magazine’s preseason Top 30 poll. The Rebels, 27-6 last year, are ranked No. 21. There were no state schools in CB’s final 2018 poll. George County’s top player is Logan Tanner, a pitcher/catcher who went 8-2, 1.64 ERA and batted .341 in 2018. The Rebels open Feb. 19 in Lucedale against Pascagoula.

25 Jan

eye on …

Zack Cozart is in comeback mode as he enters Year 2 of his 3-year, $38 million free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2018 season was a big disappointment for the ex-Ole Miss standout. He hit .219 with five home runs in 58 games and was done following shoulder surgery in June. In 2017, his last year in Cincinnati, he put up career numbers (.297, 24 homers, 63 RBIs) and made the All-Star Game at shortstop. The Angels signed him, initially to play second base, then shifting him to third. Heading into spring training, it’s unclear where Cozart, now 33, will play or if he’ll even play full-time. The team depth chart on mlb.com lists him at both second and third. Younger players are nipping at his heels. From halohangout.com: “His 2017 season was a fluke in many ways, from his sudden explosion of power to his ability to hit for average and even his durability.” With Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton in the lineup, the Angels are an intriguing club desperate to make the postseason. They’d no doubt welcome a return to 2017 form from Cozart. P.S. Asked at a recent team event about the Chicago White Sox’s pursuit of Manny Machado, East Central Community College product Tim Anderson had this to say to mlb.com: “He would play a great role in what we are trying to do as far as winning a championship. He definitely brings that talent.” Machado’s preferred position is shortstop, which happens to be where Anderson has played, very capably, the past three seasons. … Former DeSoto Central star Austin Riley is on the MLB Pipeline list of the Top 10 third base prospects for a fourth straight year, checking in at No. 3 in 2019. He has 71 homers over four minor league seasons and finished 2018 with 12 in 75 games at Triple-A Gwinnett. The 21-year-old’s path to The Show is currently blocked by veteran Josh Donaldson, signed as a free agent by Atlanta in November.

23 Jan

land of giants

Former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz reportedly has signed with San Francisco, where he’s expected to compete for a job in the Giants’ rotation with Mississippi State product Chris Stratton, among others. The deal is said to be one year for $1.5 million plus incentives. Pomeranz, a 30-year-old left-hander, went 2-6 with a 6.08 ERA in 26 games (11 starts) for Boston in 2018. The Giants will be the sixth different organization the former first-round pick and 2016 All-Star has played for. Stratton, a right-hander and a first-round selection by the Giants in 2012, went 10-10, 5.09 in 2018.

17 Jan

common ground

Two noteworthy players with Mississippi ties remain on the free agent market, and they have a few things in common. Tony Sipp and Drew Pomeranz are left-handed pitchers, played college ball in Mississippi, were originally drafted by the Cleveland Indians and own a World Series ring. They are even in somewhat similar situations as they look for a new club in 2019. Sipp is 35 – he’ll be 36 in July – and is nearing the end of what has been a fine career. The former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, a short reliever for all of his 10 years in the big leagues, has a 3.67 career ERA. After a couple of off years with Houston, he bounced back strong with a 1.86 ERA in 2018, demonstrating that he may still have something in the tank. Ole Miss product Pomeranz, a former first-round pick (fifth overall) in 2010, had a rough 2018, dealing with arm issues and posting a 6.08 ERA for Boston. He was on the Red Sox’s roster for their World Series triumph but didn’t get in a game. Pomeranz, 30, has had a career that’s been all over the place. He has been with five different organizations. He has started and worked in relief. He has had some very good years (All-Star with San Diego in 2016, 17 wins for the Red Sox in 2017) and has a career ERA of 3.92. But last season was such a clunker, his value surely took a hit. It’s likely that both Sipp and Pomeranz will get short-term deals for modest money and will head into spring training with something to prove, Sipp that he’s not done and Pomeranz that last year was an aberration.

08 Jan

new face in crowd

With its recent trade for ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl, Milwaukee has added an intriguing piece to what was one of the best bullpens in baseball in 2018. Wahl, 26, was one of three players the Brewers obtained from the New York Mets for Keon Broxton. Wahl was a fifth-round pick by Oakland back in 2013 whose advancement has been stalled by injuries. The right-hander, who once threw 100 mph, has worked just 13 innings (6.92 ERA) in the big leagues the last two seasons. He had a good 2018 campaign in the minors – making the Pacific Coast League All-Star Game before the A’s sent him to New York – and he’ll go to spring camp with the Brewers bidding for a job with a club that went to the NLCS last fall. “(W)e certainly anticipate he’s a person who will contribute for us at the major league level this year,” Milwaukee GM David Stearns told mlb.com. A writer from brewcrewball.com recently offered this assessment: “Wahl’s pure ‘stuff’ screams dominant relief ace, but his middling command … may cause the kind of frustrating inconsistency that holds him back from locking down a late-inning relief role.” Wahl aims to join a Milwaukee staff that includes ex-Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff and several Biloxi Shuckers alumni.

04 Jan

a little chatter

Brian Dozier, who seemingly would be a nice catch for some team, hasn’t generated a lot of buzz on the free agent market. The second baseman out of Southern Miss has had talks with the Washington Nationals and may also be on Milwaukee’s radar, per various reports, but otherwise there has been little news or even rumor. Dozier, 31, has both an All-Star Game appearance and a Gold Glove on his resume. Though just a .246 career hitter, he has 172 homers and 102 steals over his six-plus seasons in the big leagues. He made $9 million last year when he played for Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers. A knee problem may have been a factor in a late-season slump that carried into the postseason. … Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz and Pascagoula native Tony Sipp are also unsigned major league free agents. UM’s Lance Lynn (Texas), Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (Kansas City) and former Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman (Chicago Cubs) have found homes for 2019, though Graveman isn’t likely to have an impact until 2020. The right-hander will make $575,000 this year while he rehabs from Tommy John surgery; an escalator clause will boost it to $2 million if he makes the big leagues in 2019. The team holds a $3M option for 2020. Graveman is 23-29, 4.38 ERA for his MLB career, spent mostly with Oakland. He was 1-5, 7.60 in 2018 before ultimately being shut down for the surgery. Interestingly enough, his one win last season came against the New York Yankees. It was his final big league start of 2018, on May 11 at Yankee Stadium, and he yielded just one earned run on three hits over six innings. … Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State standout and current San Diego outfielder, continues to see his name pop up in trade rumors. Renfroe, who’ll be 27 this month, started slowly in 2018 and also endured an injury but rebounded to hit .248 with 26 home runs and 68 RBIs over 117 games. He belted 18 homers and drove in 41 runs over the last two months. He’s not likely to ever be a high-average hitter – though he did hit .300 in Triple-A in 2016 — but he does have serious pop.

21 Dec

poll appreciation

Seven state schools, including the Big 3 NCAA Division I schools, are ranked in Collegiate Baseball Magazine’s preseason polls, which came out this week. There might be a tendency to take such news for granted – aren’t there a bunch of Mississippi schools ranked every year? – but we really should not do that. Let’s put this in perspective. Mississippi ranks among the least populous states – 34th in 2018, according to World Atlas – and is smaller, population-wise, than any other Deep South state. It produces good players: 16 Mississippi high school products appeared in big league games in 2018. Per capita, that figure is among the best in the nation. But there isn’t a large volume of talent. And there are 30 senior and junior colleges playing baseball in the state. College coaches here can’t just roll out the balls and bats and win games. Over the years, they’ve mined and refined the state’s talent to build winning programs and grow tremendous fan support. They’ve developed tradition and created brands that are attractive to out-of-state talent. Twenty-two state college alumni, including 11 who played high school ball in other states, appeared in big league games in 2018. Each of the state’s Big 3 had a player in the World Series this year: Mitch Moreland (Mississippi State) and Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss) with Boston and Brian Dozier (Southern Miss) with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s pretty impressive stuff for what Willie Morris used to call “poor old whupped-down Mis’ippi.” So when these polls come out, sprinkled with Mississippi schools, don’t just shrug. Smile and be proud. … Collegiate Baseball pegged Ole Miss, SEC Tournament champ in 2018, at No. 11 in NCAA Division I. Mississippi State, which went to the College World Series last summer, is No. 27 and Southern Miss, 2018 C-USA champion, is No. 30. Delta State, coming off yet another NCAA regional appearance, is No. 10 in Division II, while Mississippi College, the Gulf South Conference Tournament champ in 2018, got votes in the D-II poll. Meridian Community College, runner-up in the Region 23 Tournament last season, is No. 9 in the NJCAA D-II poll, with defending state champion Pearl River checking in at 13th and Jones County 15th. … MSU’s Jake Mangum and USM’s Matt Wallner made CB’s first-team All-America list, while UM’s Parker Caracci and Ryan Olenek were second- and third-team picks.