The first – and so far, only – Mississippian to make a big league debut this season is Braxton Lee, the Ole Miss alum from Picayune who played his first game back on March 30 for Miami. Next man up might be Zac Houston, the ex-Mississippi State star who has reached Triple-A in Detroit’s system in just his third pro season. Houston, 6 feet 5, 250 pounds, has posted a 1.59 ERA in nine relief appearances with one save and 18 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings for Toledo. He began 2018 at Double-A Erie and earned the promotion after putting up a 2.60 ERA in 13 games there. Houston dominated in the Arizona Fall League last year, allowing no earned runs with 18 punchouts in 11 1/3 innings. Rated the Tigers’ No. 14 prospect by Perfect Game, the former 11th-round draft pick has fanned 183 batters in 116 1/3 career innings, an average of 14.2 per nine. He appears to be ready for a shot with the Tigers, though they’d have to clear a 40-man roster spot for him. P.S. If Houston isn’t the next to make it, it could be Cody Carroll, the former Southern Miss star from Tennessee (not to be confused with the Cody Carroll from Florida who is currently at USM). Tennessee Cody Carroll is having a fine season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the New York Yankees’ system. He has a 2.76 ERA, three wins and seven saves for SWB. Featuring an upper 90s fastball, he has punched out 44 hitters in 32 2/3 innings. Drafted in 2015, the 6-foot-5 Carroll has a 2.74 career ERA with 20 saves. The depth of the Yankees’ big league bullpen might make it tough for Carroll to get a promotion this summer, but stuff happens. And he’s surely opened some eyes.
Tie game, seventh inning, two outs, one on. Minnesota manager Paul Molitor decided to let starting pitcher Lance Lynn face one more Detroit batter. That batter was JaCoby Jones. It was a Mississippi baseball aficionado moment Thursday at Comerica Park. Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High, hit a 3-1 fastball from Lynn, the former Ole Miss star, over the left-field wall, sending Lynn to the dugout and the Tigers to a 3-1 win. The slumping Jones, who had fanned in his first two at-bats against Lynn, said he guessed fastball and got one. It was his fifth homer of the year; he is batting .222 with 18 RBIs in 62 games. The Tigers have resisted the urge to send Jones to the minors to work on his hitting. His defense in left field remains a plus. “And with the energy that he brings, I love the kid,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, the old Jackson Met, told mlb.com. Lynn, who was 3-0 in his previous four starts and took a shutout into the seventh, fell to 4-5, 4.98 ERA. “I need to be better next time,” he told The Associated Press. P.S. With his fifth homer, Jones has caught Zack Cozart and Corey Dickerson for fourth place in the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby race, which has slowed to a crawl. Leader Tim Anderson has 11 but none since May 28. Mitch Moreland hit his 10th on June 3, same day Brian Dozier got No. 9. Cozart hasn’t gone deep since May 9, Dickerson since May 4.
If the Minnesota Twins are going to make a playoff run this year, they’ll need more of what they got from Lance Lynn and Brian Dozier on Saturday. With the Mississippi tag team leading the way, the Twins took down first-place Cleveland for the second straight day and, despite a 24-30 record, moved to within 4 1/2 games of the Indians in the American League Central. Former Ole Miss standout Lynn, whose role has grown even more important with Ervin Santana still on the disabled list, worked six innings to notch his third straight win. After a horrid start with his new club, he is 4-4 with a 5.46 ERA. He yielded just two hits but walked five and plunked a batter in what manager Paul Molitor termed a “pretty gritty” effort in the 7-1 victory. Ex-Southern Miss star Dozier had a game-tying RBI triple in the third inning off Trevor Bauer and scored the go-ahead run on an Eddie Rosario homer. Dozier doubled in another run in the fourth as the Twins broke it open. Dozier, who always seems to be in the middle of things when Minnesota wins, is batting just .241 but has 23 RBIs and 34 runs in 54 games. … Surprising Detroit (28-30, 2 1/2 GB in the AL Central) has won eight of 10, and former Pillow Academy (and LSU) star Louis Coleman has played a key role in this stretch for the Tigers as a middle reliever. The sidearming right-hander picked up a win on Saturday with a clean eighth inning against Toronto and is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in 10 games since getting called up in mid-May. Coleman’s career ERA is 3.40 spread over seven MLB seasons. … Tony Sipp’s role with Houston has diminished, but the left-hander out of Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has been effective in middle relief of late. Sipp worked a 1-2-3 eighth for the Astros on Saturday, including a strikeout of Mississippi State alum Mitch Moreland, and now has hung up eight straight scoreless appearances, trimming his ERA to 3.09. Sipp’s Astros lost to Boston 5-4 and have been caught by Seattle in the AL West standings.
Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College star, found himself in the leadoff spot for the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. Apparently, he likes it there. Anderson hit two home runs, drove in a career-high four runs and scored three times to fuel an 8-4 win at Detroit’s Comerica Park. The reedy (6 feet 1, 185 pounds) shortstop is batting .246 with 10 homers, 18 RBIs and 11 steals. He leads all Mississippians in the majors in homers and steals. His second bomb, a three-run shot, on Saturday came off Louis Coleman, the pride of Schlater, and put the White Sox up 7-3 in the sixth. “I’m having a hot streak right now,” Anderson, who also homered on Friday, told The Associated Press. Anderson hit fifth on Friday, seventh on Thursday and eighth on Wednesday after not playing on Tuesday. Apparently, the White Sox, having a brutal season, are searching for a lineup that clicks. Maybe they found something. Anderson, a 2013 first-rounder out of ECCC now in his third MLB campaign, has shown flashes of stardom. He hit .257 last year with 17 homers, 56 RBIs and 15 steals after batting .283 as a rookie. P.S. Coleman wasn’t the only Magnolia State product to yield a homer on Saturday. Chris Stratton, the Tupelo native and Mississippi State alum, gave up two bombs but got the win as San Francisco beat the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Stratton, now 6-3 with a 4.97 ERA, allowed three runs in five innings. Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez took him deep. Ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz allowed a homer to Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson and lasted just 3 1/3 innings for Boston, which rallied to beat the Braves 8-6 at Fenway Park. There is speculation that Pomeranz may be moved to the bullpen.
With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, the Detroit Tigers needed a baserunner. JaCoby Jones, leading off the inning, gave them one. The Richton High product delivered an infield single, went first to third on a hit by Niko Goodrum and scored the game-winning run on a single by Jose Iglesias. The 5-4 win on Sunday gave the short-handed Tigers a series victory against a good Seattle club. “I’m having a blast,” Jones said in an mlb.com article. “I think the whole clubhouse is having a blast.” Jones, playing regularly in the outfield, is batting .256 with 16 runs, two homers and eight RBIs. … At Anaheim, the Angels were tied with Minnesota in the ninth and had a runner at second with one out. Former Ole Miss star Zack Cozart stepped up and delivered a single to left, scoring Chris Young and giving the Angels a 2-1 win. It was the third hit of the game for Cozart, now batting .241 with 15 RBIs and five homers, and his second walk-off knock for Los Angeles. … In Phoenix, Arizona trailed Washington by three in the seventh but had runners at second and third with one out. Southwest Mississippi Community College alum Jarrod Dyson, sent up as a pinch hitter, smacked a two-run single and then sped home with the game-tying run on a double by Daniel Descalso. Despite Dyson’s efforts, the first-place Diamondbacks fell 6-4 as the Nationals completed a four-game sweep. Dyson is batting .184 with eight RBIs and nine runs in 87 at-bats.
The target is in plain sight now. Delta State, Mississippi College, William Carey University and five state junior colleges take aim this week on a spot in the World Series in their respective divisions. The state’s three SWAC schools are focused on the league’s tournament title and the NCAA regional bid — the only one the league will get — that goes with it. Delta State and Mississippi College — the Gulf South Conference Tournament champ — are bound for the NCAA Division II South Region tourney; they’ll find out tonight where they’re going and who they’ll play in the first round. It’s a good bet the event will be in Cleveland. The Statesmen won the regional in 2017 and went to the D-II World Series. Carey is hosting an NAIA Opening Round tournament — one of eight regionals — that begins Monday at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. The Crusaders, who made the NAIA World Series last year, open with LSU-Shreveport. Also in the five-team field are Westmont (Calif.), Indiana Southeast and top-seeded St. Thomas (Fla.). The NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament begins Wednesday at Eunice, La. A berth in the Junior College World Series is on the line. MACJC regular season champion Pearl River Community plays old rival Mississippi Gulf Coast in the first round, while Meridian hooks up with Itawamba and Hinds faces top-seeded and No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice. Hinds, the defending region champion, reached this year’s event by upsetting No. 3 Jones County in a best-of-3 playoff. Gulf Coast, Meridian and Itawamba also won playoff series last week to advance. The eight-team SWAC Tournament starts Wednesday in New Orleans. Jackson State plays Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State meets Grambling and Alcorn State takes on Texas Southern in the first round. Alcorn, which finished fifth in the East Division, made the eight-team field because Alabama A&M is ineligible for postseason play. P.S. Greenwood native and former Pillow Academy star Louis Coleman made his first big league appearance since 2016 on Saturday when he threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings for Detroit in a game against Seattle. The veteran right-hander has a career 3.49 ERA.
Several stars emerged on Tuesday for Mississippi College, which upended Delta State 9-8 in 11 innings to reach the Gulf South Conference Tournament title game in Cleveland. To name a few: Ryan Lane threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win; Blaine Crim went 3-for-5 with a homer and five RBIs; and Kyle Smith had four hits and four runs, including the game-winner on a DSU error. MC (32-15) plays Lee University today for the championship. … At Trustmark Park in Pearl, four Mississippi Braves collected three or more hits in a 10-3 win against Mobile. Connor Lien got four knocks, including his first homer of the year, and Alay Lago went 3-for-5 with four RBIs for the Double-A M-Braves. … In Erie, Pa., former Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull tossed six shutout innings to record his first Double-A win as the Sea Wolves, a Detroit farm club, beat Harrisburg 3-0. Turnbull is 1-3 with a 4.80 ERA. Mississippi State alum Jake Robson had a hit and an RBI for Erie. … And in Chicago, Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson equaled a career-high with four hits and added two RBIs as Pittsburgh beat the White Sox 10-6. Dickerson, in his first year with the Pirates, is batting .400 over his last seven games and .333 (third in the National League) with five homers and 26 RBIs for the season.
Walk-off bombs are exciting, yes, but a squeeze bunt for the win isn’t far behind on the thrill meter. Former Richton High star JaCoby Jones scored the clincher for Detroit on John Hicks’ perfect bunt as the Tigers took down Tampa Bay 3-2 Wednesday in the 12th inning. No one, including Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, was expecting Hicks to lay one down with no outs and Jones at third following a triple. “I wish I could’ve said I put a squeeze on,” Gardenhire, the onetime Jackson Mets shortstop, told mlb.com. Jones, a fast runner, scored easily as two Rays collided going for the ball on the right side of the infield. “When I saw the bunt down, it surprised the crap out of me,” Jones said. Jones, playing regularly and playing well for the Tigers, went 3-for-5 to boost his average to .280. … It was a good night, too, for Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout who notched his first win of 2018 as Boston, powered by Mookie Betts’ three homers, beat Kansas City 5-4. Pomeranz, making his third start after beginning the year on the disabled list, allowed eight hits, two walks and three runs in six innings. Reports said his velocity was much improved over his first two outings. … Pittsburgh took its lumps from Washington in a 9-3 loss, but Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College product, continued to shine for the Pirates. He was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and is at .318 with four homers and 20 RBIs for the year. He also stole his third base on Wednesday. P.S. Three former Mississippi Braves played key roles in Atlanta’s 7-0 win over the New York Mets, a victory that propelled the Braves (18-11) into first place in the National League East. Sean Newcomb (2-1) yielded just two hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts; Freddie Freeman ripped three hits to lift his average to .333 and drove in a run; and Johan Camargo, batting .316 in his limited chances, blasted a two-run homer, his fifth extra-base knock in 19 at-bats. Mickey Callaway, the former Ole Miss star now managing the Mets, saw his club, which started 11-1, drop to 17-11.
While Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw are hooking up in a marquee MLB matchup in Los Angeles tonight, there’s a Mississippi-flavored clash up the coast in Oakland that also bears watching. Boston, which has roared from the starting gate with a 16-2 record, welcomes former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz back from the disabled list. A 17-game winner in 2017, Pomeranz will oppose ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman, the A’s opening day starter who has struggled to a 9.87 ERA through four outings. (For the record, they did not cross paths in college.) Pomeranz, who suffered a forearm strain in spring training, made two rehab starts — one in Triple-A, the other in Double-A — and posted a 3.72 ERA over 9 2/3 innings. Graveman, who has yielded six homers this season, gets to face a scorching-hot Red Sox lineup (27 runs in three wins against the Angels) that may include State product Mitch Moreland. He has two bombs against Graveman in 12 career at-bats. P.S. JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High star, hit his first career walk-off homer — his first of 2018 — to propel Detroit to a 3-2 win in 10 innings against Kansas City today. Jones is batting .300 in 13 games.
Stuart Turner, the former Ole Miss standout, is catching at Triple-A Louisville in the Cincinnati system. He is 3-for-13 in four games. Turner spent 2017 in the big leagues after the Reds took him as a Rule 5 pick from Minnesota’s minor league system. He hit .134 with two homers in 37 games. He was designated for assignment by the Reds late in spring training, passed through waivers and was outrighted to Louisville. … Louis Coleman, the Greenwood native and ex-Pillow Academy star, is pitching at Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit organization. He has a 3.38 ERA and two saves in four appearances. The 32-year-old right-hander has a 3.15 ERA in 213 MLB games, the last with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016. … T.J. House, the Picayune High product, is pitching at Triple-A Charlotte in the Chicago White Sox’s system. The left-hander is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in two starts. House has a 4.44 ERA in 29 big league games with Cleveland and Toronto. The White Sox signed him as a minor league free agent in the off-season.