Former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker, now a Minnesota Twins prospect, has been named to USA Baseball’s 28-man roster for the World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier 12 tournament, set for Guadalajara, Mexico, from Nov. 2-4. Rooker, an outfielder/first baseman in his third pro season, batted .281 with 14 homers at Triple-A Rochester this season; he missed a chunk of time with injuries. Rated as the Twins’ No. 8 prospect (MLB Pipeline), Rooker has 54 homers in his pro career. Also on the Team USA squad is outfielder Drew Waters, the Mississippi Braves product who was Southern League MVP this year. The top two nations from the four in Team USA’s group will move on to the Super Round in Tokyo from Nov. 11-16. The event is a qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In a span of six days starting July 31, the Mississippi Braves’ prospect-packed roster was gouged. Pitcher Joey Wentz, Atlanta’s No. 9 prospect (MLB Pipeline), was traded on deadline day. On Aug. 4, No. 7 Kyle Muller, also a pitcher, went on the injured list. On Aug. 5 — the final day of the last homestand — No. 1 Cristian Pache, No. 2 Drew Waters, No. 3 Ian Anderson and No. 13 Tucker Davidson (two outfielders and two more starting pitchers) were promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett. Boom. As the M-Braves begin a 10-game homestand tonight, you might be wondering, what’s left? Well, Atlanta does have one of the strongest farm systems, and there are several intriguing top 20 prospects on the current club. Start with Trey Harris, a former SEC (Missouri) outfielder promoted from A-ball last month. The No. 18 prospect, he is batting .310 in 20 games after blowing through low-A Rome (.366, eight homers) and high-A Florida (.303, four homers). William Contreras, No. 8, the younger brother of big leaguer Willson, is regarded as a strong defensive catcher and is batting .237 in 44 Double-A games. No. 11 Greyson Jenista is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound outfielder out of Wichita State who has four homers and 20 RBIs in 55 games. Another potential power bat belongs to C.J. Alexander, No. 19, a 6-5, 215 third baseman who has two homers in 20 games as he comes back from an injury earlier in the year. And Jassell De La Cruz, No. 14, is a hard-throwing right-hander with a 3-7, 4.41 ledger over 13 games. Bradley Roney isn’t on the top prospect charts, but the former Southern Miss star has been pitching like one: one earned run allowed in his last nine appearances, 3.26 ERA in 15 games all told. The team is in a period of adjustment – they went 1-4 on their recent road trip – but has enough pieces to put together a nice run over the next 10 days at Trustmark Park.
P.S. Biloxi High’s Colten Keith was invited to the USA Baseball 18-and-Under National Team Trials and Training starting today in California. The final 20-man 18U National Team will be named on Saturday and will compete in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup in Gijang City, South Korea, from Aug. 30-Sept. 8. Keith hit .527 with eight homers for Biloxi as a junior in 2019 after transferring from Arizona; he was Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year. … Oxford’s Tyrus Williams competed in the 15U National Team Trials held in July at the National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Two Mississippians took part in this summer’s 14U National Team Development Program in Cary: Keondre Fields of Nesbit and Keilon Parnell of Pascagoula.
Mississippi State’s Riley Self and Keegan James teamed up for a stifling pitching performance in the Cape Cod League on Tuesday. Self entered in the third inning and went four, allowing one hit and no runs with five strikeouts. James pitched the last three innings, giving up a run on two hits. Self got the win and James the save in Hyannis’ 8-4 victory over Bourne. Self is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in nine innings in the CCBL, while James is 1-0 with a save and a 1.68 in 10 2/3. They were key pieces in the Bulldogs’ bullpen during the run to the College World Series. … One of Self’s punchout victims on Tuesday was Ole Miss’ Cooper Johnson, the Bourne catcher who is batting .200 in 15 games this summer. UM’s Greer Holston is also with Bourne and is 1-2 with a save and a 3.14 ERA in eight appearances. … Thomas Dillard, who hit 13 homers for the Rebels this past season, has three in the Cape. He is batting .261 with 13 RBIs for Cotuit. … Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner is batting .250 with a homer in nine games for Falmouth. … Ole Miss’ Houston Roth has made five starts for Hyannis and posted a 3.98 ERA but has no decisions on his ledger. P.S. UM’s Parker Caracci made six appearances for the Collegiate National Team and did not allow an earned run over 9 2/3 innings. The Jackson Prep alumnus notched a win and two saves as Team USA went 12-3 on its summer tour.
Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner hit his first Cape Cod League home run on Monday, going 3-for-4 in his second game since joining the Falmouth team in the vaunted summer circuit. Wallner, a third-team All-America pick as a sophomore in 2018, had been playing for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He hit .154 in four games. … Ole Miss’ Parker Caracci is still with Team USA and has a win, two saves and a 0.00 ERA in five appearances. The team just finished a series with a club from Japan and next plays a series in Cuba. … Milton Smith Jr., former Starkville High and Meridian Community College standout, had an interesting Monday. He started for Miami’s rookie Gulf Coast League team, going 1-for-2 to boost his average to .356, then joined the Marlins’ Class A Florida State League club, also located in Jupiter, Fla., and got in the Hammerheads’ game as a pinch runner. Smith was a 22nd-round pick last month out of MCC. … Mississippi State alum Hunter Stovall followed up his two-homer pro debut (see previous post) with a four-hit game on Sunday and is now 7-for-9 for the rookie-level Grand Junction Rockies. … The Biloxi Shuckers walloped Jackson (Tenn.) 12-2 on Monday at MGM Park to become the first Southern League club to notch 50 wins. Corey Ray, a top Milwaukee prospect, drove in five runs and Zack Brown improved to 8-0. The Shuckers won the first half in the SL South and are 9-8 in the second half. … Tough year for former Jackson Mets star Ned Yost, who watched his Kansas City Royals lose their 10th straight game on Monday and fall 40 games under .500. Yost was ejected – for the first time in 2018 — in the fourth inning after disputing a third-strike call. … MSU product Hunter Renfroe, playing right field for San Diego, picked up his third assist on Monday, cutting down the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Justin Turner at second base with a great throw from the right-field corner at Petco Park. … Ex-Meridian CC star Corey Dickerson, batting leadoff for Pittsburgh, went 2-for-5 with a triple, an RBI and two runs as the Pirates beat Washington 6-3. Dickerson is batting .458 in his last seven games and .309 for the year. … Billy Hamilton is cutting it loose again. The Taylorsville High alum got his 22nd stolen base of the year – plus two hits and two runs — in Cincinnati’s 7-5 win over Cleveland on Monday. He now has seven bags, seven runs and 10 hits in his last seven games. “It’s mayhem,” Reds broadcaster and former MSU standout Jeff Brantley said of the impact Hamilton can have when he gets on base.
Nick Sandlin, former Southern Miss All-American and 2018 Ferriss Trophy winner, already has been promoted to the low Class A Midwest League by Cleveland. The second-round draftee pitched a scoreless inning for Lake County in his MWL debut on Saturday. Sandlin, 21, made three scoreless appearances in the rookie Arizona League. … Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, a second-round pick by Milwaukee in last month’s draft, made his pro debut over the weekend. He was 1-for-3 with a double in his first game on Saturday for the Arizona League Brewers, then went 0-for-4 on Sunday. … USM’s Matt Wallner is 2-for-13 with four runs in four games and Ole Miss’ Parker Caracci has five strikeouts in two innings pitched for the Collegiate National Team, which is currently playing games at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, N.C. … Ole Miss’ Thomas Dillard hit 32 home runs to finish third in Sunday’s College Home Run Derby in Omaha, Neb. … Logan Tanner of George County High and Olive Branch native Kendall Williams (now at IMG Academy in Florida) participated in the USA Baseball Under-18 National Team Trials last week. Tanner went 1-for-5 and pitched an inning, while Williams went 4 1/3 innings (no earned runs) and got a win in his one game. Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy played in the earlier Tournament of Stars portion of the event. The U18 Team USA roster will be announced in the fall. … The Tupelo Thunder leads the Cotton States League standings with a 10-2 record. Trey Jolly, onetime Mississippi State player from New Albany, is hitting .500 with two homers and nine RBIs for Tupelo, and Northeast Mississippi Community College alum Nikolas Wilcher is 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA.
Ole Miss’ Thomas Dillard is enjoying the summer, raking at a .348 clip for Cotuit in the Cape Cod League. The switch-hitting outfielder, who hit .310 with 13 homers for the Rebels this season, has six runs and one RBI in seven games in the talent-laden CCBL. … Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy, a rising senior, is participating in USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars, which is used to select the Under-18 National Team. Games began today in Cary, N.C. An outfielder with all the tools, Ealy hit .368 with three homers for Prep in 2018. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder is an Ole Miss baseball and football commit for 2019-20. … The Collegiate National Team starts play next week at the USA Baseball complex in Cary. Ole Miss’ Parker Caracci and Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner are on the Team USA roster. … John Wesley Ray, a onetime Ole Miss and Delta State player, is wearing out the Cotton States League. The 6-5, 230-pound Ray is batting .522 with eight RBIs in seven games and is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four pitching appearances for the North Delta Dealers. … Of the five prep players drafted from Mississippi earlier this month, first-round pick J.T. Ginn and second-rounder Joe Gray have not yet signed pro contracts. The MLB signing deadline is July 6. Brandon’s Ginn, the 30th pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers and a Mississippi State commit, stands to get a bonus offer of over $2 million, while Hattiesburg’s Gray, an Ole Miss signee who went 60th to Milwaukee, will command $1 million plus. Pascagoula’s Willie Joe Garry Jr. (ninth round) has signed with Minnesota. Madison Central’s Regi Grace (10th round) reportedly also has signed with the Twins, but the team has not officially announced it. Harrison Central’s Brendan Hardy (31st round) has reportedly agreed to terms with the New York Mets. … Former Hattiesburg High star Robert Carson and Starkville native Julio Borbon, both onetime big leaguers, are putting up good numbers in the independent Atlantic League. Left-hander Carson has a 1.90 ERA in 16 games for York, while Borbon is batting .304 with three homers and 25 RBIs for Somerset.
The start of William Carey’s season will have a very different feel than a year ago. The Crusaders, ranked sixth in the NAIA preseason poll, open Friday against Georgetown College at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. They’ll also play Ave Maria University later that day. Those are the first of 18 straight home games. Carey didn’t get to play a game at home in 2017 until the end of February – 16 games into the season – because of tornado damage on its campus. No matter, Bobby Halford’s resilient crew went 45-20 last year and made it to the NAIA World Series for the first time since 1978. Right-hander Cole Edgens (10-1, 4.13 ERA last year), outfielder Christian Smith (.322, 18 stolen bases) and shortstop Wes Brown lead a small group of returnees. … Also opening on Friday – on the road — are Delta State, the No. 1-ranked NCAA Division II team by Collegiate Baseball; D-III Millsaps; and NAIA Tougaloo. DSU returns decorated slugger Zack Shannon – plus just about every other lineup regular – and 10-game winner Seth Birdsong from a CWS participant. The Statesmen open at Lynn (Fla.) University. Millsaps, coming off a rare losing (19-23) year, plays at Huntingdon in Alabama, and Tougaloo visits Talladega. … D-II Mississippi College will host Lindenwood, a Missouri school, for a doubleheader on Saturday in Clinton. P.S. USA Baseball has announced the 16-team field for the 2018 National High School Invitational, and Hattiesburg High and star outfielder Joe Gray are in it. The seventh edition of the tournament will be held at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., from March 28-31.
Brandon High’s J.T. Ginn struck out the last batter in the ninth inning on Sunday as Team USA claimed gold in the Under 18 World Cup in Canada. Ginn pitched a perfect ninth in the 8-0 victory over Korea, calling it the “best moment of my life” on Twitter. A prep All-American in 2017 and a Mississippi State commit, Ginn worked 3 1/3 innings in four appearances in the tournament and allowed no hits and no runs with six strikeouts and two walks. Team USA went 9-0 in the World Cup, which it won for the fourth straight time.
Ready or not, MLB’s Players Weekend arrives today, complete with alternate uniforms, funky accessories and, for some players, nicknames on their backs. Many traditionalists will be cringing. Here’s a sampling of what Mississippians will be wearing: Billy Hamilton is “Bone,” Zack Cozart is “Coach,” Drew Pomeranz is “Big Smooth,” Tim Anderson is “B. Moss” (in honor of a childhood friend killed earlier this year), Mitch Moreland is “2-Bags,” Kendall Graveman is “Digger,” Brian Dozier is “Doz,” and Tyler Moore is “T-Mo.” Jarrod Dyson was slated to wear “Zoombiya” (from his twitter handle) but is on the disabled list, as is Bobby “Peanut” Wahl. Seth Smith, whose unofficial nickname is “Dad” (after the character on American Dad), is sticking with “Smith.” Good call. P.S. Amidst all the shouting and brawling and ejecting at Comerica Park on Thursday, JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High, had a good day for Detroit: 2-for-4, two RBIs and a stolen base. … Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland homered twice for Boston in its loss to Cleveland and now has 17 on the season, three in the last two days. … Ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson went deep for Tampa Bay in a win against Toronto. Dickerson has 24 homers. … J.T. Ginn, a pitcher/infielder at Brandon High, made the 20-man roster for USA Baseball’s Under-18 World Cup team. The team will compete in the tournament in Thunder Bay, Canada, from Sept. 1-10. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray was among the 40 finalists invited to the national trials. Ginn, 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, a Mississippi State commit, was 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings for Brandon in 2017. He also hit .483 with 16 homers.
The Hattiesburg Black Sox, making their first trip to the National Baseball Congress World Series, play their second game in the storied amateur event tonight against the Great Bend (Kan.) Bat Cats in Wichita, Kan. Jaylyn Williams had a couple of hits and scored the game-winning run for the Black Sox in their opener on Sunday, a 5-4 win against the Inland Empire (Calif.) Golden Bears. Hattiesburg was held without a hit for the first six innings, according to the NBC website. Nathan Stewart got the save for the Black Sox, champions of the Magnolia Adult Baseball League and the Mississippi Semi-Pro State Tournament. … Playoffs get underway in the Cotton States League this week, starting with the Tupelo Thunder against the North Delta Dealers tonight in New Albany. The Golden Triangle Jets and Tippah County Tribe play Thursday. The Tallahatchie Rascals and HillCountry Generals, the top two in the regular season standings, await the winners in the Saturday semifinals. The Generals’ Luke Miller leads the college summer league in batting at .453. The Dealers’ Alan Rickman is the top pitcher, with a 5-0 record and 1.42 ERA. … Brandon High’s J.T. Ginn and Hattiesburg High’s Joe Gray are on the roster for Saturday’s Under Armour All-America Game, to be played at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The duo also was picked for the Perfect Game All-American Classic on Aug. 13 at Petco Park in San Diego. Both games will be televised by MLB Network. … Three Mississippians were selected for USA Baseball’s 14U National Team Development Program, which is being held this week in Cary, N.C. Logan Forsythe of Biloxi, Easton Hood of Tupelo and Collin Reuter of Olive Branch made the 40-man roster. (Noah Foster of Tupelo and Drew Tucker of Laurel were on the alternate list.) The program includes “skill development sessions, off-field education seminars and intrasquad games,” according to the USA Baseball website. … Dallas Woolfolk of Ole Miss registered four saves and a 0.87 ERA in 10 games for the Collegiate National Team, which went 15-5 this summer. Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington had a 2.65 ERA in five games (four starts).