20 Apr

what a week

Mississippi College’s Dylan Marsh had the magic touch last week. The senior right-hander from Lake Cormorant (via Louisiana-Monroe) pitched in four games for the Choctaws and notched two saves and two wins. Not surprisingly, he earned the Gulf South Conference’s pitcher of the week honor, which was announced today. Marsh worked a total of seven innings, allowing just two hits and an unearned run while fanning 11. He got the wins in MC’s back-to-back, extra-inning, walk-off victories over Auburn-Montgomery on Sunday. Those wins stretched the Choctaws’ streak to seven. They have climbed to 15-15 overall and 12-13 in the GSC with two league series remaining, including the finale vs. Delta State. Dakota Kennedy has paced the MC attack with a .385 average. Ken Scott and Caleb Reese have supplied power with eight homers each, and Dylan Duplechain has added seven. Jackson Bridges (5-2), Payton Russell (3-3) and Bryce Lewis (2-4) have been reliable starters. MC currently sits seventh in the league standings. DSU is tied for fourth at 18-11. The top eight teams make the GSC Tournament field. … DSU’s Hayden White, a junior from Madison and MRA, was named the GSC player of the week after hitting .667 with three homers, seven RBIs and 10 runs in four wins. He is at .367 with eight homers and 37 RBIs for the year. The Statesmen (21-11 overall) have won 15 of their last 16.

20 Apr

brewing arm talent

We’ve almost come to expect this kind of thing from Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State star now pitching for Milwaukee. Six innings, one hit, one run and — for the first time in 2021 – a win on his ledger. Woodruff and the Brewers (9-7) beat San Diego and Joe Musgrove 3-1 on Monday night at Petco Park. For Woodruff, it was his first decision in four starts despite posting a 1.96 ERA, among the best in the National League. It was also his 20th career win. After yielding a walk and a hit in a long first inning, Woodruff fairly cruised, finishing with seven strikeouts and three walks. “The credit goes to Woody for saying, ‘That’s it,’ (after the first inning),” manager Craig Counsell said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story. “He got locked in and just pitched beautifully after that.” That’s what an ace does. Woodruff is among a crowd of pitchers who rose through Milwaukee’s system, including stops at Double-A Biloxi, and are now part of one of the best staffs in MLB. Closer Josh Hader, who got the save Monday, has not allowed an earned run in five appearances and has two saves and two wins. Setup men include Brent Suter, who has a 3.48 ERA and three holds in seven games, and Devin Williams, the 2020 NL rookie of the year. Corbin Burnes (1-1, 0.49), Freddy Peralta (2-0, 2.00) and Adam Houser (1-2, 3.14) – all Shuckers alums — are in the rotation with Woodruff. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, who pitched in relief for San Diego, allowed a run for the first time in six appearances in 2021 when Tyrone Taylor – another ex-Shucker – took him deep. … MSU product Kendall Graveman got five outs in Seattle’s win against the Los Angeles Dodgers and has yet to allow a run in his six games this season.

19 Apr

three stars

When you put the ball in play, something good might happen. Something did for Mitch Moreland and the Oakland A’s on Sunday. The Mississippi State product’s hard-hit liner in the bottom of the ninth got past Detroit’s third baseman and scored the game-winning run, notching the eighth straight win for the A’s, who began the season 1-7. Moreland hasn’t yet found his groove with the A’s, who signed the 12-year veteran as a free agent in the off-season. Used primarily as a DH, he is batting just .206 with five RBIs and has yet to homer or double. But A’s manager Bob Melvin felt confident in sending the left-handed hitter up as a pinch hitter against Tigers lefty Gregory Soto with the game on the line. “It was a little unorthodox with the left-on-left pinch hitter there, but Mitch has been around,” Melvin told mlb.com. “He’s smart in what he’s looking for. He was just trying to shoot it the other way where there were some holes open.” … Nate Lowe, another ex-State standout, got a walk-off hit for Texas in a 1-0, 10-inning win vs. Baltimore. It was the second walk-off RBI of Lowe’s career and gives him 16 RBIs, second in the American League. After a sizzling start, Lowe is hitting just .230 for the Rangers, who acquired him from Tampa Bay in the off-season. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson hit the first pitch of the first game of a twinbill out of Fenway Park, propelling the Chicago White Sox to a 3-2 win over Boston. It was the ninth career leadoff homer for Anderson, who is batting .310.

18 Apr

remember the time

There was no joy in Jackson when the New York Mets moved their Double-A team to the Eastern League after the 1990 season, ending the team’s 16-year stay. But jubilation was back at Smith-Wills Stadium on April 17, 1991, when the Generals – the Houston Astros’ Double-A team – made their home debut. Before an announced crowd of 3,571, the Gens beat Shreveport 3-2 on Rusty Harris’ pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth inning. Hard to believe it’s been 30 years. … Managed by Rick Sweet, the ex-big league catcher, the ’91 Generals were a talented club. Three members of the original starting rotation made the big leagues: Shane Reynolds, Jeff Juden and Chris Gardner. Todd Jones, a later addition to the rotation, developed into a top-drawer closer in the majors. Minor league veteran Joe Mikulik was the team’s best hitter, batting .293 with 15 homers and 94 RBIs. He never made the big leagues but gained some measure of fame as a minor league manager. (Look him up.) Catcher Tony Eusebio (.261) was the first General to get the call to The Show, and he enjoyed a nice career. Second baseman Trent (Trenidad) Hubbard, shortstop Orlando Miller and pitcher Brian Williams are other 1991 alums who made it to MLB. The roster also included Lance “Bam-Bam” Madsen, Scott Makarewicz, Bert Hunter, Willie Ansley, Howard Prager and Richie Simon. The team finished with a winning record overall (70-66) but did not make the playoffs. Two years later, the Gens won a Texas League championship. Three years after that, they claimed another. Three years after that, they played their final game at Smith-Wills before the TL franchise, having been sold (to a group that included Nolan Ryan), moved to Texas.

16 Apr

still kicking

Millsaps College finishes regular season play with a pair of doubleheaders at old rival Rhodes College today and Saturday. The NCAA Division III Majors are 7-13 in Southern Athletic Association play and stand sixth in the league standings. The top four make the league tournament next week. Center is the current fourth-place team at 9-10. The Majors (9-20 overall) are coming off a twinbill sweep of Hendrix last Sunday that kept their postseason hopes alive. Sam Pitre drove in five runs in the two games and earned SAA player of the week honors. Pitre (.406) and Mason Little (.350) have provided consistent offensive production, but pitching (league-high 8.61 staff ERA) and defense (league-worst 74 errors) have dragged the Majors down. … D-III Belhaven University, with nine games left on its schedule, is 16-11 and 11-7 American Southwest Conference, though the Blazers have dropped five of their last six. The top eight teams in the 12-team league make the ASC Tournament field; the Blazers currently sit fifth. They are at LeTourneau for a three-game series this weekend. Kyle McLaughlin, at .412, ranks among the league’s top hitters and Brett Sanchez (8-1, 2.18 ERA) has been a consistent force on the mound for BU.

14 Apr

big league chew

Kendall Graveman, converted last season from starter to reliever, notched his first career save on Tuesday. The Mississippi State product pitched a clean inning in Seattle’s 4-3 win against Baltimore. He has not allowed run in four appearances in 2021. Graveman was sidelined for a time last season after suffering neck spasms caused by a benign tumor. A starter (with 25 career wins) since he arrived in the big leagues in 2014, he was moved to the bullpen when he returned to the team and pitched well in that role. The Mariners re-signed the right-hander in the off-season. … Former State standout Hunter Renfroe smacked his first homer as a member of the Boston Red Sox, a solo shot in the snow at Minnesota on Tuesday. Renfroe is batting .174 in six games for 7-3 Boston. … Anthony Alford needs a hit in a bad way. The ex-Petal High star is 0-for-19 with 15 strikeouts for Pittsburgh. This slump has to be a major concern for the Pirates, who expected Alford to be their regular center fielder. … Ocean Springs’ Garrett Crochet is 0-2 for the Chicago White Sox despite not allowing an earned run in four relief appearances. The hard-throwing left-hander has committed two errors that have led to unearned runs in his losses. … Brandon Woodruff, the MSU alum from Wheeler, has a 2.12 ERA in three starts for Milwaukee but doesn’t have a decision. He checked the Cubs on one run over six innings Tuesday in a game the Brewers lost 3-2. Adding to Woodruff’s frustration: a Ryan Tepera pitch thrown behind him that the big right-hander did not take kindly to. … JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High standout, may have hard time getting back in the regular lineup for Detroit in the wake of the stunning emergence of Akil Baddoo. Jones, the opening day center fielder, is just 3-for-20 in seven games for the 5-6 Tigers; he has made just two starts since April 6. … With Jake Bauers hitting .063 and Yu Chang .235 with zero homers between them, one has to wonder if Cleveland is considering recalling Harrison Central product Bobby Bradley from its alternate camp to play first base. Bradley had a good spring – and he has big-time power.

14 Apr

buckle up

If either Ole Miss or Mississippi State were looking ahead to this weekend’s main event in Starkville, it did not show on Tuesday. The Rebels, behind Cael Baker’s six RBIs, thumped Austin Peay 13-1 and the Bulldogs, blasting five home runs, dismissed Arkansas State 18-10 in midweek “tuneups” before the huge SEC clash set for Dudy Noble Field. Game 1 of the three-game series is Friday at 6 p.m. SEC Network will televise it. Both teams enter with 8-4 league marks, tied for second in the West, and top 10 national rankings. Kids on sandlots across Mississippi dream of playing in such a series. This weekend, some get that chance. On paper, this is the classic great pitching (State) vs. great hitting (UM) matchup. The Bulldogs are second in the SEC in ERA and tops in punchouts; the Rebels lead in runs and are second in batting. But Ole Miss’ pitching staff has its fair share of pro prospects, and State’s lineup has produced eight or more runs in a game 13 times. Chops are being licked on both sides. Anything can happen in this series – and probably will. … All eyes in the Magnolia State will not be trained on Starkville, however. Surging Southern Miss (21-10, 8-3 C-USA) has a four-game set at nationally ranked Louisiana Tech, which took three of four from the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg last month. Jackson State, led by Chenar Brown (.379, eight homers, 39 RBIs), is an amazing 15-0 in SWAC play and welcomes rival Alcorn State for a three-game set at Braddy Field.

13 Apr

worth the wait

Seven years ago, the Chicago Cubs selected Justin Steele in the fifth round of the amateur draft out of George County High. On Monday, the left-hander from Lucedale made his big league debut, completing a long journey full of ups and downs. Steele, 25, came on in relief at Milwaukee and struck out the first batter he faced to end an inning. He then battled through the next frame, escaping a base-loaded jam without yielding a run. Steele was twice an organization All-Star in the Cubs’ system and has a career ERA of 3.62 in the minors. He also made a lot of trips to the injured list, which limited him to 80 appearances from 2014-19. He spent last season at the Cubs’ alternate site. Steele was recalled from that camp on Monday when the Cubs placed three pitchers on the COVID-19 list. How long he’ll remain on the active roster isn’t certain, but after seven years, he is officially in the MLB books. That in itself is quite an achievement.

12 Apr

big fish

Corey Dickerson and the Miami Marlins visit Truist Park in Atlanta tonight in the first meeting of 2021 between the National League East rivals who met in the NLDS last year. Miami is off to a 2-6 start, and Dickerson, the McComb native and ex-Meridian Community College standout, is batting .269 (7-for-26) with no homers, two RBIs and three runs as the leadoff batter. Dickerson was singled out by Sports Illustrated as the “make-or-break” player in Miami’s lineup. He “has to rediscover his swing (from 2017-19) to bolster an otherwise unthreatening Marlins lineup,” writes SI’s Nick Selbe in the April 2021 issue. In his first season with Miami, Dickerson hit .258 with seven homers in 52 games as the team made a surprising run to the postseason. The batting average was down from his career line (.284) and so was his slugging percentage (.402 compared to .497). To contend again in the NL East, the Marlins probably do need more from the lefty-hitting outfielder, 31, who is entering Year 2 of a $17.5 million, two-year deal. Tonight, he’ll face Braves righty Huascar Ynoa, a Mississippi Braves alumnus who is coming off a strong start against Washington. … The Braves, 4-5 after Sunday’s controversial loss to Philadelphia, would welcome some thunder from the bat of DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley, the power-hitting third baseman who is batting .207 (6-for-29) and has yet to drive in a run. But Riley isn’t the only Braves hitter who is scuffling; he actually has the second-best average in tonight’s lineup.

11 Apr

minor matters

Minor league camps are officially open in Florida and Arizona, and when the season finally cranks up in May, there are quite a few Mississippi-connected players who’ll be making delayed pro debuts, none more anticipated than right-hander J.T. Ginn’s. Ginn, the Mississippi State product from Brandon, is rated the No. 6 prospect in the New York Mets’ system though he has pitched in only one actual game since 2019. At State that year, the former two-way prep star posted a 3.13 ERA with 105 strikeouts and 19 walks in 86 1/3 innings and earned SEC freshman of the year honors. He made just one appearance for the Bulldogs in 2020 before sustaining an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery. Nevertheless, the Mets, impressed with Ginn’s three-pitch repertoire, took him in the second round as a draft-eligible sophomore and signed him for $2.9 million. He was invited to big league camp this spring (and worked out with Noah Syndergaard) but did not appear in any Grapefruit League games. Reports indicate it could be midsummer before Ginn officially debuts. … Other highly rated 2020 draftees who didn’t play last season (because there was no minor league ball) include State alum Justin Foscue (Texas’ No. 7 prospect), State product Jordan Westburg (Baltimore’s No. 7), ex-Ole Miss star Anthony Servideo (Orioles’ No. 27), former DeSoto Central standout Blaze Jordan (Boston’s No. 11), Biloxi High alum Colt Keith (Detroit’s No. 20) and UM product Tyler Keenan (Seattle’s fourth-round pick). Foscue and Westburg were in big league camp this spring and played in some exhibition games. P.S. Wyatt Toregas has been announced as the eighth manager of the Mississippi Braves. Toregas, who had a brief major league career as a catcher, had managed in Pittsburgh’s system for five years. He follows Chris Maloney, the Jackson native and ex-State standout who managed the M-Braves in 2018-19. The other skippers: Brian Snitker, Jeff Blauser, Phillip Wellman, Rocket Wheeler, Aaron Holbert and Luis Salazar. … Wellman will manage again in San Antonio, San Diego’s affiliate in the Double-A Central South Division. Former Jackson Mets star Al Pedrique will run the Jacksonville club, Miami’s affiliate in the Triple-A East Southeast Division.