21 Jun

making some noise

Rancho Cucamonga, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Low-A affiliate, put up a jarring number on Sunday, beating Lake Elsinore 24-5 in the Low-A West. Leading the assault for the Quakes was Sam McWilliams, a former Meridian Community College standout from Mendenhall, who hit two of the team’s six homers and finished with five RBIs. McWilliams, a 6-foot, 178-pound outfielder, is batting .282 with four homers, 27 RBIs and nine stolen bases. The five-RBI game is not a career-best for McWilliams; he drove in seven in a 2019 game in rookie ball. McWilliams was one of three players, all outfielders, drafted in 2018 from the Meridian CC team that reached the finals of the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament. McWilliams — a .399 hitter that year — went in the 19th round, Davis Bradshaw in the 11th and Milton Smith Jr. in the 22nd. Bradshaw and Smith were picked by the Miami Marlins. Bradshaw, who got a taste of Triple-A ball this season, is currently playing at Low-A Jupiter. Smith was released last summer — despite a .326 career average — and is now in the independent Frontier League with the New York Boulders.

19 Jun

small’s world

Milwaukee doesn’t appear to need a lot of help in its starting rotation at the moment, but should a need arise, Ethan Small is showing signs of being ready for the call. The ex-Mississippi State standout threw seven shutout innings — his longest career outing — in Double-A Biloxi’s 13-1 victory against Rocket City on Friday night. Small (2-2, 1.96 ERA) allowed three hits, one walk and fanned nine in his eighth start for the Shuckers. A 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-hander, he has struck out 67 batters in 41 1/3 innings, including a 12-K performance last week against the Mississippi Braves. Small was the SEC’s pitcher of the year at State in 2019 and Milwaukee’s first-round pick that summer. He threw just 21 innings in the low minors in 2019 and spent last season in the Brewers’ alternate camp. MLB Pipeline rates Small the No. 4 prospect in the Milwaukee system and projects his MLB arrival as 2021. That’s looking like a real possibility.

18 Jun

closing time

There were rumblings about Craig Kimbrel the last couple years. He was getting hit, coughing up runs. Was the former Mississippi Braves star headed toward the sudden crash-and-burn that strikes many relief pitchers? Nah. Forget that. Kimbrel converted his 13th straight save opportunity Thursday night in the Chicago Cubs’ 2-0 win against the New York Mets. He hasn’t allowed a run in seven appearances this month. He hasn’t allowed a hit since May 26, eight games ago. He is 19-for-21 in save chances this season with a 0.64 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. In the bigger picture, he moved into the top 10 in all-time saves with No. 367, matching the total of former Jackson Mets hurler Jeff Reardon. They are two of the four Mississippi connections in the top 10. Former Generals star Billy Wagner is No. 6 with 422 and Mississippi State product Jonathan Papelbon is ninth at 368. There are three other former Jackson area Double-A players in the top 23: Randy Myers (Mets) at No. 13 with 347, Todd Jones (Generals) at No. 22 with 319 and Rick Aguilera (Mets) at No. 23 with 318. (Note: Lee Smith, No. 3 all-time with 478 saves, actually pitched in two games for the 1998 Generals during his final pro season.) P.S. Former State star Brandon Woodruff surrendered a grand slam Thursday for the first time in his career, covering over 360 innings. Not surprisingly, it happened at Coors Field. Colorado’s C.J. Cron hit an opposite-field shot on a 98 mph fastball as part of the Rockies’ five-run first inning en route to a 7-3 win over Milwaukee. “The margin of error here is just so razor thin,” Woodruff said in an mlb.com piece. Woodruff is 5-3 despite a 1.94 ERA, which ranks fifth in the big leagues.

17 Jun

awards season

The awards keep rolling in for Mississippi college products in what has been another banner year in the Magnolia State. Mississippi State’s Tanner Allen and Landon Sims and Ole Miss’ Doug Nikhazy have been named to Baseball America’s first-team All-America squad. Those three are also semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which will be announced in July. Ole Miss’ Taylor Broadway was a second-team All-America pick by BA. A boatload of other honors already have come down. To wit: Allen, the SEC’s player of the year (and Ferriss Trophy winner), and Nikhazy were also first-team A-A picks by Collegiate Baseball Magazine. Southern Miss’ Reed Trimble was a first-team Freshman All-America choice by the NCBWA, and Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez was a second-teamer. Those two along with Jackson State’s Chenar Brown made Collegiate Baseball’s freshman honor roll. Delta State’s Jake Barlow was named a D2CCA first-team All-America, in addition to several other national accolades. Mississippi College’s Caleb Reese was a D2CCA All-South Region first-teamer; William Carey’s Sloan Dieter was a second-team NAIA All-America pick; and Belhaven’s Brett Sanchez made first-team All-West Region in NCAA Division III. Pearl River Community College’s Landon Gartman and Tate Parker made the NJCAA Division II first-team All-America list. They were the MACCC’s pitcher and player of the year. Walker Powell of USM was the C-USA pitcher of the year, and JSU swept the SWAC’s honors: Ty Hill was player of the year, hitter of the year and newcomer of the year, Anthony Becerra was pitcher of the year, Steven Davila relief pitcher of the year and Brown the freshman of the year.

17 Jun

stop thief!

You wouldn’t necessarily go to a Mississippi Braves game to watch Shea Langeliers play catcher, but you’d probably come away impressed. Take Wednesday night’s game, for instance. Langeliers, Atlanta’s No. 3-rated prospect, threw out two would-be base stealers in the Double-A team’s 2-1 win against Birmingham at Trustmark Park. (For the record, before throwing out Laz Rivera for the second time, Langeliers appeared to pick him off first base; the umpire called Rivera safe.) Langeliers has thrown out 17 of 29 attempted base thieves. That’s 59 percent. A 30-percent rate is considered good. The 2019 first-round pick has just two passed balls and two errors over 29 games. From MLB Pipeline’s scouting report: “His athleticism and agility allow him to be a plus blocker and receiver and he perhaps has the best arm of any catcher in the Minor Leagues, one that allowed him to throw out 41 percent of potential basestealers in 2019.” Oh, and he is also the M-Braves’ best hitter. … No. 4 prospect Braden Shewmake, hitting just .127, did drive in one of the M-Braves’ runs, his 11th RBI. No. 25 prospect Justin Dean (.242) picked up the other, his 14th RBI. Elsewhere in the Atlanta system: No. 5 prospect Kyle Muller became the latest M-Braves alum to advance to the big leagues, working an inning for the Braves in their 10-8 loss to Boston. Muller allowed four hits and two runs in relief of former M-Braves star Ian Anderson, who gave up four runs in four innings. All of that was before M-Braves alum A.J. Minter yielded a game-turning grand slam to Christian Arroyo. Such is the state of the big Braves’ pitching staff. … At Triple-A Gwinnett, No. 1 prospect – and erstwhile Atlanta center fielder – Cristian Pache is hitting .300 since being sent down on May 29. No. 2 prospect Drew Waters, the 2019 Southern League MVP who has yet to get a big league look, is batting .279 with three homers and eight steals. … At High-A Rome, No. 6 prospect Jared Shuster threw four shutout innings Wednesday in a 5-0 win. The left-hander out of Wake Forest is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in five games. … At Low-A Augusta, two Mississippi products, both 2019 draft picks, are feeling their way in pro ball. Brandon Parker, a Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout from Saucier, is batting .160 with five bombs and 19 RBIs in 30 games. Right-hander Jared Johnson, the No. 29 prospect out of Smithville High, allowed three runs with four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings in his only appearance to date.

16 Jun

highs and lows

Tuesday was a good day for Bobby Bradley. The ex-Harrison Central High star went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in Cleveland’s 7-2 win over Baltimore, boosting his average to .440 (11-for-25) since his call-up on June 5. “In my head, this is 12-year-old All-Stars, as fun as we can get, just playing some summer ball,” Bradley said in an mlb.com article. These are meaningful games for the second-place Indians, who are trying to keep pace with division-leader Chicago in the American League Central. Bradley has contributed three homers and 10 RBIs – and has struck out just four times. These results are much-improved over his 2019 MLB trial, when he batted .178 with one homer and fanned 20 times in 45 at-bats. Bradley, 25, won home run crowns in four different leagues en route to the majors. The Indians would love to see him tap into that power this summer – and keep having fun, of course. … Tuesday was a bad day for Demarcus Evans. The former Petal High star yielded a walk-off grand slam to Jose Altuve in Texas’ 6-3 loss in 10 innings to Houston. After Mississippi State product Nate Lowe had given the Rangers a 3-2 lead with an RBI knock in the top of the 10th, Evans failed to retire a batter in the bottom half. He walked two prior to Altuve’s bomb. Evans, 24, making his seventh big league appearance this season – and 11th overall – suffered his second blown save and saw his 2021 ERA jump from 2.16 to 5.40. P.S. Down on the farm, Ole Miss alum Nick Fortes hit a walk-off two-run homer for Pensacola in a 5-4 win against Montgomery in the Double-A South. Fortes, a catcher/DH, is batting .284 with two homers and 12 RBIs for the Miami affiliate. … Tonight at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Mississippi State product Konnor Pilkington will go to the bump for Birmingham against the Mississippi Braves. Pilkington, a former East Central High star, is 1-1, 2.60 ERA in six starts for the White Sox’s Double-A club.

15 Jun

finding their way

Things are clicking – sort of – for the Mississippi Braves. Though manager Wyatt Toregas resigned suddenly during the Double-A club’s series at Biloxi, the team won five of six there and has taken 12 of its last 16. At 20-16, the M-Braves are second in the Double-A South South Division. A new manager has not been named; the coaching staff ran the team for the last three games at Biloxi. The M-Braves’ pitching staff leads the league in ERA, and highly rated prospect Shea Langeliers is playing like one: .265 with nine homers, 19 RBIs and 20 runs, all team-leading stats. Braden Shewmake, Atlanta’s No. 4 prospect (Langeliers is No. 3), has finally begun to swing the bat after an ice-cold start. He has hit safely in five of his last six to reach .135 with three homers and 10 RBIs. Justin Dean has 10 steals and 17 runs. Birmingham, the top scoring team in the league, comes to Trustmark Park today with a 22-13 mark, first in the North Division. The Chicago White Sox’s affiliate features the organization’s No. 6 prospect, Micker Adolfo, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound outfielder batting .244 with eight homers. Ti’Quan Forbes, the former Mississippi Mr. Baseball from Columbia High, is batting .281 with three homers for the Barons, and Mississippi State product Konnor Pilkington, from Pascagoula, is 1-1 with a 2.60 ERA in six starts.

15 Jun

omaha stakes

William Carey brought one home in 1969. Delta State did it in 2004, Jones College in 2016. Mississippi State gets to try, try again this month to do what no NCAA Division I school from Mississippi has done before: Win a national title. Carey won the NAIA crown, DSU in NCAA D-II and Jones in NJCAA D-II. The Bulldogs earned their 12th trip to Omaha and the College World Series by spanking Notre Dame 11-7 Monday in Game 3 of the Starkville Super Regional before a crazy crowd at Dudy Noble Field. State can’t take that crowd to Omaha but will take SEC player of the year Tanner Allen, highly rated MLB draft prospect starters Will Bednar and Christian MacLeod and the hottest closer going, Landon Sims. State’s side of the CWS bracket includes No. 2 national seed Texas and No. 3 Tennessee. Vanderbilt, Arizona and Stanford lurk on the other side. Knock-down, drag-out battles should be expected. But the Bulldogs are one of eight with a chance. They’ve come close before, taking second in 2013 and third in 1985 with the Clark-Palmeiro-Brantley-Thigpen team that was probably the most talented the state has seen. Winning the last game of the season is tough. In the 2011 film “Moneyball” that was – and remains — Billy Beane’s great lament: “If you lose the last game of the season, nobody gives a (flip).” That’s not entirely true. State has enjoyed another great ride in 2021. But if the Bulldogs do manage to win the last one, to bring home a “natty,” it’s hard to imagine what the celebration in Bulldog Nation would be like.

14 Jun

meanwhile, in mlb …

Yes, there is a big game in Starkville tonight, but if you can keep an eye on – or an ear tuned to – one big league game, make it Tampa Bay-Chicago White Sox (7:10 CDT) at Guaranteed Rate Field. Lance Lynn, the grizzled vet out of Ole Miss, will pitch for the White Sox against rising star Tyler Glasnow of the Rays. It’s a matchup of division leaders who own the two best records in MLB. Lynn, never better even at age 34, is 7-1 with a 1.23 ERA. He leads the American League in ERA and is fourth in WHIP (0.88). He has one complete game (nine innings) and is averaging six innings a start, admirable by today’s standards. Lynn is 111-72 career, needing one more W to tie for 499th place on all-time list. That’s no mean feat. Only one Ole Miss product has ever won more: Jeff Fassero racked up 121 wins over 16 seasons. Lynn faces quite the challenge tonight. The Rays are on a 23-5 tear with a plus-86 run differential in the stretch. But Lynn will have the full-throated support of ChiSox fans, who have taken to the big man’s emotions-on-his-sleeve personality. “I’m going to give it everything I have to help the team win,” Lynn told the Chicago Sun-Times in a recent interview. “I’ve had that since I was a little kid.”

14 Jun

hard knocks

Ole Miss is a good hitting team. The Rebels ran into a better one in Arizona. In a Game 3 that kinda figured to be a slugfest, the host Wildcats slugged best, ending the Rebels’ season with a 16-3 blowout in the Tucson Super Regional. A seven-run fourth inning effectively crushed the Rebels. “I think this is the best offense in Pac-12 history,” Arizona coach Jay Johnson told tucson.com. “I’m not a historian, so I can’t validate that. But if there’s one that’s equal, I’d like to see what that looked like.” Arizona leads the nation in hits and runs. The Wildcats put up 28 runs in the three games at Hi Corbett Field. Even in their Game 2 loss, they put 10 runners on base and scored twice against Rebels ace Doug Nikhazy in 5 1/3 innings. In Sunday’s clincher, the Wildcats piled up 20 hits and scored at least once against each of the five pitchers UM trotted out. The Rebels, who rank first in the SEC in hits and second in runs, managed just five and three on Sunday. Even if this Arizona team is “the best offense in Pac-12 history,” that’s no consolation to Rebel Nation, which has seen coach Mike Bianco win more than 800 games in his 21 seasons but manage just one trip to the College World Series.