The Mississippi Braves will open the Double-A South Championship Series at Montgomery, a Tampa Bay affiliate against which the M-Braves have an unhappy history. The M-Braves, regular season champs in the league, will take on the Biscuits on Tuesday in Game 1 of the 5-game series. Game 3 (and any remaining games) will be played at Pearl’s Trustmark Park beginning Friday. The M-Braves lost their inaugural game against Montgomery in 2005 and also lost their home opener to the Biscuits that season. In 2007, when the M-Braves made the playoffs for the first time, Montgomery knocked them out. This is the M-Braves’ fifth playoff appearance; they won the Southern League pennant in 2008. Mississippi ranks second in the Double-A South in ERA and homers but seventh in batting average. Montgomery is third in batting average, fourth in homers and fourth in ERA. … Several Magnolia State products were on the final regular season roster of minor league teams making the postseason. Ex-Mississippi State star Konnor Pilkington is with Akron, which meets Bowie and Bulldogs alum Jordan Westburg in the Double-A Northeast title series. Southern Miss product Matt Wallner plays for Cedar Rapids, which is in the High-A Central series. Ex-MSU standout Hunter Stovall and Ole Miss alum Will Ethridge are with Spokane in the High-A West. Will Bednar, a first-round pick from State this year, finished his 2021 campaign with San Jose, which is in the Low-A West series. And former Northeast Mississippi Community College standout Tyler Samaniego pitches for Bradenton in the Low-A Southeast. … The Triple-A seasons continue through this month. P.S. After a Triple-A tour during which practically nothing went right, former Ole Miss star David Parkinson went down to Double-A and got a shot of confidence on Sunday. Parkinson, 1-11 with a 7.93 ERA for Lehigh Valley in the Philadelphia system, threw three clean innings to notch a save in Reading’s last game of the season.
He didn’t join the exclusive club of major leaguers who have homered in their first career at-bat, but Nick Fortes did do something special on Saturday. The former Ole Miss standout hit a home run in his second career AB — he singled in his first — for Miami in a 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh. Fortes, a catcher called up on Friday, took former Mississippi Braves right-hander Bryse Wilson deep in the fifth inning, a 413-foot shot. “I had goosebumps and chills down my spine,” said Fortes, who had a gaggle of family and friends watching at loanDepot park. Fortes began this season, his third in pro ball, at Pensacola in the Double-A South before moving to Triple-A Jacksonville. He had seven homers in 330 at-bats for those two clubs. He became one of eight Marlins to homer in his first game. Ex-Mississippi State star Will Clark and Louisville native Marcus Thames are the only Mississippians to homer in their first career at-bat. P.S. Milwaukee, with Biloxi Shuckers alums Devin Williams and Josh Hader getting the win and the save, clinched a playoff berth on Saturday by beating the Chicago Cubs. For the record, George County High product Justin Steele, the Cubs’ starter, got his first career hit (in nine ABs). Steele allowed two runs in four innings and wasn’t part of the decision. The rookie left-hander is 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA in his seven starts this season.
In his first game since becoming a father, Brent Rooker doubled and homered to help Minnesota cool off Toronto in a key American League game on Friday night. Former Mississippi State standout Rooker came off the paternity list to hit his eighth homer of the year and drive in two runs as the last-place Twins beat the Blue Jays 7-3 and knocked them back to third in the AL wild card race. Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College star, had two hits and scored a run for the Blue Jays. … Elsewhere in the playoff chase: MSU product Hunter Renfroe drove in three runs and scored another as AL wild card leader Boston whipped Baltimore 7-1. East Central CC alumnus Tim Anderson went 1-for-3 and scored twice as AL Central leader Chicago thumped Texas 8-0. Former State star Kendall Graveman blew a save — just his third of the season — in the eighth inning, but AL West leader Houston rallied to beat Arizona 4-3 in 10 innings. Former Biloxi Shuckers outfielder Brett Phillips hit a walk-off homer — and celebrated as you might expect only him to do — to give AL East leader Tampa Bay a 7-4 win vs. Detroit. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Nick Fortes was called up by Miami on Friday and likely will make his MLB debut today against Pittsburgh. The 24-year-old catcher, a fourth-round pick in 2018, hit .245 with seven homers and 44 RBIs at the Double-A and Triple-A levels this season. The Marlins reportedly want to give him a closer look as they plan for next season. Fortes will be the fifth Mississippian (native or school alum) to debut in 2021 and the 29th to make a big league appearance this season.
At just the right time it would appear, Adam Frazier is heating up. The former Mississippi State star went 7-for-10 with three runs and two RBIs in San Diego’s last two games, big wins over San Francisco, the best team in the National League. The Padres, a half-game back of St. Louis in the battle for the second wild card, begin a three-game series with the Cardinals tonight at Busch Stadium. Frazier, who hit .324 as an All-Star with Pittsburgh to begin this season, started slowly with the Padres and even faded from regular playing time. In 42 games with the Padres, the lefty-hitting second baseman is batting .264 — but over his last 15, he’s at .349. Typically a leadoff batter in Pittsburgh, Frazier hit cleanup for the Padres on Thursday against Giants ace Kevin Gausman. He singled his first time up in the second inning and scored the game’s first run. He finished 3-for-5 with two runs as San Diego beat Gausman (14-6) and the Giants 7-4. The Padres are showing signs of life after a prolonged funk; they’ll meet a Cardinals team that has won five straight. … MSU product Dakota Hudson, coming back from Tommy John surgery, has an 0.66 ERA in four rehab appearances in the minors. He might be ready to help out in St. Louis’ bullpen. P.S. Cody Reed, the Northwest Mississippi Community College alum from Horn Lake, threw a scoreless inning Thursday in a rehab appearance for Tampa Bay’s Florida Complex League team. Reed, a lefty reliever, has been on the injured list since May and recently had shoulder surgery. There is speculation the Rays, top team in the American League, might activate Reed soon. He had a 3.72 ERA in 12 games before he went on the IL.
Braxton Lee, the ex-Ole Miss standout from Picayune, has done quite a few noteworthy things in his eight-year pro career. Won a Southern League batting title. Played in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game. Played in the big leagues. On Wednesday night, the 28-year-old Lee did something entirely different: He pitched. Lee, an outfielder by trade, threw a scoreless eighth inning for Triple-A Louisville in a 12-3 loss at Memphis. A lefty hitter who throws righty, Lee didn’t allow a hit and walked just one in his mound debut. He went 1-for-3 as a hitter, lifting his average to .242 in 41 games with Cincinnati’s top minor league club. Lee played in eight games for the Miami Marlins in 2018 but has spent the past couple years bouncing around the minors. He was playing in the independent Atlantic League when the Reds signed him in June. He started the season with Chattanooga in the Double-A South. The Pearl River Community College product has a .262 career average in the minors over 676 games. P.S. Mississippi College alum Blaine Crim and Mississippi State product Justin Foscue went a combined 5-for-5 with four runs and six RBIs for Double-A Frisco on Wednesday. Both homered. Alas, the Texas Rangers affiliate lost 10-9 at Amarillo. Crim is batting .290 with eight bombs, and Foscue — a highly rated prospect — is at .247 with two homers, one in each of the last two games. Crim has 28 homers on the year at two levels, and Foscue, the 14th overall pick in 2020, has 17 at three levels.
Emotion bubbles up — and sometimes over — in September, when MLB games matter more. There’s the elation of clinching a playoff berth (see the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday) and there’s the frustration of dropping critical games (see Pete Alonso of the New York Mets snapping a bat over his knee). Mississippians Austin Riley, Corey Dickerson and Adam Frazier felt the frustration Tuesday. Riley, the former DeSoto Central High standout, and his Atlanta teammates lost 5-4 at home to Colorado; the Braves have a less-than-comfortable lead in the National League East. Riley went 1-for-4 and left two runners on base. McComb native Dickerson took an 0-for-3 in Toronto’s 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay; the Blue Jays, who have been on quite a roll, slipped into a three-way tie with Boston and New York for the two American League wild card berths. Mississippi State product Frazier, who has scuffled since being acquired by San Diego from Pittsburgh, was on the losing side of a 6-1 game at San Francisco; the Padres are a game back of a wild card spot in the NL. Frazier, an All-Star this summer, was 1-for-2 but is batting just .231 as a Padre. Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and dropped a fly ball, but his night ended well when Boston rallied to beat Seattle, another AL wild card contender. Ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson had a somewhat frustrating return to the active roster — 1-for-5 and an error — but his Chicago White Sox team did beat the Los Angeles Angels to stay on track for the AL Central title. It has been a frustrating season for MSU alums Chris Stratton and Nate Lowe, but both enjoyed playing spoiler on Tuesday. Stratton notched his fifth save — and third in his last three outings — as last-place Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati 6-5, dropping the Reds behind St. Louis in the NL wild card standings. Lowe hit a first-inning homer, his 15th, to propel last-place Texas to an 8-1 victory against Zack Greinke and Houston, still trying to clinch the AL West. P.S. Down on the farm, ex-State and Brandon High standout J.T. Ginn took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and earned his third win of the season for High-A Brooklyn in the New York Mets’ chain. Ginn (3-3, 3.42 ERA in nine starts for the Cyclones) worked seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts.
Capping a rapid rise through the minor leagues this season, Colby White made his Triple-A debut on Sunday, pitching 1 2/3 innings in relief for the Durham Bulls. The former Mississippi State star began his second year in pro ball at the Low-A level for Tampa Bay, advanced to High-A, then Double-A and got the promotion to Durham last week. “This is my first full season, and I’m in Triple-A,” the 2019 draftee told The Columbian-Progress of Columbia. “It’s pretty cool.” White played at West Marion High and Pearl River Community College before signing with MSU, where he posted a 3.12 ERA in 27 games in 2019 on a staff that included Ethan Small, J.T. Ginn and Cole Gordon. Tampa Bay drafted the hard-throwing right-hander in the sixth round, and he made 15 appearances at the rookie level that summer. After the 2020 COVID-19 hiatus, White has been nothing short of sensational this season: 1.49 ERA, 10 saves, 93 strikeouts and 12 walks in 54 1/3 innings over the four levels. He reportedly touched 100 mph in an outing with Montgomery at Trustmark Park in Pearl last week. P.S. Ole Miss product Lance Lynn returned from an injured list stint (knee) on Sunday to throw five scoreless innings for the Chicago White Sox against Boston. He yielded two hits, no walks and fanned nine. Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet followed Lynn and got five outs in a game the first-place White Sox would win 2-1 on Leury Garcia’s walk-off homer. … Former State standout Brandon Woodruff (9-8, 2.48) was held out of a slated start on Sunday for first-place Milwaukee because of a stomach ailment. He’ll go Wednesday. … Ex-Bulldogs ace Dakota Hudson, rehabbing in St. Louis’ system (see previous posts), went five innings Sunday and got a win for Double-A Springfield.
The second no-hitter in Milwaukee Brewers history was delivered by a pair of pitchers who cut their teeth on the Coast. Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader, who stifled Cleveland 3-0 on Saturday, are among the large contingent of Brewers pitchers who came up through their system, including a stop at Double-A Biloxi. Shuckers fans saw Hader blow away hitters at MGM Park in 2015 and ’16 on his way to becoming one of the most feared closers in the big leagues. Burnes played for Biloxi in 2017 and is now an integral part of one of the best rotations in MLB, along with fellow Shuckers alums Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and Adrian Houser. Supporting Hader in the bullpen are ex-Shuckers Devin Williams and Brent Suter. Milwaukee pitchers lead all of baseball in strikeouts, rank second in batting average against and third in ERA. More important, they rank fourth in wins with 88, which ranks them first in the National League Central and bound for the postseason. Burnes (10-4, 2.25 ERA) and Hader (31 saves) combined for 16 strikeouts against the Indians. Harrison Central High alum Bobby Bradley punched out three times in his three at-bats. P.S. Whatever happened to … Tim Dillard, the former Itawamba Community College standout, is now working as a TV analyst for the Brewers, the organization with which he spent most of his long playing career. The colorful Dillard, who has quite the Twitter following, formally retired from pitching in February, ending a career that began in 2003 and concluded with a stint with the independent Milwaukee Milkmen in 2020. A Saltillo High alum – and son of former big leaguer and Ole Miss alum Steve Dillard – Dillard appeared in over 500 minor league games and 73 MLB contests, the last with the Brewers in 2012. In 2019, at age 35, he went 9-9 with a 4.75 ERA at Triple-A Nashville in Milwaukee’s system. He signed a minor league deal with Texas this past off-season but was released in February.
Having collected one championship on Thursday night, the Mississippi Braves can claim a more significant prize tonight at Trustmark Park in Pearl. A win against Montgomery would give the M-Braves the Double-A South regular season title and home-field advantage in the best-of-5 league championship series set to begin Sept. 21. The M-Braves (64-40), who have won 19 of their last 23, beat the Biscuits 4-3 on Thursday to clinch the league’s South Division title (which doesn’t mean an awful lot). The league’s top two teams by winning percentage, regardless of division, make the playoffs. The M-Braves will be one of those teams. Birmingham currently leads the North Division with a 59-52 mark, but several other teams are still in the race for the second spot. Now playing their 16th season in Pearl, the M-Braves have won one league pennant, way back in 2008, when it was known as the Southern League. The current club, which features 11 of Atlanta’s top 30 prospects (per mlb.com), leads the league in ERA and is second in home runs, a nice combo. Freddy Tarnok (No. 12 prospect) gets the start for the M-Braves tonight; he is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA. Shea Langeliers (No. 2 prospect) figures to be behind the plate; he leads the team with 19 homers.
The first East-West Game, an All-Star contest featuring the best players in the Negro Leagues, was played on this date in 1933, with Starkville native Cool Papa Bell batting leadoff for the East and former Alcorn State player and coach William (Willie) Foster throwing the game’s first pitch for the West. Before a crowd of about 20,000 at Chicago’s old Comiskey Park, Bell flied out in the matchup of Hall of Famers. The West won the game 11-7, with Foster going the distance and allowing just two earned runs, per retrosheet.org’s box score. He also had a hit. Bell went 0-for-5 but scored a run. Foster, raised in Rodney, is considered perhaps the greatest left-hander in Negro Leagues annals, while Bell, who played in roughly a dozen East-West Games, is regarded as one of the fastest players of all-time. They are the only Magnolia State-connected players in Cooperstown. The 1933 East-West rosters also featured such notable names as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, Oscar Charleston, Willie Wells and Mule Suttles, who hit the lone home run.