29 Apr

national treasures

It didn’t come with the fanfare of Bryce Harper’s debut on Saturday, but Tyler Moore got his first taste of the big leagues today with Washington and did just fine. The Northwest Rankin High, Meridian Community College and Mississippi State product started in left field and went 1-for-3 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Moore got his hit, a single, in his second at-bat against Chris Capuano. Uber-prospect Harper went 1-for-3 in his Nationals debut. Moore, who blasted 62 home runs the previous two seasons in the minors, had seven in 77 ABs at Triple-A Syracuse when he was called up.

26 Apr

another shot

Fred Lewis has signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets and will begin his 2012 season at Triple-A Buffalo. The Stone County and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product was released by Cleveland at the end of spring training. A lefty-hitting outfielder, Lewis batted .231 with Cincinnati last season. He previously played in Toronto and San Francisco and has a .267 career average.

25 Apr

more punch, please

Though the Mississippi Braves continue to have problems scoring runs — they rank last in the Southern League through 20 games — there have been some bright spots in the attack. Ian Gac, the power-hitting first baseman, is batting .314 with two home runs (the club’s only two) and 14 RBIs. Phil Gosselin, a promising second baseman, is hitting .296 and Andrelton Simmons, the hot-shot shortstop, is at .295. All three are first-year Double-A players. On the downside, there is this group, all returnees from the 2011 club: Matt Kennelly, the backup catcher, is batting .194; outfielder Cory Harrilchak is at .191; and outfielder Mycal Jones is at an abysmal .121. They need to pick it up. Somewhere between those highs and lows is Christian Bethancourt, the catcher who is rated among Atlanta’s Top 10 prospects. Bethancourt is hitting just .219 with one extra base hit and three RBIs in 56 at-bats. But measure this against the fact that the Panama native is only 20 years old in an advanced league. There were concerns about his commitment last season, but he reportedly made strides while batting .303 at low-A Rome and .271 at high-A Lynchburg. Baseball America tagged him the No. 10 prospect in the Carolina League. Bethancourt goes 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, and while he hasn’t hit much for power so far, he should develop some. He has a good arm and is improving defensively. This isn’t a make-or-break year for him, but the team certainly would benefit if he starts to produce a little more. P.S. Despite the lack of punch, the M-Braves are 8-12 heading into a five-game homestand that starts tonight. They’re just 3 games out of first place in the SL South.

25 Apr

sorting it out

A new poll is due out today for NJCAA Division II schools, but the greater anticipation is for what might happen on various fields across Mississippi. As the jostling for MACJC playoff positions continues, Itawamba (16-4 North) is at Northeast (12-9 North); Northwest (12-9 North) hosts Delta (11-9 North); Hinds (14-7 South) is at Gulf Coast (12-12 South); Jones County (12-7 South) is at Southwest (9-11 South); and East Central (11-9 South) hosts Pearl River (9-11 South). Stay tuned. … Meanwhile, Meridian CC (29-19 after a win over Shelton State on Tuesday) is tied for first place with Baton Rouge at 5-4 in the Miss-Lou Conference. They’ll meet this weekend in a three-game series at Baton Rouge to decide the championship in that NJCAA D-I league. MCC’s Wade Wass, an Alabama signee, is batting about .450 with 19 home runs, and Wes Stokes, a former West Lauderdale standout, is 4-0 with a 2.85 ERA. P.S. Former Hattiesburg High star Robert Carson has been summoned to the big leagues by the New York Mets. The hard-throwing left-hander, who made the Mets’ 40-man roster over the winter, had a 3.18 ERA in five appearances at Double-A Binghamton this season.

24 Apr

the pearl jam

Mason Robbins has had a sensational freshman campaign for Southern Miss, batting a team-best .352 heading into tonight’s contest against Mississippi State at Trustmark Park in Pearl. MSU’s offensive ills have been well-chronicled, but Adam Frazier has been largely immune to that malaise. The sophomore is batting .342. Those hot hitters aside, the most interesting aspect of the game might be the pitching matchup between USM’s Boomer Scarborough, a sophomore out of St. Stanislaus, and State’s Brandon Woodruff, a freshman from Wheeler. They are potential future aces for these clubs. Scarborough, who pitched well against the Bulldogs in this game last year, is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. Woodruff, who hasn’t gotten as much work as his Golden Eagles counterpart this year, is 0-1, 4.76 but was a centerpiece in the 2012 recruiting class. Both teams are playing well. The Bulldogs come in 24-16, the Eagles 23-16. State leads the all-time series 76-36 and won last year’s Atlanta Regional matchup, but USM has gained ground in this rivalry in recent years. A good game is in the offing. P.S. Ran across a list of the attendees at the recent Fenway Park 100th anniversary celebration. Among the 200-plus ex-Boston players to show up were Mississippians Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, Wes Chamberlain, Steve Dillard, Jerry Moses and Bill Selby.

23 Apr

long ball longing

Seth Smith, the former Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss standout, hit his first home run as a member of the Oakland A’s on Sunday. Smith, who has 40 at-bats through the A’s 17 games, is a little behind his career home run pace of about 1 every 25 ABs (51 in 1,285 entering 2012). He is also hitting just .205, 70 points under his career average, and has only four RBIs. Oakland acquired Smith from Colorado in the off-season for his left-handed power. Smith has time to pick it up, but one has to wonder now how his playing time (mostly at DH) will be affected when Manny Ramirez is eligible to play again at the end of May. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves outfielder Jordan Schafer, now with Houston, hit his first career grand slam on Sunday. Wonder if the Braves miss Schafer? Nah.

23 Apr

postseason appointments

Tournament time is upon us. Millsaps, Mississippi College, Belhaven and William Carey enter the fray this week. Millsaps (25-14) lost two of three at powerhouse Birmingham Southern over the weekend and will enter the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Majors open with old rival Trinity, ranked fourth in NCAA Division III, on Thursday in Millington, Tenn. Mississippi College (18-21) won two of three at Ozarks to clinch a berth in the American Southwest Conference postseason. MC will travel to Texas Lutheran on Friday for a best-of-3 opening round series, with the winner going to the ASC Tournament proper. William Carey (28-25) swept Brewton-Parker in a three-game set to clinch the No. 6 seed in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, which begins Thursday in Columbus, Ga. Belhaven (32-22) lost three straight to NAIA third-ranked Lee at Smith-Wills Stadium but managed to claim the No. 8 seed. The defending tourney champion Blazers will meet top-seeded and fifth-ranked Faulkner on Thursday, while Carey plays 3-seed Auburn-Montgomery. P.S. Delta State moved into a tie for first place in the Gulf South Conference standings with a weekend road sweep of old rival Christian Brothers. DSU, nationally ranked in Division II, is 30-11 and 14-7 GSC, tied with North Alabama. Of course, it might not be quite accurate to term the DSU-Christian Brothers series a rivalry. The Statesmen lead it 74-11. … Blue Mountain has hit a rough patch, losing nine straight games to fall to 21-26.

22 Apr

the pitching news

There was a whole lot of pitching going on in the state the past few days. Among the Big Three NCAA Division I colleges, Mississippi State allowed four runs in 34 innings while sweeping SEC foe Tennessee three straight in Starkville; Ole Miss yielded two runs in 18 innings in taking the first two games of a three-game SEC set from Arkansas in Oxford; and Southern Miss checked C-USA rival Memphis on a single run in two Golden Eagles victories in Hattiesburg. … Meanwhile, in the big leagues, several Mississippi-connected hurlers also enjoyed some sweet results. On Saturday, MSU product Paul Maholm notched his first win as a Chicago Cub and ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz pitched an effective five innings for Colorado. He was denied a W when the bullpen blew a lead. Itawamba Community College alum Tim Dillard got the last six outs for Milwaukee in that one. On Friday, Lance Lynn won his third game (see previous post) for St. Louis and fellow ex-Rebel Matt Maloney picked up his first W as a Minnesota Twin. And ex-Bulldog Jonathan Papelbon went 3-for-3 in save chances during the week for Philadelphia. Mississippi Braves alums and current Atlanta starters Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson beat Arizona in consecutive days; another ex-M-Brave, Randall Delgado, will try to make it four straight over the Diamondbacks today. M-Braves product Matt Harrison won his third game for Texas on Saturday, and ex-Jackson Generals ace Freddy Garcia was bailed out of a rocky start when the New York Yankees rallied from a 9-0 deficit to beat Boston 15-9. Also on Saturday, current M-Braves starter Zeke Spruill threw seven shutout innings at Birmingham to move his record to 2-1. … The news was not so good for Meridian CC product Cliff Lee, who went on the disabled list for the Phillies on Saturday, three days after his brilliant outing in San Francisco (see previous post).

21 Apr

very lynn-teresting

Lance Lynn certainly has made himself right at home in the St. Louis rotation. Handed the role when ace Chris Carpenter went on the disabled list in spring training, former Ole Miss star Lynn is now 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts after beating Pittsburgh 4-1 on Friday night. “I was just trying to fill up the zone and make them hit my pitch,” Lynn told mlb.com. In seven innings, Lynn allowed four hits, one of which was a leadoff, inside-the-park home run by Alex Presley, who played with Lynn in Oxford in 2006. (Zack Cozart and Chris Coghlan were also on that Rebels club; how did they not get to Omaha?) Lynn and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay are the only National League pitchers with three wins.

20 Apr

can’t hold these tigers

So many hot spots for state college baseball this weekend it’s hard to decide where to focus. Starkville, Oxford, Hattiesburg? How ’bout Lorman, where old rivals Jackson State and Alcorn State collide in a SWAC series? The Tigers (26-11, 16-2) already have clinched a share of the East Division title with four series left before next month’s SWAC Tournament in Baton Rouge, La. JSU has one of the Magnolia State’s top hitters in Kendall Logan (.353, 10 homers, 42 RBIs), but it’s the Tigers’ pitching that truly sets them apart. “That’s how we’ve survived the whole year,” said JSU coach Omar Johnson. “Our weekend guys have given us an opportunity to win almost every time out.” The weekend rotation features Desmond Russell (7-2, 2.53, six complete games), Quintavious Drains (8-3, 2.82, six CGs) and Jose Garcia (4-1, 4.68). The Tigers do have three regulars other than Ferriss Trophy candidate Logan batting .300: Charles Epperson, Glenn Walker (who has 23 steals) and Frank Solis. Alcorn is the defending SWAC champ, and the Braves would like nothing better than to recapture some of that swagger this weekend. P.S. NAIA leviathan Lee (Tenn.) University comes to Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium for a Southern States Athletic Conference showdown with Belhaven. They’ll play a twinbill today (4 p.m.) and a solo game Saturday (1 p.m.). Lee is 43-8-1 and 23-4 in the conference. The Flames roll out a lineup that includes SSAC batting leader Blake Barber (.450) and homer and RBI leader Roberto Reyes (13, 72). Top starter Kris Hall is 8-0 with a 1.47 ERA, and Patrick Merkling and Jose Samoyoa are a combined 14-1. Anthony Doss and his fellow Blazers have their work cut out. BU (32-19, 14-12) is currently fifth in SSAC standings. Lee is second. … Mississippi College, still fighting for a spot in the American Southwest Conference postseason, heads to Ozarks for a huge series. The Choctaws (16-20) are currently third in the ASC East at 7-8; the top four make the playoffs. … Millsaps ends its Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season with a trip to Birmingham Southern, which leads the league with a 12-0 mark. The Majors (24-12) are second in the East Division at 8-3. The SCAC Tournament, the last for Millsaps and several other departing league members, is next week in Millington, Tenn. … Caleb Baucum hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning in Game 1 on Thursday to propel Hinds Community College to a 7-6 victory over Southwest. The Eagles (29-9, 13-6 MACJC South) won Game 2 8-1 behind a complete game performance from Carey Taylor, now 9-0.