30 Sep

campus notes

Mississippi State has announced its 20-game fall scrimmage schedule, which begins on Oct. 13 and concludes with the Bulldog World Series Nov. 11-13. Brent Rooker, who opted to return to Starkville rather than go pro, and Ferriss Trophy winner Jake Mangum highlight the list of veterans at State. Mangum led the SEC in hitting at .408 last season and Rooker hit .324 with 11 home runs for the 2016 Bulldogs, who went 44-18 and won an SEC title and an NCAA regional. Among the newcomers of note are former Magnolia Heights stars Riley Self and Dustin Skelton and ex-Madison Central standout Will Brooks. … Southern Miss began fall ball last week with 21 new players on the roster. “There will be a lot jobs up in the air this fall with the tremendous influx of players that we have this year,” coach Scott Berry said in a school release. Dylan Burdeaux and Taylor Braley are among key returnees in Hattiesburg. A bunch of junior college transfers could be impact players, including Mason Irby (Jones County), LeeMarcus Boyd (Northwest), Colt Smith (Northwest), Houston Case (Hinds), Jaylon Keys (Meridian) and Casey Maack (Eastfield in Texas). The Golden Eagles went 41-20 in 2016, winning the Conference USA Tournament and earning an NCAA Tournament berth. … Ole Miss has scrimmages set for today and Saturday in Oxford. Colby Bortles hit a pair of homers last weekend, and newcomer Chase Cockrell (Hinds CC) also went yard. … Mississippi College will host an Alumni Game at Frierson Field in Clinton on Oct. 15 as part of its fall ball season. Returnees at MC include Casey Echols, Colton Johnson, Blaine Crim and Kyle Smith, each of whom was an All-Star in the Mountain West Summer League.

30 Sep

fight to finish

Though his team, the defending world champ, has been eliminated from the postseason race, Jarrod Dyson is surging toward the finish line. Dyson, the former McComb High and Southwest Mississippi Community College star, tripled, drove in a run and scored twice in Kansas City’s loss to Minnesota on Thursday. Over his last 15 games, the lefty-hitting outfielder is batting .353 with 10 runs and five RBIs. For the year, he’s at .271 with eight triples, 45 runs, 25 RBIs and 29 stolen bases. Dyson, who made $1.73M in 2016, is arbitration-eligible again after this season, and speculation is the Royals will seek to bring him back. … Also closing with a kick for an also-ran club is Tim Anderson, the rookie out of East Central CC. Anderson, the Chicago White Sox shortstop, had two hits against Tampa Bay on Thursday and is batting .323 over his last seven games. He is batting .280 with eight homers, 28 RBIs, 55 runs and 10 steals since his June call-up. … Worthy of mention is Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman, whose Oakland team has been out of the hunt for a long time. Though he is winless over his last six starts, Graveman has pitched valiantly in some big games against contenders, including two against Texas and another vs. Seattle on Thursday. “You always need a guy that you look at as your guy,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told csnbayarea.com. “He’s embraced it; I think he’s proud of the fact that he’s that guy.” Graveman finished 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA for a team that currently sits at 67-92.

29 Sep

missing pieces

After stumbling on Wednesday night against lowly Cincinnati, the St. Louis Cardinals need a bounce-back game tonight against the Reds at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals (82-76) are third in the National League wild card standings, trailing second-place San Francisco by a game with four to play. St. Louis is trying to keep its streak of five straight postseason appearances alive. From a Mississippi perspective, this game is significant for the people who aren’t playing. The Reds, winding down a tough season, are without Billy Hamilton, Zack Cozart and Cody Reed – all on the disabled list. Jeff Brantley is healthy, but the ex-Mississippi State star – who pitched for both the Reds and Cards in his MLB career – will be in the Cincinnati broadcast booth. Chris Maloney, another MSU alum, will suit up for St. Louis – but he’ll be in the third-base coach’s box. The Cardinals don’t have ex-Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn, who had been a horse in their rotation for the last several years before Tommy John surgery put him out for 2016. The Cardinals do have another UM product, Mike Mayers, but the rookie reliever hasn’t been very effective in his four appearances (27.00 ERA). Perhaps he’s due for a shining moment.

29 Sep

another wow moment

The numbers are in. MLB’s Statcast numbers, that is, on Hunter Renfroe’s ginormous home run, the one that went where no ball has gone before – the roof of the Western Metal Supply Co. building beyond the left-field wall at San Diego’s Petco Park. Statcast put the distance of Wednesday night’s blast at 434 feet and the exit velocity of the ball off the bat at 109 mph. “I think we all know he’s got a ton of raw power. I wasn’t expecting that,” Padres manager Andy Green told mlb.com. Former Mississippi State star Renfroe, 6 feet 1, 220 pounds, now has four homers in 21 MLB at-bats, with 12 RBIs and six runs. No doubt there are some old Copiah Academy fans who are saying today, “Oh yeah, we saw this coming.” Renfroe hit a Mississippi private school-record 20 bombs for Copiah as a senior just six short years ago. He hit 15 homers his junior year at the Gallman school. He started slowly at State but flexed his muscles as a junior in 2013, belting 16 homers (while batting .345) and earning All-America honors. He also won the Ferriss Trophy that year and was drafted in the first round by the Padres. He hit 77 minor league homers before crashing The Show on Sept. 21. Elsewhere in MLB: Ole Miss product Seth Smith drove in two runs to help Seattle crush Houston 12-4 and hang 2 games out of an American League wild card berth. … Jarrod Dyson, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College star, got two hits, two runs and his 29th steal of the year as Kansas City beat Minnesota 5-2. But Ned Yost’s Royals were eliminated from AL wild card contention just the same. … The fingerprints of former Mississippi Braves were all over Atlanta’s 12-2 win against Philadelphia. The incredible Freddie Freeman extended his hit streak to 30 games; rookie Dansby Swanson – who can play a little, too – went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs; Daniel Castro had three hits and three RBIs; Mallex Smith scored a run; John Gant threw a scoreless inning; and Rio Ruiz got his first big league knock, a triple. … And a blast from another past: John Jaso’s cycle was the first by a Pittsburgh player since former Jackson Generals star Daryle Ward turned the trick in 2004. Ward had five career triples.

28 Sep

men at work

In a game that has Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Manny Machado and Adam Jones – to name a few star players – the matchup of managers is hardly a feature attraction. But let’s give Baltimore’s Buck Showalter and Toronto’s John Gibbons – hard-working skippers with Mississippi connections – their due as two of the game’s best. Their teams currently cling to the two wild card berths in the American League, the Blue Jays up 2 games on the Orioles after winning Tuesday’s series opener in Toronto 5-1. Gibbons, who starred for the Jackson Mets in 1983, is 642-611 in nine years as an MLB manager, all with Toronto. He is in the midst of his third straight winning season. Showalter, a Mississippi State All-American in 1977, is 1,425-1,314 in 18 years and is a three-time manager of the year. His O’s have been .500 or better in each of the last five years. And keep in mind that both clubs play in the AL’s Big Boy Division – the East. Tonight’s game features a good pitching matchup – Chris Tillman for Baltimore against Francisco Liriano of the Jays – but considering the power bats both teams possess and Rogers Centre’s rep as a launching pad, a laser show wouldn’t be a shock. And tempers might flare, too, with both managers known to run a little hot.

28 Sep

‘boy can play’

This audition, if that’s what it is, is going rather nicely for Hunter Renfroe. The Crystal Springs native and Mississippi State alum belted two homers and drove in a San Diego rookie record seven runs on Tuesday in a 7-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Boy can play,” winning pitcher Paul Clemens, the former Mississippi Braves star, told mlb.com. “Boy can play the game.” Renfroe, who hit 30 bombs in Triple-A this year, is 6-for-17 with three homers and eight RBIs since his call-up. His second homer on Tuesday was a grand slam and came against fellow Mississippian Louis Coleman. Renfroe is wearing No. 71; he figures to have a lower number next season, when he figures to start in right field for the Padres. Elsewhere in MLB: McComb’s Jarrod Dyson, batting leadoff for Kansas City, sparked the Royals’ 4-3, 11-inning win over Minnesota, scoring a run and driving in a run. The Royals remain alive, barely, in the American League wild card race. … Former Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan, bidding for a spot on the Chicago Cubs’ postseason roster, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs in a 6-4 win that eliminated Pittsburgh from postseason contention. Ex-State standout Adam Frazier, having a fine rookie year (.299) for the Pirates, drew a walk and scored a run. … Texas, 93-65 and vying for best record in the AL, beat Milwaukee 6-4, with State product Mitch Moreland contributing a 1-for-4 effort and flawless defense at first base. … UM alum Seth Smith drove in a run for Seattle, but the Mariners squandered a lead and lost to Houston 8-4 in a key game between AL wild card contenders. … In a game that meant essentially nothing, East Central CC alum Tim Anderson went 3-for-5 with his eighth homer to power the Chicago White Sox to a 13-6 victory against Tampa Bay, which got two hits from Meridian CC’s Corey Dickerson. … Boston announced that ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz (sore forearm) won’t start again this season and will work out of the bullpen in the postseason — if he makes the roster. Left-hander Pomeranz, who has worked a career-high in innings between San Diego and Boston, is 3-5 with a 4.68 ERA for the Red Sox.

27 Sep

could happen

The game to watch tonight is Seattle-Houston, which could feature a matchup of Mississippians Seth Smith and Tony Sipp in the late innings at Minute Maid Park. The Mariners are 83-73, tied with Detroit and 2 games behind Baltimore, which holds the second American League wild card spot. The Astros are 82-75 after losing Game 1 of the three-game series (4-3 in 11 innings) on Monday night. Jackson native and ex-Ole Miss standout Smith has had a productive year for the M’s, batting .255 with 16 homers and 60 RBIs. The lefty-hitting outfielder is 1-for-5 against Houston starter Mike Fiers and is hitting only .212 against the Astros this year. But Smith, who typically struggles against left-handers, is 2-for-3 with two RBIs against Sipp, the lefty reliever from Pascagoula and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Sipp has had a bad year: 5.36 ERA and 12 homers allowed in 40 1/3 innings. But Houston manager A.J. Hinch may be compelled to go to the veteran. Worth noting: Former Mississippi Braves catcher Jesus Sucre is 11-for-22 with a homer and five RBIs since Seattle called him up when rosters expanded.

26 Sep

how’s the view?

Former Ole Miss pitcher Mickey Callaway and ex-Jackson State slugger Dave Clark will have a great view of what could be great series at Comerica Park over the next four days. Callaway is the pitching coach for Cleveland, which needs one win to clinch the American League Central title. Clark is the third-base coach for Detroit, which probably needs to sweep the series – and get some help down the road – to earn a playoff berth. The Tigers, 2-13 against the Indians, trail the Tribe by 7 games in the division and are 1.5 games out in a wild card race that has five teams still in contention for two spots. Callaway’s pitching staff has the sixth-best ERA, the fourth-best batting average against and the fourth-most strikeouts in the majors. Detroit has an impressive array of hitters – Miguel Cabrera, Justin Upton, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, etc. – but the Indians actually have outscored the Tigers 751-719. On the Tigers’ bench is former Richton High star JaCoby Jones, batting .222 in his 12 big league games. Maybe he’ll be an unexpected star. That kind of thing does happen, ya know.

26 Sep

spirit of ’96

Jackson’s Texas League franchise won five pennants during its 25-year tenure at Smith-Wills Stadium, but none of the five championship runs had more compelling storylines than the last one. It was 20 years ago this month that the Generals, managed by Dave Engle, plowed through Tulsa and Wichita, going 7-1 overall, to win that title. There was something rare, something controversial and something very heartwarming over those 10 days in September. With future big leaguers Richard Hidalgo and Melvin Mora out with injuries, other stars stepped up and unexpected heroes emerged. All in all, it was a wild ride that started at Smith-Wills and ended in Wichita’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. In the opener of the best-of-5 TL East Division series, the Gens got a four-hitter from future big leaguer John Halama and won the game 2-1 on the weirdest of walk-offs. With the bases loaded and one out in the ninth, Tulsa’s left fielder, Mike Murphy, inexplicably caught a deep fly ball, clearly in foul territory, off the bat of Nate Peterson, enabling Russ Johnson to tag and jog home with the winning run. In Game 2, Jackson got a leadoff home run from Buck McNabb – his first bomb in three years – and another homer from another unlikely source, former Ole Miss star Kary Bridges, to take a 6-1 win. (Footnote: Bridges had returned to Jackson from Triple-A just before the playoffs started as a roster replacement for Mora.) Edgar Ramos, who threw a no-hitter during the season, got the victory in Game 2. The series shifted to Tulsa, where the Generals lost Game 3 and also lost closer Manuel Barrios for one postseason game (plus two games in 1997) for intentionally hitting a batter. At least they thought it was a one-game postseason suspension. The Gens took the series with a 7-2 victory in Game 4 as Scott Elarton, Houston’s first-round pick from 1994 making his first Double-A appearance, shut down the Drillers. Then came the controversy. The team learned before the opener of the best-of-7 TLCS at Smith-Wills that Barrios would be suspended for the first two games against Wichita, contrary to league president Tom Kayser’s original ruling. (Footnote: The Gens were miffed, to say the least, that Kayser had arbitrarily changed his mind, issued a release on his new ruling and never called Generals officials with an explanation.) Behind the pitching of Halama and Tim Kester and a couple of key hits by Bridges, the Generals beat the Wranglers 4-1 to open the series. In Game 2, it was Ramos again with a sterling start, backed by the hitting of Peterson, who homered and drove in three runs. (Footnote: Peterson also was hit in the helmet by a pitch with Kayser in attendance; there was no ejection or suspension.) Game 3 took a weird turn, as a rusty Barrios blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth after Jamie Walker had worked a brilliant first eight. Donovan Mitchell, playing center field in the playoffs for the first time in his career, threw out a runner at the plate to preserve the tie. (Footnote: Mitchell had flown home to New York after Game 2 to see his newborn son, Donovan, Jr., then flew back in time for Game 3.) The resilient Gens won another walk-off on ninth-inning hits by McNabb, Bridges and Tim Forkner. The clincher came in Wichita, where Elarton, shaking off three unearned runs in the first inning, kept the Wranglers in check and the Gens scored five in the fourth inning en route to a 7-3 win. Al Probst homered, and Forkner, Peterson and Mitch Meluskey had RBI hits. While the team scored 26 runs in the finals, it was pitching that really stole the show. The Gens put up an 0.50 ERA in the series. (Footnote: The pitching coach in 1996 was Jim Hickey, who has held the same job with the Tampa Bay Rays for several years now.) The title was Jackson’s second in four years, but the club would not make the TL postseason again, coming up short in the last game of their last season (1999) at Smith-Wills.

25 Sep

highs and lows

It was a day of firsts for Hunter Renfroe. The former Mississippi State standout, batting cleanup for San Diego for the first time on Saturday, hit his first MLB home run and his first double. Renfroe’s memorable homer, in his fourth game, came against San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner, no less, a solo shot off a 93-mph fastball on a 1-2 pitch. Renfroe, playing right field, also committed his first error, though it was inconsequential in the Padres’ loss. … Billy Hamilton has been knocked from his perch atop the MLB stolen base leaders. While the Taylorsville High product has been idled by injury, Milwaukee’s Jonathan Villar has caught and passed him. Villar got his 59th bag on Saturday. Hamilton, out for the season (oblique injury) in Cincinnati, will finish with 58, a career-high. He got 57 last year and 56 in 2014. … Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson continues to rake for Tampa Bay, the one American League East team with no postseason shot. Dickerson, in his first year with the Rays, is batting .386 over his last 15 games with five homers, 10 RBIs and seven runs. With 23 homers on the season, he is one shy of his career-best, set two years ago in Colorado. His 36 doubles are already a best.