31 May

at least once more

Both Delta State and William Carey University play on in elimination games again today in their respective World Series brackets. DSU (45-12) plays Colorado Mesa (49-11) in the NCAA Division II College World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas, while Carey (45-19) gets Lewis-Clark State (38-13) in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. … The Statesmen, upset in their CWS opener last week, stayed alive on Monday with a 4-0 win against North Georgia as senior left-hander Tre Hobbs threw a dazzling two-hitter. DSU is ranked No. 1, Colorado Mesa No. 2. DSU won the national title in 2004; Colorado Mesa reached the title game in 2014. … Carey beat Missouri Baptist 12-3 on Tuesday in its second straight must-win game. The Crusaders (45-19), averaging eight runs a game through four series contests, got four-RBI efforts from Tyler Graves and Larson Barkurn in Tuesday’s win. Graves has three homers in Lewiston, Barkurn two — his only two of the year. Carey won an NAIA title back in 1969. Lewis-Clark, which is playing on its home field, has won 18 national titles.

30 May

star power

Much can and will happen between now and the time the All-Star Game rosters are finalized in mid-July. But barring some calamity, Corey Dickerson will be in Miami for the Midsummer Classic on July 11. The McComb native and ex-Meridian Community College star is batting .345 with 12 homers, 25 RBIs and 38 runs in 50 games for Tampa Bay. The lefty-hitting outfielder/DH leads the American League in hits with 70. After a lackluster first season with the Rays, he has erupted in Year 2. “Hitting to all fields has probably been as important as anything,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Dickerson in a Tampa Bay Times story. If Dickerson makes the All-Star Game, he would be just the second Mississippi native to do so in the last 10 years. Brian Dozier (Tupelo/Fulton) got in as an injury replacement pick – a deserving one — in 2015. For the record, Mississippi hasn’t produced an abundance of All-Stars in recent times, though there have been a few of note. Roy Oswalt (Kosciusko/Weir) made three straight appearances in the game from 2005-07. Ellis Burks (Vicksburg) appeared in two, 1990 and 1996. Dave Parker (Calhoun City/Grenada) made seven, the last in 1990. Greenville native Frank White was a five-time All-Star, making his last appearance in 1986. George Scott, also from Greenville, made three Classics, his final one coming in 1977, and Chet Lemon (Jackson) got the call three times, as well, the last in 1984.

29 May

the other guys

Beyond top-seeded Southern Miss and No. 2 Mississippi State, there are other significant Magnolia State connections in the Hattiesburg Regional. South Alabama, the 3-seed and State’s first-round opponent, features a trio of Mississippians: Wells Davis from Columbus and New Hope High, Dylan Hardy from D’Iberville High and Randy Bell from Woodville, Centerville Academy and Hinds Community College. Hardy is one of the Jaguars’ top hitters with a .358 average and has 18 stolen bases. Davis is second on the team in homers with 12 and is batting .290 with 55 RBIs. Bell, who was the NJCAA Division II pitcher of the year at Hinds in 2015, is one of the Jags’ top starters. He is 6-3 with a 3.75 ERA this season after going 7-1, 2.45 (including a regional victory) in 2016. South Alabama, traditionally a strong program, is 39-19 and champion of the Sun Belt Conference.

29 May

worth noting

Former Ole Miss standout Alex Presley, brought up from the minors by Detroit on Sunday, became the 25th Mississippian (native or college alum) to appear in the big leagues in 2017. (Four of the 25 are on the disabled list and three others are now in the minors.) Presley started in center field and went 1-for-3 with an RBI in a loss to the Chicago White Sox. He was batting just .213 at Triple-A Toledo but is a .253 career hitter with 26 homers over parts of eight MLB seasons. … If anyone was wondering, Starkville native and one-time big leaguer Julio Borbon is now playing for Acereros del Norte in the Mexican League and is batting .343 with eight steals in 35 games. … Ryne Harper, called up by Seattle, became the 118th Mississippi Braves product to make The Show. Harper, a right-handed reliever, pitched (very effectively) for the M-Braves from 2013-15, going 6-3 with 11 saves and a 1.79 ERA in 2013. … Tough day for state colleges on Sunday: Southern Miss lost (in the bottom of the ninth) to Rice in the C-USA Tournament title game at Biloxi; Hinds Community College was eliminated from the NJCAA Division II World Series with a second loss; and William Carey fell to top seed Oklahoma City in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. Carey plays an elimination game today.

28 May

gold rush

Southern Miss might not leave Biloxi today with a Conference USA Tournament championship, but win or lose against Rice, the Golden Eagles won’t leave feeling deflated. They’ve already packed a season’s worth of highlights into their run at MGM Park, likely cemented their bid for a regional host role and clearly established themselves as a team to watch once NCAA play begins. After suffering a shocking loss in the opening round of the tournament, USM stormed back to win four straight, including two drama-filled victories against Charlotte on Saturday, to reach the title game. The Eagles got great pitching when they needed it: See Kirk McCarty, Taylor Braley, Nick Sandlin (again and again and again). They got big hits when they needed them: See Matthew Guidry, Mason Irby, Bryant Bowen, Taylor Braley, Hunter Slater, Daniel Keating, Matt Wallner. Braley threw eight shutout innings with nine strikeouts on Friday, then hit a walk-off homer in the first game on Saturday – that’s the stuff of legend. Sandlin, who has 10 wins and seven saves out of the bullpen, got both W’s on Saturday, working 4 1/3 total innings to close out both games. At 48-13, USM already has set the school record for wins. These Eagles score 8.5 runs a game. They’ve got 84 homers, 76 steals. The pitching hasn’t been dominant (4.03 ERA), but it keeps them in games. “Right now, it’s all about attitude,” USM coach Scott Berry said in a school release after Saturday’s second game, a 10-8, come-from-behind job. The Eagles should be brimming with confidence as they move on. They’ll be a tough out in the NCAAs. P.S. The C-USA title game will be televised by CBS Sports Network at 1 p.m.

27 May

fear the twins?

Curious thing about the Minnesota Twins’ surprising surge to the top of the American League Central standings: Brian Dozier, the team’s best player, has only just begun to heat up. Southern Miss product Dozier hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning today to give the Twins, now 26-19, a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay. Dozier has used an eight-game hitting streak to raise his average to a modest .255. He has seven homers and 19 RBIs, well off his pace of 2016, when he finished with 42 and 99, plus 104 runs. The Twins were unexpectedly bad (59-103) last year. This year feels different, Dozier recently told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “It’s a good vibe in here. It’s still early on — we’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a different vibe,” he said. When Dozier’s power starts to reappear – and surely it will — it should only help the Twins’ cause – and give Cleveland, the defending division and league champ, something more to worry about. P.S. By contrast, ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart has been wearing it out since opening day — but his club, Cincinnati, has struggled after a hot start. Cozart went 4-for-4 with a walk in a 4-3 loss to lowly Philadelphia. He is batting .355 with five homers and 25 RBIs for a 23-25 team.

26 May

taking names

Here are a few names to know heading into the weekend: Cameron Baranek, Dominick Cammarata and Wes Degener. … Baranek is the leading hitter for Hope International, which is William Carey University’s first-round opponent on Friday in the NAIA World Series at Lewiston, Idaho. Baranek is batting .356 with 13 homers for a Royals team that is playing just its second season. The California-based Royals (35-16) can mash (66 homers) and dash (101 steals), but their pitching staff has a 4.48 ERA. … Cammarata is the hitting star for Pitt (N.C.) Community College, which is Hinds CC’s first-round foe on Saturday in the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla. Cammarata has put up a .349 average, 17 homers and 69 RBIs for a Bulldogs team that is 41-7 with 16 straight wins. … Degener is the catalyst for Lindenwood (Mo.) University, which is Delta State’s first-round opponent on Saturday in the NCAA Division II World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas. Degener is hitting .399 with 21 steals and 54 runs for the Lions (39-18), who won the Central Region title in their first regional appearance. … But enough about those guys. Here are some picks to click for the home boys: Adrian Brown, Quinton Logan and Clay Casey. … Brown, Carey’s senior center fielder from McComb, does a lot of things in a loaded lineup that also features James Land and a band of Tylers (Graves, Odom, James). Brown is hitting .300 with four homers, 16 doubles, five triples, 44 RBIs, 60 runs and 36 steals. If the Crusaders make a run in Lewiston, Brown will be in the thick of things. … Logan, a sophomore from Natchez, is not Hinds CC’s best hitter – that’s Jackson Mitchell (.385, six homers) — and he’s not the Eagles’ ace – that’s Caleb Morgan (8-1, 2.23). Logan is a two-way threat for Hinds, posting a 1.19 ERA and seven saves and a .333 batting average with 11 doubles, 47 RBIs and 42 runs. Somehow, someway, he’ll be a factor in any success in Enid. … Casey, a transfer from Houston (by way of Northwest CC and DeSoto Central), has had a big year for Delta State that has been largely overshadowed by the ginormous year enjoyed by Zack Shannon. Casey is batting .346 (.673 slugging) with 17 bombs, 62 RBIs and 58 runs. If Shannon gets pitched around in Grand Prairie, Casey is certainly capable of picking up any slack.

26 May

around the horn

Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier, a Georgia boy, homered at Atlanta’s new launching pad, SunTrust Park, on Thursday to help Pittsburgh beat the Braves 9-4. Frazier also homered on Wednesday in another Pirates victory. All told, he was 4-for-13 in the four-game series with seven walks, five runs and six RBIs. Frazier is batting .361 in 28 games. … Hunter Renfroe, a Mississippi boy who also played at State, continues to swing a big bat for San Diego. Including a 2-for-4 effort on Thursday in a win against the New York Mets, the Crystal Springs native is batting .316 with three homers, seven RBIs and nine runs in his last 10 games. He’s at .232 with nine bombs. … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz delivered a much-needed quality start for Boston, which beat Texas 6-2 at Fenway Park. After three straight wobbly efforts, Pomeranz went six innings, allowing two runs on four hits and fanning 11. “Felt lost for a couple of starts,” Pomeranz told The Associated Press. A Red Sox broadcaster called Thursday’s outing a “clinic of curveballs.” It was also a clinic of punchouts, as the Rangers whiffed 20 times against five Boston pitchers. Former Mississippi Braves standout Craig Kimbrel struck out four – yes, four – in the ninth inning. He has retired 53 of the last 56 batters he has faced and now has 40 K’s in 20 2/3 innings with a 0.87 ERA. … Gregor Blanco, one of the three original M-Braves (2005) still playing, has filled in nicely as the center fielder and leadoff batter for Arizona with A.J. Pollock out. Blanco went 3-for-4 with a home run on Thursday in a win over Milwaukee. He is batting .293 with three steals in 16 games. … With Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki expected to be activated from the disabled list today by Toronto, Ole Miss alum Chris Coghlan’s roster spot might be in jeopardy.

25 May

settling in

Dakota Hudson, a dominant starter at Mississippi State, has handled the move to pro ball with aplomb. Working in Double-A in his first full season in the St. Louis system, Hudson is 2-2 with a 3.35 ERA for Springfield. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is scheduled to start tonight, after a nine-day layoff, at Corpus Christi in a Texas League game. The 34th overall pick last June is already a top 10 prospect in the Cardinals’ organization. “He challenges hitters, and he relies on and trusts the stuff he has,” farm director Gary LaRocque told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In 40 1/3 innings over seven starts, Hudson has 36 strikeouts and 12 walks. The Cardinals eased Hudson into pro ball last summer, pitching him in relief. In 13 1/3 innings at two levels, he registered an 0.68 ERA, two wins and three saves. He got a look in big league spring camp this year and made an impression, especially with his signature slider, according to a recent Baseball America story. “As good as advertised,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.

25 May

speed thrills

Long, loud home runs – like the ones hit by Hunter Renfroe and Adam Frazier on Wednesday night – are exciting. Scoring from first on a single – as Billy Hamilton did – moves the needle even more. Ex-Taylorsville High standout Hamilton raced home on a two-out bloop hit by Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart in the ninth inning, giving Cincinnati a 4-3 lead – and ultimately a victory — at Cleveland. Hamilton’s ludicrous speed had already had an impact. He beat a throw to first base on a potential double play that would have ended the game. Initially called out, he was correctly ruled safe after replay review. When Cozart’s hit dropped in front of a sprawling Michael Brantley in left field, Hamilton scored easily. “Not many other guys are going to beat that ball out or score that run, but that’s Billy Hamilton,” Reds manager Bryan Price said in an Associated Press story. Despite taking an 0-for-4 Wednesday, Hamilton is hitting .295 over his last 10 games, boosting his average to .258. He leads MLB in steals with 23 and is second on the Reds in runs with 34 in 43 games. P.S. From the Didn’t See That Coming Department: Southern Miss, which had blasted Texas-San Antonio in a three-game sweep last weekend, lost to the Roadrunnners 9-2 in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament in Biloxi. Top-seeded USM (44-13) might not need to win the tournament to secure a host bid for an NCAA regional, but going 2-and-out could really hurt.