29 Jun

three dog night

Collectively, they worked 14 1/3 innings, yielding eight runs on 16 hits and four walks with 17 strikeouts. A 5.03 ERA might not bring joy to the world, but two wins with one loss is a good feeling. Three former Mississippi State Bulldogs started in big league games on Tuesday night. Konnor Pilkington came back from Triple-A to make a spot start for Cleveland in Game 2 of a twinbill against Minnesota, and it didn’t go so well for the rookie left-hander. Dakota Hudson came back from a rough start last Thursday to post a better one, earning a win thanks to a St. Louis rally against Miami. Brandon Woodruff came back from the injured list for his first start since May 27, and the veteran right-hander was very good in Milwaukee’s win at Tampa Bay. “There’s a reason why hitters talk about his fastball. We saw it tonight,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told mlb.com. Woodruff threw 76 pitches over five innings, allowing two hits and one run with no walks and 10 punchouts. He reportedly hit 99 on the radar gun several times. Woodruff is now 6-3 with a 4.44 ERA for Milwaukee, which won 5-3 to maintain a 1/2-game lead over St. Louis in the National League Central. The Cardinals beat the Marlins 5-3, scoring four times in the bottom of the fifth. Hudson (6-4, 3.83) worked five, allowing six hits and all three Miami runs. (Ex-Ole Miss standout Nick Fortes knocked in one of those runs.) Pilkington (1-1, 4.31, in nine appearances) gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings in Cleveland’s 6-0 loss to the Twins. The teams split the doubleheader, leaving the Guardians 3 games back of the first-place Twins in the American League Central.

28 Jun

team usa beckons

Shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, left-hander Hunter Elliott and righty Mason Nichols, fresh off winning the national championship with Ole Miss, are among the 50 players invited to Cary, N.C., to compete for 26 positions on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. Also there are Southern Miss pitchers Tanner Hall and Hurston Waldrep, former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery (an outfielder/pitcher now at Stanford) and Lewisburg High product Brady Tygart (a pitcher now at Arkansas). Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco is the manager of this Team USA. The players will play Stars vs. Stripes intrasquad games June 30-July 4, after which the roster will be pared to 26. The team will compete at the Honkbalweek Haarlem tournament in The Netherlands. The first game is against Japan on July 9. Cuba is also in the field. … St. Stanislaus High outfielder Seth Farni is also in Cary, vying for a spot with 99 other prep players on the Under-18 Team USA as part of MLB’s Prospect Development Pipeline League. Farni hit .364 with nine homers as a junior in 2022. Select players from this camp also will be invited to the MLB/USA Baseball All-America Game in Los Angeles on July 15.

28 Jun

starting fresh

The Mississippi Braves, no doubt happy to put the first half behind them, and Biloxi Shuckers face off tonight at MGM Park to begin the second half of the Southern League season. The M-Braves lost 17 of their last 23 games to finish 29-40, last in the four-team SL South. With Michael Harris II gone to Atlanta at the end of May, the Double-A M-Braves have struggled to produce runs, scoring just 62 in June so far. No other team in the league has scored fewer than 103 this month. The Shuckers, on the other hand, have been an offensive juggernaut in June, scoring 156 runs. They won seven of their last 10 to finish the first half at 34-33, second place in the division. Aiming to quell the Shuckers’ attack and start the second half on a high note, the M-Braves will start Atlanta No. 9 prospect Jared Shuster (4-7, 3.53 ERA) in Game 1 of the six-game series. Biloxi’s hottest hitter has been Cam Devanney (.291), who’ll take a 19-game hitting streak into tonight’s game. Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard is batting .227 with five homers for the Shuckers. Andrew Moritz was named the M-Braves’ player of the week for last week after batting .416 with five RBIs in six games. He’s at .268 for the year. The M-Braves count on the power of Drew Lugbauer (15 homers) and C.J. Alexander (12) for much of their offense. … The Shuckers will honor Pearl River Community College’s national championship team in pregame ceremonies tonight. P.S. Ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner and DeSoto Central High product Blaze Jordan were named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week for June 20-26. Wallner, playing for Minnesota’s Double-A Wichita club, went 9-for-21 with three homers, six RBIs, seven runs and six walks; he has 16 bombs on the season. Jordan went 12-for-24 with two homers, five RBIs and five runs for Boston’s Low-Class A Salem team; he is hitting .311 with eight homers for the season. Other notable performances last week, per MLB Pipeline: Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, Jr., had a two-homer game for High-A Wisconsin in Milwaukee’s system, boosting his total to nine. He’s batting .177, so a promotion to Biloxi isn’t likely anytime soon. … Mississippi State product Jordan Westburg had a five-hit game for Triple-A Norfolk in Baltimore’s system. He is batting .366 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 16 games for the Tides. … Former Itawamba Community College standout Tyreque Reed, having a rough year (.202) at Double-A Portland (Boston), broke up a no-hitter in the seventh inning against Richmond last Friday.

27 Jun

one more for the ‘sip

The dust has settled in Omaha. The shouting has (mostly) subsided. And there it is: Ole Miss is the national champion of 2022. Let that soak in. A month ago, this seemed improbable if not impossible. But the Rebels got a ticket to the dance, and magic happened. Ten wins in 11 NCAA Tournament games, a sweep of Oklahoma in the College World Series final. On Sunday, there was more great pitching. A big home run. A crazy eighth-inning rally. Three punchouts in the ninth. A nationally relevant program for years, Ole Miss now has validation with its first national title. There is vindication for coach Mike Bianco, who has been on a hot seat for virtually his entire 22 years in Oxford. There was a time when New York City was called the Capital of Baseball, in the heyday of the Yankees, Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. Today, Mississippi could fairly be called the Capital of College Baseball. Pearl River Community College also won a natty this year. Mississippi State won its first national title in 2021. The Magnolia State can now claim six national baseball championships, with William Carey, Delta State and Jones College also on the list. The Rebels’ impressive feat caps another great year for state baseball. Southern Miss hosted and won a regional. DSU made the Division II regionals. Carey won the SSAC Tournament and went to the NAIA postseason. Millsaps made it to the SAA championship series in D-III. Rust College, under first-year coach John Bates, got an invitation to the NAIA division of the Black College World Series. Individual honors were abundant — and more may be coming. Ole Miss’ Dylan DeLucia was rightly named the MVP of the CWS. Teammate Jacob Gonzalez was first-team All-SEC. MSU’s R.J. Yeager was also a first-teamer. USM’s Tanner Hall has made two first-team All-America lists. He was also the C-USA pitcher of the year. Scott Berry was C-USA coach of the year, pitching guru Christian Ostrander assistant coach of the year and Hurston Waldrep and Landon Harper were first-team All–C-USA selections. DSU’s Rodney Batts was the Gulf South coach of the year, and Jake Barlow and Carson Clowers were named first-team All-GSC. Carey’s A.J. Stinson and R.J. Stinson were All-SSAC picks, as were Blue Mountain’s Alex Frilliman and Dylan Hale. Millsaps’ Jim Page was SAA coach of the year, with Wil Wood and Ryan Erwin earning first-team All-SAA honors. Belhaven’s Brett Sanchez was an All-ASC pick. Pearl River CC’s Tate Parker was a first-team All-America pick in NJCAA Division II. So, when does fall ball start? P.S. In other news: Perhaps foreshadowing the Rebels’ win in Omaha, former Ole Miss catcher Nick Fortes hit his first walk-off home run to give Miami a 3-2 win against the New York Mets. … Ex-State star Hunter Renfroe has been placed on the injured list by Milwaukee, which will activate Bulldogs alum Brandon Woodruff from the IL to start on Tuesday against Tampa Bay. … Former Petal High standout Demarcus Evans, pitching in Triple-A, has been designated for assignment by Texas. The erstwhile big leaguer likely will stay in the organization. … Wes Johnson, a former MSU pitching coach, is leaving the Minnesota Twins’ staff to take a coaching job at LSU.

26 Jun

up-date in arms

Surely there are Oklahoma players and fans wondering this today: How can Ole Miss possibly top the brilliant pitching performance of Jack Dougherty, Mason Nichols and Josh Mallitz on Saturday, which followed the brilliant pitching performance of Dylan DeLucia on Thursday? How deep is that well? Heads up Sooners, ’cause here comes Hunter Elliott, who’ll start Game 2 of the College World Series with the national title in the Rebels’ grasp. Elliott, the freshman left-hander from Tupelo, has, in his last four starts, beaten LSU, Southern Miss and Arkansas and pitched masterfully in a no-decision against Miami. He is 5-3, 2.70 ERA, on the season. And he’ll have Rebel Nation roaring with every strike he throws in Omaha today. … The Houston Astros’ three-man no-hitter against the New York Yankees on Saturday marked the first time the Yanks had been no-hit since June 11, 2003, when Holmes Community College product Roy Oswalt and former Jackson Generals star Billy Wagner started and finished, respectively, a six-man no-no for the Astros at the old Yankee Stadium. … Former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn’s return to the Chicago White Sox’s rotation has not exactly sparked a team resurgence (see previous post). Lynn, coming off knee surgery, is 1-1 with a 6.19 ERA in his three starts, and the team is 6-6 since his return. He was roughed up Saturday by Baltimore. In 16 innings, Lynn has yielded 20 hits and three walks. … Mississippi State alum Ethan Small, bidding for another shot in The Show, threw seven strong innings for Nashville on Saturday, leading Milwaukee’s Triple-A club to a 2-1 win against Gwinnett. Small (4-3, 3.18) allowed three hits and one run and punched out 10, getting rehabbing big leaguer Eddie Rosario twice. … Jackson Prep alum Will Warren had the “unicorn slider” (see previous post) working Saturday, hurling 5 1/3 shutout innings in a win for Double-A Somerset in the Yankees’ chain. The right-hander allowed four hits and three walks with seven K’s. There is speculation, per MLB Trade Rumors, that the Yankees might use Warren as trade bait for a big league arm.

25 Jun

comes now a ‘unicorn’

In just his first professional season, Will Warren has made it to the pivotal Double-A level. A key factor in the former Jackson Prep star’s rise is a pitch he discovered and refined in minor league spring training with the New York Yankees. It has been labeled the “unicorn slider,” a bolting breaking ball that compliments Warren’s low-90s fastball. “I’ve never seen a pitch like it,” catcher Josh Breaux, Warren’s teammate with the Somerset Patriots, told nj.com. Warren, 23, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, takes a 2-2 record and 3.92 ERA into his fifth Double-A start tonight against Hartford at Somerset’s TD Bank Ballpark. Warren told nj.com that his quick rise in the Yankees’ system is “unreal.” Warren went 7-0, 1.39 ERA, at Jackson Prep as a senior and signed with Southeastern Louisiana, a good but off-the-radar NCAA Division I program. He spent four years with the Lions, posting a 3.90 ERA in 53 games. The Yankees liked something they saw and drafted him in the eighth round last summer. He made his pro debut this season with High-Class A Hudson Valley, going 2-3, 3.60, in eight starts before earning the promotion to Somerset of the Eastern League late last month. All told, he has 56 strikeouts and 17 walks in 55 2/3 innings. Warren still has work to do, of course, but he is rated the Yankees’ No. 27 prospect by MLB Pipeline, which notes that his slider could become a “high-leverage weapon” in the big leagues.

25 Jun

around the horn

As the weather has warmed in the Carolina League, so has Blaze Jordan, the ex-DeSoto Central High star. Jordan, playing for Boston’s Low-Class A Salem team, homered for the second straight day on Friday and now has eight homers on the season. But the 19-year-old third baseman, who famously has been winning home run derby contests since age 11, is doing more than slug. After a poor start in April, Jordan hit .323 in May and has really cranked it up in June: .421. Boston’s No. 6 prospect is batting .309 overall with a .361 on-base average, 20 doubles, 40 RBIs and 38 runs in 61 games. He has struck out just 44 times in 243 at-bats with 18 walks. In only his second pro season, Jordan is making big strides. … Look for Brandon Woodruff, the Mississippi State alum from Wheeler, to make a return to Milwaukee’s rotation soon, possibly Tuesday. On the injured list since late May, Woodruff threw a rehab game in A-ball on Thursday and pronounced himself healthy. He pitched five innings and allowed one run on two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. The two-time All-Star is 5-3 with a 4.74 ERA for the Brewers this season. … Meanwhile, former State standout Hunter Renfroe, who has 13 homers this season, has missed Milwaukee’s last two games with a reported calf injury. It seems unclear how long Renfroe might be down. … Kudos to Jackson native and ex-big leaguer Stan Cliburn, whose Southern Maryland Blue Crabs clinched the Atlantic League North first-half title on Thursday. Cliburn’s club is 42-14. Among his best players are Mississippi products Braxton Lee (.305, 31 RBIs) and Bradley Roney (4-0, 4.21 ERA). … The Acadiana Cane Cutters, with a roster chock-full of Mississippians, lead the Texas Collegiate League with a 14-5 record. Patrick Lee, who plays for William Carey University, is batting .296 and has also pitched in five games for the summer league team. Carey’s Connor Adams is 3-0, 2.74 in eight appearances. Also on the roster are Casey Artigues (Southern Miss), Cade Crosby (Gulfport/Nicholls State), Vantrel Reed (Hinds Community College), Will Tynes (USM), Reed Vincent (Belhaven) and Justin Williams (Madison/Louisiana Tech).

24 Jun

northwest gloom

Adam Frazier got a big hit for Seattle on Thursday. Sorta. The ex-Mississippi State standout broke up a no-hit bid by Oakland’s Frankie Montas with two outs in the eighth inning. The hit did not factor in the outcome of the game, which Seattle won 2-1 thanks to two wild pitches in the ninth. Frazier hasn’t been much of factor in the Mariners’ season, which has been to this point a huge disappointment. Even after sweeping the hapless A’s, the M’s are 32-39 and a long, long way from playoff position. A Seattle writer recently described the situation as close to “disaster territory.” This was a team that expected to contend, and Frazier was one of the pieces Seattle brass added in the off-season with that goal in mind. Frazier was a .324 hitter and an All-Star second baseman for Pittsburgh last year. Traded to San Diego in July, Frazier’s production fell off, but Seattle considered him a key addition as it sought to build on last year’s 90-win campaign. It hasn’t worked out. A career .275 hitter, who made his MLB debut six years ago today, the 5-foot-10 lefty swinger is batting .222 with 21 RBIs and 28 runs through 70 games. He is batting .176 in his last 30 games and went 1-for-11 in the Oakland series. “I’ve never had (a slump) go this long,” Frazier told the Seattle Times. “I’ve had a bad month or so and then figured it out, but I’ve never had a bad two-and-a-half months.” There is time for a turnaround — but not much.

24 Jun

more to come?

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco’s first comment from Thursday’s postgame press conference summed it up nicely: “Just wow.” Wow captures the performance by junior right-hander Dylan DeLucia, who threw a four-hit shutout to beat Arkansas 2-0 and propel the Rebels into the College World Series best-of-3 final. Appropriately, DeLucia punched out the last batter, his seventh K of the day. Wow. The Rebels and the throng of UM fans at Charles Schwab Field went wild. “It’s amazing,” DeLucia said in a postgame interview on ESPN. “I don’t even have kind of words for it right now. It’s a blessing.” It was the eighth win of this remarkable season for DeLucia and the eighth win of this remarkable postseason for the Rebels. But pump the brakes for a minute. Eight is not enough. It’ll take two more to win the national title, to match archrival Mississippi State’s accomplishment from a year ago. Next up is Oklahoma, which is on a run essentially as amazing as the Rebels’. Unranked in preseason, pegged to finish fifth in the Big 12, OU went 15-9 in the league and won the conference tournament. The Sooners then took down Florida in Gainesville in the regionals, beat No. 4 national seed Virginia Tech in the Super Regional and stand 3-0 in Omaha with two wins over No. 5 seed Texas A&M. That deserves a wow. Led by Tanner Treadway (.488 in the NCAAs), OU can rake as well as Ole Miss. The Rebels might have an edge in arms: They have allowed just 2.2 runs per game in the NCAAs. Will that pitching hold up this weekend? The Rebels need two more W’s to put a final wow on this season.

23 Jun

scattered about

One of the more compelling stories of the 2022 season has been the return to the big leagues of Christian Bethancourt. The former Atlanta prospect, who played for the Mississippi Braves in 2012-13, won a job with Oakland as a non-roster invitee in the spring and is batting .241 with four homers and 17 RBIs. Before this season, Bethancourt had not played in the majors since 2017. He labored in the minors, in Korea and in winter ball. When he homered on June 1, off Justin Verlander, it was his first bomb in MLB in 2,118 days. If — just for kicks — you were to put together a team of former M-Braves now playing for other organizations, Bethancourt would be a prominent member. Put him at catcher. At first base, there’s the great Freddie Freeman, who left Atlanta this spring for a bigger contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is producing as expected: .302, seven homers, 42 RBIs. (He’ll make his much-anticipated return to the ATL on Friday.) Second base: Tommy LaStella, now with San Francisco. Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons, Chicago Cubs. Third base: Johan Camargo, Philadelphia. The outfield would feature Jason Heyward (Cubs), Cristian Pache (A’s) and Dylan Moore (Seattle). Willians Astudillo (Miami) would make a fine DH. There is an abundance of former M-Braves pitchers scattered around the big leagues. The best of the bunch might be left-hander Alex Wood, who has 68 career wins (5-5 in 2022) and started — albeit poorly — for the Giants today at Truist Park against his former club. Craig Kimbrel (Dodgers) is the logical choice as closer. (For what it’s worth: Williams Perez leads the Mexican League in ERA, and Joey Terdoslavich is among the league’s top home run hitters.)