One of the most disappointing MLB teams in 2022, the Chicago White Sox needed to get off to a good start this season. With the aid of Mississippi products Tim Anderson and Kendall Graveman, they did exactly that on Thursday, beating the world champion Houston Astros 3-2. Anderson, former East Central Community College star, went 2-for-4 with a walk and a run — both in a ninth-inning rally — and Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman earned the win after throwing a scoreless eighth inning. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, like Anderson and Graveman a star in the WBC, gets the start for the ChiSox today at Minute Maid Park. Elsewhere on Opening Day, MSU alum Adam Frazier, in his Baltimore debut, went 2-for-4 with three runs and a stolen base as the Orioles beat Boston 10-9. Ex-Bulldogs standout Nathaniel Lowe had a hit, an RBI and a run, all in a nine-run fourth inning that propelled Texas past Philadelphia 11-7. Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, went 0-for-2 with three walks and an RBI in Atlanta’s 7-2 victory against Washington. Meridian CC product Corey Dickerson was 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter in his Nationals debut. Hunter Renfroe was 0-for-4 (with a nice catch in right field) for the Los Angeles Angels and fellow former State standout Brent Rooker 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter for Oakland in the A’s 2-1 surprising win. P.S. The exhibition game between the Double-A Mississippi Braves and Jackson State scheduled for April 5 has been cancelled, reportedly due to concerns about field conditions at Trustmark Park in Pearl. (Tuesday night’s Southern Miss-Ole Miss game was cancelled in the fourth inning because recently installed infield sod was not holding up, and Belhaven University’s weekend series against Covenant College has been moved to Holmes Community College’s field in Goodman.) The M-Braves-JSU game — billed as the Hank Aaron Tribute Game by the Hank Aaron Sports Academy — was originally slated for Smith-Wills Stadium, home of the Double-A Jackson Mets and Generals from 1975-99. It would have been the first such contest between JSU and a Jackson-area pro team since 1991, when the Generals — a Houston affiliate — beat Jackson State 6-3 in an April exhibition at Smith-Wills. The M-Braves, Atlanta’s Double-A club now in its 19th year at Trustmark Park, open their Southern League season April 7 at home against Biloxi. The Shuckers, Milwaukee’s Double-A club, have slated an exhibition vs. Pearl River Community College on April 5 at MGM Park.
Austin Riley is the 3-hole hitter and third baseman for Atlanta, picked by some experts as the 2023 World Series favorite. That’s a key role, perhaps the most important role held by any Mississippi product heading into the new MLB season that launches Thursday. Here are some others of note: Kendall Graveman, the ex-Mississippi State star, is penciled in as the closer for the Chicago White Sox, who are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2022 season. Graveman, replacing Liam Hendriks (cancer treatment) as the bullpen stopper, has a 4.04 career ERA with 16 saves in 28 opps since converting from starter to reliever in 2020. … Nathaniel Lowe, a former State standout, is the first baseman and a middle-of-the-order hitter for Texas, which has spent a lot of money of late and expects to contend for the postseason. Lowe had a breakout year in 2022 (.302, 27 homers, .850 OPS). … Louisville native and former East Central Community College slugger Marcus Thames is the new hitting coach for the Los Angeles Angels. With a lineup featuring Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and MSU alum Hunter Renfroe, the Angels are fairly desperate to make the playoffs in Ohtani’s potential walk year. Thames worked with the New York Yankees previously, so he knows pressure. … Buck Showalter, the State star of yesteryear, is entering his second season as manager of the New York Mets, another big spender with World Series aspirations. Showalter won manager of the year honors in 2022 — his fourth such honor — but saw his club fall short — again — in the playoffs. … That brings us back to Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High standout and Mississippi Braves alumnus. He batted .273 with 38 homers and 93 RBIs last season — finishing sixth in MVP voting and winning All Mississippi Baseball’s Cool Papa Bell Award — and will be counted on for similar numbers this year. P.S. Roster news: Former MSU standout Brent Rooker has made Oakland’s opening day roster. The outfielder/DH, who has 10 MLB homers on his ledger, got very limited at-bats with San Diego and Kansas City last year. Cut from the A’s active roster was Ole Miss alum Chad Smith, who debuted with Colorado last season. Right-hander Smith, a 2016 draftee by Miami, posted a 7.50 ERA in 15 games for the Rockies in 2022. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton did not make the Chicago White Sox’s roster. The veteran outfielder was in spring camp as a minor league invitee. … Pitchers Taylor and Tyler Rogers of the San Francisco Giants are the 10th set of twins to play in the majors and may soon become the fourth set to play for the same team in the same game. They opposed each other in a game last April but are now teammates with the Giants. Among the 10 sets of twins to reach the majors are Jackson natives Stan and Stewart Cliburn. Stan, a catcher, played for the California Angels in 1980 and Stewart, a pitcher, was with the team in 1984-85 and ’88. Both were with the Angels’ Triple-A club in 1986-87, though Stewart was injured during that time. Their dream of becoming the first twins to serve as batterymates in the majors never materialized.
Scoring four runs in a wild ninth inning, Belhaven University rallied to beat Millsaps 8-7 Tuesday night at Twenty Field and retained the Maloney Trophy. There was drama of a different sort at Trustmark Park in Pearl, where the Southern Miss-Ole Miss game was cancelled in the fourth inning due to unplayable field conditions. Recently installed sod on the infield at the home of the Double-A Mississippi Braves was not holding up. Both coaches reportedly agreed with the decision to halt the rivalry game but were obviously disappointed not to get it in, as were thousands of fans who packed the park. Meanwhile, over at Twenty Field on the Millsaps campus, before a listed crowd of 190, Belhaven players and fans celebrated their 11th straight win, which moved the Blazers’ record to 14-9. Millsaps is 14-12. BU has won the series between the NCAA Division III rivals four straight seasons. P.S. The next scheduled event at Trustmark Park would appear to be the April 5 exhibition between the M-Braves and Jackson State, a game originally slated for Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium. The M-Braves open their Southern League season with a three-game home set against Biloxi April 7-9. The annual Governor’s Cup game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State at the TeePee is April 25. … JSU plays local rival Tougaloo tonight at Braddy Field.
Before the season began, Southern Miss-Ole Miss gleamed as a Top 25 matchup. Both schools, coming off highly successful seasons, appeared in various national preseason polls. Collegiate Baseball Magazine had USM at No. 18 and Ole Miss, the reigning national champ, at 24, plus Mississippi State at 22. Sadly, the Big 3 have fallen out of the CB poll and most of the others, though UM still shows up in a couple. Even if some of the luster is gone from tonight’s USM-UM game (6 p.m.) at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the crowd will be large and the intensity high. USM comes in with a 14-9 record, 3-3 in the Sun Belt Conference. After a hot start to 2023, Ole Miss has slipped to 15-9 and is 0-6 in the SEC. The Rebels beat the Golden Eagles 11-5 in Oxford on March 7. The two schools clashed in a drama-filled Super Regional in Hattiesburg last year. … A few miles from the TeePee tonight, NCAA Division III rivals Belhaven and Millsaps will meet at the Majors’ Twenty Field in a game that will decide the Maloney Trophy Series winner for 2023. Millsaps is 14-11 with five straight wins, Belhaven 13-9 with a 10-game win streak. P.S. Poll news: William Carey University (23-6 with seven straight wins) is No. 20 in the current NAIA coaches poll. Pearl River Community College is No. 3 in the NJCAA Division II poll, with Meridian at 6 and Jones at 9. The Bobcats are in first place in the MACCC standings.
They are dazed and confused at Mississippi State and Ole Miss, both still winless in the SEC at 0-6. Defending national champion Ole Miss — clearly missing injured ace Hunter Elliott — allowed 28 runs in getting swept at home by Florida over the weekend. The Rebels’ staff ERA is now 5.68. Not to be outdone, State yielded 55 runs to visiting Vanderbilt, jacking the Bulldogs’ ERA to 6.70. All three SWAC schools also were swept in conference series over the weekend. Jackson State is now 1-5 in the league, Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State both 0-6. Alcorn, 1-18 overall after a 2-39 2022 season, seems to have fallen and can’t get up. On the positive side, Southern Miss beat Georgia Southern two out of three at Taylor Park and moved to 3-3 in the Sun Belt. The Golden Eagles play Ole Miss on Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The hottest team in the state is NCAA Division III Belhaven, which has won 10 in a row and stands at 6-0 in the CCS. On Tuesday, the Blazers visit D-III rival Millsaps, coming off a sweep of SAA foe Sewanee and carrying a five-game win streak. In the NAIA ranks, William Carey scored 56 runs in a sweep of SSAC opponent Stillman. The Crusaders — led by Patrick Lee (.426, 11 homers, 47 RBIs) — are 23-6, 7-2 SSAC. Blue Mountain Christian won two of three from Faulkner and moved to 21-11, 6-6 SSAC. In D-II, Delta State and Mississippi College both came up clutch in the rubber game of their GSC series. Brendan McCauley’s two-run hit in the ninth inning propelled DSU (9-6 in the league) past Auburn-Montgomery, while Kolby McWilliams capped a rally by MC (6-9 GSC) at Lee with a seventh-inning RBI knock. NAIA Rust is 4-2 in the GCAC and 8-14 overall, while league rival Tougaloo is 4-21, 1-5. Tougaloo visits Jackson State on Wednesday. D-III MUW is 2-16. P.S. Jones College has won seven straight and moved to the top of the MACCC standings with a 9-1 league mark. The Bobcats, ranked 11th last week in the NJCAA Division II poll, are 24-6 overall. East Central Community College is second in the standings at 7-1, Pearl River third at 8-2.
If getting swept at Kentucky last weekend was cause for concern at Mississippi State, what happened on Friday night at Dudy Noble Field might be cause for panic. Vanderbilt run-ruled the Bulldogs 26-3. State used six pitchers, and none were particularly effective. Vandy’s hitters had a blast. Enrique Bradfield started the game with a home run. Parker Noland hit two grand slams and tied an SEC record with 11 RBIs. R.J. Schreck hit two bombs and drove in eight runs. Meanwhile, Bulldogs batters managed just six hits and struck out eight times in the seven-inning affair. But the offense really isn’t a big problem. Pitching and defense are. State’s staff ERA is now 6.09, worst in the SEC. Statistically, the Bulldogs are also the worst fielding team in the league. “I got to figure out some different things to help these kids out,” said State coach Chris Lemonis, who led a very different bunch to a national title two years ago. Getting back on the right track against Vandy, a consensus top five team that swept Ole Miss last weekend, might be a tall order. The next two days in Starkville will be interesting, to say the least.
Bryson Ware, the ex-Germantown High and Pearl River Community College slugger, is now mashing for Auburn. Batting third and playing third base on Thursday night, Ware went 2-for-6 with a home run, a double, two runs and three RBIs as the Tigers beat visiting Georgia 7-6 in 11 innings for their first SEC win. Ware’s two-run double in the ninth made it a 6-5 game, and the 6-foot-2, 211-pound senior then scored the tying run. Ware, who set a single-season homer record at Germantown, is batting .415 with 10 homers and 26 RBIs this season. His 10 homers are tied for fourth-best in the league — Mississippi State’s Hunter Hines also has 10 — and his .902 slugging percentage ranks third. P.S. Jared Shuster, a Southern League All-Star with the Mississippi Braves in 2022 and Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect, threw six impressive innings against the New York Mets on Thursday and may now be the front-runner for the fifth starter job. The left-hander has a 1.45 ERA in five spring games. With former M-Braves star Michael Soroka having been optioned to Triple-A, Shuster’s main competition for the starting job is fellow 2022 M-Braves alum Dylan Dodd, the Braves’ No. 10 prospect. … Atlanta’s minor league system is ranked No. 30 — last — in MLB Pipeline’s latest evaluation of prospect talent. The Braves have no players in the Top 100, though it’s hard to figure how Shuster didn’t make that list. He went 7-8 with a 2.78 ERA in Double-A last year and made the All-Star Futures Game. … Milwaukee’s system ranks 15th, led by a quartet of former Biloxi Shuckers outfielders: Jackson Chourio, Sal Frelick, Joey Wiemer and Garrett Mitchell, who is the likely opening day center fielder for the Brewers. … Nine M-Braves alums played for Atlanta in Thursday’s 2-2 tie vs. the Mets. One Shuckers product played: big league vet Orlando Arcia, who beat out Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake for the starting shortstop job. Wonder how long that will last? … The M-Braves and New South Radio announced that all 138 M-Braves broadcasts will air on WIIN 780 AM and 102.1 FM The Box this season. Chris Harris and Jack Sadighian are back as the broadcasters.
Belhaven University started play in its new conference with a three-game sweep at Maryville (Tenn.) College last weekend that stretched its win streak to seven. What do the Blazers do for an encore in a home-away-from-home conference series against Piedmont this weekend? The NCAA Division III Blazers (10-9, 3-0 in the Collegiate Conference of the South) host Piedmont (13-6, 0-0 CCS) today-Saturday at Mississippi College’s Frierson Field. BU’s pitching was brilliant against Maryville. Coleman Harris and Logan Goodreau combined on a four-hitter in a 5-2 win; All-America right-hander Brett Sanchez tossed a six-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 2-0 victory; and seven pitchers notched a six-hitter in a 5-3, 10-inning win, with Will Swift working the last two shutout frames. Caleb Whittle had some big hits in the Saturday twinbill and Nathan Herron knocked in the deciding runs in the series finale. But these Blazers don’t hit a lot, just .257 as a team with only three homers. Coach Kyle Palmer does like to run: 44 steals, led by Kyle McLaughlin, who is 12-for-12. After a slow start (1-8) to this season, the Blazers are picking up speed.
Pearl River Community College has the higher national ranking and the longer winning streak, but Jones College is keeping pace in the MACCC standings — and owns a win over the No. 2 Wildcats. Jones, ranked 11th in this week’s NJCAA Division II poll, improved to 7-1 in conference and 22-6 overall with a fairly dominant sweep against Copiah-Lincoln on Tuesday. PRCC (26-4) is also 7-1 in the league following a pair of comeback wins against fifth-ranked Meridian (18-8, 4-4). At Ellisville, the Bobcats got a home run from Madison Central High alum Gatlin Sanders and a strong pitching performance from Ovett’s Dalton Tanner to beat Co-Lin 11-1 in the opener of their twinbill. Drew Druckenmiller fired a seven-inning shutout in the 3-0 Game 2 win. At Poplarville, PRCC rallied from 3-1 down in Game 1, scoring the go-ahead run on a knock by Jackson Academy product Parker Ryan en route to a 7-3 victory. The Wildcats trailed most of Game 2 but won it 7-6 on a two-run walk-off hit by Alex Perry, former North Pike standout, current MACCC batter of the week. “Every time out is a dogfight,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said in a school release. PRCC has won seven straight games, Jones five in a row. Jones beat PRCC 8-5 in a non-league contest in Ellisville on March 1. The two will meet again in late April. … Sitting in a tie for third place in the MACCC are Northeast and East Central, both 5-1, neither ranked in the national poll.
It will go down as one of the great moments in baseball history. Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout, a 3-2 count, a one-run game, two outs in the ninth in the final game of what had been a fantastic World Baseball Classic. No one on the planet had a better view of this matchup of giants than Lance Barksdale, the veteran MLB ump from Brookhaven. He was behind the plate as Ohtani threw a perfect slider that Trout flailed at in what is being called the strikeout heard ’round the world. Japan won the WBC title, beating the United States 3-2 Tuesday night at Miami’s sold-out loanDepot Park. Barksdale, who has called a lot of big games, seemingly had a good night calling balls and strikes. The Mississippi-connected contingent of players on Team USA’s roster also performed well. Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College star, went 1-for-2 in the finale and batted .333 with five RBIs and three runs in seven games all told. Biloxi Shuckers alum Devin Williams, he of the “Airbender” changeup, threw a scoreless eighth inning Tuesday with two K’s. He didn’t allow a run in four WBC appearances. Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman warmed up Tuesday when Jason Adam was struggling in the sixth but didn’t get in. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in two WBC games. And Lance Lynn, the grizzled veteran out of Ole Miss, worked nine innings over two starts, allowing three runs, and Team USA won both games. P.S. In spring training news: Former State standout J.T. Ginn from Brandon threw three scoreless innings for Oakland against the Los Angeles Angels and got the win in his Cactus League debut. Ginn reached Double-A last summer and likely will return there this season. … Madison Central High alum Spencer Turnbull pitched well again, allowing one run (a Josh Donaldson homer) in 4 2/3 innings for Detroit against the New York Yankees. … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, who missed all of last season with an arm injury, is expected to start 2023 on San Diego’s injured list, per reports. The veteran lefty had a 1.62 ERA out of the pen for the Padres in 2020-21.