Chicago will be hoppin’ today with both the White Sox and the Cubs in town, and a pair of Mississippi products will be on the mound for the home teams. At Guaranteed Rate Field, ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn looks to win his fourth straight start for the underachieving White Sox, scuffling along at 23-34. They meet the star-studded Los Angeles Angels. At Wrigley Field, former George County High star Justin Steele looks to recapture his early season form after going 0-2 in his last three starts for the disappointing Cubs (24-30). They play Tampa Bay, the best team in baseball. Lynn got off to an awful start in 2023, as did the ChiSox. He has improved to 4-5 and lowered his ERA to 5.83 by allowing just four runs in his last 19 innings. Today’s start will be the 297th career for the 36-year-old right-hander. For Steele, a 27-year-old lefty, today will be career start No. 45. He was 6-0 after beating St. Louis on May 10 but has been a bit wobbly of late. Cincinnati roughed him up for five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings on May 26, pushing his ERA to 2.77. P.S. No American League reliever has had a better May than Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman of the White Sox. He has not allowed a run in 11 outings, posting four saves and two holds. … In college ball: William Carey University lost for the first time Tuesday night in the NAIA World Series but will play on today against Lewis-Clark State, the home team in Lewiston, Idaho. … On the prep front: Kudos to Lewisburg, St. Stanislaus and Resurrection Catholic for winning series openers in the MHSAA state championships in Pearl.
The Kansas City Royals took a flier in the off-season on Mike Mayers, signing the former Ole Miss standout to a minor league deal after he had posted a 6.88 ERA in Triple-A last season. It is beginning to look like a smart move. In his third appearance for the Royals since a May 17 promotion, Mayers threw six perfect innings in relief on Monday before yielding a couple of hits in K.C.’s 7-0 win at St. Louis. The 31-year-old right-hander now has a 1.35 ERA in 13 1/3 innings. Coincidentally, Mayers made his MLB debut for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in July 2016. He has good memories from his four years in St. Louis, but that outing — nine runs in 1 1/3 innings — wasn’t one of them. Waived by the Cardinals in 2019, he spent three seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, won a pitcher of the month award in September 2020, struggled mightily in 2022 and finished the year in the minors, becoming a free agent at season’s end. “My story hasn’t always been easy,” he told the Kansas City Star after Monday’s performance. He relieved opener Josh Staumont in the second inning and carried a perfect game into the eighth before a Nolan Arenado single broke it up. Two other relievers closed out the two-hitter. P.S. Kudos to Michael Soroka, the former Mississippi Braves ace who returned to the big leagues with Atlanta on Monday for the first time since 2020. The injury-plagued right-hander threw six relatively sharp innings, allowing four runs in the travel-weary Braves’ 7-2 loss at Oakland. … Former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner was optioned to Triple-A for the third time this year by Minnesota. … William Carey University is 2-0 in the NAIA World Series after a 13-4 win against Southeastern (Fla.) on Monday. The Crusaders play Westmont (Calif.) tonight in Lewiston, Idaho.
Trustmark Park in Pearl will be filled this week with Urchins and Hornets and Dragons and Knights. The MHSAA state championships begin Tuesday. Twelve teams from every corner of the state will decide six titles. Mr. Baseball picks from three classes are among the throng of players who will take the field. There will be players who’ll go on to bigger schools and bigger things, and there will be many for whom this is their last hurrah. Emotions will run high.
The best-of-3 battles begin Tuesday morning with a gathering of Eagles: The Class 1A finalists are West Union and Resurrection Catholic from Pascagoula. Greer Manning tops West Union with a .485 average and eight homers and a 1.62 ERA on the bump (per MaxPreps). Cole Tingle has been a sparkplug for Resurrection with a .414 average and six pitching wins.
The second feature on Tuesday is Amory-St. Stanislaus in 3A. Amory went 30-4 despite playing most of the season with no home field after the devastating March tornado. Walker Maranto and Bryce Glenn have led the Panthers through. The Rock-a-Chaws from the Coast are powered by Chesley Rhodes (.468, seven homers, 43 RBIs.)
Saltillo and East Central meet in Tuesday’s 5A nightcap. Drake Douglas and Baylor Roberts were clutch performers for Saltillo’s Tigers in the North series win against Ridgeland. Southern Miss signee T.J. Dunsford — chosen Mr. Baseball in 5A by the MHSAA and the Mississippi Association of Coaches — leads the East Central Hornets from Moss Point with .434 average.
On Wednesday, the Urchins from East Union battle the Dragons from Pisgah in 2A. East Union’s Rett Johnson, Mr. Baseball in this class, is hitting a sizzling .545. For Pisgah — just 20 miles down the road from Pearl — Colton Coleman hit .437, scored 33 runs and stole 12 bags.
In 4A on Wednesday, Mr. Baseball JoJo Parker, a Mississippi State commit, leads the Purvis Tornadoes with a .482 average, 15 homers, eight wins and a 1.66 ERA. West Lauderdale’s Knights feature Cannon Graham and Brett Busbea, who came up big in the North clincher vs. Mooreville.
The 6A final — Wednesday’s finale — matches Lewisburg and Gulfport, who knocked out Germantown and Northwest Rankin, respectively, in the North and South finals. Austin Hannigan, a .358 hitter with 20 steals, and MSU signee Gage Haley (.345) are among the leaders for Lewisburg’s Patriots. For Gulfport’s Admirals, Dawson Hall had a monster series against Northwest Rankin.
Game 2 in each series is set (in the same order) for Thursday and Friday. Any Game 3’s would start Saturday. Six celebrations are guaranteed.
Southern Miss will load up the bus and head east about 300 miles for its NCAA regional assignment. The Golden Eagles are the 2-seed in the Auburn Regional and will open Friday against Samford, another Alabama school. Top-seeded Auburn will play Penn on Friday. USM is 41-17 and champion of the Sun Belt Conference. Auburn (34-21-1) went 1-2 in the SEC Tournament. Samford, a 36-win team that won the Southern Conference Tournament, is led by John Anderson, who has 22 homers, and Jayden Davis, a .363 hitter. Also on the Bulldogs roster is Hinds Community College alum Josh Rodriguez (.271, 11 homers), an outfielder, and Kace Garner, a Northwest Rankin grad who played at Meridian CC and Mississippi State before landing at Samford. A backup catcher, he hit .143 in 19 games. One of Auburn’s big sticks is Bryson Ware, former Germantown High and Pearl River CC standout who was a second-team All-SEC pick this season. The Tigers are coached by Amory High and Itawamba CC alum Butch Thompson, a former Mississippi State assistant coach. The winner of the Auburn Regional will meet the winner of the Clemson Regional, which also includes Tennessee, in the Super Regional round.
The ride has been anything but smooth for Milwaukee, but the Brewers have reached Memorial Day — a traditional benchmark — in first place in the National League Central. They beat San Francisco 7-5 on Sunday to snap a three-game skid and move to 28-25, 1.5 games up on Pittsburgh in a weak division. Devin Williams and William Contreras — two of several Mississippi connections on the Milwaukee roster — were key figures in Sunday’s win. The remarkable Williams, a former Biloxi Shuckers star, got the last four outs for the save; he is 8-for-8 with an 0.54 ERA. Catcher Contreras, a former Mississippi Braves standout and a 2022 All-Star for Atlanta before being traded, contributed a two-run homer and an RBI single; he is batting .250 with five bombs and 16 RBIs. The Brewers have nine players from their opening day roster on the injured list, including ace Brandon Woodruff, the Mississippi State product, and promising rookie Garrett Mitchell, a Shuckers alum. The team has wobbled through a 10-15 May but still sits atop the division. “We keep grinding through it,” Williams told mlb.com. (Ex-State star Ethan Small was sent back to Triple-A after a rocky outing in his 2023 debut.) … For the record, there is a Mississippi thread running through all of the six teams currently in first place in the big leagues. In Tampa Bay, there is former M-Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt, a highly rated prospect when he passed through Pearl a decade ago. He has taken a winding path to Tampa. In Minnesota, ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner was recently recalled from the minors and might be sticking around, having gone 7-for-11 with a homer, four RBIs and two walks in his last four games. In Texas, MSU product Nathaniel Lowe continues to rake for the power-packed Rangers: .273, five homers, 29 RBIs. In Los Angeles (Chavez Ravine branch), there is a trio of former M-Braves: the irrepressible Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Evan Phillips (an unsung bullpen piece who has seven saves and a 1.77 ERA). And in Atlanta, the bulk of the club is M-Braves alums: Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Max Fried, Michael Harris II, Charlie Morton, Austin Riley, Spencer Strider, et al. And Orlando Arcia was on the first Biloxi club back in 2015. DeSoto Central High grad Riley hit his 10th homer in Sunday’s win against Philadelphia and is batting .357 over his last seven games. P.S. Shout-out to Scott Berry and Southern Miss, which won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship on Sunday, getting big homers from Dustin Dickerson, Danny Lynch and Slade Wilks and lockdown relief work from Justin Storm. Denied an NCAA regional host bid despite their 41-17 record (and 19-2 finishing kick), the Golden Eagles await the announcement today of their regional destination. Baton Rouge? Tuscaloosa? Fayetteville? … East Central Community College was eliminated from the NJCAA Division II World Series after an 11-10 loss to Frederick (Md.) CC in Enid, Okla. The Warriors won both the MACCC title and the Region 23 crown en route to the World Series.
With a sixth-inning double Saturday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Corey Dickerson reached a pretty cool milestone: 1,000 career hits. McComb native Dickerson, 34, got his first big league hit in 2013 with Colorado, which drafted the lefty-hitting outfielder out of Meridian Community College in 2010. Now with Washington, Dickerson has played for eight different clubs over his career and has been an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner. He has 136 career homers and 460 RBIs. The career hits leader among Mississippi natives is Dave Parker with 2,712. Three others (Buddy Myer, Ellis Burks and Frank White) reached the 2,000-hit level. … Former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner now has 18 career hits after a 4-for-4 effort for Minnesota on Saturday. Wallner, who has played in just 28 games over his young MLB career, hit his first homer of 2023 in the win against Toronto; he hit two last season. … USM will play for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament title Sunday in Montgomery, Ala., after beating Appalachian State 11-1 in an elimination game on Saturday. USM lost an earlier game to the Mountaineers. In the win, Will Armistead threw a seven-inning four-hitter and Matthew Etzel and Reece Ewing banged out three hits apiece in a 15-hit attack. … East Central Community College got run-ruled 12-2 by Southeastern Iowa on Saturday in the NJCAA Division II World Series and plays an elimination game Sunday vs. Frederick (Md.) CC in Enid, Okla. … William Carey University won its opener Friday against Bellevue (Neb.) and will play again Monday in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. R.J. Stinson hit an RBI double and scored on a Jake Lycette sac fly to give the Crusaders a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Preston Ratliff pitched the ninth to nail down the win, Carey’s 48th of the season.
Craig Kimbrel vs. Ronald Acuna. This was must-watch TV — for baseball fans, for Atlanta Braves fans and especially for longtime followers of the Mississippi Braves. On a 3-2 pitch with a runner on base and two down in the ninth inning, Kimbrel (M-Braves 2009) retired Acuna (M-Braves 2017) on a ground ball to third, preserving a 6-4 Philadelphia win Friday night at Truist Park. It was Kimbrel’s 400th career save, making the right-hander one of only eight pitchers to reach that milestone. “Just happy; just a lot of things,” Kimbrel said in an mlb.com story. Kimbrel came through Mississippi 14 years ago and was virtually unhittable in his brief stay. He was 6-for-6 in saves with a 0.77 ERA in 12 games. He was in Atlanta the next year (2010) and recorded the first of his 186 saves for the Braves that season. He has bounced around in recent years, running hot and cold. He has a 5.68 ERA this season but is 6-for-6 in save opps. There was nothing cheap about Friday’s save. Acuna, one of the best hitters to come through Pearl, is having a monster season — .323, 11 homers, 27 RBIs — and one swing could have tied it. Kimbrel joins former Jackson Generals star Billy Wagner in the 400-plus club. Wagner had 422. Interestingly enough, there are seven Mississippi-connected closers in the top 23 on the all-time saves list. Jonathan Papelbon (Mississippi State) sits 11th at 368, Jeff Reardon (Jackson Mets) 12th at 367, Randy Myers (JaxMets) 14th at 347, Todd Jones (Generals) 22nd at 319, and Rick Aguilera (JaxMets) 23rd at 318. A bit further down are former MSU stars Bobby Thigpen (201) and Jeff Brantley (172). Former Biloxi Shuckers standout Josh Hader, currently with San Diego, is rising at 145, still a long way from 400. P.S. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn won again for the Chicago White Sox on Friday and is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his last three starts. He is 4-5 overall. … George County High product Justin Steele is 0-2 and has yielded 10 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings in his last three starts, taking an L Friday when the Chicago Cubs lost to Cincinnati 9-0. He is 6-2 on the year. … Ex-MSU ace Ethan Small made his 2023 debut for Milwaukee and gave up five runs in three innings in mop-up duty in a 15-1 loss to San Francisco. Small had a 2.33 ERA at Triple-A Nashville.
If Dalton Rogers was overshadowed a bit on Southern Miss’ outstanding pitching staff in 2022, that is not the case now that he is in the Boston Red Sox’s system. A third-round pick by Boston last year, Rogers was named one of the 30 “Hottest Pitching Prospects” this month by MLB Pipeline. The left-hander, a Northwest Rankin High alum, had a 2.49 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 13 walks in 21 1/3 innings over six starts at Low-Class A Salem when he was promoted on Wednesday. He went 4 1/3 for High-A Greenville in his debut that night, allowing three hits and one run (a homer) while fanning seven and walking four against Rome, Atlanta’s affiliate. (Greenville won the game 7-1 as ex-DeSoto Central High star Blaze Jordan homered and drove in four runs. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product Brandon Parker struck out twice for the R-Braves against Rogers.) Rated the Red Sox’s No. 24 prospect on mlb.com, the 5-foot-11 Rogers has a “drop-and-drive delivery” that gives him “exceptional carry on his (low-90s) heater,” according to the scouting report. Rogers transferred to USM in 2022 from Jones College, where he was an All-MACCC pick in 2021. He had a 1.95 ERA and six saves in 23 games for a Golden Eagles team that featured Tanner Hall and Hurston Waldrep and was oh-so-close to a College World Series trip. … Also on the “Hottest Prospects” list is former Jackson Prep standout Will Warren, now in Triple-A with the New York Yankees. A third-year pro, Warren was 3-0 with a 2.45 in Double-A but has had a couple of bumpy outings since moving to the new level.
Like so many of his Mississippi Braves teammates this season, Drew Lugbauer doesn’t hit much. But when the left-handed Lugbauer does get into one, it typically goes a long way. He hit his 10th home run of the season on Thursday night, a majestic blast into the Farm Bureau Grill beyond the right-field fence at Trustmark Park. It was the third homer in as many games on this homestand for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound former Michigan star who is nicknamed “Slugbauer.” He is, at present, the main attraction on a team that is last in the Southern League in runs and last in the South Division with an 18-23 record that includes a 6-2 loss to Pensacola on Thursday. Lugbauer, 26, is batting just .217, actually one of the better averages in Thursday’s lineup. Ten of his 26 hits this season have left the yard. He leads the SL in homers and is on pace to break the M-Braves’ single-season record of 28 homers that he set last year. (For the record, the Jackson Mets/Generals record at Smith-Wills Stadium is Darryl Strawberry’s 34 in 1982.) In his third season with the M-Braves, Lugbauer is also the career homer leader with 56. Many a fearsome slugger has passed through Pearl since 2005: Jeff Francoeur, Matt Esquivel, Kala Ka’aihue, Jason Heyward, Michael Rosamond, Ernesto Mejia, Evan Gattis, Dustin Peterson, Ronald Acuna, to name a few. Lugbauer has bragging rights over all of them. … Austin Riley, another of those former M-Braves sluggers, had quite the night for Atlanta on Thursday, hitting two monstrous homers in an 8-5 win against Philadelphia at Truist Park. Riley, a former DeSoto Central standout, is just the third player to hit two homers of 455 feet-plus in one game in the last nine years; the other two did it at Coors Field in Colorado. Riley has nine homers on the season for the first-place Braves. P.S. Surprising Baltimore (second-best record in MLB) just completed a 5-1 road trip through Toronto and New York (Yankee Stadium) and ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier went 10-for-27 with two homers, seven RBIs and six runs in the six games. Frazier is hitting .253 with six homers and 23 RBIs in his first season with the Orioles. … Shout-out to former M-Braves ace Julio Teheran, who threw five solid innings (but took a loss) for Milwaukee on Thursday in his first big league game since 2021. Teheran, part of a combo no-hitter for the M-Braves in 2010, has 78 career MLB wins. He ranks with the best of the many standout pitchers who have come through Pearl. … Southern Miss is 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament after Danny Lynch delivered a walk-off win against Troy. Jackson State bowed out of the SWAC Tournament with a second straight one-run defeat.
Though neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State qualified for the SEC Tournament, there are Magnolia State connections among the eight teams still alive as of today in Hoover, Ala. Bryson Ware, a former Germantown High and Pearl River Community College standout, was a second-team All-SEC player for Auburn this season and showed out Wednesday, going 2-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs and a steal in the Tigers’ 6-4 loss to Vanderbilt. Ware’s 23rd homer of the season matches the school record. Auburn is coached by Amory High and Itawamba CC alum Butch Thompson, a former Mississippi State assistant coach. The Tigers meet Alabama today in an intriguing elimination game. On the Crimson Tide roster is Wayne Academy product Will Hodo, who batted .289 this season but has been sidelined of late by an injury. Alabama fell into the losers bracket with a loss to Florida, whose starting pitcher was Hurston Waldrep, one of the stars of Southern Miss’ NCAA Tournament team in 2022. Waldrep, 7-3 with a 4.83 ERA for the Gators in the regular season, pitched into the sixth inning on Wednesday; he was long gone by the time the Gators won in the 11th. Arkansas’ starter on Wednesday was Cody Adcock, a right-hander who began his college career at Ole Miss before transferring. He pitched two innings in the 11-inning win over Texas A&M. The Razorbacks may be without starting shortstop John Bolton, a Hinds CC alum, for the entirety of the tournament. The slick-fielding Bolton, a .202 hitter, was injured the last weekend of the regular season. Former Lewisburg High star Brady Tygart, 2-0 with a 3.31 for Arkansas this season, figures to make an appearance before the Hogs are done. Today, they’ll play LSU in the winners bracket. On the Tigers’ roster is freshman Aiden Moffett, the highly touted pitcher out of Taylorsville who made one (very poor) appearance this season and apparently is redshirting. LSU beat South Carolina on Wednesday. The Gamecocks have played all year without Jacob Compton, a DeSoto Central and Northeast CC alum who transferred in from Memphis, where he was All-AAC in 2022. The slugging first baseman was injured in preseason. South Carolina plays A&M in an elimination game today. The Aggies’ director of player and program development is Chuck Box, a Columbus native who previously coached at Jackson Prep and Hartfield Academy. P.S. Kudos to Southern Miss, which opened Sun Belt Conference Tournament play with a 7-1 win over James Madison as Tanner Hall notched his 12th victory. USM gets Troy today in Montgomery, Ala. Jackson State lost its SWAC tourney opener to Grambling State 8-7 despite a combined seven hits from Omar Gomez and Marcus Atterberry. JSU meets Bethune-Cookman today in an elimination game in Atlanta.