31 Jul

minor matters

Landon Harper, the former Southern Miss closer, closed out a seven-inning no-hitter on Sunday for Low-Class A Augusta in the Atlanta system. Harper retired the last five batters, two via strikeout, for his second save as the GreenJackets beat Charleston 2-0. A 14th-round pick by the Braves in 2022, the right-hander has a 3.86 ERA and a 5-3 record in 22 games at Augusta. Harper pitched at Northeast Lauderdale High and Pearl River Community College before moving to USM in 2022; he had 12 saves for the Golden Eagles that season as they made their run in the NCAAs. … Former Mississippi State standout Jake Mangum extended his hitting streak to eight games with a knock for Triple-A Jacksonville (Miami system). Mangum has 13 hits during the streak and is batting .354 in July and .305 for the year. … Ex-State star Hunter Stovall scored the game-winning run for Triple-A Albuquerque (Colorado) to cap a six-run ninth inning in a 17-16 Pacific Coast League win against Sacramento. Stovall, batting .273 this year, entered the game late as a sub and drew an RBI walk as part of the wild ninth. … Mississippi College product Blaine Crim hit his 14th homer — No. 75 career — for Triple-A Round Rock (Texas). Crim is batting .278 with 52 RBIs. … Ex-MSU star Rowdey Jordan hit his 11th homer and stole his 23rd base for Double-A Binghamton (New York Mets). Jordan, who played on the Bulldogs’ national title team in 2021, is batting .252 with 44 RBIs in his second stint in Double-A. … Tim Elko, who played on Ole Miss’ national title team last year, finished July with a six-game hitting streak (12 hits all told) for High-A Winston-Salem (Chicago White Sox). He is batting .323 with five homers and 23 RBIs in 25 games at that level after belting 17 homers in Low-A. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams took a tough loss (two runs in five innings) for Great Lakes (Los Angeles Dodgers) but has a 1.99 ERA in seven starts for the Low-A club. The 6-foot-6 right-hander was a second-round pick out of Florida’s IMG Academy in 2019. … Decatur native and Ole Miss alum Kemp Alderman went 0-for-4 for Low-A Jupiter (Miami) and is off to a 1-for-16 start in pro ball. He was a second-round pick this year after a monster season at UM.

30 Jul

stocking up

The big fish landed by the Texas Rangers in their trading frenzy are starters Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery. Not to be overlooked is Chris Stratton, the ex-Mississippi State star who’ll bolster the Rangers’ bullpen. Stratton joined Montgomery in moving from St. Louis to Texas. The right-hander from Tupelo has a 4.36 ERA and one save in 42 games for the Cardinals this season and a 4.50 career ERA over 280 games, most as a reliever. In 53 2/3 innings in 2023, he has 59 strikeouts and 17 walks and batters are hitting .231 against him. Stratton was the 20th overall pick out of MSU by San Francisco in 2012, shortly after winning SEC pitcher of the year honors, as well as the Ferriss Trophy. He joins Lance Lynn and Kendall Graveman as Mississippi college alums changing teams in the past couple of days. The trade deadline is Tuesday. P.S. Home run report: MSU product Hunter Renfroe’s 17th homer of the year Sunday was a game-winner for the Los Angeles Angels, coming in the 10th inning at Toronto; Renfroe is hitting .440 over his last seven games. Ex-DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley belted No. 24 in Atlanta’s 8-6 win over Milwaukee. Riley has eight homers in his last 15 games. And former Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner hit his fifth homer (in 62 at-bats) for Minnesota, accounting for the Twins’ lone run in a 2-1 loss to Kansas City; Wallner has four homers in his last five games.

30 Jul

present arms

Stars must have been aligned on Saturday night. By some cosmic coincidence, five Magnolia State college products got the ball as starting pitchers in minor league games, scattered from Double-A to Low-Class A. Collectively, they pitched pretty darn well, allowing five runs and striking out 21 batters over 25 innings all told. Only one got a decision, however, and that was a loss. Most impressive among the bunch was former Ole Miss star Gunnar Hoglund, who delivered four perfect innings, fanning three, for Low-A Stockton (Oakland system). The 19th overall pick in the 2021 draft (by Toronto), Hoglund spent several weeks on the injured list this season and has scuffled (6.32 ERA in nine starts) since his return. Saturday’s outing certainly was a good sign. The hard-luck loser on Saturday was Southern Miss alum Dalton Rogers. He threw 5 2/3 innings for High-A Greenville (Boston), allowing just two runs. He dropped to 1-3 with a 5.11 ERA; he had a 2.49 ERA in Low-A to start the season. Ex-Ole Miss star David Parkinson, in pro ball since 2017, worked 6 2/3 for Double-A Reading (Philadelphia), allowing a lone run with six strikeouts. He trimmed his ERA to 4.61. Former USM standout Hunter Stanley tossed 4 2/3 innings for Double-A Akron (Cleveland), giving up a lone run with four strikeouts. He trimmed his ERA to 5.02. Houston Harding, a Mississippi State and Itawamba Community College product, made his first start for Double-A Rocket City (Los Angeles Angels) in the Southern League and went four innings, allowing one run (a home run). Harding had a 1.32 ERA in A-ball this season but has not been as effective (12.42) in nine Double-A appearances. Saturday’s start was a positive step. P.S. A pair of Mississippians in the majors hit noteworthy homers: Tim Anderson belted his first in over a year and Brent Rooker hit his first since appearing in the All-Star Game. East Central Community College product Anderson, who has 98 career bombs, hit a leadoff shot for the Chicago White Sox, his first in 327 at-bats this season. Slumping for much of the season, Anderson is 20-for-57 (.351) since the All-Star break. Ex-MSU star Rooker’s homer was his 17th for Oakland but first in 20 days. His bomb at Colorado went 462 feet, longest by an A’s player this year. He is batting .269 since the break, .248 on the year.

29 Jul

remember the time

On this date in 2009, the Philadelphia Phillies — defending World Series champs — swung a big trade with Cleveland for left-hander Cliff Lee, the former Meridian Community College star and 2008 Cy Young Award winner. Lee went 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA down the stretch for the Phillies and 4-0 in the postseason, but the team lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series. Lee was traded to Seattle in the off-season. On July 29, 2010, the Phillies, again eyeing a postseason run, traded with Houston for Roy Oswalt, the former Holmes CC standout who had won an ERA title in 2006. Oswalt went 7-1 with a 1.74 for the Phils and 1-1 in the postseason as the team lost to San Francisco in the National League Championship Series. After the 2010 season, Philadelphia brought Lee back as a free agent. The Phils entered the 2011 season with a fantastic rotation — famously hailed as the “legion of arms” on the cover of Sports Illustrated — of Lee, Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton. The team won 102 games — Lee won 17, Oswalt nine — and the NL East title but fell in the division series to St. Louis. Lee and Oswalt both lost their starts. Oswalt left after the 2011 season and was soon out of the game. Lee pitched three more years in Philly with only modest success. Neither would appear in another postseason game, and the Phillies didn’t make the postseason again until last year. P.S. Props to Millsaps College coach Jim Page and former Mississippi State and big league pitcher Paul Maholm for their formal induction today into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, a very deserving honor for each.

29 Jul

on the rise

The Biloxi Shuckers won their fourth straight game Friday night at MGM Park and moved into a tie for first place in the Southern League South, fueled by a pair of the top prospects in Milwaukee’s productive pipeline. Jackson Chourio, the No. 2 prospect (per mlb.com) in the minor leagues, went 3-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs in the Shuckers’ 9-5 win against Birmingham, and Tyler Black — the Brewers’ No. 5 prospect — added a triple, two RBIs, two runs and a stolen base. Chourio, signed out of Venezuela in 2021, is batting .281 with 15 homers, 65 RBIs, 57 runs and 31 steals. Black, the 33rd overall pick out of Wright State in 2021, is at .281 with 14 bombs, 46 RBIs, 67 runs and 45 steals, which leads the league. Black leads off and Chourio hits second for a Shuckers team that features six of the Brewers’ top 15 prospects. Four recent Shuckers alums — Sal Frelick, Brice Turang, Joey Wiemer and Abner Uribe — have had an impact as rookies for the Brewers, who lead the National League Central. The Shuckers, winners of eight of their last 10, moved to 15-10 in the second half with Friday’s win. They got an assist from the Mississippi Braves, who took down first-place Pensacola 4-1 Friday at Trustmark Park as Nolan Kingham threw five shutout innings, Jesse Franklin V banged out three hits and two RBIs and Drew Lugbauer slugged his 15th homer. P.S. Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier didn’t get a hit Friday for Baltimore but made two great stops at second base and turned a double play to help the first-place Orioles beat the New York Yankees — and Aaron Judge — 1-0 at Camden Yards. Anthony Santander hit a walk-off bomb in the ninth. … As part of the Chicago White Sox’s fire sale, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers and ex-MSU standout Kendall Graveman went to Houston. Lynn is 6-9 with a 6.47 ERA this year but is 129-93, 3.71, for his career. Graveman, who pitched for the Astros in 2021, is 8-for-12 in save opps with a 3.48 ERA in 2023.

28 Jul

just a footnote

Hunter Renfroe had a very good day on Thursday: six hits, including his 16th homer and a couple of doubles, two RBIs and a pair of runs in the Los Angeles Angels’ doubleheader sweep of Detroit at Comerica Park. And yet, the former Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs was upstaged, to say the least, by teammate Shohei Ohtani, who had what mlb.com called “one of the best days baseball has ever witnessed.” A day after his team announced he would not be traded, Ohtani threw a one-hit shutout in Game 1 of the twinbill, then belted two homers — Nos. 37 and 38 — in Game 2. “He’s doing the impossible,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said in an espn.com story. The shutout was Ohtani’s first career complete game and his ninth win of the year. He leads the big leagues in homers. For Renfroe, well, it’ll be a cool story to tell his kids and grandkids someday: “I was there when … .” Buoyed perhaps by the news that the Angels are all in on making a playoff push, Renfroe raised his average to .249 and ran his RBI total to 44. Renfroe is playing for his fifth different team in the last five seasons. He has been in the playoffs twice, with Tampa Bay in 2020 and Boston in 2021. He has a .186 average and no rings. He’d surely relish another shot at the postseason. … Dakota Hudson, another State product, had a very tough day on Thursday. Thrust into the game after St. Louis starting pitcher Miles Mikolas was ejected three batters in, Hudson allowed the first four Chicago Cubs he faced to reach as the Cardinals fell behind 3-0. That was more than enough support for Cubs starter Justin Steele, the All-Star lefty from Lucedale who yielded one run in six innings to record his 11th win. Hudson lasted 4 1/3, allowing nine hits, two walks and five runs in the 10-3 loss. P.S. The last player to throw a one-hit (or no-hit) shutout and homer on the same day, per mlb.com research, was former Jackson Mets pitcher Floyd Youmans, who did it for Montreal in a single game on June 8, 1986. Ohtani is one of five players to throw a shutout and homer twice on the same day; the other four did it in one game. … Ex-MSU standout Justin Foscue and former Mississippi College star Blaine Crim were part of a 5-4-3 triple play and two 5-4-3 double plays for Triple-A Round Rock (Texas system) on Thursday. Alas, the two went 0-for-10 at the plate as the Express fell to El Paso 10-9.

27 Jul

spotlight on …

Mississippi Braves Cal Conley and Jesse Franklin V are Atlanta’s No. 11 and No. 12 prospects, according to mlb.com’s rankings. Neither has really lived up to his billing. If the M-Braves (8-14) are to make a playoff push in the second half of the Southern League season, more production from those two would certainly be a big help. Conley, a 5-foot-8 shortstop/second baseman, is batting .214 with a .299 on-base percentage. A top-of-the-order bat, he has 42 runs and 14 RBIs in 89 games. Franklin, an outfielder regarded as one of the top power hitters in Atlanta’s system, has 10 home runs in 52 games. But he is batting .230 (.297 OBP) and has struck out 74 times (13 walks) in 196 at-bats. This is an M-Braves team with good pitching (the 4.00 ERA leads the league) and power (their 105 homers ranks third). What’s needed is more quality at-bats, more contact in clutch situations. The team ranks first in the SL in strikeouts (by batters) and last in runs. There is a correlation. The M-Braves lost to Pensacola 4-3 on Wednesday night at Trustmark Park, striking out 14 times and going 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. That was a winnable game. The M-Braves are two games — two losses — into a 12-game homestand that presents an opportunity to make a run in the SL’s South Division. Some hitters need to step it up. Conley and Franklin, the top prospects, would seem to be logical candidates.

27 Jul

hot take

Things got a little hot in Houston on Wednesday night. There were six home runs — one by hot-hitting former Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe — two hit batsmen, two ejections, one benches-clearing incident and many angry words. When the final bell rang at Minute Maid Park, Texas had a 13-5 victory over rival Houston, salvaging the finale of the three-game series and leaving town with a 2-game lead in the American League West. Lowe had two of the Rangers’ 17 hits, drew two walks, drove in three runs and scored twice. He also had his tower buzzed on a ball-four pitch by erratic Astros starter Framber Valdez, who had surrendered the homer to Lowe in his previous at-bat. Lowe, who has 12 bombs on the season, is hitting .435 over his last seven games with 10 hits, eight walks, nine RBIs and eight runs. The Rangers (60-43) have scored 10 or more runs in 21 games and have won 20 of them. … Ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner also has swung a hot bat of late, but his two-homer game on Wednesday was not enough to push Minnesota past Seattle. The Mariners won 8-7, getting a pair of homers from Mississippi Braves alum Dylan Moore. Wallner is batting .320 over his last seven games and has four homers in 51 at-bats this season. The Twins saw their lead in the AL Central shrink to 2 games over Cleveland, which beat Kansas City 5-3 as ex-USM star Nick Sandlin picked up his fifth win in relief. P.S. Kemp Alderman, the Ferriss Trophy winner out of Ole Miss, went 1-for-6 in a doubleheader in his pro debut for Low-Class A Jupiter in the Miami system. Alderman was a second-round pick. … Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith went 2-for-3 with his third homer for Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit chain. The 21-year-old Keith — the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect — is batting .290 with 14 RBIs in 19 games at this level; he hit .325 with 14 homers in Double-A.

26 Jul

deep in the heart …

In his first appearance in the Silver Boot rivalry, J.P. France kicked some butt. Ex-Mississippi State standout France threw seven sterling innings Tuesday night as Houston beat Texas 4-3, trimming the first-place Rangers’ lead to a single game in the American League West. “(P)ressure’s a privilege to be able to be in those situations,” France told mlb.com. The rookie right-hander yielded five hits, two walks and an unearned run, moving his record to 6-3 with a 2.87 ERA. He has posted a quality start in eight of his last nine outings. His ERA would rank third in the AL, but he doesn’t have enough innings yet to qualify for the list. Former MSU star Nathaniel Lowe went 1-for-3 with a walk for Texas, which will try to salvage a game in the series and keep its division lead in tonight’s finale at Minute Maid Park. P.S. Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High alum, had a hand in Atlanta’s rare 8-3-5 triple play against Boston. It was the first TP of the season and first for the Braves in 19 years. Alas, they lost 7-1 at Fenway Park. … Southern Miss alum Matt Wallner’s second homer of the season gave Minnesota an early lead, but the first-place Twins ultimately lost to Seattle 9-7. … Ex-Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull threw two scoreless innings on a rehab assignment in A-ball for Detroit. … Ole Miss product Derek Diamond went six innings for the win in his High-Class A debut with Greensboro in the Pittsburgh system. Diamond was 8-3 in Low-A. His former UM teammate Tim Elko, playing for Winston-Salem (Chicago White Sox), had two of the six hits Diamond allowed. … Kemp Alderman, a second-round pick out of Ole Miss by Miami earlier this month, was assigned to Low-A Jupiter but didn’t play Tuesday. … Former MSU pitcher K.C. Hunt recently signed as a free agent with Milwaukee and has been assigned to the Arizona Complex League; Hunt was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2022 but didn’t sign. … Ex-Bulldogs star Landon Sims, the 34th overall pick in 2022, has been moved up to Low-A Visalia in Arizona’s system. He had a 3.00 ERA in eight rookie ball appearances.

25 Jul

clearing the bases

Jordan Westburg is on the board. The ex-Mississippi State standout hit MLB career home run No. 1 on Monday, helping Baltimore beat Philadelphia 3-2 in a big interleague series. Westburg is batting .266 in 20 games; he has 60 minor league homers on hs ledger. … Also going yard for the first time in the big leagues was former Biloxi Shuckers standout Sal Frelick, whose blast in his third MLB game helped Milwaukee beat Cincinnati 3-2 in a big National League Central contest. … Coincidentally, those homers came on the same day as Will Verdung’s first as a pro; the Itawamba Community College alum, a recent draftee, went deep in his debut for Atlanta’s rookie club (see previous post). … And in keeping with that theme, South Panola High product Emaarion Boyd hit his first pro homer on Sunday for Philadelphia’s Low-Class A Clearwater team. A 2022 draftee, the 177-pound Boyd, 19, leads the Florida State League in steals with 41. … Jacob Gonzalez and Calvin Harris, both drafted out of Ole Miss by the Chicago White Sox, made their pro debuts on Monday in the Arizona Complex League. Gonzalez started at shortstop and went 0-for-1 with two walks; Harris started at catcher and went 1-for-3. … All 14 players drafted out of the state this year have signed. Tupelo High’s Johnathan Rogers, a 6-foot-3 right-hander picked in Round 20, has inked with Detroit, though mlb.com’s draft tracker doesn’t indicate the bonus. … In Monday’s huge American League West clash between Texas and Houston, ex-MSU star Nathaniel Lowe went 1-for-3 with two walks, two runs and an RBI but the first-place Rangers fell to the Astros 10-9 at Minute Maid Park. Former Ole Miss star Grae Kessinger, a backup infielder, did not play for Houston, which closed to within 2 games of the division lead. … DeSoto Central High alum and current Braves star Austin Riley earned NL player of the week honors after smacking six homers and driving in 16 runs last week. Riley tied a franchise record with homers in five straight games. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn is listed in an mlb.com article as one of the 17 players most likely to be traded before the Aug. 1 deadline. The veteran pitcher, 36, has had a rough season with the White Sox. … Detroit has announced that former Madison Central standout Spencer Turnbull, on the injured list since May 6, will make a rehab start tonight and another Sunday in A-ball. Turnbull, coming back from 2021 Tommy John surgery, was having a rough time before injuring his neck.