30 Mar

worth noting

The Gwinnett Stripers, Atlanta’s Triple-A club, opened their season Friday and Southern Miss alum Hurston Waldrep was not on the roster. That has fueled speculation that the Braves’ No. 2 prospect will start the season with the Double-A Mississippi Braves, who open next week. Waldrep posted a 1.53 ERA (and 41 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings) over four levels of the minors in 2023, after being drafted in the first round out of Florida. He allowed no runs in 4 1/3 innings in the Grapefruit League for Atlanta this spring. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Jake Mangum homered in his first Triple-A game on Friday for Durham (Tampa Bay system) and threw out a base runner from center field. … USM product Chuckie Robinson, starting at catcher, got a hit and threw out a runner attempting to steal in his debut with the Chicago White Sox’s Triple-A Charlotte club. … Perhaps disappointed not to make the New York Yankees’ 26-man roster, ex-Jackson Prep star Will Warren allowed three hits, three walks and five runs while getting just one out in his start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. … Former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz has signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers after being released by the Angels. … Tim Anderson, ex-East Central Community College standout, is 3-for-8 in his first two games for Miami, where he signed as a free agent after the White Sox cut him loose after last season. … In college ball, the state’s six NCAA Division I schools went 0-6 Friday, the most glaring loss suffered by Alcorn State, a 29-3 loser at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Also of note: Mississippi State squandered a 6-2 lead in the eighth inning and fell at Florida 7-6.

17 Feb

opening acts

Shout-outs to some standouts from Opening Day in NCAA Division I:
Ethan Lege: The senior outfielder went 3-for-6 with a run and two RBIs, including the go-ahead knock in the 13th inning, as Ole Miss beat Hawaii 5-4 at Murakami Stadium.
Nikko Mazza: The junior right-hander out of Madison-Ridgeland Academy threw 5 1/3 shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out eight, in Southern Miss’ 4-1 win over Marist at Taylor Park in Hattiesburg.
Bryce Chance: The junior outfielder, also an MRA product, hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning as Mississippi State rallied past Air Force 8-4 before an announced 11,000-plus at Dudy Noble Field.
Davione Hull: The senior outfielder, from Grenada by way of Mississippi Valley State, went 1-for-3 with two RBIs, a walk and a steal in Jackson State’s 9-5 loss to Texas Southern in the Cactus Jack HBCU Classic in Houston.
Kalum Banks Jr.: The junior first baseman went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs in Alcorn State’s 10-4 loss to Southern University in the Cactus Jack event.

15 Feb

here it comes

The wrapper comes off for NCAA Division I schools on Friday and there is great anticipation around the state as to what may be revealed in 2024. There is a new coach at Southern Miss and another at Mississippi Valley State. Star players are gone from every team, and the rosters at Ole Miss and Mississippi State, in particular, have been stocked with newcomers, many of them portal transfers. Here’s a quick look at some players to watch in the early going:
At USM, where Christian Ostrander takes over for Scott Berry as the man in charge, the key player might prove to be veteran Slade Wilks. The senior DH from Columbia hit .289 with 20 home runs and 58 RBIs for the 2023 Golden Eagles and was a Ferriss Trophy finalist. Ostrander calls him the “oak tree in that lineup.” USM, which went 46-20 last year and hosted a Super Regional (losing to Tennessee), opens at Taylor Park against Marist.
At State, where the Bulldogs return sluggers Hunter Hines (a Ferriss finalist) and Dakota Jordan, the emphasis has to be on improved pitching. Nate Dohm, 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior right-hander with strikeout stuff, figures to play a key role there. A transfer from Ball State in 2023, he went 6-4 with a 4.07 ERA in 17 appearances for a team that finished 27-26 and had an SEC-worst 7.01 ERA. Dohm and the Bulldogs start with Air Force at Dudy Noble.
At Ole Miss, where MLB draftees Jacob Gonzalez, Kemp Alderman (Ferriss Trophy winner) and Calvin Harris have moved on, the transfer portal brought in a host of newcomers. Notable among them is Luke Hill, a Baton Rouge native who played at Arizona State last season. Hill, who hit .314 with six homers and 42 RBIs as a freshman for the Sun Devils, takes over at shortstop, where Gonzalez was a three-year star. The Rebels, national champs in 2022, tumbled to 25-29 last year. They open at Hawaii.
At Jackson State, where last year’s 28-25 record and two-and-out finish in the SWAC Tournament was a disappointment, the Tigers must replace their best hitter, Ty Hill (a Ferriss finalist), and a top starter, Jesse Caver. Offensive spark could come from Myles White, a senior second baseman who batted .327 (.462 OBP), drove in 23 runs and scored 36 in 49 games. The Tigers open in the six-team Cactus Jack HBCU Classic in Houston, where they’ll play Texas Southern in their first game, Alcorn State in their second.
P.S. Alcorn, coming off an 8-40 season, opens against Southern University on Friday in the Cactus Jack event. Valley, 15-36 in 2023, will launch the C.J. Bilbrey era on Feb. 23 at Jackson State.

06 Aug

the only one

Al Jones, a tall right-hander from Charleston, made his big league debut for the Chicago White Sox on this date in 1983, becoming the first and to date only Alcorn State alumnus to make The Show. On in relief against Baltimore at old Memorial Stadium, he gave up two hits, got Cal Ripken Jr. to hit into a double play, then was pulled after walking the next batter. He wound up being charged with a run but got a hold in a game the White Sox won 6-4. Jones pitched only 26 more games in MLB, finishing his career in 1985 with a 3.77 ERA and five saves. He stayed in the game, pitching until 1999 in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, where he had a 3.69 over six years. Alcorn’s program, which has fallen on hard times in recent years, has produced some good players, foremost among them Bill Foster, a Negro Leagues legend from the 1920s and ’30s who is enshrined in Cooperstown. The Braves have had 13 players drafted, including Jones (13th round in 1981), Corey Wimberly, Angel Rosa, Marcus Davis and John Harrington. Greg Daniels hit .545 for the 1983 Braves, the second-highest average ever by an NCAA Division I player. Current Atlanta star Michael Harris II’s father played at Alcorn. But Jones is the only one to reach the big leagues — 40 years ago today — and there are no Braves alums currently in affiliated ball. P.S. Up in the Cape Cod League, Southern Miss’ J.B. Middleton got the win and Kros Sivley the save as Hyannis beat Falmouth on Saturday to advance in the playoffs. USM’s Will Armistead pitched the ninth inning in Hyannis’ win in Game 1 on Friday. … Yarmouth-Dennis, with Braden Montgomery (Madison Central alum) and Hunter Hines (Mississippi State) on its roster, faces a decisive Game 3 today against Brewster. Montgomery is 2-for-9 with a homer in the series; Hines, the CCBL home run champ, didn’t play in a win in Game 2. … The semi-pro Hattiesburg Black Sox went 2-2 in the NABF Major Division World Series in Michigan, bowing out in Saturday’s quarterfinals. … The Smith-Wills Stadium-based Hank Aaron Sports Academy is holding its Fantastic 44 “Winner Take All” game today at 6 p.m. The 44 participating players are from high schools all over the state and were selected by coaches and instructors that oversaw three showcase events this summer at the Jackson facility.

08 Jul

around the horn

Kudos to Alcorn State pitcher Kewan Braziel. The left-hander from North Carolina threw a scoreless inning in Friday’s inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic in Seattle, but more significantly, he received the T-Mobile Impact Award, recognizing his leadership skills on and off the field in his community. The award was presented in-game by Ken Griffey Jr. Jackson State’s Ty Hill had an RBI walk and an infield single in the game at T-Mobile Park, and teammates Erik Gonzalez, Jesse Caver and Jatavis Melton along with Mississippi Valley State’s Narvin Booker and Victor Figueroa also participated. … Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin went 1-for-3 in the high school All-Star game that preceded the HBCU contest at T-Mobile. Griffin and Lewisburg High star Samuel Richardson are slated to participate in a home run derby prior to today’s All-Star Futures Game (6 p.m., Peacock). Biloxi High alum Colt Keith, a Detroit prospect, is Mississippi’s lone rep in the prestigious Futures Game. … In a matchup of two of MLB’s most disappointing teams, the Chicago White Sox beat St. Louis 8-7 in a wonky game at Guaranteed Rate Field. Former Mississippi State ace Chris Stratton came on for the Cardinals with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and walked in the go-ahead run on four pitches. Ex-MSU star Kendall Graveman got the save for Chicago — his seventh — but not before yielding a hit and a walk in the ninth inning. … Around the minors: David Parkinson, former Ole Miss standout who has had a turbulent pro career, allowed one run in five innings (despite four hits and five walks) to get the win for Double-A Reading. The left-hander is 3-4 with a 5.32 ERA. He was Philadelphia’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2018, went 1-11, 7.64, in 2021, elected to not play in 2022 and has been on and off the development list this season. … For Triple-A Round Rock, former State standout Justin Foscue hit a pair of homers and now has 10 on the season. The Texas Rangers prospect is batting .281 with 39 RBIs. … For Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox affiliate), erstwhile big leaguer Billy Hamilton of Taylorsville homered — his first in 75 at-bats this season. … In the High-Class A Midwest League, Beloit beat Wisconsin 6-3 as a bunch of Mississippi products played roles. Davis Bradshaw (McLaurin High/Meridian Community College) had two hits and two RBIs, Tanner Allen (MSU) had a hit and a stolen base and Kyle Crigger (Corinth High/Itawamba CC) got a four-out save for Beloit (Miami system). Joe Gray Jr. (Hattiesburg High) had a hit, a run and an RBI for Wisconsin (Milwaukee). … At Low-A Clearwater, former South Panola star Emaarion Boyd led off the ninth with a walk, went to second on a wild pitch, took third on a fly ball and scored the game-winning run on a grounder to third. The fleet-footed Boyd is batting .285 with 50 runs (and 41 steals) in 57 games for the Phillies’ farm club.

07 Jul

northwestern exposure

Jackson State hasn’t had a player picked in the MLB draft since 2017. For Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State, it’s been eight years since they had a player drafted. Seven players from those schools will get a little more exposure in the inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic, scheduled for tonight at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, where scouts and team execs will be gathered for the major league All-Star Game next week. Jackson State’s Ty Hill — a Ferriss Trophy finalist this year — and teammates Jatavis Melton, Jesse Caver and Erik Gonzalez, Valley’s Narvin Booker and Victor Figueroa and Alcorn’s Kewan Braziel are among the 50 players from historically black NCAA Division I schools invited to Seattle. In addition to workouts, two squads will play a game tonight (9:30 on MLB Network). No player from Mississippi’s three HBCUs is ranked among the top 200 draft prospects by mlb.com or Baseball America. More exposure might be just what one of them needs. “Not everyone goes to a Power 5 conference,” Ken Griffey Jr., who created this event, recently told MLB Network. Hill is a particularly interesting case. He hit .399 with a .507 on-base average for his three years at JSU. He walked 96 times, fanned 74. This past season, Hill — noticeably smaller than his listed 6 feet 1, 210 pounds — batted .387 with six homers, 16 doubles, four triples and 53 RBIs. He can handle third base, second or the outfield. Obviously, the Saltillo High product can play the game. Whether his abilities transfer to pro ball, who really knows? He might just need a chance. … Prior to the HBCU game is the MLB/USA Baseball High School All-American Game for 2024 draft prospects. Jackson Prep star Konnor Griffin, rated the No. 1 prospect by some services, is expected to play. He is an LSU commit. Also on the rosters are Noah Sheffield, son of Gary, and Adrian Beltre Jr. A replay of the game will air at 10 a.m. Saturday on MLBN. … The All-Star Futures Game is set for Saturday in Seattle at 6 p.m. (live on Peacock). Former Biloxi High star and 2019 Gatorade player of the year Colt Keith, a top Detroit prospect, is on the American League roster. The lefty-swinging third baseman is batting .335 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2023. Also watch for Biloxi Shuckers outfielder Jackson Chourio, a highly regarded Milwaukee prospect. Atlanta’s representative is right-hander Spencer Schwellenbach, who is at Low-A Augusta. The Futures Game will re-air on MLBN Sunday at 8 a.m.

08 Mar

special delivery

Stepping up in a rivalry game is something special. Here’s a tip of the cap to three players who did so in three intra-state clashes on Tuesday night. In Oxford, senior Peyton Chatagnier went 2-for-3 with a homer and three runs to drive Ole Miss to an 11-5 win over Southern Miss in a matchup of nationally ranked rivals. Chatagnier is batting .400 with four homers, 11 RBIs and 14 runs for the 11-2 Rebels, who are ranked as high as No. 4. USM slipped to 8-4. At Lorman, freshman Victor Figueroa went 3-for-4 with five RBIs as Mississippi Valley State whipped Alcorn State 8-4. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Figueroa is hitting .359 with 12 RBIs for the Delta Devils (6-6). Alcorn fell to 1-11. At Pearl’s Trustmark Park, Stewart Bonnecaze was the leader of a pack of four Millsaps pitchers who combined on a three-hitter to propel the Majors to a 4-2 victory against Belhaven that evened the Maloney Trophy Series at 1-1. Bonnecaze, a freshman, worked four hitless innings, allowing just an unearned run and fanning five, to improve to 1-1 with a 4.66 ERA for the 8-7 Majors. Belhaven is 3-9. … Jones College, Itawamba Community College and Mississippi Delta CC will play a round-robin today at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson, an event originally scheduled to be played in Cleveland. Jones-Delta is at noon, Jones-ICC at 2:30 and ICC-Delta at 5. Tickets are $10.

23 Apr

better than most

In case you missed it, Laurel native Shemar Page, now pitching for Grambling State, threw a seven-inning perfect game Friday against visiting Alcorn State. It is reported to be just the 34th perfecto in NCAA Division I history going back to 1959. Page struck out 13 of the 21 batters he faced. The Tigers run-ruled the Braves 16-0. It’s been that kind of year for Alcorn, 2-24 after that loss. Right-hander Page has followed a long and winding road to Grambling. He was a two-way player at Raleigh High, an ace pitcher at Pearl River Community College — which won state and region titles while he was there — and primarily a hitter in two seasons at Louisiana Tech. As a grad transfer at Grambling, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Page has posted a 5-4, 2.67 ledger in 10 starts on the mound and is batting .359 in 78 at-bats.

28 Mar

let’s get some runs

The focus here is on runs. Not home runs. Not RBIs. Just runs, which, when you get down to it, is what baseball is all about. Alcorn State scored eight runs on Sunday, just enough to win for the first time this season after 16 consecutive losses in which the Braves rarely scored. (They actually scored nine times on Saturday but, curse their luck, managed to lose 10-9.) So give a shout-out to first-year Braves coach Reggie Williams, the ex-big leaguer, and to Jamil Betancourt and Garrett Palladino, who each scored twice in the 8-7 win at Prairie View A&M. Alcorn’s leading scorer this season is Clayvonje Wright, who scored once on Sunday and now has six of the Braves’ 37 runs on the season. Ole Miss could have used a few more runs against Tennessee, scoring just seven all told in losing three times in Oxford. Jacob Gonzalez leads the Rebels (16-7) in runs with 28, though he never touched home plate in the UT series. Leading scorers in baseball don’t get the attention that they do in basketball or soccer or hockey. Doesn’t seem right. Here’s a tip of the cap to Mississippi State’s runs leader, Hunter Hines, who has 30 as a freshman for the 15-10 Bulldogs and ranks second in the SEC. Southern Miss (17-7), which tallied 35 times in a sweep at Western Kentucky over the weekend, is led by Christopher Sargent and Slade Wilks with 22 runs apiece. Jackson State (12-12) is led by Ty Hill with 29 runs. Mississippi Valley State (6-9-1) is topped by Maury Weaver with 13 runs. Chad Ragland is the leading scorer at Delta State (16-8) with 28, and Mississippi College (11-19) is led by Caleb Reese and Markarius Lee with 22 each.

10 Mar

three stars

From Wednesday’s slate of compelling matchups and mismatches around the Magnolia State:
Peyton Chatagnier: The Ole Miss second baseman/leadoff batter starred in a nomination for play of the year, cleverly stealing three bases — and making the ESPN SportsCenter highlights — in the Rebels’ 16-1 win against winless Alcorn State at Swayze Field in Oxford. Chatagnier swiped second on a pickoff attempt, took third when he noticed no one was covering and then sprinted home after the Alcorn catcher, who had run up the line to take the belated throw from second, left the plate unguarded. Chatagnier also homered in the game and scored four times as the 11-1 Rebels, a consensus top five team, dispatched the 0-8 Braves.
Tanner Hall: The Southern Miss right-hander, who baffled Mississippi State last week, was at it again against Tulane, throwing eight strong innings — four hits, an unearned run and eight strikeouts — in the Golden Eagles’ 7-2 win over the Green Wave at Taylor Park in Hattiesburg. Hall is 2-0 with an 0.84 ERA in five appearances for 10-3 USM.
Hunter Hines: The freshman from Madison Central High, batting in the 3-hole as the DH, accounted for both of Mississippi State’s runs in a 7-2 loss against Texas Tech in a matchup of nationally ranked teams at MGM Park in Biloxi. Hines is batting .367 with four homers, 14 RBIs and 14 runs for the Bulldogs (7-7).