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).
Pitching is not supposed to be Ole Miss’ strong suit. Well, the Rebels have flipped that script. Continuing a strong show of arms in the Coral Cables Regional, Ole Miss’ Dylan DeLucia and Jack Dougherty combined on a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 10-0 win Saturday against Southern Miss in the opener of the Hattiesburg Super Regional. USM, which has one of the best staff ERAs (3.26) in the nation, allowed nine earned runs in Game 1 of this best-of-3. Starter Hurston Waldrep had a wobbly outing, and the bullpen melted down after he departed. … Former Madison Central High standout Braden Montgomery hit one of Stanford’s incredible eight home runs in the Palo Alto Super Regional, but the Cardinal somehow lost to UConn 13-12 in Game 1. … Chris Stratton has been an effective reliever this season for Pittsburgh, but the Tupelo native’s outing against Atlanta on Saturday was a disaster. He faced five batters and all of them scored. He hit a batter, walked a batter and yielded three hits, including Ozzie Albies’ grand slam. He also allowed two inherited runners to score in the Braves’ eight-run seventh inning that led to a 10-4 win, the Braves’ 10th straight. Former Mississippi State ace Stratton saw his ERA jump from 3.75 to 5.63. … Ex-Bulldogs star Brandon Woodruff, out since May 27 with an ankle injury, is eligible to come off the injured list today for Milwaukee but is experiencing numbness in his pitching hand, delaying his return. He is 5-3 with a 4.74 ERA for the Brewers, who are in a freefall with eight straight losses. … LeDarious Clark, the East Mississippi Community College alum from Meridian, is enjoying a big season with Lancaster in the independent Atlantic League. He is batting .299 with eight home runs, 22 RBIs and 15 steals. Clark, 28, hit 18 homers and stole 28 bags for Lancaster last year after spending six lackluster seasons in the Texas system. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves have lost eight of 11 heading into today’s road trip finale at Rocket City. At 26-30, the M-Braves are in a virtual tie with Biloxi (25-29) for last place in the Southern League South. The Shuckers have also lost eight of their last 11.
You won’t find a hotter team in pro ball than the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Jackson native Stan Cliburn’s club in the independent Atlantic League is 21-4. After having an eight-game win streak snapped on Thursday, the Blue Crabs bounced back Friday with a 13-2 win against Long Island. Ole Miss product Braxton Lee had an RBI and scored a run in that game, and ex-Southern Miss standout Bradley Roney pitched a clean inning in relief. Forest Hill High alum Cliburn, a longtime minor league manager, was the Atlantic League’s manager of the year in 2021 and appears to have another strong team this season. The Blue Crabs lead the loop in runs and have outscored their opposition by almost 70. Lee, a Picayune native who also played at Pearl River Community College, is one of the few players on the roster with major league experience (Miami, 2018). The outfielder is batting .278 with nine RBIs, nine runs and four steals in 22 games for the Blue Crabs. Roney, who reached Triple-A in affiliated ball and spent parts of three seasons with the Double-A Mississippi Braves, has a 3.48 ERA in 11 appearances. P.S. Buck Showalter’s New York Mets still sit atop the National League East with a 26-14 record, but the ex-Mississippi State star saw ace Max Scherzer land Thursday on the injured list, where he joins fellow pitchers Jacob deGrom, Tylor Megill, Trevor May and Sean Reid-Foley. Not sure what kind of omen this might be, but the Mets were greeted Friday by a snowstorm in Colorado.
It’s opening day in the independent Atlantic League, where Jackson native Stan Cliburn will manage his 3,570th minor league game when his Southern Maryland Blue Crabs meet Lexington. Cliburn’s club includes former Ole Miss star and onetime big leaguer Braxton Lee and Southern Miss product Bradley Roney. Cliburn, entering his 33rd season as a pro manager, was the Atlantic League’s manager of the year in 2021 when he steered the Blue Crabs to a 63-57 record and into the playoffs with a late surge. Forest Hill High alum Cliburn had a long playing career in pro ball and spent part of the 1980 season with the California Angels. Lee, a lefty-hitting outfielder from Picayune, played in the Cincinnati system in 2021, batting .224. A former Southern League batting champ, he got 17 at-bats with the Miami Marlins in 2018. Roney, a right-hander, pitched in the New York Mets’ system last season, finishing at Triple-A. Roney, who pitched for the Mississippi Braves in 2016, ’17 and ’19, has a 3.71 career ERA in pro ball. … Also in the ALPB is former East Mississippi Community College standout LeDarious Clark, an outfielder with Lancaster. P.S. Mississippi State product Nathaniel Lowe snagged a screaming line drive Wednesday night and started 3-6 triple play, the seventh in Texas Rangers history. Caught up in the tri-killing was ex-State star Adam Frazier, who redeemed himself quite nicely by going 3-for-4 with a walk and a run in Seattle’s 4-2 victory. Frazier is batting .294 as the Mariners’ new leadoff man.
As we await Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, let’s take a moment to give a shout-out to the 2013 Mississippi State Bulldogs, an outstanding team that produced two players in this series plus five others who have played in the big leagues. Hunter Renfroe, the pride of Crystal Springs, plays right field for Boston and Kendall Graveman pitches out of the Houston bullpen. They were key members of the 2013 Bulldogs, who, under John Cohen, won 51 games before losing in the College World Series final to UCLA. Also on that club were 2021 MLB All-Stars Brandon Woodruff and Adam Frazier, as well as Jonathan Holder, Jacob Lindgren and Jacob Robson along with several others who played pro ball but never reached the majors. That team was loaded. The sting of coming within two wins of a national title might have been assuaged a bit by the Bulldogs’ run to the championship this year. Maybe. A bit. … That familiar face coaching first base for San Francisco — the face that was covered by both hands after the check-swing call that ended Thursday’s game — belongs to Antoan Richardson, the former Mississippi Braves outfielder. The Giants’ expansive list of coaches got a lot of credit for the team’s surprising success this season. Former M-Braves Tommy LaStella and Alex Wood were part of the team that saw their 109-win season end in the National League Division Series loss to Los Angeles. … Louisville native and ex-East Central Community College star Marcus Thames is looking for another job — and likely will find one — after being fired as hitting coach of the New York Yankees. The Yankees made the postseason in each of Thames’ four years on the job, but they had some well-chronicled offensive struggles this season. “At the end of the day, when you sign up to be a coach, sometimes this is what happens,” Thames said in a radio interview. “It’s just another chapter in my book … .” … Former MSU star Buck Showalter has been mentioned as a candidate for the New York Mets and San Diego Padres managerial jobs. Showalter has had success (1,551-1,517-1 career record) with several different MLB clubs. … Ole Miss product Grae Kessinger, an Astros minor leaguer, went 3-for-5 with a home run Thursday for Glendale in the Arizona Fall League. He played at the Double-A level this season. … Robert Carson, the former Hattiesburg High standout and onetime major leaguer, is with the Lexington Legends, who are playing for the Atlantic League championship. Carson has been in the independent league since 2015; the 32-year-old lefty had an 8.00 ERA in 39 games this season but worked two scoreless innings in the Legends’ division series win. The Legends now play Long Island, managed by former Jackson Mets star Wally Backman. The Ducks eliminated Southern Maryland, managed by Jackson’s Stan Cliburn. East Mississippi CC product LeDarious Clark hit .286 with a homer for Cliburn’s Blue Crabs in the division series loss.
Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central High slugger, was back in the big leagues on Saturday and doubled in his only at-bat as a pinch hitter for Cleveland. The lefty-hitting first baseman/DH made his MLB debut in 2019 but didn’t get the call last season. Sent to Triple-A Columbus despite a strong spring, he was hitting .196 with nine homers (and a 36 percent strikeout rate) when the Indians decided to give him another look after axing Jake Bauers. Bradley told cleveland.com that he feels no pressure: “I get to settle in and get comfortable and play my game.” Known affectionately as “The Assassin” at Columbus, where he hit 33 homers in 2019, Bradley could give the Indians some needed thump if he can cut down on the strikeouts. He’ll probably be in the lineup today at Baltimore. … Madison Central product Spencer Turnbull has landed on the 10-day injured list with a forearm strain. He is 4-2, 2.88 ERA for Detroit; one of the wins was a no-hitter. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Brent Rooker hit his seventh homer of the season and is batting .238 for Triple-A St. Paul in Minnesota’s system. Rooker was in the big leagues briefly in April. … LeDarious Clark, the East Mississippi Community College alum and former Texas Rangers minor leaguer, has four homers and a .320 average in nine games in the independent Atlantic League, now one of MLB’s new partner leagues. … Joe Gray Jr., the former Hattiesburg High star who was once a prized prospect in Milwaukee’s system, appears to be figuring some things out at Low-A Carolina. He blasted his ninth homer on Saturday and is at .291 with 34 RBIs. He is only 21. … After suffering three straight soul-crushing postseason losses, Southern Miss bounced back with a vengeance in a 21-0 win over Southeast Missouri State in the Oxford Regional. That gives the Golden Eagles another shot at Florida State in an elimination game today. FSU beat USM 5-2 on Friday, then lost to Ole Miss Saturday. … Hail to the MHSAA champs: Madison Central polished off Northwest Rankin for the Class 6A title, joining Saltillo (5A), West Lauderdale (4A), Booneville (3A), Taylorsville (2A) and Tupelo Christian (1A) in the winners’ circle.
LeDarious Clark, the former Southeast Lauderdale High and East Mississippi Community College star, is on the roster of the independent Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League. Clark was released by Texas last spring after five years in the Rangers’ system. A 12th-round pick out of West Florida in 2015, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound outfielder reached Double-A in 2019 but batted just .200 in 38 games for Frisco. Clark, 27, hit .238 with 48 homers and 99 steals in his minor league career. “We have gotten good reports on Clark,” Lancaster manager Russ Peeples said in a release announcing Clark’s signing. “Those reports say that he has a lot of tools but that he has not put it together consistently as of yet. We are hoping he can come here and do just that.” The Barnstormers open their season on Thursday. P.S. Braxton Lee, a onetime big leaguer from Picayune, signed with Southern Maryland of the Atlantic League. The Blue Crabs are managed by Jackson native and ex-big leaguer Stan Cliburn. Lee, drafted by Tampa Bay out of Ole Miss in 2014, appeared in eight games (.176) with Miami in 2018. He was in the New York Mets’ system in 2019. … Former Hattiesburg High star – and onetime big leaguer – Robert Carson is back in the Atlantic League with the Lexington Legends. The 32-year-old left-hander has pitched in the league every season since 2015 and was 15-8 for York in 2018 and ’19. … Elijah MacNamee, the Mississippi State product, is on the roster of the independent Evansville Otters of the Frontier League. MacNamee, an outfielder who played at State from 2017-19, signed with Evansville in 2019 and hit .309 for the club that season. The league did not operate in 2020. MSU product Denver McQuary, from Maben, and Southern Miss/MSU alum Tyler Spring, from Wiggins, are also on the Otters’ roster. The ’21 season starts Thursday. … Former Starkville High and Meridian CC standout Milton Smith, previously in the Miami Marlins’ system, is with the Frontier League’s New York Boulders, who also signed ex-Mississippi Valley State star Zach Penprase, now 36. (Little-known fact: Penprase led the nation in stolen bases with 60 at Valley in 2006.) … Belhaven University product Tanner Cable will pitch for Gateway in the Frontier League.
The Los Angeles Angels left the Winter Meetings having added an impact hitter, Anthony Rendon, but failing to address what most pundits say is a bigger need: pitchers. But don’t forget what the Angels did earlier this off-season to impact their pitching: They hired Mickey Callaway as pitching coach on new manager Joe Maddon’s staff. Former Ole Miss star Callaway’s two-year stint as manager of the New York Mets was a little rocky, but he did some outstanding work as the pitching coach in Cleveland from 2013-17. The Indians ranked among the American League leaders in ERA and strikeouts while Callaway was there and made it to the World Series in 2016. He can be a difference-maker for an Angels staff that ranked 12th in AL ERA in 2019. The Angels, linked to several free agent pitchers, also may be seeking some new arms via trade and reportedly have checked on the availability of Indians Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, both of whom Callaway worked with in Cleveland. P.S. Congratulations to Jackson native Stan Cliburn, who was rehired as manager of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the independent Atlantic League. It’ll be the 29th season as a pro manager for the one-time big league catcher, who has more than 2,000 wins.
Daniel Brown, a left-hander out of Mississippi State, is making a strong impression in the Arizona Fall League. The third-year pro, not a highly rated prospect in Milwaukee’s system, has pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in three appearances in the prospect-packed AFL. He worked 2 1/3 innings for Peoria on Thursday, yielding two hits with three strikeouts. The 5-foot-10 Brown put up a 4.20 ERA, seven wins and two saves in 39 relief stints for Carolina in the Class A Carolina League in 2018. The Brewers picked Brown in the seventh round in 2016, when he was on an MSU staff that included Dakota Hudson, Konnor Pilkington, Zac Houston, Reid Humphreys and Jacob Billingsley. Brown was the NJCAA Division III pitcher of the year at Tyler (Texas) JC in 2014. … George County High product Justin Steele threw three hitless innings for Mesa in the AFL on Thursday, bouncing back from a rough first start last week. Steele, rated the Chicago Cubs’ No. 8 prospect by MLB Pipeline, had an abbreviated 2018 campaign – his fifth in pro ball — as he returned from arm surgery. P.S. Jackson native and ex-big leaguer Stan Cliburn has been named manager of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League. Cliburn managed that team to a division title in 2015. The longtime minor league and indy league skipper worked as a coach in another independent league in 2018.
Ole Miss’ Thomas Dillard is enjoying the summer, raking at a .348 clip for Cotuit in the Cape Cod League. The switch-hitting outfielder, who hit .310 with 13 homers for the Rebels this season, has six runs and one RBI in seven games in the talent-laden CCBL. … Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy, a rising senior, is participating in USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars, which is used to select the Under-18 National Team. Games began today in Cary, N.C. An outfielder with all the tools, Ealy hit .368 with three homers for Prep in 2018. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder is an Ole Miss baseball and football commit for 2019-20. … The Collegiate National Team starts play next week at the USA Baseball complex in Cary. Ole Miss’ Parker Caracci and Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner are on the Team USA roster. … John Wesley Ray, a onetime Ole Miss and Delta State player, is wearing out the Cotton States League. The 6-5, 230-pound Ray is batting .522 with eight RBIs in seven games and is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four pitching appearances for the North Delta Dealers. … Of the five prep players drafted from Mississippi earlier this month, first-round pick J.T. Ginn and second-rounder Joe Gray have not yet signed pro contracts. The MLB signing deadline is July 6. Brandon’s Ginn, the 30th pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers and a Mississippi State commit, stands to get a bonus offer of over $2 million, while Hattiesburg’s Gray, an Ole Miss signee who went 60th to Milwaukee, will command $1 million plus. Pascagoula’s Willie Joe Garry Jr. (ninth round) has signed with Minnesota. Madison Central’s Regi Grace (10th round) reportedly also has signed with the Twins, but the team has not officially announced it. Harrison Central’s Brendan Hardy (31st round) has reportedly agreed to terms with the New York Mets. … Former Hattiesburg High star Robert Carson and Starkville native Julio Borbon, both onetime big leaguers, are putting up good numbers in the independent Atlantic League. Left-hander Carson has a 1.90 ERA in 16 games for York, while Borbon is batting .304 with three homers and 25 RBIs for Somerset.