28 Sep

down the stretch

Another wild night in Atlanta saw another clinching for the Braves, another amazing milestone for Ronald Acuna and another crippling loss for the Chicago Cubs. Former Mississippi Braves star Acuna stole his 70th base on Wednesday night — notching the first 40 homer-70 steal season in MLB history — and scored the game-winning run on an Ozzie Albies hit in the 10th inning as the Braves topped the Cubs 6-5 at Truist Park. (If Acuna doesn’t win MVP, it’s a crime.) Atlanta clinched the top seed and home-field advantage in the National League postseason. M-Braves alum Albies homered and drove in three runs all told; he has 33 and 107. The Cubs, suffering a second straight heart-breaking defeat in the ATL, are now tied for third in the NL wild card race with Miami, which holds the tiebreaker. In other games of note: Former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman pitched a tidy fifth inning in relief and plucked the win as Houston beat Seattle 8-3 and clung to the third wild card in the American League, 1.5 games ahead of the Mariners. Graveman has two wins, four holds and a 2.45 ERA in 22 games for the Astros, who have won just five of their last 15. (Nothing has been clinched in the AL West, which Texas still leads.) Baltimore, with MSU product Jordan Westburg contributing a hit and an RBI walk, beat Washington 5-1 and reduced its magic number for clinching the AL East to 1. Rookie Westburg is batting .261. P.S. Milwaukee, which has clinched the NL Central, recalled former State standout Ethan Small from Triple-A Nashville. The former first-rounder did not pitch Wednesday. … Four Biloxi Shuckers and two M-Braves made milb.com’s Southern League All-Star team. The Shuckers’ Carlos F. Rodriguez (9-6, 2.77 ERA) was named the pitcher of the year, and outfielder Jackson Chourio, catcher Jeferson Quero and utilityman Tyler Black also made the team. The M-Braves were represented by pitcher Luis De Avila and second baseman Luke Waddell. … Mississippi State ranks 10th and Ole Miss 11th in Collegiate Baseball’s 2024 recruiting rankings. Arkansas’ class was rated No. 1, and 10 of the top 11 are SEC schools (if you include Texas). Southern Miss did not crack the top 50.

22 Sep

boys of fall

The most interesting name among the handful of Mississippi products headed for the Arizona Fall League is Will Bednar. The Most Outstanding Player in the 2021 College World Series for champion Mississippi State, Bednar has been beset by injury issues in pro ball. San Francisco drafted the right-hander with the 14th overall pick in ’21, but he has pitched in only 20 games since. A lingering back injury limited Bednar to four appearances in rookie ball this year; he went 1-2 with a 4.22 ERA and finished the season on the injured list. He’ll face much stiffer competition in the prospect-packed AFL, which begins on Oct. 2. Others on AFL rosters: Former Southern Miss pitcher Ben Ethridge put up a 3-6 record with a 2.99 ERA in Low-Class A for Minnesota in his second pro season. … MSU product Rowdey Jordan, a member of the ’21 champs, hit .230 with 13 homers, 63 RBIs and 30 steals in Double-A for the New York Mets. … Ex-Northeast Mississippi Community College left-hander Tyler Samaniego, 15th-round draft pick by Pittsburgh out of South Alabama in 2021, was 2-1 with six saves and a 5.51 in Double-A this year. … MSU alum Eric Cerantola, a fifth-rounder in 2021, was 3-4, 3.66, at the High-A and Double-A levels for Kansas City. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of IMG Academy in Florida in 2019, went 4-6, 3.42, at the High-A and Double-A levels in 2023. … Tyler Tolve, a catcher with the Mississippi Braves this season, is among Atlanta’s AFL reps, and Wes Clarke, a slugging catcher/first baseman who played in Biloxi, is part of Milwaukee’s contingent.

17 Sep

have a month

It has been a September to remember for James McArthur. It took the former Ole Miss star six years to get to the majors and his debut back in June was a real clunker. But in six appearances this month for Kansas City — one of the worst teams in MLB – the 26-year-old right-hander has not allowed a run over 8 2/3 innings. On Saturday, he notched his first big league win, retiring all four batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings as the Royals upended Houston 10-8. The 6-foot-7 McArthur, who went 15-8 in three years in Oxford, was a 12th-round draft pick in 2018 by Philadelphia. He made the 40-man roster after the 2021 season but was designated for assignment in May of this year and then traded to Kansas City. He has pitched well in Triple-A but yielded seven runs in one inning in his big league debut on June 28. Recent results have been much more encouraging, to say the least. … Recent results for J.P. France, the Mississippi State alum who started for Houston on Saturday, have not been so positive. After a sensational start to his rookie campaign, France has a 6.69 ERA in his last seven games, though he has won three of them. He gave up five runs on Saturday before being knocked out in the fifth inning. He is 11-5, 3.84, in 23 games for the season. P.S. Three former Mississippi Braves pitchers got wins on Saturday, none of them working for Atlanta. Evan Phillips picked up the W in relief in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ division-clinching victory; Viktor Vodnik got a W in relief for Colorado in his second MLB game; and Touki Toussaint went five innings for the Chicago White Sox to beat Minnesota. … The Biloxi Shuckers lost to Montgomery at MGM Park, handing the Biscuits the second-half title in the Double-A Southern League South.

16 Sep

here and there

Mashing three home runs, including Wes Clarke’s 26th of the year, Biloxi pounded Montgomery 9-2 on Friday night at MGM Park to stay alive in the fight for the second-half title in the Southern League South. The Double-A Shuckers, a Milwaukee farm club, must win the last two games against the Biscuits to make the postseason for the first time since 2019. … South Panola High product Emaarion Boyd went 2-for-4 with a run and a stolen base as Clearwater beat Lakeland 2-1 to reach the championship series in the Low-Class A Florida State League. The Threshers, a Philadelphia affiliate, will play Jupiter (Miami) for the league title. Ex-Ole Miss star Kemp Alderman is a starting outfielder for Jupiter. … Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim smacked homers No. 19 and 20 and ex-Mississippi State standout Justin Foscue added his 16th as Triple-A Round Rock (Texas) beat Las Vegas 7-3 in a matchup of Pacific Coast League division leaders. Crim and Foscue combined for six RBIs. … MSU alum Zac Houston, 28, now in his seventh minor league season, got a win in relief for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (New York Yankees), striking out four Buffalo batters in two scoreless innings. Houston, who has a 4.62 ERA, is averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings for the RailRiders. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has a 3.17 career ERA while averaging 13.7 punchouts per nine. … The independent American Association’s Wolff Cup Finals begin tonight with the Kansas City Monarchs — featuring MSU alums Jacob Robson and Gavin Collins — taking on Chicago Dogs. … In MLB, former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner went 2-for-2 with an RBI to help Minnesota beat the Chicago White Sox 10-2 and reduce its magic number to 7 for clinching the American League Central crown. … Ex-George County High standout Justin Steele suffered a rare rocky outing (six runs on two homers in six innings) as the Cubs fell at Arizona 6-4. Steele is 16-4 with a 2.73. The Cubs are clinging to the second wild card in the National League, with the Diamondbacks and three other clubs in hot pursuit. … MSU products Jordan Westburg and Adam Frazier were a combined 0-for-5 with three strikeouts as Baltimore lost to visiting Tampa Bay 7-1 and fell into a tie for first place with the Rays in the AL East.

14 Sep

something to see

Fans in Biloxi are being served quite the treat this week. The Double-A Shuckers and Montgomery Biscuits are in a showdown for the second-half championship in the Southern League South, and both teams are stacked with major league prospects. (For the record, fans did not exactly flock to MGM Park for the first two games of the series: An announced 1,801 turned out to see the Shuckers win the opener 11-7, and 1,552 witnessed the Biscuits’ 4-2 win on Wednesday.) Biloxi trails Montgomery by 1.5 games and needs to win three of the remaining four to win the title and make the postseason for the first time since 2019. The Shuckers feature six of Milwaukee’s top 10 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline’s rankings. That list includes No. 1 Jackson Chourio, No. 2 Jeferson Quero and No. 7 Brock Wilken. Chourio, an outfielder, is batting .276 with 22 home runs, 88 RBIs and 41 steals. He is the No. 2 overall prospect in the minors. Wilken, a third baseman, hit a grand slam in his Biloxi debut on Tuesday. Tampa Bay’s top-rated prospect is Biscuits third baseman Junior Caminero, who is batting .315 with 20 homers and 62 RBIs; he is the No. 6 overall prospect. Montgomery also trots out Rays No. 2 Carson Williams and No. 13 Mason Auer. Former Mississippi State standout Colby White, coming back from Tommy John surgery last season, threw a clean inning for the Biscuits on Wednesday. White reached Triple-A in 2021 and is on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster.

11 Sep

going forward

On the day when the Atlanta Braves clinched a National League playoff berth with a victory at Truist Park, there was also a clinching at Trustmark Park, home of the Braves’ Double-A club. But it wasn’t the Mississippi Braves who celebrated on Sunday — it was the visiting Tennessee Smokies, who rallied late to beat the M-Braves 6-4 and clinch the second-half title in the Southern League North. One of the key players for the Smokies — a Chicago Cubs affiliate — is former Southern Miss star Walker Powell, who is 11-6 with a 3.57 ERA. The league leader in wins and WHIP (1.07), he pitched brilliantly in a no-decision against the M-Braves last week. The M-Braves finished their 2023 home schedule before an announced crowd of 2,113 with a 32-36 record. They are 26-37 (last in the SL South) in the second half and 59-72 overall with a series left at Pensacola. … There will be a clinching this week at MGM Park in Biloxi, where the Shuckers and the Montgomery Biscuits, two of the hottest teams in the minors, will play a six-game series that’ll decide the second-half title in the SL South. The Biscuits (Tampa Bay) have won 10 straight games and lead the Shuckers (Milwaukee), who’ve won nine of 10, by 1.5 games. … Among other clinchings in the minors on Sunday, Binghamton (New York Mets) claimed a second-half division title in the Double-A Eastern League with a 10-0 win at Hartford. Ex-Mississippi State standout Rowdey Jordan went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs for the Rumble Ponies. The third-year pro is hitting .227 with 13 homers, 58 RBIs and 28 stolen bases. P.S. Kudos to Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, the skipper of the original M-Braves club in 2005, who has had the big Braves in the postseason six straight years, winning the World Series in 2021. Six former M-Braves played in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.

07 Sep

numbers to crunch

9 — Consecutive wins by the Biloxi Shuckers, who are a half-game out of first place in the Southern League South second-half race. Isaac Collins went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs in Wednesday’s 6-4 win at Birmingham.
6 — Walk-off wins for the Mississippi Braves, who beat Tennessee 4-3 on Cody Milligan’s RBI single in the ninth inning at Trustmark Park. The M-Braves are out of the SL South playoff hunt.
11 — Wins this season by Walker Powell, the former Southern Miss standout who’ll go for No. 12 tonight when he starts for Tennessee — a Chicago Cubs affiliate — against the M-Braves in Pearl. Powell’s win total leads the SL, as does his 1.08 WHIP.
20 — Stolen bases this season for USM product Matthew Etzel, who swiped two for High-Class A Aberdeen on Wednesday in his second game at that level. Baltimore’s 10th-round draft pick is 4-for-8 for Aberdeen and is now hitting .348 on the season.
3 — Saves in four opportunities for Jared Johnson, the ex-Smithville High star now pitching for High-A Rome in the Atlanta system. Converted starter Johnson, a 2019 draftee, has a 3.09 ERA in nine relief appearances for the R-Braves after working a clean inning Wednesday.
6 — Wins by Dakota Hudson, the former Mississippi State ace who beat Atlanta despite yielding five runs in five-plus innings for St. Louis. Hudson is 5-1 in seven starts since he moved back into the Cardinals’ rotation in August; he has a 4.43 ERA in 14 games overall.
40 — Home runs allowed in 2023 by Lance Lynn, the Ole Miss alum who yielded three bombs and eight runs in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 11-4 loss to Miami. After a hot start with the Dodgers, Lynn has given up 15 runs in his last two starts and is 4-2, 4.95 for his new club.
9 — Holds by Nick Sandlin, the ex-USM standout who retired the top three batters in Minnesota’s order in the eighth inning of a 2-1 Cleveland win. Sandlin has a 3.59 ERA for the Guardians, who sit 6 games back of the Twins in the American League Central despite winning the season series 7-6.
59 — Strikeouts this season in 157 at-bats by USM product Matt Wallner, who K’d three times for Minnesota, including the final out of Wednesday’s game. Wallner has 11 homers among his 36 hits.

30 Aug

steele-y performance

No Mississippi native has won a Cy Young Award. Justin Steele, the left-hander from Lucedale, is building a mighty strong case. Steele threw six shutout innings Tuesday night to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 1-0 victory against Milwaukee at Wrigley Field. The former George County High star has 15 wins, tied for the National League lead, and a 2.69 ERA, second in the loop. He also has a league-best 18 quality starts, perhaps none bigger or better than Tuesday’s. The Cubs’ win snapped the first-place Brewers’ nine-game win streak and trimmed second-place Chicago’s deficit to 4 games in the NL Central. Steele was struck in the left leg, just above the knee, by a line drive in the second inning but, unfazed, went on to throw 111 pitches, allowing just six hits and one walk while fanning eight. When he got a punch out for the final out of the sixth, he walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the 33,294 at the Friendly Confines. “I loved it. I love pitching in that environment,” Steele told mlb.com. Steele out-dueled former Biloxi Shuckers ace Corbin Burnes, a former Cy Young winner (2021), who pitched seven brilliant innings for Milwaukee. … Cliff Lee, a Meridian Community College alum from Arkansas, won the American League Cy Young in 2008 with Cleveland. Former Jackson Mets standout Mike Scott won the NL award in 1986 with Houston. The award was initiated in 1956. P.S. The AL West race sure looks like fun. Seattle, Texas and Houston are tied at the top after Tuesday’s results. Mississippi State product J.P. France picked up his 10th win for the Astros, going 5 2/3 (two runs) to beat Boston 6-2 at Fenway Park. France gained a measure of revenge against the Red Sox, who pounded the rookie right-hander for 10 runs in a loss last week. Ex-State star Chris Stratton got the final two outs of the sixth inning, stranding two inherited runners, to pluck the win for Texas, which beat the New York Mets 2-1 at CitiField. Stratton has a 2.00 ERA in 11 games for the Rangers.

16 Aug


Matt Wallner will strike out. He struck out three times for Minnesota on Tuesday night. Matt Wallner will also hit home runs, big ones, like the game-turning grand slam the ex-Southern Miss star stroked Tuesday night for the Twins in a 5-3 win over Detroit. “That’s not one we will forget. That was more than a nice swing,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told mlb.com. Wallner’s 450-foot bomb to right-center field was his first career slam in the big leagues, and it earned the Minnesota native and lifelong Twins fan a curtain call from the 30,000-plus at Target Field. The win kept the first-place Twins 4.5 games ahead of Cleveland in the American League Central. Wallner said in a postgame TV interview that his swing felt terrible at the start of the night, but that changed in the sixth inning when he sent a pitch from Will Vest into the upper deck. “Just felt like I hit it about as good as I could,” the lefty-hitting outfielder said in an Associated Press article. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Wallner has struck out 36 times in 104 at-bats over 38 games for Minnesota this season. He also has belted nine homers, five in his last 15 games. Lots of K’s, lots of bombs: That’s the yin and yang of many contemporary sluggers. Wallner mashed a school-record 58 homers in three seasons at USM, a show of power that got him drafted 38th overall in 2019. He made his MLB debut last September and, of course, homered in his first game. P.S. Mississippi State product Dakota Hudson improved to 3-0 in three starts since returning to St. Louis’ rotation. He went 6 2/3 (two runs) in a 6-2 win against Oakland. … Former Madison Central High standout Spencer Turnbull, on a rehab assignment for Detroit, allowed six runs in five innings for Triple-A Toledo. … Drew Lugbauer, the Mississippi Braves’ all-time home run king, hit a homer in his first game for Triple-A Gwinnett. Lugbauer, promoted on Tuesday, hit 68 homers over three seasons for the Double-A M-Braves. … At Trustmark Park, Biloxi’s Jacob Misiorowski, Milwaukee’s No. 4 prospect, yielded one hit in six dominant innings as the first-place Shuckers beat the last-place M-Braves 3-0 in the Southern League. Looking like a right-handed Chris Sale, the 6-foot-7 Misiorowski struck out 12 batters. The M-Braves fanned 17 times all told.

15 Aug

advantage, shuckers

Based on the MLB Pipeline prospect rankings, Biloxi vs. Mississippi doesn’t look like a fair fight. The Shuckers, in Pearl tonight for the start of a six-game Southern League series, feature four of the Milwaukee Brewers’ top seven prospects, including the No. 1, outfielder Jackson Chourio. Chourio is the No. 2 overall prospect in the minors, and catcher Jeferson Quero, Milwaukee’s No. 3, is 34th overall. The M-Braves have only one of Atlanta’s top 20: left-hander Luis De Avila, ranked 14th. Based on the league standings, the Shuckers also appear to have the edge. Though the M-Braves lead the season series 11-10, the Shuckers currently lead the SL South with a 21-18 second-half mark. The M-Braves are 16-22, 4.5 games back in last place. In tonight’s opener at Trustmark Park, the M-Braves will trot out Alan Rangel (2-12, 5.46 ERA) against Brewers No. 4 prospect Jacob Misiorowski (1-1, 7.80, in four Double-A starts). On Wednesday, the Shuckers will start No. 7 prospect Carlos F. Rodriguez (7-4, 2.63). De Avila (6-7, 3.01) goes for Mississippi on Friday. Of note: Jesse Franklin V, Atlanta’s No. 22 prospect, is coming in hot for the M-Braves: He went 6-for-19 with two home runs and four RBIs last week and has a 23-game on-base streak. Franklin is batting .241 with 13 homers and 38 RBIs. M-Braves slugger Drew Lugbauer leads the SL in homers with 22, four more than Shuckers leader Wes Clarke. Tyler Black, who tops the league in steals with 47, was recently promoted from Biloxi to Triple-A Nashville.