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.
A handful of Mississippians are on playoff-bound teams in the Cape Cod League, which concludes its regular season today. The playoffs in the elite college summer league begin on Friday. Mississippi State’s Hunter Hines, the league home run and RBI leader, and former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery play for Yarmouth-Dennis, which currently sits second in the East Division. Ole Miss’ Mason Nichols and Southern Miss’ Kros Sivley, J.B. Middleton and Will Armistead are on the Hyannis roster, second in the West. Hines is batting .262 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs. Teammate Montgomery, a current Stanford standout who played for Team USA earlier this summer, is hitting .319 with one homer and nine RBIs. He has pitched in three games, yielding three runs, all in a relief appearance on Tuesday. Nichols, who started Tuesday for Hyannis, is 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA in eight games. Sivley, who picked up the win on Tuesday, is 2-1 with a 4.35 in 11 games; Middleton has a 3.24 with a win and a save in six appearances; and Armistead has a 7.20 in six games. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn went seven innings Tuesday night to get the win against Oakland in his Los Angeles Dodgers debut. Lynn gave up three homers — including ex-MSU standout Brent Rooker’s 18th — and leads MLB with 31 bombs allowed. … George County High product Justin Steele notched his 12th win — tied for the MLB lead — for the Chicago Cubs in a beatdown against Cincinnati. … Alec Barger, who had a 3.29 ERA in 30 appearances for the Double-A Mississippi Braves, was dealt by Atlanta to Colorado for big league left-hander Brad Hand. … UM alum James McArthur (4.28 ERA at Triple-A Omaha) was recalled to the majors by Kansas City. … Ex-USM star Matthew Etzel went 1-for-3 with an RBI in his pro debut Tuesday for Baltimore’s Florida Complex League team, and ex-Golden Eagles standout Justin Storm threw a scoreless inning for Miami’s FCL team in his debut. … USM slugger Slade Wilks, who is not playing summer ball, is working as a hitting instructor at Alpha Academy in Columbia, his hometown, per a report by Hattiesburg TV station WDAM. Wilks hit .289 with 20 homers and was a Ferriss Trophy finalist in 2023. … The semi-pro Hattiesburg Black Sox, who won the Mississippi Baseball Congress championship, will begin play Thursday in the NABF Major Division World Series at Battle Creek, Mich. The Black Sox swept the individual honors in the MBC tournament, with Jake Lycette winning MVP, Ervin Simmons the top pitcher award and Marcus Ragan the batting title. … The Tupelo Thunder, with a roster stocked with Mississippi juco players, won the Cotton States League championship last weekend.
Ex-Ole Miss star Jacob Gonzalez, the first player drafted out of the state this year, has signed with the Chicago White Sox and will soon begin the journey toward the big leagues. There is no roadmap, no timetable, no guarantee that he’ll even make it that far. That’s how it works. Only the fittest survive. Over the last 10 years, going back to 2014, the experiences of the top picks from the state each year have been quite varied. Blake Anderson, a catcher at West Lauderdale High, was a surprise pick at 36th overall in 2014 by the Marlins. The Southern Miss signee never made it out of A-ball, even after a conversion to pitcher. Four of the five top picks between 2015 and ’19 have reached The Show, and two of them — Austin Riley and Brent Rooker — were All-Stars this year. Riley, drafted 41st overall out of DeSoto Central by Atlanta in 2015, rose rather smoothly in the Braves’ system, made a splash as a rookie in 2019, took a brief step back to the minors but has been a fixture at third base — a legit star — since 2020. Rooker’s path was much more winding. The 35th overall selection out of Mississippi State by Minnesota in 2017, he is now with Oakland — his fourth organization. He has put up some nice stats this season but still is not playing everyday. Dakota Hudson was the 34th overall pick out of MSU by St. Louis in 2016. He reached the big leagues in 2018, won 16 games in 2019, had arm surgery in 2020 and has been inconsistent ever since. He is currently with the Cardinals after starting the year in Triple-A and picked up a win with 3 1/3 shutout innings in relief on Saturday. Ethan Small, 28th overall pick out of MSU by Milwaukee in 2019, has made three wobbly MLB appearances over the last two seasons and appears stuck in Triple-A. Ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison was the 22nd overall selection by Colorado in 2018. The left-hander (12-13, 4.56 ERA, in his minor league career) has been beset by injuries and is currently on the 60-day injured list at Triple-A. The first pick in 2020 was MSU’s Justin Foscue, 14th overall by Texas. The infielder is in Triple-A, playing well, and is the Rangers’ No. 6 prospect. He’ll get there soon. The first pick in 2021 was MSU College World Series star Will Bednar, taken 14th by San Francisco. Stalled by injuries, he has made just 20 appearances in the minors and currently is on the IL. Ex-Bulldogs standout Landon Sims was coming off Tommy John surgery when he was drafted 34th overall last July by Arizona. He has pitched in six games this season, all in the rookie Arizona Complex League, where he might soon cross paths with UM alum Gonzalez, both at the starting point of an uncertain journey. P.S. Other 2023 draftees from Mississippi schools who have signed include Colton Ledbetter with Tampa Bay, Calvin Harris with the White Sox and Justin Storm with Miami. Atlanta has signed first-rounder Hurston Waldrep, a USM alum who pitched at Florida in 2023. … MSU’s Hunter Hines has been selected to the Cape Cod League All-Star Game, to be played Saturday in Norwich, Conn. Hines leads the CCBL in homers (nine) and RBIs (34) and is batting .274 for Yarmouth-Dennis.
Hunter Hines essentially has taken the Cape Cod League by storm. The Mississippi State star leads the elite college summer league with eight home runs, five more than the next-closest total, and 26 RBIs, 11 more than the next-highest number. Through 20 games for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, the lefty-hitting outfielder, who goes 6 feet 4, 220 pounds, is batting .289 with 14 runs. Facing some of the top college arms in the country, Hines has picked up right where he left off at State. He hit .297 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs, made All-SEC and was a Ferriss Trophy finalist as a sophomore in 2023. As a freshman, he hit .300 with 16 bombs and 52 RBIs. “From his first BP (batting practice) until now, he’s been the best hitter in our program,” State coach Chris Lemonis said at the Ferriss Trophy ceremony. Hines was a highly touted recruit coming out of Madison Central High in 2021, overshadowed a bit by teammate Braden Montgomery, who took Gatorade player of the year honors. Hines comes by his talent naturally, of course. His father, Richey, was a tremendous hitter at Mississippi College, where he still holds school records for career homers and RBIs. P.S. A raw box score doesn’t always tell the story. Hunter Renfroe went 2-for-5 for the Los Angeles Angels on Monday, boosting his average to .248. But the ex-MSU standout most certainly didn’t feel good about his game. The Angels stranded 14 runners in a 10-3 loss to San Diego. Renfroe personally left eight runners on base, twice striking out in early run-scoring situations. As a team, the Angels are batting just .246 with runners in scoring position, one of the worst averages in baseball. … Kudos to Ole Miss product Nick Fortes, whose clutch hit delivered the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of Miami’s 5-4 win against St. Louis. The second-place Marlins managed to stay within 9 games of red-hot Atlanta, which has won nine in a row, in the National League East.
Colt Keith: The former Biloxi High standout homered in his first Triple-A at-bat on Wednesday and finished 3-for-4 for Toledo, Detroit’s top affiliate. He had 14 homers in Double-A.
Jordan Westburg: The Mississippi State alum went 2-for-5 with an RBI double for Baltimore and is batting .417 with at least one hit in each of his first three MLB games.
Adam Frazier: The State product hit a game-tying homer — his ninth — with Westburg aboard in the eighth inning for the Orioles, who fell 11-7 in 10 to Cincinnati.
Hunter Renfroe: The former State star belted his 13th homer for the Los Angeles Angels, his first since June 13. He is tied with Brent Rooker for second-most bombs in the majors among Mississippians, one back of Austin Riley.
Nick Sandlin: The Southern Miss product pitched a clean 1 1/3 innings in relief for Cleveland and got the win vs. Kansas City as the Guardians moved into first place in the American League Central. Sandlin is 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA.
James McArthur: The ex-Ole Miss standout made his MLB debut for the Royals — and it didn’t go well: seven earned runs in one inning of work, a 63.00 ERA.
Thomas Dillard: The Ole Miss alum hit his 16th homer for Lexington in the independent Atlantic League and is fourth in the loop in homers.
Bobby Bradley: The Gulfport native hit his 17th homer for Charleston in the Atlantic League and is tied for second in that category.
Hunter Hines: The MSU star went 0-for-5 for Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League but picked up his 22nd RBI, which leads the collegiate summer league. He also leads the loop in homers with six.
Braden Montgomery: The Madison Central alum, now at Stanford, went 2-for-5 in the final Stars vs. Stripes Series game and finished 5-for-17 with three RBIs in four games at the Collegiate National Team training camp.
Mason Nichols: The Ole Miss standout threw a scoreless inning in the Stars vs. Stripes game and finished with a 3.00 ERA and four strikeouts in three appearances in the training camp.
Tanner Hall: The Southern Miss ace was named a first-team All-America by Baseball America, the latest in a series of honors for the MLB draft prospect.
Braden Shewmake: The former Mississippi Braves shortstop hit for the cycle for Triple-A Gwinnett, a first for the Atlanta affiliate. Shewmake, who made a brief big league appearance this season, is batting .232 with eight homers.
P.S. From the Always a Mississippi Connection Dept.: Ex-MSU star Brent Rooker went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts for Oakland in Domingo German’s perfect game for the New York Yankees. In the last perfect game, on Aug. 15, 2012, ex-Itawamba Community College star Desmond Jennings struck out as a ninth-inning pinch hitter for Tampa Bay in Felix Hernandez’s perfecto for Seattle.
A trio of Mississippi high school products are in Cary, N.C., vying for spots on the Collegiate National Team. Dakota Jordan, Braden Montgomery and Mason Nichols are taking part in the Stars vs. Stripes Series that began Sunday at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex. On the coaching staff that will make decisions on which players among the 58 in camp make the 26-man final roster are Jackson State coach Omar Johnson and former Alcorn State star Corey Wimberly. Cal Poly’s Larry Lee is the Team USA manager. Jordan, an outfielder, is a Jackson Academy alum who just completed a decorated freshman season at Mississippi State. Montgomery, an outfielder/pitcher who played at Madison Central, was All-Pac-12 at Stanford this season. Nichols, a pitcher out of Jackson Prep, was a sophomore at Ole Miss in 2023, winning four games and saving four in 23 relief outings. The Collegiate National Team will play series against teams from Chinese Taipei and Japan starting June 30. In Sunday’s game, Montgomery went 1-for-4 with a double and a walk for the Stars, who won the 12-inning contest 15-5. Jordan was 0-for-1 with a walk for the Stripes, and Nichols allowed a run in one inning of work with a strikeout and a walk. The series continues today. P.S. Southern Miss’ Matthew Etzel made his Cape Cod League debut on Sunday, going 1-for-2 for Chatham. MSU’s Hunter Hines belted a pair of homers for Yarmouth-Dennis and now has five on the season; he is batting .315 with 17 RBIs. Also in the Cape: MSU’s Ross Highfill is batting .250 with two homers for Falmouth, and fellow Bulldogs alum K.C. Hunt has a 1.17 ERA in three games for the same club. USM left-hander Kros Sivley has made one appearance for Hyannis, allowing a run in two innings. UM’s Nichols had a 4.50 ERA for Hyannis before he left for the Team USA tryouts. … Props to former Mississippi Braves star Freddie Freeman for getting his 2,000th MLB hit on Sunday with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is second on the hit list among former Jackson area Double-A players; ex-Jackson Generals standout Bobby Abreu finished with 2,470.
Ferriss Trophy winners were making news on Wednesday. The last two winners of Mississippi’s top college honor were named to the NCBWA All-America teams: Southern Miss’ Tanner Hall, the 2022 Ferriss recipient, was named to the first team — his second such honor (Collegiate Baseball) — and 2023 winner Kemp Alderman of Ole Miss made the second team. Hall was 12-4 with a 2.48 ERA for the Golden Eagles, who fell in the Hattiesburg Super Regional on Monday. Alderman hit .376 with 19 homers and 61 RBIs for the Rebels, the defending national champs who did not make the postseason this year. Meanwhile, ex-Mississippi State star Jake Mangum, the Ferriss winner in 2019 and ’16, enjoyed a big day for Triple-A Jacksonville (Miami system), going 4-for-6 with four RBIs as the Jumbo Shrimp swept a doubleheader from Memphis. The Jackson Prep product is batting .286. Worth noting: Up in the Cape Cod League, 2023 Ferriss finalist Hunter Hines of MSU went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in a win by Yarmouth-Dennis; Hines is batting .350 with a homer and six RBIs in five games in the summer league. And 2022 finalist Tim Elko, an Ole Miss alumnus now in pro ball, hit his league-leading 14th home run for Low-Class A Kannapolis (Chicago White Sox). P.S. Dakota Jordan, after an All-SEC Freshman season at State, is killing it in the New England Collegiate League. The Jackson Academy product is batting .444 (8-for-18, plus six walks) with five RBIs and nine runs in six games for Newport.
Bobby Bradley will hit bombs. That we know. The former Harrison Central High star hit 180 home runs in eight seasons in affiliated ball, and he has 14 — tied for the league lead — in his first season in the independent Atlantic League. What is a little different this year for the 27-year-old Bradley has been his ability to put the ball in play. He went 3-for-4 (with a homer) in a 9-8 win by the Charleston Dirty Birds on Saturday and raised his average to .288. He has a .362 on-base average, a .667 slug. High strikeout totals (and defensive limitations) were Bradley’s big issue in affiliated ball. He punched out more than a thousand times in 820 games. In his last MLB stint with Cleveland in 2022, he hit .118 with nine strikeouts in 17 at-bats before being shipped to the minors and ultimately released. He has fanned 36 times in 37 games (132 at-bats) for Charleston. Atlantic League pitching isn’t bad; there are a lot of veteran arms around the circuit. Bradley, primarily a first baseman, has shown defensive versatility by playing some left field this year. Whether he has a path back to affiliated ball, who knows? But it’s good to see the once-highly rated prospect having some success again. P.S. Lance Berkman, the former Jackson Generals standout, was somehow bypassed for inclusion in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but he has been named to the Cape Cod League Hall of Fame, no minor honor. The star-studded college summer league, which began its centennial season on Saturday, named its 2023 class on Friday. Berkman hit a league-best .352 for Wareham in 1996. Two years later, after being drafted in the first round out of Rice by Houston, Berkman had a big year for the Double-A Gens, hitting .306 with 24 homers and 89 RBIs. He was a six-time All-Star and a World Series champ in the majors, finishing with a .293 career average over 15 seasons.
It ain’t Red Sox-Yankees (also happening on this sports-packed weekend), but Counter Clocks-Blue Crabs is a burgeoning rivalry that should get the attention of Mississippi baseball aficionados. The Lexington Counter Clocks, managed by Biloxi native Barry Lyons, and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, managed by Jackson native Stan Cliburn, are slated for a three-game Atlantic League series at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, Md., beginning tonight. It is the first meeting this season of the two former big league catchers. Lyons is in his first year with the Counter Clocks, while Cliburn is a veteran of the independent league. Cliburn’s club leads the APBL North Division with a 21-13 record. Lyons’ team is 16-20, third in the South. The Blue Crabs’ top hitter is former Ole Miss standout Braxton Lee, batting .349. Ex-Rebels star Thomas Dillard is batting .235 with six homers and 17 RBIs for the Counter Clocks. … On the MLB docket, the two best teams record-wise, Tampa Bay and Texas, open a compelling three-game set tonight at Tropicana Field. On the undercard in this series is the first meeting as opposing players for the Brothers Lowe, former Mississippi State star Nathaniel of the Rangers and Josh of the Rays. A bunch of family and friends are expected to attend. … The Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers continue their Southern League series tonight at Pearl’s Trustmark Park. The Milwaukee-affiliated Shuckers have won two of the first three in the six-game set and lead the season series 7-5. … The NCAA Super Regionals begin tonight — Tennessee-Southern Miss starts Saturday — and one of the most interesting matchups is South Carolina-Florida, a longtime SEC rivalry. Both teams feature a Southern Miss transfer: Will McGillis is the Gamecocks’ usual leadoff batter and Hurston Waldrep is one of the Gators’ top starting pitchers. … The Cape Cod League, the best of the college summer loops, begins its centennial season Saturday. There are a handful of Mississippi products on the current rosters, including Mississippi State’s Ross Highfill and K.C. Hunt with Falmouth, State’s Hunter Hines with Yarmouth-Dennis and Ole Miss’ Mason Nichols with Hyannis. There is a lot of roster movement during the season, so there may be more Mississippians arriving later.
It was a hard fall for Bobby Bradley. Cleveland’s opening day first baseman, the Gulfport native was anchored to the bench by late April, outrighted to the minors in May and then released from Triple-A Columbus on Saturday. He was hitting .174 with seven homers and 30 RBIs — plus 74 strikeouts in 167 at-bats — for the Clippers. Guardians officials decided “maybe a change of scenery would be good for the kid,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona told cleveland.com. Bradley, just 26, figures to catch on somewhere. A lefty hitter with big power — 163 minor league homers since 2014 — he has some value. Drafted in the third round out of Harrison Central High, he rose fairly steadily in the Cleveland system. He debuted in the big leagues in 2019 and was Cleveland’s regular first baseman the latter half of 2021. But he hit just .208 with 16 homers last year and struck out way too much. P.S. Mike Mayers, veteran reliever out of Ole Miss, was brought back from the minors by the Los Angeles Angels and threw 3 1/3 shutout innings Saturday in the team’s loss to Seattle in Game 1 of a doubleheader. It was his first MLB appearance since May 25. He had a 5.40 ERA when he was designated for assignment. … Hayden Dunhurst, catcher for national champion Ole Miss this year, is 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI and three walks in his first two pro games. The sixth-round pick is playing for Kansas City’s Arizona Complex League team. … Former Madison Central (and current Stanford) star Braden Montgomery has been a key player for Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League. Montgomery hit .250 with four homers and 19 RBIs and posted a 2.25 ERA in three pitching appearances in the regular season. He got the win in relief for the Y-D Red Sox in their CCBL playoff opener.