02 Jul

here it comes …

Baseball fans need to strap in. A rollicking good time is ahead, particularly for devoted followers of all things Mississippi. Aside from the usual array of major and minor league games all week — Biloxi is hosting Mississippi on Monday and the M-Braves are at home the rest of the week — Team USA (the college version) is playing a series in the Carolinas against Chinese Taipei that runs through July 4 and then hooks up against Japan from July 7-12. Braden Montgomery, the former Madison Central High and current Stanford star, is on the Team USA roster. July 7 brings the HBCU Swingman Classic to kick off MLB’s All-Star festivities in Seattle. Several Mississippi college alums are on the rosters, including Jackson State’s Ty Hill, a Ferriss Trophy finalist this year. July 8 is the All-Star Futures Game, with ex-Biloxi High star Colt Keith, a rising Detroit Tigers prospect, scheduled to play at T-Mobile Park. July 9 is the start of the MLB draft, and there are several Mississippians who could go in the first two rounds (see Jacob Gonzalez and Kemp Alderman of Ole Miss, Cooper Pratt of Magnolia Heights Academy, Colton Ledbetter of Mississippi State). The draft continues on July 10 and 11. July 10 is the Home Run Derby at T-Mobile; the eight-man lineup has yet to be finalized, but there might be a Mississippian in the field. July 11 brings the Midsummer Classic itself with three Magnolia State products on the rosters plus a plethora of former M-Braves and Biloxi Shuckers. DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley made the National League team as a reserve, joined by George County High product Justin Steele, selected to the NL pitching staff. Ex-Mississippi State star Brent Rooker made the American League squad as a reserve pick.

30 Jun

answering the call

Despite a rash of injuries, defending World Series champion Houston has stayed afloat in the American League playoff pool, and one of the unexpected heroes is rookie right-hander J.P. France. France, who capped his college career at Mississippi State, threw seven shutout innings at St. Louis on Thursday night as the Astros routed the Cardinals 14-0. It was the fifth straight quality start for France, who is 3-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 10 starts since being recalled from the minors in early May. “I just was able to locate, and it was one of those games where everything was working …, ” he told mlb.com. With the win, Houston (44-37) moved past the Los Angeles Angels and into second place alone in the AL West, 5 games back of first-place Texas (49-32). The Astros and Rangers start a four-game series at Globe Life Field tonight. France, who started his college career at Tulane, went 5-5, 3.84, at MSU in 2018 and was a 14th-round draft pick as a senior that summer. He made the Astros’ 40-man roster this past off-season and made his big league debut May 6, throwing five shutout innings at Seattle. Grae Kessinger, the ex-Ole Miss star and another Astros rookie, got into Thursday’s game as a defensive replacement at first base. He went 0-for-1 with a walk and is 1-for-10 in his six MLB games. He is 1,930 hits behind grandfather Don but just six back of uncle Keith on the Kessinger hit list. … The Angels (44-39) lost 9-7 at home to the Chicago White Sox as a trio of Mississippi products played key roles for the enigmatic Sox. Former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn (5-8, 6.47) got the win despite yielding three homers — including MSU alum Hunter Renfroe’s 14th — and five earned runs in six innings. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson, in an 0-for-24 spiral entering the game, went 2-for-5 and scored twice. And MSU product Kendall Graveman (3.06 ERA in 36 appearances) closed out the win despite allowing two runs — on a Shohei Ohtani bomb — in the ninth. P.S. Kudos to former Mississippi Braves star Freddie Freeman and Biloxi Shuckers alum Orlando Arcia for making the National League All-Star team, joining ex-M-Braves standout Ronald Acuna, and to Madison Central High alum Braden Montgomery, now at Stanford, for making the final roster of the Collegiate National Team.

29 Jun

names of note

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.

26 Jun

america’s team

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.

13 Jul


Jared Shuster, a highly rated Atlanta prospect and an All-Star Futures Game selection, threw seven shutout innings with 12 strikeouts in the Mississippi Braves’ 6-0 win Tuesday night against Rocket City at Trustmark Park. Left-hander Shuster, 23, a first-round pick in 2020, is 6-7 with a 2.87 ERA and 98 K’s in 84 2/3 innings. … Vaughn Grissom, the Braves’ No. 4 prospect, made his Double-A debut (see previous post) and went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a steal for the M-Braves. … Former M-Braves pitcher A.J. Minter, filling in as closer, worked a clean ninth inning for his fourth save in Atlanta’s 4-1 win vs. the New York Mets. Minter has a 1.66 ERA in 41 appearances this season. … If anyone was wondering: Andy Fletcher, an Ole Miss alum who lives in Mississippi, was behind the plate for the Mets-Braves game at Truist Park; he graded out on ball-strike calls at 95.4 percent accuracy (seventh-best among the 15 umps who worked Tuesday) and 92 consistency (second-lowest), according to umpscorecards.com. … Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs in Team USA’s 10-0 win against The Netherlands. Gonzalez is batting .286 in the tournament for the Collegiate National Team (3-1). … McComb native Corey Dickerson, in his fourth game off the injured list, banged out two more hits in St. Louis’ win over the Los Angeles Dodgers and raised his average over .200 (.207). … Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State standout from Crystal Springs, returned from the IL for Milwaukee and went 0-for-4 in the Brewers’ win against Minnesota in a clash of first-place teams. … MSU product Konnor Pilkington, called up to start Game 2 of a twinbill for Cleveland, worked five innings and allowed three earned runs in a 7-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Pilkington is 1-2, 4.24, in 11 games in his rookie campaign. … Former State star Chris Stratton made his first start since 2019 and pitched 2 1/3 innings for Pittsburgh in a victory against Miami. Stratton, with a 5.06 ERA in 37 games this season, allowed two hits and one run. He left the game after yielding a double to Ole Miss alum Nick Fortes. … Brent Rooker, 0-for-7 in two games with San Diego, was optioned back to Triple-A El Paso, the third time in 2022 the MSU product has been up-and-down. … Northwest Mississippi Community College alum Cody Reed pitched a scoreless inning for Tampa Bay’s team in the Florida Complex League, his first appearance this season. Reed, a six-year MLB vet, pitched in 12 games for the Rays last season before an injury sidelined him. He was hurt again in the spring. … Ex-Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty, claimed off waivers by Baltimore last week and sent to Triple-A, was designated for assignment by the Orioles. … Tanner Allen, the 2021 Ferriss Trophy winner at State, went 2-for-4 in his first game for Low-Class A Jupiter in Miami’s system. Allen was sent down from High-A Beloit with a .209 average.

11 Jul

summer stock

Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez is 1-for-7 for Team USA and teammate Hunter Elliott worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings in one of the team’s two games in a tournament in The Netherlands. UM coach Mike Bianco is managing the Collegiate National Team, 1-1 in the tournament with a win against Italy and a loss to Japan. They play Cuba today. … With five hits over his last three games, Kellum Clark has boosted his average to .270 in the Cape Cod League. The Brandon native, who batted .254 with 14 homers at Mississippi State last season, has driven in six runs and scored seven for Wareham. His MSU teammate Jackson Fristoe has a 11.11 ERA in four games for the Gatemen, and Southern Miss’ Niko Mazza, a Madison native, is 1-1 with a 3.37 for that team. Ole Miss catcher Calvin Harris is 5-for-13 since joining the Cotuit club. USM’s Isaiah Rhodes has a 2.07 ERA in three appearances for Hyannis, and UM’s Wes Burton is 1-0, 5.06 for the Harbor Hawks. … William Carey’s Patrick Lee is second in the Texas Collegiate League with a .361 average and tops the league in runs with 30. He is one of several Mississippians playing for the Acadiana Cane Cutters. … In the New Albany-based Cotton States League, the HillCountry Generals are off to a 14-3 start, far and away best in the five-team college summer loop. Evan Radford, a former USM player now listed with East Mississippi Community College, is batting .500 with three homers and 15 RBIs for the Generals. Also for the Generals: EMCC’s Zac Butler is batting .429 with 17 runs; Northwest CC’s Peeko Townsend leads the league with five homers; Pontotoc native Caleb Hobson has scored 22 runs; and Amory’s Brody Bickerstaff is 4-0 with a 3.01 ERA.

06 Jul

names in the news

Former Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty has been claimed off waivers by Baltimore, added to the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Left-hander McCarty was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three appearances as a rookie with Cleveland this season. … USM product Nick Sandlin was recalled from Triple-A by Cleveland on Tuesday and gave up a couple of runs in a loss to Detroit. He was sent down in late June despite a 2.98 ERA through his first 19 games. … Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson has begun rehab assignment 2.0 at Triple-A Memphis in the St. Louis system. Dickerson’s first rehab was shut down after two games. He went on the injured list June 5 with a calf injury, batting .194 for the Cardinals at the time. … Former Mississippi State teammates Justin Foscue and Jordan Westburg, both 2020 draftees, are ranked in MLB Pipeline’s new Top 100 minor league prospects list. Foscue, now in Texas’ system, is No. 63, Westburg (Baltimore) No. 96. Foscue is in Double-A; Westburg already has reached Triple-A. … Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, Rebels pitcher Hunter Elliott and Southern Miss pitchers Tanner Hall and Hurston Waldrep made the cut for the Collegiate National Team. Team USA, managed by UM coach Mike Bianco, is playing in the Honkbalweek Haarlem tournament in The Netherlands, opening against Japan on Saturday. (Waldrep has put his name in the transfer portal at USM.)

04 Jul

numbers to crunch

4 — Straight wins by the Mississippi Braves, who’ll take that streak into tonight’s Southern League game against Pensacola at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The M-Braves (4-2 second half, 33-42 overall) have struggled with the bats of late but scored 36 times during the win streak, including an 18-run outburst on Saturday.
10 — Hits in his last seven games, including two on Sunday, for Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High product who is batting .385 over that stretch with two homers, six RBIs and five runs for the surging Atlanta Braves. Riley is fourth in the National League with 20 homers.
1 — Career starts vs. Atlanta by Dakota Hudson, the Mississippi State alum who goes for St. Louis against the Braves today at Truist Park. That one start was on May 25, 2019. Hudson is 6-4 with a 3.83 ERA. He’ll be opposed by ex-M-Braves star Kyle Wright (9-4), tied for second in the NL in wins.
2 — Wins in his last three starts for Justin Steele, the George County High product who’ll pitch for the Chicago Cubs against Milwaukee today at American Family Field. Steele is 3-5, 4.39, for the lowly Cubs.
1,600 — Career managerial wins for Buck Showalter, the former State standout who reached that milestone on Sunday when his New York Mets beat Texas 4-1. Showalter, who has managed five different MLB clubs, is No. 22 on the all-time wins list, having just passed Tommy LaSorda.
22 — Number of Mississippians to appear in an MLB game in 2022 after ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton got in as a pinch runner for Miami on Sunday. He scored his 440th career run in his 912th big league game.
18 — Strikeouts in 11 innings over two games (both wins) for Brandon Woodruff since the former State standout came off the injured list for Milwaukee. Woodruff beat Pittsburgh with six shutout innings (eight K’s) on Sunday and is 7-3 on the season.
9.00 — ERA in three games for Kirk McCarty, the ex-Southern Miss star who was designated for assignment Sunday by Cleveland. The rookie left-hander lost to the New York Yankees on Saturday (four runs in five innings), the second time he has faced them in his brief MLB tenure.
3 — Hits in five at-bats for Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez, who also drove in two runs as he helped the Stars beat the Stripes 7-3 on Sunday in Game 4 of Collegiate National Team’s intrasquad series. The teams play again today at Charlotte, N.C.

28 Jun

team usa beckons

Shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, left-hander Hunter Elliott and righty Mason Nichols, fresh off winning the national championship with Ole Miss, are among the 50 players invited to Cary, N.C., to compete for 26 positions on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. Also there are Southern Miss pitchers Tanner Hall and Hurston Waldrep, former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery (an outfielder/pitcher now at Stanford) and Lewisburg High product Brady Tygart (a pitcher now at Arkansas). Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco is the manager of this Team USA. The players will play Stars vs. Stripes intrasquad games June 30-July 4, after which the roster will be pared to 26. The team will compete at the Honkbalweek Haarlem tournament in The Netherlands. The first game is against Japan on July 9. Cuba is also in the field. … St. Stanislaus High outfielder Seth Farni is also in Cary, vying for a spot with 99 other prep players on the Under-18 Team USA as part of MLB’s Prospect Development Pipeline League. Farni hit .364 with nine homers as a junior in 2022. Select players from this camp also will be invited to the MLB/USA Baseball All-America Game in Los Angeles on July 15.

24 Jun

show a little glove

Defense doesn’t often get the attention it deserves, but the annual announcement of the ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Awards shines a little light. Ole Miss catcher Hayden Dunhurst and Pearl River Community College third baseman Dalton Cummins earned that recognition on Wednesday. Dunhurst, a sophomore from Carriere and a second-team All-SEC pick, threw out 16 would-be basestealers and picked off five runners this season. He joins Stuart Turner, a former major leaguer, as Ole Miss catchers to win a Gold Glove. Dunhurst was a semifinalist for the Buster Posey Award given to the top college catcher; Turner won that award in 2013 when it was called the Johnny Bench Award. Cummins, a sophomore from Seminary and a Delta State signee, registered a .944 fielding average (while also playing some second base and shortstop) for the state champion PRCC Wildcats. The Gold Gloves were not awarded in 2020. The last Mississippi Division I player to win one was Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum in 2018. Former Southern Miss pitcher Hunter Stanley won one as a second baseman at Meridian CC that same year. Other campus notes: Dunhurst has been chosen for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, according to a UM release. Shortstop Jacob Gonzalez and pitcher Derek Diamond also made that squad. USA Baseball has not yet announced the full roster. … Southern Miss outfielder Reed Trimble, a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America pick, is one of four Golden Eagles playing for Gainesville (Ga.) in the Sunbelt Baseball League. USM pitcher Ben Ethridge is with the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod League. Former USM star Walker Powell, the C-USA pitcher of the year in 2021, is in the MLB Draft League, a new showcase for draft-eligible players. … Jackson State’s Chenar Brown, also a CB Freshman All-America, is toiling for Danville in the Appalachian League. … Former Madison Central High star – and Stanford signee — Braden Montgomery is listed as an attendee in the MLB Draft Combine, currently under way in Cary, N.C. Montgomery, a pitcher/outfielder, is the only Mississippi high school player rated in MLB Pipeline’s top 250 draft prospects. The draft is in July.