17 May

something completely different

The line in the box score, 6-3-6-7, is an eye-opener. The details are flat-out amazing. Colt Keith, the former Biloxi High star and current Detroit prospect, not only banged out six knocks but hit for the cycle with two home runs for Double-A Erie on Tuesday night. Recently ranked as the No. 87 prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline, Keith, 21, is in his third pro season after being drafted in the fifth round by the Tigers in 2020. A lefty-hitting third baseman, the 6-foot-2, 211-pound Keith is batting .300 with seven homers and 28 RBIs this season, .294 with 18 and 91 over 144 games for his career. Not surprisingly, he told milb.com that Tuesday’s performance was the No. 1 highlight of his career to date. As an milb.com story duly notes, no major league player has homered twice while cycling on a six-hit, seven-RBI night. He completed the cycle with a single in his fifth at-bat and also singled in his final AB. “I felt pretty invincible going up there …,” he said. Keith moved to Biloxi from Arizona in 2019 and was the state’s Gatorade player of the year that season. He was an Arizona State commit before the Tigers picked him in the curtailed 2020 draft and offered him a $500,000 bonus.

25 Aug

the brightest light

There were highlights aplenty from Mississippians in the majors on Wednesday, but Nathaniel Lowe’s big day stole the show. The former Mississippi State standout stood in the batter’s box at Coors Field in the ninth inning needing a double for the cycle, which would be the first for a Mississippi-connected big leaguer since Fred Lewis in 2007. Lowe whiffed. But that hardly spoiled his performance: a career-high five RBIs and his 20th homer — a 443-foot blast — in Texas’ 16-4 win vs. Colorado. Lowe is batting .378 in August. “I think I’ve done a better job of just trying to do what I can do with a good pitch to hit,” he told mlb.com. Uh, yeah. … Atta-boys also go out to: Kendall Graveman, the State alum who notched his 21st hold in the Chicago White Sox’s 5-3 win over Baltimore. He pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, though it took a sensational play by third baseman Yoan Moncada to bail him out of a seventh-inning jam. … Chuckie Robinson, the ex-Southern Miss star who made his big league debut and got his first hit for Cincinnati. He became the 24th Mississippian (native or school alum) to appear in an MLB game this season. … Mike Mayers, the Ole Miss product who started and threw five scoreless innings for the Los Angeles Angels against Tampa Bay. It was Mayers’ first start of 2022 after 18 relief appearances (and a trip to the minors). Alas, the hapless Angels fell 4-3 in 11 innings. … Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star who drove in two runs, Nos. 81 and 82 on the year, in Atlanta’s 14-2 romp at Pittsburgh. … Nick Fortes, the ex-Ole Miss standout whose seventh homer of the year tied the score in the ninth inning in Miami’s game at Oakland. The Marlins lost 3-2 in 10. … Hunter Renfroe, the Crystal Springs native who belted his 23rd homer, added two more hits and drove in three runs as Milwaukee lost to the Dodgers. P.S. For the record, five Mississippians have hit for the cycle in MLB history: Lewis, Frank White (twice), Harry Craft, Gee Walker and Sam Leslie. There have been 297 cycles in the modern era (since 1901).

12 May

here and there

Beyond the score — Ole Miss 4, Southern Miss 1 — three numbers jump out of the box from Wednesday night’s game in Hattiesburg: 1 — hits allowed by the Rebels’ bullpen over the last four innings of the game, backing up a strong start by Drew McDaniel; 15 — strikeouts by Golden Eagles batters, most in a game this season; 6,346 — the attendance, a record, at Taylor Park. (Can any other state match Mississippi’s passion for college baseball?) … Congratulations to Millsaps’ Jim Page, named coach of the year in the Southern Athletic Association. The Majors, 10-24 in 2021, went 24-21 and reached the league championship series. Page also won his 800th game in purple-and-white this season. … Christian Yelich hit for the cycle for Milwaukee on Wednesday, his third cycle since 2018. The last Mississippian to accomplish this neat feat was Fred Lewis, a Stone County High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product who did it on May 13 — Mother’s Day — in 2007 for San Francisco. … Orlando Arcia’s first career walk-off home run boosted Atlanta past Boston on Wednesday night. Biloxi Shuckers fans will remember Arcia as one of the stars of the inaugural team back in 2015. He was Milwaukee’s No. 1 prospect at the time and was one of the first Shuckers alums to make the majors. … Left-hander Joey Wentz became the latest former Mississippi Braves standout to make the big leagues; he started and took a loss for Detroit. Wentz joins Bryce Elder and William Woods as M-Braves alums to debut in 2022; the list is approaching 160 all told. … Former Mississippi State standout — and Shuckers alum — Ethan Small, the International League’s pitcher of the month for April when he had an 0.77 ERA in four starts, makes his second May start tonight for Triple-A Nashville. The left-hander, Milwaukee’s No. 7 prospect, took a loss in his first May outing and is 2-1, 1.98 with 37 K’s in 27 1/3 innings. His MLB debut can’t be far off. … Harrison Central High alum Bobby Bradley, reassigned to the minors by Cleveland earlier this month, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his first game with Triple-A Columbus. … Blaze Jordan, the ex-DeSoto Central star, is heating up at Low-Class A Salem in Boston’s system. A nine-game hit streak (13-for-34) has lifted the young slugger’s average to .235; he hit his second homer of the year Wednesday night.

09 Dec

birthday boys

What do Fred Lewis and Del Unser have in common? Both played college ball in Mississippi, both got a hit in their first major league game — and both were born on this date, 36 years apart. Lewis, who turns 41, was born in Hattiesburg, played high school ball at Stone County and juco ball at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before moving on to Southern University. Drafted in the second round in 2002 by San Francisco, the lefty-hitting outfielder played parts of seven years in the big leagues and produced at least one game that Giants fans will never forget. On May 13, 2007, Mother’s Day, in just his 17th big league game, Lewis hit for the cycle at Colorado’s Coors Field. The homer he hit that day was the first of his career, a rare feat. He would hit 26 more and finish his MLB career in 2012 with a .266 average. Unser, who turns 77, is an Illinois native who played at Mississippi State in the mid-1960s, was drafted three times while in Starkville and ultimately signed with Washington after being a first-round pick in 1966. Unser enjoyed a 15-year career with five different clubs. He pounded out 1,344 hits — good for a .258 career average — and won a World Series ring with Philadelphia in 1980, going 5-for-11 with three RBIs and four runs in that postseason. … Also born on this date: former Jackson Generals third baseman Chris Truby, now 48, who played four years in the majors. P.S. Former MSU star Buck Showalter interviewed for the New York Mets’ manager job on Wednesday and team officials were “pretty impressed,” according to the New York Post. Showalter, 65, won 1,551 games as manager of four different MLB clubs between 1992 and 2018 and was a three-time manager of the year. He last managed with Baltimore in 2018, when a gutted Orioles team finished 47-115.

08 Jun

piling up points

If DraftKings daily fantasy points had been a thing in 1940, Harry Craft would have piled up a whopping 53 on June 8 of that year. The folks on MLB Network’s Quick Pitch show would have been fawning all over Craft’s performance. The Ellisville native, who played six big league seasons, hit for the cycle on June 8, 1940, starring for Cincinnati against visiting Brooklyn at Crosley Field. In the Reds’ 23-2 win, Craft – the team’s 7-hole hitter – went 5-for-5 with a walk, an HBP, six RBIs and four runs. The only fantasy column he didn’t tally in was stolen bases. Best known as a standout defensive center fielder, Craft hit .253 that season and won a World Series ring though he only had one at-bat in the series. A Mississippi College alum who garnered two nicknames during his career – “Wildfire” and “Popeye” – Craft played only two more years after 1940, joining the Navy in 1942. He later managed the Kansas City A’s and Houston Colt .45s.

14 Jun

big league chew

With a clutch home run against the New York Yankees on Thursday, Tim Anderson achieved a notable double-double (homers and steals) for the third straight season with the Chicago White Sox. The former first-round pick out of East Central Community College belted homer No. 10, a three-run shot, in the fifth inning, tying the score at 4-4 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The ChiSox went on to win 5-4. “Those moments are the moments you want to be in. Not being afraid to fail,” Anderson, never at a loss for words, told mlb.com. He is batting .317 with 10 homers, 32 RBIs and 15 steals. He had a 20-20 double-double last year. Anderson was fourth in the latest All-Star voting results for American League shortstop, a tough crowd that includes Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Andrelton Simmons, Gleyber Torres, Xander Bogaerts and Jorge Polanco (who led the voting). … Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels became on Thursday the first Japan native to hit for the cycle in the big leagues. How many Mississippi natives have pulled off this rare feat? Five. Gulfport’s Gee Walker (opening day 1937), Moss Point’s Sam Leslie, Ellisville’s Harry Craft, Greenville’s Frank White (who did it twice) and Hattiesburg’s Fred Lewis. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones, whose hot hitting (.344 in his last 30 games) had earned him the leadoff spot in Detroit’s lineup, left Thursday’s game with an elbow contusion after an HBP. He’ll be reevaluated today, reports said. … Mississippi State product Chris Stratton reportedly will make a second rehab appearance before returning to Pittsburgh’s roster. He went on the injured list May 25 with side discomfort. He threw two innings for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. The veteran right-hander from Tupelo has a 5.40 ERA in four games with the Pirates after posting an 8.59 in seven appearances with the Angels before being traded.