20 May

honor society

Dakota Jordan, who has had a bunch of good days swinging the bat for Mississippi State this season, had a good day Monday without ever touching one. The former Jackson Academy star from Canton won the state’s Ferriss Trophy, was named one of the 25 semifinalists for the national Golden Spikes Award and also earned second-team All-SEC recognition. Jordan is batting .363 with 17 home runs, 63 RBIs and 51 runs through 55 games for the nationally ranked Bulldogs, who play Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament at Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday night. … MSU shortstop David Mershon and pitcher Khal Stephen made first-team All-SEC, and Ole Miss outfielder Andrew Fischer was a second-team pick. … Former Madison Central High standout Braden Montgomery, now at Texas A&M, was named first-team All-SEC and also a Golden Spikes semifinalist. … Southern Miss pitcher Billy Oldham and DH Slade Wilks earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors, and pitcher Nikko Mazza, shortstop Ozzie Pratt and outfielder Dalton McIntyre — a Ferriss finalist — were pegged on the second team. Banks Tolley, an Ole Miss transfer from Madison, was named the Sun Belt’s newcomer of the year and ex-Pearl River Community College star Luke Lyon, now at Troy, was a second-team All-SBC pick. … Pearl River CC’s Michael Avalon was named the MACCC coach of the year and the Wildcats’ Hollis Porter, an MSU transfer, earned player of the year honors. PRCC won the regular season title in the conference. … In the MHSAA State Championships that begin Tuesday at Pearl’s Trustmark Park, two of the seven classification Mr. Baseball winners will take part: Ty Long of Class 4A Ripley and Landon Harmon of 2A East Union. Long is a USM signee, Harmon an MSU commit. Tupelo’s Lake Reed was the 7A winner, West Jones’ Camden Clark in 6A, South Jones’ Cole Richardson in 5A, Mooreville’s Mason McMillin in 3A and Pine Grove’s Gehrig Shinall in 1A.

20 May

trophy time

The Ferriss Trophy has been around since 2004, and it’s become kind of a big deal to be named the best college player in a state where baseball is quite a big deal. The list of winners is impressive. Nine of them are still active in the pro game, four of them currently playing in the big leagues, two of them owning World Series rings. The 2024 award — honoring former Delta State coach Boo Ferriss and presented by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum — will be given out today at a ceremony at the Pearl River Resort in Philadelphia. The finalists are Brett Sanchez (Belhaven), Dakota Jordan (Mississippi State), Ethan Lege (Ole Miss), Dalton McIntyre (Southern Miss) and R.J. Stinson (William Carey). The oldest active winner is Drew Pomeranz, the 2010 recipient from Ole Miss. Currently pitching in Triple-A with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the big left-hander was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft and has made 289 MLB appearances, winning a World Series with Boston in 2018. Nick Sandlin (Cleveland), Brent Rooker (Oakland), Hunter Renfroe (Kansas City) and Chris Stratton (KC) are in The Show. Stratton won a ring with Texas last year; Rooker was an All-Star in 2023; Renfroe has 180 career home runs; and Sandlin has a career ERA of 2.99 over four seasons. Two-time Ferriss winner Jake Mangum, the former MSU star, probably should have been in the big leagues by now; he is batting .329 in Triple-A for Tampa Bay and has a .290 career average. Last year’s winner, Kemp Alderman of Ole Miss, a second-round draft pick last July, is currently on the injured list in A-ball in Miami’s system. Tanner Hall, the 2022 winner from USM, has spent most of this season on the shelf, having made just three appearances in Minnesota’s system. Tanner Allen, the 2021 winner at MSU, is in Double-A in Miami’s chain and batting .250 as a regular outfielder. Among the 2024 finalists, Jordan is the highest rated MLB draft prospect, checking in at No. 24 on the latest mlb.com list. Each of the five is well-credentialed.

08 May

fully charged

A well-rested Belhaven University team begins play today in the Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament at Maryville, Tenn. The second-seeded Blazers, who haven’t played an actual game since April 27, meet Huntingdon (Ala.) at the wonderfully named Scotland Yard, home of the top-seeded Maryville Scots. (Game time is 10 a.m. CDT.) Under first-year coach Andrew Gipson, the Blazers are 23-15 and took two of three from Huntingdon on the road last month. BU is led by the bat of Owen Abney, the arms of Brett Sanchez and Colton Sylvester and the legs of, well, a host of players. Former Jackson Prep star Abney is batting .345 with 10 homers and 55 RBIs. Sanchez is a preseason NCAA Division III All-America pick and a finalist for the state’s Ferriss Trophy. The fifth-year right-hander, who has 33 wins in his BU career, is 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 2024. Sylvester, who moved into the rotation late in the season, is 6-1 with a 2.43. The Blazers have stolen 137 bases — fourth in the country — led by Noah Foster with 26. Five others have nine or more, including Abney with eight bags. The six-team, double-elimination CCS Tournament will conclude on Saturday. P.S. Delta State mashed five homers in a 9-8 win against West Florida on Tuesday but ran out of juice in the second game of the GSC Tournament finals against the Argonauts, falling 9-2 at Oxford, Ala. DSU (32-22) hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA D-II Tournament when the field is announced on Sunday. … Belhaven’s Sanchez is joined as a Ferriss Trophy finalist by Dakota Jordan (Mississippi State), Ethan Lege (Ole Miss), Dalton McIntyre (Southern Miss) and R.J. Stinson (William Carey). The winner will be announced May 20.

07 May

what a relief

Emmanuel Clase is the headliner in the vaunted Cleveland Guardians bullpen. Nick Sandlin plays an “Also Starring” role — and plays it very well. The former Southern Miss standout got four outs in the sixth and seventh innings on Monday and picked up the win in a 2-1 victory against Detroit. Sandlin is 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA and a save in 19 appearances for the Guardians, who lead the American League Central with a 23-12 record. Clase (0.49 ERA) pitched the ninth for his 11th save. The side-arming Sandlin stranded a runner in the sixth inning on Monday and has allowed just two of 14 inherited runners to score. He has a 0.62 WHIP. A second-round pick by Cleveland in 2018 after a sensational career at USM, Sandlin has a 2.95 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP over 160 career MLB appearances. At USM, he had 20 saves over his first two seasons, moved into the rotation as a junior and went 10-0 with a 1.06, earning All-America honors and the state’s Ferriss Trophy. He went back to the bullpen in pro ball. … Filling in for regular closer James McArthur, ex-Mississippi State star Chris Stratton weathered a shaky ninth inning to notch his second save in Kansas City’s 3-2 win vs. Milwaukee. The surprising Royals are 21-15, tied for second in the AL Central. Stratton, in his first season with KC, is 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 14 games; five of the nine earned runs he has yielded came in one appearance. McArthur, the Ole Miss alum who has seven saves this season, was down Monday, so Stratton — 14 career saves — got the call in the ninth. Aided by a double play, he got through the Brewers’ 3-6 hitters despite walking two. Stratton was also a Ferriss Trophy winner back in 2012, when he was the SEC’s pitcher of the year (as a starter) and later a first-round pick by San Francisco. … It’s “official” in Philadelphia: Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull will move to the bullpen. In his first season with the Phillies, Turnbull is 2-0 with a 1.67 in six starts. But Philadelphia now has five other healthy starters, making a move necessary. Turnbull, who has started all but one game in his 67 career MLB appearances, reportedly would prefer to remain in the rotation. “He can do a lot of different things, because he gives you length, obviously,” Phils manager Rob Thomson told mlb.com. P.S. MSU product Brent Rooker won the AL player of the week award after batting .438 with three homers — two in one inning — and seven RBIs for Oakland in the week ending May 4. Rooker also won a POW award in 2023.

22 Apr

down the stretch

Ferriss Trophy voters have a tough decision to make in the coming weeks, which says a lot about the depth of talent, especially among hitters, in the state’s four-year colleges. The Ferriss Trophy, named for former big league pitcher and Delta State coach Boo Ferriss, is given annually to the state‚Äôs best college player by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The winner will be named in a ceremony four weeks from today. With a chunk of season still to be played, Mississippi State’s Dakota Jordan has some big numbers (.378, 15 homers, 51 RBIs, 42 runs) and is the top-rated 2024 MLB draft prospect among the state’s college crop. Southern Miss’ Slade Wilks, a 2023 Ferriss finalist, is having another strong year (.292, nine homers, 37 RBIs, 31 runs) for the Golden Eagles, as is Dalton McIntyre (.404), though he recently suffered an injury. At Ole Miss, Ethan Lege (.348, 12 homers, 37 RBIs, 38 runs) has been a consistent offensive force, and Jackson State has gotten great production from Joseph Eichelberger (.379). Not to be overlooked are small college players R.J. Stinson (William Carey), Arderrius “Peeko” Townsend (Blue Mountain Christian), Dylan Coleman (Delta State), J.T. Vance (Mississippi College) and Malik Berrien (Rust). Stinson is batting .427, while Townsend ranks among the NAIA leaders with 22 bombs. There hasn’t been a truly dominant pitcher in the state this season, but MSU’s Khal Stephen, USM’s Billy Oldham, Carey’s John Snyder and Belhaven University’s Colton Sylvester and Brett Sanchez, among others, have had shining moments.

07 Apr

on the road again

J.T. Ginn’s road to the big leagues has been filled with emergency stops. The former Mississippi State standout from Brandon, who has spent much time parked on the injured list in Oakland’s minor league system, got off to a clean start on Saturday night for Double-A Midland. In his 2024 debut, Ginn allowed one run on four hits and two walks in five innings to register the win for the RockHounds against Corpus Christi. Having made some tweaks in his mechanics, the right-hander, 24, reportedly had a good spring. Though he has dropped off the prospect charts, the A’s brass seems encouraged as Ginn enters his fourth pro season. “It’s just a matter of health and maturity,” Ed Sprague, Oakland’s farm director, told Baseball America in March. Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round out of Brandon High in 2018, two-way star Ginn opted for MSU, where he was the SEC’s freshman of the year as a pitcher in 2019. He suffered an elbow injury and had Tommy John surgery early in 2020, but the New York Mets picked him in the second round that summer as a draft-eligible sophomore. He had a nice debut season in the Mets’ system, then was traded to the A’s in March of 2022 for big leaguer Chris Bassitt. Various ailments limited Ginn to 20 appearances the past two seasons. He was 1-3 with a 7.43 ERA in 2023. P.S. Former Southern Miss star Tanner Hall is slated to make his pro debut today for Minnesota’s Low-A Fort Myers club. A fourth-round pick last year, Hall was a two-time All-America, a two-time conference pitcher of the year and the 2022 Ferriss Trophy winner while at USM. He posted a 22-8 record and 2.92 ERA in three seasons. … MSU alum Tanner Allen, another former Ferriss winner, is 6-for-8 with five RBIs and two runs in two games, both wins, for Double-A Pensacola (Miami system) against the Mississippi Braves. … USM product Nick Sandlin, yet another former Ferriss winner now in MLB, worked a clean inning for Cleveland in a Saturday win over Minnesota and has yet to allow a hit or run in five appearances for the 7-2 Guardians.

15 Feb

here it comes

The wrapper comes off for NCAA Division I schools on Friday and there is great anticipation around the state as to what may be revealed in 2024. There is a new coach at Southern Miss and another at Mississippi Valley State. Star players are gone from every team, and the rosters at Ole Miss and Mississippi State, in particular, have been stocked with newcomers, many of them portal transfers. Here’s a quick look at some players to watch in the early going:
At USM, where Christian Ostrander takes over for Scott Berry as the man in charge, the key player might prove to be veteran Slade Wilks. The senior DH from Columbia hit .289 with 20 home runs and 58 RBIs for the 2023 Golden Eagles and was a Ferriss Trophy finalist. Ostrander calls him the “oak tree in that lineup.” USM, which went 46-20 last year and hosted a Super Regional (losing to Tennessee), opens at Taylor Park against Marist.
At State, where the Bulldogs return sluggers Hunter Hines (a Ferriss finalist) and Dakota Jordan, the emphasis has to be on improved pitching. Nate Dohm, 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior right-hander with strikeout stuff, figures to play a key role there. A transfer from Ball State in 2023, he went 6-4 with a 4.07 ERA in 17 appearances for a team that finished 27-26 and had an SEC-worst 7.01 ERA. Dohm and the Bulldogs start with Air Force at Dudy Noble.
At Ole Miss, where MLB draftees Jacob Gonzalez, Kemp Alderman (Ferriss Trophy winner) and Calvin Harris have moved on, the transfer portal brought in a host of newcomers. Notable among them is Luke Hill, a Baton Rouge native who played at Arizona State last season. Hill, who hit .314 with six homers and 42 RBIs as a freshman for the Sun Devils, takes over at shortstop, where Gonzalez was a three-year star. The Rebels, national champs in 2022, tumbled to 25-29 last year. They open at Hawaii.
At Jackson State, where last year’s 28-25 record and two-and-out finish in the SWAC Tournament was a disappointment, the Tigers must replace their best hitter, Ty Hill (a Ferriss finalist), and a top starter, Jesse Caver. Offensive spark could come from Myles White, a senior second baseman who batted .327 (.462 OBP), drove in 23 runs and scored 36 in 49 games. The Tigers open in the six-team Cactus Jack HBCU Classic in Houston, where they’ll play Texas Southern in their first game, Alcorn State in their second.
P.S. Alcorn, coming off an 8-40 season, opens against Southern University on Friday in the Cactus Jack event. Valley, 15-36 in 2023, will launch the C.J. Bilbrey era on Feb. 23 at Jackson State.

19 Oct

the wait is over, but …

After eight years in the big leagues and 302 regular season appearances, Chris Stratton got in a postseason game for the first time on Wednesday night. It wasn’t an outing the former Mississippi State ace from Tupelo will remember fondly. Stratton yielded two hits and a walk and was charged with two runs in an inning of work during Texas’ 8-5 loss to visiting Houston in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. An effective reliever for the Rangers much of the season (3.41 ERA in 22 games after being acquired in a trade), Stratton was idle for the first seven playoff games. The 33-year-old right-hander entered Game 3 in the sixth inning with the Rangers down 5-2. He got the last two outs of that inning and the first of the seventh before a couple of singles chased him from the game. Will Smith relieved, walked the bases loaded and gave up a two-out, two-run knock to Yordan Alvarez. Stratton, 33, was the 20th overall pick by San Francisco in 2012 after winning SEC pitcher of the year honors — and the Ferriss Trophy — at MSU. He made the majors in 2016 and won 10 games (with a 5.09 ERA) for the Giants in 2018. Traded twice in 2019 and converted to the bullpen, he became a solid reliever, winning 30 games, registering 21 holds and notching 10 saves from 2019-22. He pitched well for St. Louis as a trade acquisition last year, and the Rangers added him to their pen at the deadline this season. The Rangers lead the ALCS 2-1 but the series appears far from over. Stratton may well get another shot, which he surely covets.

15 Sep

time to shine

Kemp Alderman chose a good time to come up with what was probably the best game of his young pro career. The former Ole Miss star, a second-round draft pick by Miami this year, went 3-for-5 with a walk, two doubles, a triple, two runs and an RBI as Jupiter beat Palm Beach 7-6 Thursday to reach the Florida State League Championship Series. The 2023 Ferriss Trophy winner as the state’s best player, Alderman had his struggles with the Low-Class A Hammerheads, batting .205 with one homer and 15 RBIs in 34 games. A big-time power hitter at UM, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Alderman slugged just .316 this season. After going 0-for-4 in the opener of the best-of-3 division series against Palm Beach, Alderman broke out in Game 2 with his first three-hit game. The spotlight will get brighter in the league finals, where Jupiter will play the winner of the Clearwater-Lakeland series, currently even at 1-1. One of Clearwater’s driving forces is Emaarion Boyd, the second-year pro out of South Panola High. The Philadelphia Phillies prospect, typically the Threshers’ leadoff batter, hit .262 with 68 runs and 56 stolen bases in 91 games. P.S. On the subject of Ferriss Trophy winners in the Marlins’ system, Jake Mangum — who won two at Mississippi State — enjoyed a three-hit game for Triple-A Jacksonville in its loss to Gwinnett. Mangum had a double (No. 26 this year), a triple (No. 8), scored twice and picked up an assist from center field. In his fourth pro season — first in Miami’s system after a December trade from the New York Mets — the 27-year-old Mangum is batting .305 with five homers, 47 RBIs and 16 steals. He is still waiting on his first MLB call-up.

20 Jun

eye on …

A lot of eyes will be on Kemp Alderman today and Wednesday. The Ole Miss alum from Decatur is in Phoenix for the MLB Draft Combine, and the outfielder was identified before workouts even began as a player to watch by MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis. “I think he’s going to put on quite a show at the combine,” Callis said Monday in a TV interview on MLB Network. “I think he’ll establish once again while he’s there that he hits the ball as hard as anybody in this draft.” The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Alderman put up a .376 average, 19 homers, 61 RBIs, a .440 on-base average and a .709 slug this past season at Ole Miss. He won the Ferriss Trophy as the best college player in the state. “He hits as hard and as far anybody I’ve ever seen,” Rebels coach Mike Bianco said at the Ferriss ceremony last month. Alderman hit 25 homers over three seasons at Newton County Academy, where he was team MVP his last three years. He went undrafted out of high school and played sparingly as a freshman at UM in 2021. “To his credit, he went to work,” Bianco said. “He kept getting better and better.” He hit .286 with 11 homers on the 2022 national title team and then erupted for one of the best seasons in school history in 2023. Alderman, the No. 62 draft prospect on MLB Pipeline’s latest rankings, is one of eight Mississippi college products invited to the combine, in just its third year. Also on the list: shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, the highest-rated draft prospect in the state, catcher Calvin Harris and pitcher Jack Dougherty from Ole Miss; Southern Miss pitcher Tanner Hall and outfielder Matthew Etzel; and Mississippi State outfielder Colton Ledbetter and pitcher Cade Smith. Batting practice, infield/outfield drills and bullpen sessions begin today; MLB Network will televise portions of the workouts.