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.

15 Jun


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.

23 May

you gotta be impressed

Kemp Alderman, following what his coach called one of the best individual seasons in Ole Miss history, won the Ferriss Trophy on Monday during a ceremony in Philadelphia. The junior from Decatur and Newton County Academy joins a list of previous Ferriss winners that includes Hunter Renfroe, Drew Pomeranz, Brent Rooker, Chris Stratton and Nick Sandlin. Alderman was among five deserving finalists for the 2023 award, given annually to the best player in the state by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. As the five were being introduced prior to the announcement, it was tempting to fantasize about the type of club you could build around just this group. They are that good. In the leadoff spot, you’d have Ty Hill from Jackson State. The Saltillo native carried a .400 average most of the season before slipping to .390. He hit six homers, drove in 53 runs, scored 50, stole eight bases and drew 49 walks, posting a .524 on-base percentage. “He’d have more hits, but they won’t pitch to him,” JSU broadcaster Rob Jay said. Slot Slade Wilks in the 2-hole. The Southern Miss junior from Columbia hit .305 with 18 homers, 53 RBIs and a .650 slugging percentage. “What a player he has been,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “I’ve never had anybody who hits it as hard as Slade.” Berry recounted seeing Wilks hit a ball into the pines beyond right field at Taylor Park in Hattiesburg — as a 9th-grader. Alderman would hit third. He put up a .376 average, 19 homers, 61 RBIs, a .440 on-base average and a .709 slug. “He hits it as hard and as far anybody I’ve ever seen,” Rebels coach Mike Bianco said. Alderman didn’t have an immediate impact in Oxford. “To his credit, he went to work,” Bianco said. “He kept getting better and better.” Alderman thanked his coach for giving him the opportunity to play at his “dream school.” Mississippi State’s Hunter Hines fits the cleanup mold. The sophomore from Madison Central hit .297 with 22 homers, 61 RBIs and a .683 slug. “From his first BP (batting practice) until now, he’s been the best hitter in our program,” said State coach Chris Lemonis. “He loves to hit … and hunt.” Every team needs an ace, and USM’s Tanner Hall has certainly been that. The junior right-hander from Louisiana won the 2022 Ferriss Trophy and is having arguably a better 2023 season. He was 11-3 with a 2.45 ERA, a .203 average against and 100 strikeouts with 30 walks in 88 innings. “He’s had amazing back-to-back years,” Berry said. “He started every first game of every Sun Belt series and won nine of the 10.” You could round out the roster of this fantasy club with other players from the more than a dozen Ferriss nominees, some of which were all-conference selections at the smaller schools. The state is brimming with talent.

12 May

five for the ferriss

Each of the state’s so-called Big 4 NCAA Division I schools is represented among the five finalists for the Ferriss Trophy, given annually to the state’s best player by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The 2023 finalists are Kemp Alderman of Ole Miss, Tanner Hall from Southern Miss, Ty Hill of Jackson State, Hunter Hines from Mississippi State and Slade Wilks of USM. Hall, the only pitcher in the group, won the trophy in 2022. Previous winners include current big leaguers Chris Stratton, Hunter Renfroe, Nick Sandlin and Brent Rooker. The 2023 Ferriss Trophy, named in honor of former major leaguer and legendary Delta State coach Boo Ferriss, is sponsored by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the Pearl River Resort. The ceremony is set for May 22 at the resort in Philadelphia.

23 May

the winner is …

Here’s a bit of topical trivia: Who was the first Ferriss Trophy winner to make the big leagues? It was Drew Pomeranz, who debuted with Colorado in 2011, a year after he won the Ferriss and was drafted in the first round (fifth overall) by Cleveland. The 2022 Ferriss Trophy, given annually to the state’s best player at a four-year school, was awarded today to Southern Miss pitcher Tanner Hall during a ceremony at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Hall, 20, just a sophomore, may get his shot at pro ball and the big leagues someday. Only one of the first six Ferriss winners made the major leagues; Ed Easley (2007) got a cup of coffee with St. Louis in 2015. Ole Miss alum Pomeranz is still playing, though the big left-hander is currently on the injured list with San Diego. Last year’s winner, Mississippi State’s Tanner Allen, is in High-Class A with Miami, currently batting .233. The 2019 winner, State’s Jake Mangum (who also won as a freshman in 2016) is in Double-A in the New York Mets’ chain, hitting .283. Three other previous winners are now in the majors: Chris Stratton (Pittsburgh), Hunter Renfroe (Milwaukee) and Nick Sandlin (Cleveland). Brent Rooker, who made his MLB debut in 2020, is in Triple-A with San Diego.

19 May

the final five

The most familiar name on the list of finalists for the 2022 Ferriss Trophy is Tim Elko, who is enjoying a monster fifth year in the Ole Miss program. The other four have put up numbers impressive enough to separate themselves from a huge field of candidates and merit recognition from the coaches and scouts who pick the final five. The Ferriss Trophy, named for legendary coach Boo Ferriss and first awarded in 2004, goes to the most outstanding four-year college player in the state. The winner will be announced in a ceremony on Monday at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. Joining Elko on the list are R.J. Yeager of Mississippi State, Southern Miss’ Tanner Hall, Delta State’s Harrison Haley and Brett Sanchez of Belhaven. Elko is batting .301 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs for the resurgent Rebels, who have seemingly recovered from a midseason slump. Yeager, in his first season at MSU as a grad transfer from Mercer, has been a consistent hitter for an inconsistent club, batting .328 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs. Hall is a sophomore right-hander who emerged as an ace in 2022 on a strong USM pitching staff that carried the team into the top 10 earlier this season; he is 7-2 with a 2.60 ERA. Haley, a former Hinds Community College standout from Madison, is in his first year at Delta State after transferring from Southeastern Louisiana. He is 10-1 with a 3.84 ERA for an NCAA Division II regional team. Sanchez has been at Belhaven for three seasons after starting his career at Dakota State. The right-hander went 8-1 with a 2.01 for the Division III Blazers, who went 28-16, most wins for the program in seven years. In 2009, Belhaven two-way star Craig Westcott won the Ferriss Trophy and remains the only winner from a school other than the “Big 3” D-I programs; BU was NAIA at the time. State’s Tanner Allen was the 2021 winner. Previous winners include current big leaguers Drew Pomeranz, Hunter Renfroe, Chris Stratton and Nick Sandlin.

25 May

trophy tradition

Kudos to Tanner Allen, the Mississippi State standout who was a most-deserving winner of the Ferriss Trophy, awarded to the state’s best player by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Allen, also named the SEC Player of the Year, has filled the stat sheet all season for the highly ranked Bulldogs. The Alabama native has a .387 batting average, .618 slugging average, eight homers, 53 RBIs, 54 runs and eight stolen bases. A lefty-hitting outfielder, Allen likely will be a fairly high pick in this summer’s MLB draft. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the No. 149 prospect. It’s interesting to note that five of the previous nine Ferriss winners have reached the big leagues: Drew Pomeranz, Chris Stratton, Hunter Renfroe, Brent Rooker and Nick Sandlin. All but Rooker, back in Triple-A, are currently in The Show. (Pomeranz is on the injured list.) The most recent Ferriss winner, Jake Mangum, is in Double-A. Mangum won the award in 2019 – it wasn’t given in 2020 – and also in 2016, when he was the first freshman to receive it. P.S. The inaugural HBCU World Series has been cancelled. MEAC champion Norfolk State opted not to play in the event that was scheduled for this weekend at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium. Southern University would have represented the SWAC.

11 May

who’s it gonna be?

When you’ve got three NCAA Division I programs ranked in the Top 25 and a fourth with an unbeaten conference season, an NAIA program with a conference title under its belt and a D-II team currently battling for a league crown, you’re going to have a bunch of players with great numbers. Only one can win the Ferriss Trophy, given annually to the state’s best. The finalists have been named: Tanner Allen and Landon Sims from Mississippi State and Kevin Graham, Gunnar Hoglund and Doug Nikhazy of Ole Miss. Outfielder Allen is having a monster year for a top five team: .379, eight homers, 46 RBIs, 50 runs. Sims, the Bulldogs’ closer, is 3-0 with six saves and a 0.56 ERA in 14 appearances. Outfielder/first baseman Graham is batting .339 with 10 homers, 41 RBIs, 44 runs for UM, and pitchers Hoglund (4-2, 2.87, 96 punchouts) and Nikhazy (6-2, 2.47), both highly rated MLB draft prospects, have been outstanding, though Hoglund is now shelved with an arm injury. Consider for a moment the players who didn’t make the final five: Bulldogs pitcher Will Bednar has eye-catching stats: 5-1, 3.31 ERA, 80 strikeouts in 49 innings. And he’s a highly rated draft prospect, too. Rebels reliever Taylor Broadway has nine saves, four wins and a 2.73 ERA in 19 games. Reed Trimble has been Southern Miss’ most productive hitter — .306, 10 homers, 45 RBIs, 43 runs – while Walker Powell (8-2) and Ben Ethridge (6-1) have sparkled on the mound. Jackson State (24-0 in the SWAC), which has never had a Ferriss winner, rolls out Ty Hill (.431), Chenar Brown (.357, eight homers, 45 RBIs), Nik Galatas (9-2) and Anthony Becerra (8-1). Then there’s the small schools. NAIA William Carey, SSAC champion, features two-way star Sloan Dieter (.331, 15 homers, 52 RBIs and an 8-2, 1.89 pitching ledger). And at D-II Delta State, Jake Barlow is hitting .314 with 17 homers, most in the state, and 58 RBIs. The winner will be named on May 24. Only one can win. It’s a tough call. P.S. A future Ferriss winner or two might be playing in this week’s MAIS Class 5A championship series, which will be loaded with NCAA Division I talent. The pitching staffs alone feature Riley Maddox (Ole Miss signee), Mason Nichols (Ole Miss) and Will Gibbs (Mississippi State) of Jackson Prep and Bryce Chance (Mississippi State), Niko Mazza (Southern Miss) and Brayden Jones (Ole Miss) of MRA. Prep (33-3) is No. 2 in MaxPreps’ state rankings, MRA (27-9) No. 7.