Back in May, playing for Ole Miss, Calvin Harris hit four home runs in a game. On his list of 2023 highlights, that might still be No. 1 — but what he did Friday night has to be a close second. Harris’ first homer as a pro was a two-run walk-off shot that gave Low-Class A Kannapolis an 8-7 win against Down East. A fourth-round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox, Harris, a catcher, is batting .297 in seven games for the Cannon Ballers. … On Fernando Valenzuela Night at Dodger Stadium, ex-Ole Miss ace Lance Lynn threw five innings, allowing one unearned run, and struck out nine as Los Angeles beat Colorado 6-1. Lynn, 36, is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA since joining the Dodgers at the trade deadline. He has 1,881 career strikeouts over 333 career games. … Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley went 3-for-4 with his 27th homer and two RBIs in Atlanta’s 7-0 win over the New York Mets. Riley, a 2023 All-Star, is batting .355 with five homers in his last 15 games and .333 with 11 bombs, 28 RBIs and 21 runs since the All-Star break. … In manager Bruce Bochy’s return to San Francisco, former Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe belted his 14th homer — 70th career in MLB — to help Bochy’s Rangers beat the Giants 2-1. Bochy, in his first year in Texas, won three championships with the Giants; the Rangers are seeking their first. … Southern Miss product Nick Sandlin threw four pitches and got a hold in a Cleveland win on Thursday. On Friday, he threw three pitches, the last of which was blasted for a walk-off homer by Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco. That came after the Guardians had scored three times on wild pitches in the top of the ninth. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams tossed six shutout innings in his second start for Double-A Tulsa in the Dodgers’ system. The 22-year-old right-hander is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA for the Drillers. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves scored 18 runs in a sweep at Rocket City, getting homers from Luke Waddell, Drew Lugbauer and Jesse Franklin V. Franklin has a 22-game on-base streak.
Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, who has reached Triple-A at age 21 in his third pro season, is ranked No. 26 in MLB Pipeline’s newly released Top 100 minor league prospects. Keith is the lone Mississippi product in the overall rankings. The former Gatorade player of the year is Detroit’s No. 2 prospect and is currently hitting .270 with three homers and 19 RBIs at Toledo while playing mainly third base. There are 19 other state college or prep alums in the team Top 30 rankings. Six players from this year’s draft class were slotted in, including Southern Miss alum Hurston Waldrep, who is Atlanta’s No. 2. Ole Miss product Jacob Gonzalez is the Chicago White Sox’s No. 4, fellow former Rebels star Kemp Alderman is Miami’s No. 9 and former Mississippi State star Colton Ledbetter is Tampa Bay’s No. 9. Ledbetter, a left-handed hitting outfielder, is 7-for-17 with a homer in his first five pro games. Cooper Pratt, the state’s 2023 player of the year at Magnolia Heights Academy, is Milwaukee’s No. 10, and ex-USM star Tanner Hall is Minnesota’s No. 15. Of particular note, Justin Foscue, the 14th overall pick out of MSU in 2020, is ranked as Texas’ No. 6 and is having a good year at Triple-A Round Rock, batting .262 with 11 homers, 49 RBIs and 65 runs in 86 games. With third baseman Josh Jung currently out with a broken thumb, the Rangers might give Foscue a call in the near future. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves’ roster includes four of Atlanta’s Top 30: lefty Luis De Avila (No. 13), shortstop Cal Conley (No. 21), outfielder Jesse Franklin V (No. 22) and righty Tyler Owens (No. 27). Former M-Braves right-hander AJ Smith-Shawver, now at Triple-A Gwinnett, is the lone Atlanta prospect in the Top 100 at No. 58. He has already debuted in MLB. P.S. Ex-USM star Nick Sandlin threw four pitches Thursday, got a ground ball to escape a base-loaded situation in the sixth inning and earned his seventh hold in Cleveland’s 4-3 win against Toronto. Sandlin has a 3.45 ERA for the second-place Guardians. … Former Ole Miss standout Thomas Dillard and ex-Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley traded homers in the independent Atlantic League on Thursday. Dillard’s 31st was not enough for Lexington, which fell 8-6 to Bradley (23 bombs) and Charleston.
Things got a little hot in Houston on Wednesday night. There were six home runs — one by hot-hitting former Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe — two hit batsmen, two ejections, one benches-clearing incident and many angry words. When the final bell rang at Minute Maid Park, Texas had a 13-5 victory over rival Houston, salvaging the finale of the three-game series and leaving town with a 2-game lead in the American League West. Lowe had two of the Rangers’ 17 hits, drew two walks, drove in three runs and scored twice. He also had his tower buzzed on a ball-four pitch by erratic Astros starter Framber Valdez, who had surrendered the homer to Lowe in his previous at-bat. Lowe, who has 12 bombs on the season, is hitting .435 over his last seven games with 10 hits, eight walks, nine RBIs and eight runs. The Rangers (60-43) have scored 10 or more runs in 21 games and have won 20 of them. … Ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner also has swung a hot bat of late, but his two-homer game on Wednesday was not enough to push Minnesota past Seattle. The Mariners won 8-7, getting a pair of homers from Mississippi Braves alum Dylan Moore. Wallner is batting .320 over his last seven games and has four homers in 51 at-bats this season. The Twins saw their lead in the AL Central shrink to 2 games over Cleveland, which beat Kansas City 5-3 as ex-USM star Nick Sandlin picked up his fifth win in relief. P.S. Kemp Alderman, the Ferriss Trophy winner out of Ole Miss, went 1-for-6 in a doubleheader in his pro debut for Low-Class A Jupiter in the Miami system. Alderman was a second-round pick. … Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith went 2-for-3 with his third homer for Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit chain. The 21-year-old Keith — the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect — is batting .290 with 14 RBIs in 19 games at this level; he hit .325 with 14 homers in Double-A.
Kirk McCarty, the former Southern Miss and Oak Grove High star, notched his sixth win today for SSG Landers in the Korean Baseball Organization. McCarty, in his first year in the KBO, threw six innings in a 12-1 win over Lotte, yielding one run on five hits. In 12 starts, the 27-year-old left-hander is 6-3 with a 2.48 ERA, which includes an awful debut in which he allowed eight runs in 3 1/3. McCarty was a remarkable 22-4 at USM from 2015-17 and was drafted in the seventh round by Cleveland after his junior year. He made his big league debut last season with the Guardians and pitched fairly well: 4-3, 4.54 ERA, in 13 games. Cleveland released him in November, and he quickly signed with the KBO team based in Incheon, South Korea, that won the league title in 2022. SSG Landers played a series against the KT Wiz earlier this week, but McCarty did not pitch, missing a chance to face former Petal High star Anthony Alford, one of KT Wiz’s best hitters. P.S. Eight Magnolia State college players are among the 323 prospects invited to next week’s MLB Draft Combine by MLB and USA Baseball. Shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, the highest-rated draft prospect in the state, leads four Ole Miss alums on the list, joined by outfielder Kemp Alderman, catcher Calvin Harris and pitcher Jack Dougherty. Southern Miss pitcher Tanner Hall and outfielder Matthew Etzel got invites along with Mississippi State outfielder Colton Ledbetter and pitcher Cade Smith. The combine runs June 19-24 at Chase Field in Phoenix. MLB Network will broadcast from the site on Tuesday and Wednesday. The draft is next month.
Anthony Alford is crushing it in the Korean Baseball Organization. In 49 at-bats over 12 games for KT Wiz, the ex-Petal High standout is batting .449 with six doubles, two homers, eight RBIs and 10 runs. Alford, 28, headed to the KBO last year after being released by Pittsburgh, and he hit .286 with 14 homers for KT Wiz. The former Southern Miss and Ole Miss football player began pursuing baseball full-time in 2014. Alford, who has dealt with a lot of injuries over the years, got into 102 MLB games as an outfielder with Toronto and Pittsburgh but hit just .209 with eight homers. KBO pitchers can’t quite seem to figure him out. Also in the KBO, with the SSG Landers club, is former USM star Kirk McCarty, who has posted a 1-1 record with a 4.41 ERA in three starts. McCarty reached the big leagues in 2022 with Cleveland and put up a 4.45 ERA in 13 games with the Guardians and Baltimore. Ole Miss alum Jacob Waguespack, who helped Orix win the championship in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, has been a bit wobbly through five appearances for Orix this season: 1-2, 8.31 ERA. P.S. Konnor Pilkington, the ex-Mississippi State ace, was called up from Triple-A by Cleveland on Tuesday and sent down to Columbus on Wednesday without making an appearance. The lefty made his big league debut for the Guardians in 2022 (3.88 ERA in 15 games).
Colby White, whose meteoric rise in the Tampa Bay system was derailed by an arm injury last spring, has made the Rays’ 40-man roster. White, a Hattiesburg native drafted out of Mississippi State in 2019, had Tommy John surgery last April and missed the 2022 season. In 2021, the right-handed reliever rose through four levels of the minors, never missing a beat. He had a 1.86 ERA at Triple-A Durham and earned a non-roster invite to spring training. In 58 pro games, he has a 1.76 ERA and 12 saves. Look for him to debut with Tampa Bay sometime in 2023. … J.P. France, another ex-State standout, was added to Houston’s 40-man list after putting up a 3.90 ERA as a swingman at Triple-A Sugar Land. France, a right-hander, was drafted in the 14th round in 2018. He’ll try to earn a spot in the world champion Astros’ loaded bullpen in the spring. … Former Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty was designated for assignment by Cleveland, meaning he’s off the 40-man and available as a waiver claim by other clubs. The diminutive lefty made his MLB debut for Cleveland last season and went 4-3, 4.54. He was 4-1, 3.38, at Triple-A Columbus, bouncing up and down during the season. The Guardians actually lost him on waivers to Baltimore last summer but reclaimed him shortly thereafter. … Ex-MSU standout Jake Mangum was left unprotected by the New York Mets, who could potentially lose the switch-hitting outfielder in next month’s Rule 5 draft. Mangum hit .306 last season between Double-A and Triple-A and is a .284 career hitter in three pro campaigns. … Among Atlanta’s 40-man additions is shortstop Braden Shewmake, who played for the 2021 Double-A South champion Mississippi Braves. Shewmake, who goes 6 feet 4, 190 pounds, batted just .228 with 12 homers for the M-Braves but had several hot streaks and plays a good shortstop. He hit .259 at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2022 before going down with a knee injury in August. He is the Braves’ No. 5 prospect (MLB Pipeline). P.S. Silver City native and Ole Miss alum Jack Reed, who got World Series rings with the New York Yankees in 1961 and ’62, died on Nov. 10. Reed hit .233 in 129 big league at-bats from 1961-63 and frequently was used as a defensive replacement/pinch runner for Mickey Mantle. Reed’s one homer was a game-winner in a 22-inning contest in 1962.
Three Magnolia State college products pitched for Cleveland this season in its surprising run to the American League Central crown. And there are more Mississippi-groomed hurlers in the Guardians’ pipeline, one of whom is garnering attention in the high-profile Arizona Fall League. Hunter Stanley, a former Southern Miss standout, threw a dominant four innings for Peoria on Thursday night, notching his first AFL victory and trimming his ERA to 2.63 over four starts. Right-hander Stanley, described in scouting reports as a “command over stuff” pitcher, yielded no runs, one hit and no walks while fanning eight. He has 19 punchouts in 13 2/3 innings against the top prospects who populate the AFL lineups. Stanley was 13-6 with a 2.60 in his three seasons at USM and was All-C-USA and a second-team All-America pick after his junior year in 2021. He posted 127 K’s and 19 walks in 102 innings that year. Drafted in the 11th round by Cleveland, Stanley was not assigned to a team that summer. He debuted this season at High-Class A Lake County, where he was 2-1, 1.84, before being shut down with an injury in early May. He is making up for that lost time in the AFL. … Also in Cleveland’s minor league system is ex-Ole Miss star Doug Nikhazy, a left-hander drafted in the second round in ’21. He also debuted this season, went 4-4, 3.19, at Lake County and reached Double-A Akron, where his numbers were less impressive. He is the Guardians’ No. 26 prospect, according to MLP Pipeline. Cleveland took College World Series hero Dylan DeLucia out of Ole Miss in the sixth round of the ’22 draft; the right-hander has yet to make his pro debut. … Nick Sandlin (USM), Kirk McCarty (USM) and Konnor Pilkington (Mississippi State) pitched for the Guardians this season. P.S. Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith ranks among the AFL batting leaders with a .359 average in 13 games for Salt River. The lefty-hitting third baseman, a 2020 draftee, is Detroit’s No. 6 prospect.
The New York Yankees — and their fans — may be laughing about it now, having won Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Cleveland. But what happened in the bottom of the fifth inning Tuesday night with the score tied was cringe-worthy. First base coaches generally work in anonymity, but Travis Chapman, the ex-Mississippi State standout who handles that job for the Yankees, became a co-star in a moment that could have ranked as an all-time gaffe. Josh Donaldson thought he hit a home run and broke into a trot out of the box. Chapman also thought the ball was gone into the right-field bleachers at Yankee Stadium. He slapped hands with Donaldson as he approached the bag. But the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced back into play. Donaldson was cut down diving back into first. He saved face only because the Yankees won the game 4-1. … There had to be some disappointment for Southern Miss product Kirk McCarty, who was on the Guardians’ active roster for the Wild Card Series but was taken off before Tuesday’s game, joining the injured Nick Sandlin, another former Golden Eagles pitcher, on the sidelines. … There were a lot of frowns in Atlanta after the Braves’ 7-6 loss to Philadelphia, most notably on the faces of former Mississippi Braves Austin Riley (0-for-4, three strikeouts), Max Fried (six runs and a costly error in 3 1/3 innings), Dansby Swanson (1-for-5, four K’s) and Michael Harris II (0-for-4). Game 2 of the National League Division Series is today, with M-Braves alum and 21-game winner Kyle Wright starting for the Braves. … Ecstatic might best describe how former M-Braves pitcher Evan Phillips felt after escaping a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth inning, preserving Los Angeles’ two-run lead vs. San Diego. Phillips, an extremely effective reliever (7-2, 1.14 ERA, two saves) for the Dodgers this season, got a punchout and a double-play ball to register the hold. The Dodgers held on to win 5-3. … Crushed might best describe how ex-State star Adam Frazier felt in the ninth inning as he watched Yordan Alvarez’s three-run moon shot sail into the right-field seats at Minute Maid Park, delivering Houston an 8-7 win against Seattle. Frazier, the Mariners second baseman, went 1-for-4 with a run as his club built a 7-3 lead through seven innings. P.S. Mississippi native Lance Barksdale is part of the umpiring crew for the Dodgers-Padres series. He was in left field Tuesday.
When the postseason starts, you can turn the page on the regular season. Adam Frazier did precisely that in Seattle’s Wild Card Series sweep against Toronto. Flushing a disappointing regular season, the former Mississippi State star capped a jaw-dropping comeback by the Mariners on Saturday with a go-ahead RBI double in the ninth inning. “Those are the kind of moments you picture yourself in in the backyard when you’re a kid,” Frazier told The Associated Press. The M’s 10-9 victory sends them into the American League Division Series against Houston. Frazier hit just .238 in his first year in Seattle. But one thing he has always done well is put the ball in play, something of a lost art. He struck out just 73 times in 541 at-bats in 2022, one of the best contact rates in MLB. In the Toronto series, he went 4-for-9, never fanning once. He was 3-for-5 with two runs in the clincher, helping Seattle overcome an 8-1 deficit. … Southern Miss alum Nick Sandlin was the fifth of eight pitchers Cleveland used in its 1-0, 15-inning, series-clinching win against Tampa Bay. The sidearming right-hander got two outs in 10th inning, then left with “upper arm tightness.” His status for the next round is unclear. Fellow former Golden Eagles star Kirk McCarty, a rookie, was the only non-starter left in the Guardians’ bullpen when the game ended. … Corey Dickerson’s season is over, but Bobby Dickerson (no relation) is making plans for the next round. Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson went 2-for-6 for St. Louis as the Cardinals were bounced from the National League playoffs by Philadelphia. Laurel native Bobby Dickerson is the Phillies’ highly regarded infield coach; he got a shout-out Saturday from the ESPN broadcasters for his work with third baseman Alec Bohm. Philadelphia moves on to face Atlanta in the NLDS. … Trent Grisham, who played for the Biloxi Shuckers in 2018-19, homered for the second straight game and scored all of San Diego’s runs in a 7-3 loss to the New York Mets that evened their series. Game 3 is tonight at CitiField. Grisham, a .184 hitter this season with 17 bombs, took Max Scherzer deep in Friday’s win and got Jacob deGrom on Saturday. … Mets manager Buck Showalter, the MSU alum who has managed five different teams, won more than 1,600 games, claimed three manager of the year awards and appeared in six postseasons, has a 10-15 playoff record. He has yet to reach the World Series.
Nine hits, two walks, seven runs in 2 2/3 innings — not what ex-Mississippi State standout Dakota Hudson was looking for in his last regular season outing for St. Louis. It remains to be seen what role Hudson might have in the Cardinals’ postseason, which begins Friday in the Wild Card Series against Philadelphia at Busch Stadium. But Tuesday’s outing against lowly Pittsburgh didn’t help his cause. Hudson had pitched quite well in his previous two outings after a stint in the minors. He now sits at 8-7 with a 4.45 ERA in 27 appearances. The Cardinals, National League Central champs, did rally to win Tuesday’s game, 8-7 in 10 innings. Chris Stratton, another former State star, pitched the final two innings and got the win. He has been outstanding as a middle reliever for the Cardinals, going 5-0 with a 2.78 since joining the club at the trade deadline. St. Louis also has Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, a lefty-hitting outfielder, on its roster heading into the postseason. In fact, there is a Mississippi connection in each of the four best-of-3 Wild Card Series, which were officially set after Tuesday’s games. In the other NL series, New York Mets manager Buck Showalter, a former State standout, leads his club against visiting San Diego. In the American League, Cleveland, which hosts Tampa Bay, has former Southern Miss pitchers Nick Sandlin and Kirk McCarty on its current roster and MSU alum Konnor Pilkington in reserve. And Seattle, which travels to Toronto, suits up ex-Bulldogs standout Adam Frazier, a second baseman. P.S. Atlanta — and DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley — won its fifth straight NL East title on Tuesday and awaits the winner of Philadelphia-St. Louis. … USM alum Chuckie Robinson hit the second home run of his career for Cincinnati. Robinson, a catcher, is batting .136 in 25 games.