11 May

friday snapshots

Ole Miss upended second-ranked Texas A&M 4-3 in Oxford as Jackson Ross delivered a game-tying double in the eighth inning and scored the go-ahead run on an Ethan Groff sac fly. Wes Mendes and Connor Spencer shut the Aggies out on one hit over the last three innings. … Carson Paetow capped a pivotal three-run eighth with a two-run homer and Billy Oldham threw seven strong innings as Southern Miss beat Arkansas State 5-2 on the road. … Brett Sanchez threw a three-hitter and Belhaven batters, led by Owen Abney and Hunter Harrell, pounded out 14 hits in an 11-2 win over LaGrange (Ga.) in the CCS Tournament. The Blazers get top-seeded Maryville (Ky.) today in a winners bracket game. … On the high school front, Jackson Prep whipped visiting MRA 11-1 to advance to the MAIS 6A finals and, down the road on Lakeland Drive, Brandon beat host Northwest Rankin 6-3 in Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 7A South State series. … In the minors, Ian Mejia tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings with nine strikeouts to pace the Double-A Mississippi Braves to an 8-0 win at Rocket City. Mejia is 3-0 with a 2.02 ERA. … In MLB, ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier’s first homer of the year, a two-run shot in the ninth inning, lifted Kansas City to a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Angels. … Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet worked six shutout innings and fanned a career-high 11 with no walks as the Chicago White Sox beat Cleveland 6-3. … MSU product Jordan Westburg drove in the first run of the game with a double and Baltimore went on to beat Arizona 4-2.

19 Apr

prep work

Using the latest Power 25 rankings by Prep Baseball Report as a guide, favorites can be identified in the MHSAA playoffs that have begun for Classes 1A through 4A. Two Class 4A teams are ranked in the top six, with West Lauderdale at No. 5 and Sumrall at No. 6. The longtime powerhouse programs are on opposite sides of the bracket, possibly headed for a showdown for the state title at Trustmark Park in Pearl next month, though there is a long, long road to navigate. Jacob Wooten and Leeds Jenkins lead the way for the Knights (22-5), who have won 15 state titles. They open the playoffs with Senatobia. Sumrall’s Bearcats (24-5), winners of six state crowns, feature Landon Hawkins and Cade Clinton. They start out against Forest. Kossuth (21-1), which opens vs. Ruleville, is the highest-rated 3A team at No. 23, and East Union (21-5), which has a first-round bye, tops 2A schools at No. 17. No 1A schools are in the Power 25, though Biggersville and Hollandale Simmons got first-round byes on opposite sides of the class bracket. The 5A though 7A playoffs start next weekend. Class 7A is a minefield with five teams ranked in the top nine: No. 2 Lewisburg, No. 3 Germantown, No. 7 Hernando, No. 8 Northwest Rankin and No. 9 Oak Grove. West Jones, ranked 10th, tops the 6A schools, and South Jones, at No. 15, is the highest-rated 5A school. … In the MAIS, all eyes will be on top-ranked Jackson Prep, the king of Class 6A, and two-way star Konnor Griffin. The Patriots’ Lakeland Drive rival, 6A Hartfield Academy, is ranked No. 11 in the Power 25 but is 0-4 against Prep this season. Fourth-ranked Magnolia Heights is in Class 5A.

14 Mar

clearing the bases

Anthony Alford hit his first home run of the spring Wednesday for Cincinnati in the Cactus League. The two-run shot by the former Petal High star, in Reds camp as a non-roster invitee, came at the expense of former Mississippi State standout Ethan Small, who yielded five runs (two homers) in two innings in San Francisco’s 19-11 loss. Small, trying to earn a spot in the Giants’ bullpen, has a 9.53 ERA this spring. … Southern Miss alum Matt Wallner hit his first homer of the spring for Minnesota in the Grapefruit League. Wallner, USM’s all-time homer leader, belted 14 in 76 games for the Twins last year. … Aaron Downs, a junior out of Heritage Academy, delivered an 11th-inning walk-off single for MSU in a 2-1 win over New Orleans at MGM Park in Biloxi. It was the first RBI of the season for Downs. The Bulldogs (13-5) play defending national champion LSU in Starkville this weekend to open SEC play. … Ole Miss (13-5 with seven straight wins) launches SEC play Friday against nationally ranked South Carolina in Oxford. … Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson will host a pair of SWAC series over three days this weekend with Mississippi Valley State playing Bethune-Cookman and winless Alcorn State meeting Grambling State in three-game sets. … In the first regular season NAIA coaches poll released on Wednesday, William Carey — preseason No. 4 — fell out of the Top 25. The Crusaders, who made the NAIA World Series in 2023, are 13-9 and 4-5 in the SSAC. Blue Mountain Christian (18-5, 5-4 SSAC) did not get any votes in the new poll. … East Central Community College, ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II, beat No. 15 Meridian 7-5 and 4-3 to improve to 27-0 and 4-0 MACCC. … Jackson Prep, 18-2 and ranked No. 2 in the state by Prep Baseball Report, beat ninth-ranked Sumrall 7-2 to finish a 3-1 run through the Battle at the Beach. Patriots star — and LSU commit — Konnor Griffin threw six one-hit innings with 12 strikeouts and got two knocks in the Sumrall win. Lewisburg, ranked No. 1 by Prep Baseball Report, plays in the four-team Southeastern High School Baseball Classic at Trustmark Park this weekend. … MaxPreps’ latest state rankings have Hartfield Academy No. 1, followed by Lewisburg. Prep is fifth in that poll.

13 Mar

head of the class

The first test for East Central Community College since it jumped to the head of the class could be a challenging one. The undefeated Warriors, ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA Division II poll released on Monday, take on No. 15 Meridian today in a doubleheader at the Clark/Gay Complex in Decatur. Of course, the Warriors are fairly accustomed to big games. ECCC is 25-0, 2-0 in the MACCC, and was ranked 10th in the preseason poll coming off a state and region championship season that ended in the juco World Series. Brady McGee, from Lake, leads the attack with a .439 average, seven homers, 28 RBIs, 36 runs and 13 steals. Barret Rogers is at .414 with four homers and 33 RBIs and Brandon’s Mo Little checks in at .390 with six homers, 36 RBIs and 11 bags. On the bump, Waynesboro’s Luke Cooley is 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA and 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Marbin Lezcano, from Panama, is 2-0 with a 3.58. Meridian (17-7, 2-0) is led by Blaise Priester (.393, five, 27) and Grenada’s Landon Waters (4-0, one save, 1.33). … Pearl River (22-5, 2-0) is ranked No. 5 in the new poll and will host Southwest today. Jones (20-4, 2-0), unranked in preseason, is now 13th as it heads into a twinbill at Hinds. P.S. Lewisburg High, the top-ranked prep team in the state, will play in the Southeastern High School Baseball Classic, a four-team event which starts Friday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Oak Grove will play Christian Brothers from Memphis in Friday’s opener at 4 p.m., and at 6:30, Lewisburg takes on Houston, another Memphis school. The winners will play Saturday, with the winner there advancing further in the tournament. Nationally ranked Lewisburg features preseason All-America and pro prospect Samuel Richardson.

08 Feb

there’s another one

Konnor Griffin, outfielder/pitcher at Jackson Prep, is generally regarded as the state’s top high school prospect in the 2024 MLB draft, a potential first-rounder. Samuel Richardson, third baseman at Lewisburg High, might be another first-round candidate. Lindy’s preseason magazine ranks Richardson as the No. 33 prospect in the draft, the ninth-highest ranked high school player. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter, cited for his raw power in various scouting reports, batted .301 with six homers, 23 RBIs, 11 doubles and five triples for MHSAA Class 6A state champion Lewisburg in 2023. A Missouri commit, he is one of four state-connected players in Lindy’s Top 50. Griffin (No. 8), ex-Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery of Texas A&M (No. 13) and Mississippi State’s Dakota Jordan (No. 25) are the others. Those three are also highly ranked by MLB Pipeline, which doesn’t have Richardson on its latest chart of the top 100. Both Griffin and Richardson made MaxPreps’ preseason high school All-America team. Lewisburg opens its season Thursday at Center Hill. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Christian Bethancourt and Johan Camargo (Panama), Andrelton Simmons and Hendrik Clementina (Curacao) and Jairo Ascencio (Dominican Republic) have helped their teams reach the semifinal stage of the Caribbean Series in Miami. The semis are Thursday at loanDepot Park, the title game on Friday.

09 Jul

summer shopping season

In MLB’s amateur draft, which begins tonight (6 p.m., MLB Network/ESPN) and runs through Tuesday, major league clubs will find the tool shed in Mississippi is well-stocked. In its incredibly comprehensive Draft Preview issue, Baseball America IDs six Mississippi products among the prospects with top five tools in various scouting categories. Ranked first among high school players in strike zone discipline is Cooper Pratt, the Magnolia Heights Academy star pegged by BA as the No. 63 overall prospect in the draft. Pratt, a 6-foot-4 shortstop committed to Ole Miss, hit .468 this season, won a state title and was named Gatorade player of the year. Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez, expected to go in the first round as the first state product off the board, is rated No. 5 among college hitters in strike zone discipline. Shortstop Gonzalez, BA’s No. 8 overall prospect, hit .327 (.435 OBP) this season and .319 (.427) for his career in Oxford. He played on the national title team in 2022 and on two Collegiate National Teams. Two of the best defensive catchers reside in the Magnolia State: Oxford High’s Campbell Smithwick, an Ole Miss commit, is pegged second among high school prospects and the Rebels’ Calvin Harris No. 4 among college players. (Harris can swing the bat a little, too; he hit four homers in a game back in May.) Southern Miss’ Tanner Hall, a first-team All-America this season, has the fourth-best changeup among college pitchers, per BA’s ratings. Hall went 12-4 with a 2.48 ERA this season, 9-3, 2.81, in 2022 and pitched in the NCAAs both years. Ole Miss’ Kemp Alderman is ranked No. 5 in power; the Ferriss Trophy winner belted 19 homers this year and hit .376. At 6 feet 3, 250 pounds, he can mash. Worth noting: Mississippi State’s Colton Ledbetter is ranked as the 46th-best overall prospect by BA, second-highest to Gonzalez among state players. He is expected to attend today’s televised ceremony for the first two rounds. … Pittsburgh has the No. 1 pick. Milwaukee has the 18th (and the 33rd), and Atlanta goes 24th.

08 Jul

around the horn

Kudos to Alcorn State pitcher Kewan Braziel. The left-hander from North Carolina threw a scoreless inning in Friday’s inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic in Seattle, but more significantly, he received the T-Mobile Impact Award, recognizing his leadership skills on and off the field in his community. The award was presented in-game by Ken Griffey Jr. Jackson State’s Ty Hill had an RBI walk and an infield single in the game at T-Mobile Park, and teammates Erik Gonzalez, Jesse Caver and Jatavis Melton along with Mississippi Valley State’s Narvin Booker and Victor Figueroa also participated. … Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin went 1-for-3 in the high school All-Star game that preceded the HBCU contest at T-Mobile. Griffin and Lewisburg High star Samuel Richardson are slated to participate in a home run derby prior to today’s All-Star Futures Game (6 p.m., Peacock). Biloxi High alum Colt Keith, a Detroit prospect, is Mississippi’s lone rep in the prestigious Futures Game. … In a matchup of two of MLB’s most disappointing teams, the Chicago White Sox beat St. Louis 8-7 in a wonky game at Guaranteed Rate Field. Former Mississippi State ace Chris Stratton came on for the Cardinals with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and walked in the go-ahead run on four pitches. Ex-MSU star Kendall Graveman got the save for Chicago — his seventh — but not before yielding a hit and a walk in the ninth inning. … Around the minors: David Parkinson, former Ole Miss standout who has had a turbulent pro career, allowed one run in five innings (despite four hits and five walks) to get the win for Double-A Reading. The left-hander is 3-4 with a 5.32 ERA. He was Philadelphia’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2018, went 1-11, 7.64, in 2021, elected to not play in 2022 and has been on and off the development list this season. … For Triple-A Round Rock, former State standout Justin Foscue hit a pair of homers and now has 10 on the season. The Texas Rangers prospect is batting .281 with 39 RBIs. … For Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox affiliate), erstwhile big leaguer Billy Hamilton of Taylorsville homered — his first in 75 at-bats this season. … In the High-Class A Midwest League, Beloit beat Wisconsin 6-3 as a bunch of Mississippi products played roles. Davis Bradshaw (McLaurin High/Meridian Community College) had two hits and two RBIs, Tanner Allen (MSU) had a hit and a stolen base and Kyle Crigger (Corinth High/Itawamba CC) got a four-out save for Beloit (Miami system). Joe Gray Jr. (Hattiesburg High) had a hit, a run and an RBI for Wisconsin (Milwaukee). … At Low-A Clearwater, former South Panola star Emaarion Boyd led off the ninth with a walk, went to second on a wild pitch, took third on a fly ball and scored the game-winning run on a grounder to third. The fleet-footed Boyd is batting .285 with 50 runs (and 41 steals) in 57 games for the Phillies’ farm club.

07 Jul

northwestern exposure

Jackson State hasn’t had a player picked in the MLB draft since 2017. For Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State, it’s been eight years since they had a player drafted. Seven players from those schools will get a little more exposure in the inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic, scheduled for tonight at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, where scouts and team execs will be gathered for the major league All-Star Game next week. Jackson State’s Ty Hill — a Ferriss Trophy finalist this year — and teammates Jatavis Melton, Jesse Caver and Erik Gonzalez, Valley’s Narvin Booker and Victor Figueroa and Alcorn’s Kewan Braziel are among the 50 players from historically black NCAA Division I schools invited to Seattle. In addition to workouts, two squads will play a game tonight (9:30 on MLB Network). No player from Mississippi’s three HBCUs is ranked among the top 200 draft prospects by mlb.com or Baseball America. More exposure might be just what one of them needs. “Not everyone goes to a Power 5 conference,” Ken Griffey Jr., who created this event, recently told MLB Network. Hill is a particularly interesting case. He hit .399 with a .507 on-base average for his three years at JSU. He walked 96 times, fanned 74. This past season, Hill — noticeably smaller than his listed 6 feet 1, 210 pounds — batted .387 with six homers, 16 doubles, four triples and 53 RBIs. He can handle third base, second or the outfield. Obviously, the Saltillo High product can play the game. Whether his abilities transfer to pro ball, who really knows? He might just need a chance. … Prior to the HBCU game is the MLB/USA Baseball High School All-American Game for 2024 draft prospects. Jackson Prep star Konnor Griffin, rated the No. 1 prospect by some services, is expected to play. He is an LSU commit. Also on the rosters are Noah Sheffield, son of Gary, and Adrian Beltre Jr. A replay of the game will air at 10 a.m. Saturday on MLBN. … The All-Star Futures Game is set for Saturday in Seattle at 6 p.m. (live on Peacock). Former Biloxi High star and 2019 Gatorade player of the year Colt Keith, a top Detroit prospect, is on the American League roster. The lefty-swinging third baseman is batting .335 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2023. Also watch for Biloxi Shuckers outfielder Jackson Chourio, a highly regarded Milwaukee prospect. Atlanta’s representative is right-hander Spencer Schwellenbach, who is at Low-A Augusta. The Futures Game will re-air on MLBN Sunday at 8 a.m.

31 May

spotlight on …

Chicago will be hoppin’ today with both the White Sox and the Cubs in town, and a pair of Mississippi products will be on the mound for the home teams. At Guaranteed Rate Field, ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn looks to win his fourth straight start for the underachieving White Sox, scuffling along at 23-34. They meet the star-studded Los Angeles Angels. At Wrigley Field, former George County High star Justin Steele looks to recapture his early season form after going 0-2 in his last three starts for the disappointing Cubs (24-30). They play Tampa Bay, the best team in baseball. Lynn got off to an awful start in 2023, as did the ChiSox. He has improved to 4-5 and lowered his ERA to 5.83 by allowing just four runs in his last 19 innings. Today’s start will be the 297th career for the 36-year-old right-hander. For Steele, a 27-year-old lefty, today will be career start No. 45. He was 6-0 after beating St. Louis on May 10 but has been a bit wobbly of late. Cincinnati roughed him up for five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings on May 26, pushing his ERA to 2.77. P.S. No American League reliever has had a better May than Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman of the White Sox. He has not allowed a run in 11 outings, posting four saves and two holds. … In college ball: William Carey University lost for the first time Tuesday night in the NAIA World Series but will play on today against Lewis-Clark State, the home team in Lewiston, Idaho. … On the prep front: Kudos to Lewisburg, St. Stanislaus and Resurrection Catholic for winning series openers in the MHSAA state championships in Pearl.

29 May

buckle up

Trustmark Park in Pearl will be filled this week with Urchins and Hornets and Dragons and Knights. The MHSAA state championships begin Tuesday. Twelve teams from every corner of the state will decide six titles. Mr. Baseball picks from three classes are among the throng of players who will take the field. There will be players who’ll go on to bigger schools and bigger things, and there will be many for whom this is their last hurrah. Emotions will run high.
The best-of-3 battles begin Tuesday morning with a gathering of Eagles: The Class 1A finalists are West Union and Resurrection Catholic from Pascagoula. Greer Manning tops West Union with a .485 average and eight homers and a 1.62 ERA on the bump (per MaxPreps). Cole Tingle has been a sparkplug for Resurrection with a .414 average and six pitching wins.
The second feature on Tuesday is Amory-St. Stanislaus in 3A. Amory went 30-4 despite playing most of the season with no home field after the devastating March tornado. Walker Maranto and Bryce Glenn have led the Panthers through. The Rock-a-Chaws from the Coast are powered by Chesley Rhodes (.468, seven homers, 43 RBIs.)
Saltillo and East Central meet in Tuesday’s 5A nightcap. Drake Douglas and Baylor Roberts were clutch performers for Saltillo’s Tigers in the North series win against Ridgeland. Southern Miss signee T.J. Dunsford — chosen Mr. Baseball in 5A by the MHSAA and the Mississippi Association of Coaches — leads the East Central Hornets from Moss Point with .434 average.
On Wednesday, the Urchins from East Union battle the Dragons from Pisgah in 2A. East Union’s Rett Johnson, Mr. Baseball in this class, is hitting a sizzling .545. For Pisgah — just 20 miles down the road from Pearl — Colton Coleman hit .437, scored 33 runs and stole 12 bags.
In 4A on Wednesday, Mr. Baseball JoJo Parker, a Mississippi State commit, leads the Purvis Tornadoes with a .482 average, 15 homers, eight wins and a 1.66 ERA. West Lauderdale’s Knights feature Cannon Graham and Brett Busbea, who came up big in the North clincher vs. Mooreville.
The 6A final — Wednesday’s finale — matches Lewisburg and Gulfport, who knocked out Germantown and Northwest Rankin, respectively, in the North and South finals. Austin Hannigan, a .358 hitter with 20 steals, and MSU signee Gage Haley (.345) are among the leaders for Lewisburg’s Patriots. For Gulfport’s Admirals, Dawson Hall had a monster series against Northwest Rankin.
Game 2 in each series is set (in the same order) for Thursday and Friday. Any Game 3’s would start Saturday. Six celebrations are guaranteed.