09 Sep

playoffs? yes, playoffs

Jacob Robson, Mississippi State alum and onetime big leaguer, homered and drove in two runs to spark Kansas City to a series-clinching 4-0 win Friday night against Sioux Falls in the Wolff Cup opening round, aka the independent American Association playoffs. Robson and fellow former Bulldogs standout Gavin Collins combined for three RBIs in KC’s 9-1 win in the series opener on Wednesday. The Monarchs advance to the semifinals, where they’ll face Sioux City, which eliminated Fargo-Moorhead, in a best-of-3 series beginning Monday. Former Itawamba Community College star Delvin Zinn went 2-for-7 with a couple of RBIs for Sioux City in its opening series. Ole Miss alum Parker Caracci pitched for Sioux City in that series. Robson — who got seven at-bats with Detroit in 2021 — hit .250 with 10 homers, 31 RBIs and 23 steals for the Monarchs this season, and Collins batted .315 with 10 bombs and 41 RBIs. Former Delta State star Dalton Moats went 5-3 with a 4.61 ERA for KC but is not currently active. Zinn, who swiped 92 bases in six seasons in the Chicago Cubs’ system, got 29 bags for Sioux City this year despite hitting just .211. … Former Columbia High star Ti’Quan Forbes, after a brief foray into the Mexican League, is back with New Jersey in the independent Frontier League, which started its postseason on Thursday. Forbes’ Jackals won their playoff opener and play Game 2 in the best-of-3 division series today against Quebec. Forbes, a longtime minor leaguer, batted .298 with 17 homers, 45 RBIs and 16 bags for New Jersey. P.S. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate based in Grand Chute, are celebrating Bratoberfest tonight and giving away a bobblehead of Mississippian Tim Dillard shooting the team’s Bratzooka, which he did at a game last year. Ex-big leaguer Dillard, a Saltillo High and ICC alum, is now a Brewers broadcaster following an 18-year pro career that ended in 2020.

29 Aug

minor matters

Brandon Parker, former West Harrison High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, will make his home debut this week for the Mississippi Braves, who are hosting Rocket City in a seven-game Southern League series at Trustmark Park. Parker, an outfielder now in his fourth pro season, is 3-for-13 since Atlanta moved him to Double-A from High-Class A Rome, where he hit .250 with five homers and 21 RBIs. As a freshman at Gulf Coast in 2018, Parker was the NJCAA Division II player of the year. He set the school home run record with 24 and batted .424 with 81 RBIs that year. The Braves drafted him in 2019. On Rocket City’s roster is former Itawamba CC and Mississippi State left-hander Houston Harding, who has a 9.48 ERA (thanks mainly to a couple of rocky outings) in 13 appearances for the Los Angeles Angels’ affiliate. The Coldwater native had a 1.32 ERA at High-A Tri-City before being promoted in late June. … Biloxi High product Colt Keith and ex-Ole Miss ace Gunnar Hoglund were named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week. Keith, a top Detroit prospect, went 11-for-24 with three homers for Triple-A Toledo last week, when he was also named the International League’s player of the week. Hoglund, Oakland’s No. 19 prospect and a first-round pick (by Toronto) in 2021, threw five hitless innings with seven strikeouts in his debut for High-A Lansing. … Former Magnolia Heights Academy standout Cooper Pratt, a sixth-round pick this year by Milwaukee, helped the Brewers’ Arizona Complex League team win the league championship. Pratt, a shortstop, batted .356 for the ACL Brewers. … Former MSU pitchers Jackson Fristoe and Eric Cerantola have been promoted by their respective organizations. Fristoe moved up to Low-A Tampa in the New York Yankees’ system and Cerantola to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in the Kansas City system. … Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin and ex-Madison Central star Braden Montgomery, now at Texas A&M, have been ranked among the top 10 2024 major league draft prospects by MLB Pipeline. Griffin, an outfielder/pitcher, is a senior this year. Montgomery, also a two-way player, recently transferred from Stanford, where he was an All-Pac-12 performer.

09 Aug

transaction action

A virtual horde of minor leaguers started new assignments on Tuesday, and among Mississippi products, none made a bigger splash than former Southern Miss star Matthew Etzel. Etzel homered in his debut for Low-Class A Delmarva in the Baltimore organization. The 2023 draftee was promoted from rookie ball, where he was off to a sizzling start (see previous post). Atlanta promoted three Mississippians. Itawamba Community College alum Will Verdung moved from the Florida Complex League to Low-A Augusta and went 1-for-5. Hurston Waldrep, a USM alum and the Braves’ first-round pick (from Florida) last month, moved from Augusta to High-A Rome, as did ex-Smithville High standout Jared Johnson, who pitched a scoreless inning on Tuesday. Colton Ledbetter, a ’23 draftee out of Mississippi State, went 0-for-3 for Low-A Charleston (Tampa Bay); he hit .400 in the FCL. Former USM star Dustin Dickerson, also a ’23 draftee, went 0-for-3 in his debut for High-A Quad Cities in the Kansas City system; he hit .357 in the Arizona Complex League. Ex-Ole Miss standout Tim Elko made his Double-A debut in the Chicago White Sox chain, going 1-for-5 for Birmingham; he hit 22 homers in the two levels of A-ball. Meridian Community College product Davis Bradshaw went 0-for-3 at Double-A Pensacola (Miami) after a move up from High-A Beloit, where he hit .317; Bradshaw got a look in Double-A last year. Ole Miss alum Anthony Servideo was bumped from Double-A Bowie to High-A Aberdeen in the Orioles’ system and went 1-for-4; he was hitting .218 at Bowie. Landon Tomkins, an ex-Hinds CC standout and a ’23 draftee, was reactivated by Pittsburgh at Low-A Bradenton and pitched an inning (two unearned runs) in his second pro game. P.S. Four former Mississippi Braves hit a total of five homers for four different teams in the big leagues on Tuesday: Ronald Acuna for Atlanta, William Contreras for Milwaukee, Drew Waters for Kansas City and Joey Meneses (two) for Washington. Braden Shewmake hit one for Triple-A Gwinnett.

01 Aug

whatever happened to …

Drew Pomeranz, the veteran left-hander out of Ole Miss, has been throwing — not pitching — and still plans to rejoin the San Diego Padres this season, according to a recent report in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I’m determined to get back to where I was,” Pomeranz said. Where he was in 2021 was in the Padres’ bullpen as a valued short reliever. He had a 1.75 ERA in 27 games that season before suffering a forearm injury in August that required surgery and kept him out most of 2022. He made five rehab appearances late last year and three more early this season before being shut down in May and having some cleanup surgery. The SEC’s pitcher of the year and the state’s Ferriss Trophy winner in 2010, Pomeranz was the fifth overall pick out of Ole Miss that summer by Cleveland. He has logged 851 1/3 innings in the big leagues, posting a 3.91 ERA, making an All-Star Game and winning a World Series ring. At 34, he is battling to get back, though there is no real urgency in San Diego, where the underachieving Padres appear to be out of playoff contention. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn is slated to make his Los Angeles Dodgers debut tonight against Oakland. He was 6-9 with a 6.47 ERA for the Chicago White Sox before being traded. … Former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff is expected to make his third and final rehab start for Triple-A Nashville tonight and possibly return to Milwaukee’s active roster soon thereafter. He has been out since April. … MSU product Kellum Clark, a 20th-round pick by the New York Mets last month, went 1-for-3 in his pro debut Monday in the Florida Complex League. … Southern Miss alum Justin Storm, a seventh-round pick by Miami, has been assigned to the Marlins’ FCL team but hasn’t pitched yet. … Jacob Gonzalez and Calvin Harris, both drafted out of UM by the White Sox, have been moved up from rookie ball to Low-Class A Kannapolis. … Will Verdung, a 13th-round selection out of Itawamba Community College, is batting .357 (5-for-14) in five games for Atlanta’s FCL team.

25 Jul

clearing the bases

Jordan Westburg is on the board. The ex-Mississippi State standout hit MLB career home run No. 1 on Monday, helping Baltimore beat Philadelphia 3-2 in a big interleague series. Westburg is batting .266 in 20 games; he has 60 minor league homers on hs ledger. … Also going yard for the first time in the big leagues was former Biloxi Shuckers standout Sal Frelick, whose blast in his third MLB game helped Milwaukee beat Cincinnati 3-2 in a big National League Central contest. … Coincidentally, those homers came on the same day as Will Verdung’s first as a pro; the Itawamba Community College alum, a recent draftee, went deep in his debut for Atlanta’s rookie club (see previous post). … And in keeping with that theme, South Panola High product Emaarion Boyd hit his first pro homer on Sunday for Philadelphia’s Low-Class A Clearwater team. A 2022 draftee, the 177-pound Boyd, 19, leads the Florida State League in steals with 41. … Jacob Gonzalez and Calvin Harris, both drafted out of Ole Miss by the Chicago White Sox, made their pro debuts on Monday in the Arizona Complex League. Gonzalez started at shortstop and went 0-for-1 with two walks; Harris started at catcher and went 1-for-3. … All 14 players drafted out of the state this year have signed. Tupelo High’s Johnathan Rogers, a 6-foot-3 right-hander picked in Round 20, has inked with Detroit, though mlb.com’s draft tracker doesn’t indicate the bonus. … In Monday’s huge American League West clash between Texas and Houston, ex-MSU star Nathaniel Lowe went 1-for-3 with two walks, two runs and an RBI but the first-place Rangers fell to the Astros 10-9 at Minute Maid Park. Former Ole Miss star Grae Kessinger, a backup infielder, did not play for Houston, which closed to within 2 games of the division lead. … DeSoto Central High alum and current Braves star Austin Riley earned NL player of the week honors after smacking six homers and driving in 16 runs last week. Riley tied a franchise record with homers in five straight games. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn is listed in an mlb.com article as one of the 17 players most likely to be traded before the Aug. 1 deadline. The veteran pitcher, 36, has had a rough season with the White Sox. … Detroit has announced that former Madison Central standout Spencer Turnbull, on the injured list since May 6, will make a rehab start tonight and another Sunday in A-ball. Turnbull, coming back from 2021 Tommy John surgery, was having a rough time before injuring his neck.

24 Jul

off to a good start

Will Verdung hit 25 home runs in two seasons at Itawamba Community College, tying former Indians slugger Tyreque Reed for the most in program history. So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise what Verdung did in his first at-bat in pro ball. The Corinth native hit a three-run homer today for the Florida Complex League Braves, Atlanta’s rookie-level affiliate. Verdung finished 1-for-3 against the FCL Orioles in Sarasota. Verdung, the MACCC’s player of the year for 2023, was drafted in the 13th round by the Braves earlier this month. A 6-foot-1, 185-pound third baseman, Verdung batted .389 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs this season and was a second-team NJCAA Division II All-America pick. He had signed with Southern Miss. … USM alum Hurston Waldrep, Atlanta’s first-round pick out of Florida, has yet to make his pro debut. More Braves stuff: Kudos to Mississippi Braves alum Daysbel Hernandez for picking up the win for Atlanta on Sunday against Milawukee. Hernandez struck out the side in his one inning of relief work. … Kudos to current M-Braves lefty Luis De Avila for being named Southern League pitcher of the week after tossing six no-hit innings with 11 strikeouts at Tennessee on Sunday. De Avila, 5-5, 3.04 ERA, has a current streak off 11 no-hit innings. … Atlanta traded prospects Victor Vodnik and Tanner Gordon, both of whom were on the M-Braves’ roster, to Colorado for major league reliever Pierce Johnson.

12 Jul

seeing is believing

Numbers can be deceiving. Some of the newfangled defensive metrics paint Austin Riley as a sub-par third baseman. Regular followers of the Atlanta Braves know this ain’t so. Anyone who watched Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in Seattle also got an eyeful of the type of plays Riley makes routinely for the Braves. In the fifth inning, having just entered the game, the ex-DeSoto Central High star charged in, fielded a grounder with one hand and threw out the batter. In the bottom of the eighth, after the National League had taken the lead, Riley speared a 106.2 mph line drive off the bat of Brent Rooker and, from one knee, threw across to first to double off a runner. Both were key plays in the NL’s 3-2 win, which snapped a nine-game losing streak in the Midsummer Classic. Riley also went 1-for-2 at the plate and is 2-for-4 in his two All-Star appearances. Justin Steele, the lefty from Lucedale, pitched a scoreless inning for the NL in his All-Star debut; he was on the bump when Riley made the first of his two glittering plays. Former Mississippi State star Rooker, also an All-Star rookie, went 1-for-2 for the American League; his sixth-inning double was a big hit in the inning in which the AL took a 2-1 lead. P.S. On the final day of the MLB draft, three more players from state schools were selected: The Braves took Itawamba Community College third baseman Will Verdung — the MACCC’s player of the year — in the 13th round; Detroit took Tupelo High right-hander Johnathan Rogers in the 20th round; and the New York Mets plucked MSU’s Kellum Clark in Round 20. In all, 14 players were drafted out of Mississippi, four each from Ole Miss and Southern Miss. Worth noting: Landon Tomkins, a former Hinds CC and Northwest Rankin pitcher, was drafted in Round 10 out of Louisiana Tech by Pittsburgh. … Today marks the 50th anniversary of Dave Parker’s MLB debut with the Pirates. The Grenada native went 0-for-4 that day but went on to bat .290 with 339 homers in a 19-year career that included an MVP award, two World Series rings, two batting titles, seven All-Star nods, three Gold Gloves and a Home Run Derby crown.

25 Jun

pouring it on

Making his first start at first base for the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night at Colorado, Hunter Renfroe made a nice play to start a double play and end the first inning. Then the former Mississippi State standout celebrated with a single to lead off the second inning. The party at Coors Field was just getting started. Renfroe went 5-for-5 with a walk as the Angels set franchise records for hits (28) and runs in a 25-1 rout of the Rockies. Mickey Moniak also had five hits and four other Angels had at least three. “(H)itting gets contagious sometimes,” Angels manager Phil Nevin told mlb.com in one of the season’s great you-don’t-say statements. Renfroe hit a three-run double in the club record-tying 13-run third inning. He finished with four RBIs and three runs. His career day raised his average to .261. Normally the team’s right fielder, Renfroe is batting .281 over his last 15 games, though he has been stuck on 12 homers since June 13. The Angels (42-36) have climbed past Houston into second place in the American League West. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout James McArthur got his first big league call-up Saturday with Kansas City but did not pitch. McArthur, 26, traded from Philadelphia to the Royals in May, has a 4.87 ERA in 12 appearances at Triple-A Omaha. … Ex-Rebels star Mike Mayers, a big league vet, was assigned by the Royals to Omaha last week after a rough stint in the majors. He got a hold in his return to Triple-A on Friday. … Former MSU ace Ethan Small went on the injured list Saturday at Triple-A Nashville (Milwaukee system). The former first-rounder has a 3.46 ERA in the minors this season and made one wobbly appearance with the Brewers. … Houston Harding, who got into pro ball as an undrafted free agent in 2021, made his Double-A debut Saturday for Rocket City in the Angels’ system. The left-hander, who won seven games for MSU’s 2021 national title team, allowed a three-run homer but fanned five in 2 2/3 innings vs. Montgomery. He had a 1.32 ERA in A-ball before his promotion. A Coldwater native, Harding was a strikeout machine at Itawamba Community College before signing with MSU. … Landon Sims, one of the heroes of State’s ’21 championship team, made his pro debut this month and has pitched in four games, allowing no runs, in rookie ball for Arizona. Sims was the 34th overall pick last summer after missing most of the ’22 season at State with an elbow injury.

18 Mar

hot spots

As the junior college season begins to warm, the hot spots for today are Poplarville and Perkinston. Pearl River Community College, tied for second in this week’s NJCAA Division II poll, hosts Mississippi Delta in a doubleheader showdown of 3-1 conference teams. PRCC, ranked No. 1 in preseason, is 22-4 and 10-2 at home. The visiting Trojans are 7-12-1 overall but have beaten Mississippi Gulf Coast and East Mississippi (twice) in league play. Gulf Coast, 2-2 in the MACCC, welcomes Itawamba (3-1) in another key matchup. No. 6 Meridian, also 3-1, hosts 0-4 Holmes and 13th-ranked Jones (3-1) is at East Mississippi (1-3). Hinds, 2-2 in conference and ranked 17th, visits 0-4 Coahoma. Northeast and East Central are also off to 3-1 starts. The Tigers are at Southwest (1-3) and the Warriors are at Baton Rouge. … Individual standouts include ICC’s Matthew Martinolich, batting .486; Gulf Coast’s Charlie Keller (12 home runs); Hinds’ Connor Chisolm (34 runs); Meridian’s Dalton McIntyre (18 steals); PRCC’s Cooper Cooksey (5-0, 0.83 ERA); MCC’s Cole Boswell (5-0, 0.96); and Northwest’s Brayden Sanders (4 saves, 0.00 ERA).

01 Sep

when september begins

September call-ups aren’t what they used to be. MLB teams can add only two players to their active roster starting today, not the dozen or so — a lot of them rookies — that many used to bring up for the final month. That’s a shame in a way. A lot of careers were launched by young players who got a chance as a September addition. A handful of Mississippi products have debuted on Sept. 1 over the years. To wit: Luther Hackman, the big right-hander out of Columbus, started and went six innings, allowing five runs, for Colorado in 1999. The next year, former Mississippi State star Matt Ginter debuted for the Chicago White Sox with a scoreless inning. Nettleton’s Bill Hall got the call in 2002 from Milwaukee and went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter. Fred Lewis, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product from Hattiesburg, smacked an RBI double (off Rich Hill) as a pinch hitter for San Francisco. And in 2010, Itawamba CC alum Desmond Jennings started in center field and went 0-for-3 for Tampa Bay. … Among today’s call-ups is 31-year-old Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High standout who was added by Minnesota. The Twins are the 11th different big league club he has signed with since 2018, his third this year. Hamilton, an intriguing September call-up by Cincinnati back in 2013, is a .239 career hitter, but he can steals bases — he’s the all-time Mississippi-born leader — and play center field with the best of ’em.