19 May

arm robbery

Home runs by Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani were certainly highlight-worthy plays in the Los Angeles Angels’ 6-5 win at Baltimore on Thursday. Not to be overlooked was Hunter Renfroe’s throw in the bottom of the ninth inning. The former Mississippi State standout took a ball that hopped off the right-field wall, whirled and cut down former Bulldogs teammate Adam Frazier at second base for the second out of the inning. Angels manager Phil Nevin called the throw “incredible.” “I’ve seen him make a couple against me, I know that,” Nevin said in a TV interview. “It’s nice to have it on my side once.” Renfroe, in his first season with the Angels, has five assists from right field in 43 games in 2023 and 62 all told in his big league career. (And runners don’t challenge him all that often.) Renfroe is hitting .250 with 10 homers, a total matched by Trout and Ohtani on Thursday. P.S. East Central Community College plays No. 1 LSU-Eunice today for the NJCAA Division II Region 23 championship and a berth in the juco World Series. ECCC beat LSU-E in a winners bracket game Thursday, then lost to the Bengals in a later rematch. LSU-E eliminated defending national champ Pearl River in between. … Kudos to: Southern Miss’ Tanner Hall for notching his 11th win of the season — and USM’s 14th straight — with eight shutout innings against Louisiana-Lafayette; Mississippi State’s Amani Larry for his walk-off home run against Texas A&M; former Mississippi Braves star Freddie Freeman, now with the Dodgers, for his 300th career homer; former Ole Miss standout Doug Nikhazy for his first Double-A win for Cleveland’s Akron club; Jackson Prep product Will Warren for a win in his Triple-A debut for the New York Yankees’ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team; and Jackson Prep for claiming its sixth straight MAIS 6A state title with a win over Madison-Ridgeland Academy.

27 Feb

spring fling

He is the top pitching prospect in the New York Yankees’ system, and on Sunday, in his big league spring debut, Will Warren gave Yankees brass and fans a sneak preview of what he might soon bring to The Show. The former Jackson Prep standout from Brandon threw two scoreless innings against Atlanta in a 7-0 victory at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. The Braves didn’t trot out their A-team on Sunday, but that really shouldn’t diminish Warren’s performance. The 23-year-old right-hander — the Yankees’ No. 8 prospect overall — yielded the only hit the Braves got but faced the minimum six batters, throwing 20 of 34 pitches for strikes. Drafted out of Southeastern Louisiana in 2021, Warren made his pro debut last summer and reached Double-A, winning seven games for Eastern League champ Somerset. Overall, he was 9-9 with a 3.91 ERA in 26 starts. Unveiling what has been called a “unicorn slider,” he posted 125 strikeouts and 42 walks in 129 innings. “My goals for next year are to keep having success,” Warren told nj.com last month. He isn’t on the 40-man roster, will work mainly in minor league games this spring and likely will begin 2023 back at Somerset. Sunday’s outing was a great kick-start to his year. … A bundle of Mississippians played in the opening weekend of spring training games. Notable performances from Sunday: Hunter Renfroe homered for the Los Angeles Angels; Dakota Hudson threw two scoreless innings for St. Louis; Corey Dickerson went 2-for-2 for Washington; Jordan Westburg had a hit and RBI for Baltimore; and Brent Rooker was 1-for-3 for Oakland.

25 Jun

comes now a ‘unicorn’

In just his first professional season, Will Warren has made it to the pivotal Double-A level. A key factor in the former Jackson Prep star’s rise is a pitch he discovered and refined in minor league spring training with the New York Yankees. It has been labeled the “unicorn slider,” a bolting breaking ball that compliments Warren’s low-90s fastball. “I’ve never seen a pitch like it,” catcher Josh Breaux, Warren’s teammate with the Somerset Patriots, told nj.com. Warren, 23, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, takes a 2-2 record and 3.92 ERA into his fifth Double-A start tonight against Hartford at Somerset’s TD Bank Ballpark. Warren told nj.com that his quick rise in the Yankees’ system is “unreal.” Warren went 7-0, 1.39 ERA, at Jackson Prep as a senior and signed with Southeastern Louisiana, a good but off-the-radar NCAA Division I program. He spent four years with the Lions, posting a 3.90 ERA in 53 games. The Yankees liked something they saw and drafted him in the eighth round last summer. He made his pro debut this season with High-Class A Hudson Valley, going 2-3, 3.60, in eight starts before earning the promotion to Somerset of the Eastern League late last month. All told, he has 56 strikeouts and 17 walks in 55 2/3 innings. Warren still has work to do, of course, but he is rated the Yankees’ No. 27 prospect by MLB Pipeline, which notes that his slider could become a “high-leverage weapon” in the big leagues.

12 Jul

day 2 draft stuff

Two more Mississippi college products were plucked early on Day 2 of the MLB draft, with Ole Miss left-hander Doug Nikhazy going to Cleveland in Round 2 (58th overall) and Southern Miss outfielder Reed Trimble, eligible as a second-year freshman, to Baltimore in the competitive balance round at No. 65 overall. Nikhazy went 12-2 with a 2.45 ERA and won a number of big games this year for the Rebels. Trimble, a Northwest Rankin alum, is a switch-hitter who batted .345 with 17 homers and 12 stolen bases in 2021. With Mississippi State’s Will Bednar and UM’s Gunnar Hoglund getting picked in Round 1 on Sunday, Mississippi schools produced four of the top 65 picks. Later on Day 2: State’s Tanner Allen – SEC player of the year and Ferriss Trophy winner – went in Round 4 to Miami; the Bulldogs’ Eric Cerantola and Christian MacLeod, the big lefties, both went in Round 5 to Kansas City and Minnesota, respectively; Ole Miss closer Taylor Broadway was pegged in Round 6 by the Chicago White Sox; Ryan Och, a shutdown reliever at USM this year, went in Round 7 to San Diego; right-hander Will Warren, a former Jackson Prep standout who pitched at Southeastern Louisiana, was picked in Round 8 by the New York Yankees.

31 Jan

decisions, decisions

Jackson Prep two-sport standout Jerrion Ealy will pick a college on football’s National Signing Day next week, and four months later a major league baseball club will pick him, possibly in the first round of the draft. A lot of folks are very interested to see what path Ealy, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound running back/outfielder, will take. “(A)ll options are on the table right now,” he recently told an ESPN writer. Ealy, who was once committed to Ole Miss but is now considering other schools, as well, could pass on the pro offer and play both sports in college. He could try to play pro baseball in the summer and college football in the fall, keeping the NFL in view. Or he could forget football and focus on baseball. Ealy is likely to go high enough in the June draft that he’ll receive an appealing bonus offer. “(He has) upside and athleticism you do see go very early in the draft just because there are such few kids like that throughout the country,” a scout told ESPN. From Perfect Game’s scouting report: “Has all the tools to be an All-Star type player.” For what it’s worth, ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford tried the pro baseball/college football duet and wound up dropping football; he is currently on Toronto’s major league roster. Ole Miss star receiver A.J. Brown, who’ll go high in the upcoming NFL draft, also has a pro baseball contract; a 19th-round pick out of Starkville High by San Diego in 2016, he has gone to extended spring training with the Padres the past three years but has not yet played a minor league game. Former UM defensive back Senquez Golson passed on a lucrative offer to play pro baseball out of Pascagoula High and was ultimately drafted in the NFL; plagued by injuries – always a major concern in that sport – he has yet to play in a regular season game. P.S. Interesting that five of the players named to The Clarion-Ledger’s Dandy Dozen for 2019 are catchers, including the best player on what might be the state’s best team. George County High, runner-up in MHSAA Class 6A in 2018, is the lone Mississippi school appearing in Collegiate Baseball Magazine’s preseason Top 30 poll. The Rebels, 27-6 last year, are ranked No. 21. There were no state schools in CB’s final 2018 poll. George County’s top player is Logan Tanner, a pitcher/catcher who went 8-2, 1.64 ERA and batted .341 in 2018. The Rebels open Feb. 19 in Lucedale against Pascagoula.

28 Aug

in the distance

Jerrion Ealy, Jackson Prep’s two-sport star, checks in at No. 10 on mlb.com’s new list of the top 10 high school prospects for the 2019 draft. (Just think: It’s less than 10 months away!) The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Ealy, an outfielder who has signed with Ole Miss in football, is widely hailed for his speed. He stole 18 bases and legged out five triples at Prep this past season while hitting .364 in 77 at-bats, according to MaxPreps. Ealy participated in both the Under Armour and Perfect Game all-star contests and the East Coast Pro Showcase this summer. Perfect Game rates Ealy the No. 4 prep prospect. … Southern Miss outfielder Matt Wallner was ranked No. 8 by mlb.com on the 2019 college prospect list published last week. Wallner, a lefty hitter who also pitches, batted .351 with 16 homers for the Golden Eagles in 2018 and spent time with Team USA and in the Cape Cod League over the summer.

26 Feb

high-lights

DeSoto Central High, arguably the best prep team in the state, will participate in the National High School Invitational hosted by USA Baseball from March 25-28 at Cary, N.C. DeSoto Central, 28-10 and Class 6A runner-up (to Oak Grove) last year, is ranked 14th in Baseball America’s preseason poll and is currently No. 24 in MaxPreps’ rankings. The Jaguars will play Whitewater High of Fayetteville, Ga., in the NHSI, a 16-team event being held for the fourth time. DeSoto is the first Mississippi school invited. The Jags’ Austin Riley, a Mississippi State signee, may be the best player in the state. He went 8-3, 1.51 as a pitcher and batted .465 with nine homers as a third baseman in 2014. … Brandon, a 6A semifinalist last season led by outfielder Erick Hoard, is No. 22 in BA’s preseason poll. That’s two Magnolia State schools among the nation’s top 22 — another feather in the state’s baseball cap. … Mississippi did not have a player make Baseball America’s preseason All-America teams, which are selected by MLB scouting directors. But, Ke’Bryan Hayes of Texas, a first-team pick at third base, has a Mississippi connection. The Tennessee signee is the son of Hattiesburg native Charlie Hayes, the longtime MLB star who won a World Series ring with the New York Yankees in 1996. … Still can’t get over the numbers Jackson Prep’s Gene Wood, a Louisville Slugger All-America pick, put up for the MAIS state champs in 2014: .596 average, 68 runs and 52 RBIs – in 36 games! The Alabama signee has certainly set the bar high for himself this year.