01 Apr

just stuff

South Carolina is the SEC leader in home runs, but Mississippi State beat the highly ranked Gamecocks at their own game on Friday night in Starkville. The Bulldogs won their first SEC game of the season, 13-3, behind an 18-hit barrage that included four homers, two by Slate Alford and one each by Hunter Hines and Dakota Jordan. MSU is 16-12, 1-7. South Carolina, which homered once Friday, is 25-3, 7-1. … Meanwhile, Ole Miss fell at Texas A&M and is still seeking its first conference W, and Southern Miss won at Troy to move to 4-3 in the Sun Belt. … Former USM ace Nick Sandlin, working 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief on Friday, notched a win in his first appearance of 2023 with Cleveland, which beat Seattle. .. After getting the win in relief on Thursday, ex-MSU standout Kendall Graveman got knocked out and took the L in the Chicago White Sox’s loss to Houston. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn pitched into the sixth and stood to get the win until the ChiSox’s bullpen melted down. … Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High star, is in Triple-A for the White Sox and went 0-for-3 in his season debut. Other Mississippi-connected ex-big leaguers sent to Triple-A include Mike Mayers, Demarcus Evans and Jonathan Holder. … Former Mississippi Braves Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake played shortstop and second base, respectively, for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday. Shewmake hit a walk-off, three-run homer in the ninth. Grissom had a hit, scored three times and made a fielding error. … Jones College (26-6, 11-1) continues to rule in the MACCC after bashing Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College 17-4 and 12-0 last Wednesday behind Beau Bryans’ eight RBIs. But hot on the Bobcats’ heels is East Central, which has won seven in a row and stands 9-1 in the conference. ECCC won two one-run games at Copiah-Lincoln on Wednesday. Leighton Jenkins drove in three runs in a 4-3 win, Manny Huffman went 4-for-4 with four RBIs in an 8-7 victory and David Burton saved both games.

31 Mar

opening acts

One of the most disappointing MLB teams in 2022, the Chicago White Sox needed to get off to a good start this season. With the aid of Mississippi products Tim Anderson and Kendall Graveman, they did exactly that on Thursday, beating the world champion Houston Astros 3-2. Anderson, former East Central Community College star, went 2-for-4 with a walk and a run — both in a ninth-inning rally — and Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman earned the win after throwing a scoreless eighth inning. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, like Anderson and Graveman a star in the WBC, gets the start for the ChiSox today at Minute Maid Park. Elsewhere on Opening Day, MSU alum Adam Frazier, in his Baltimore debut, went 2-for-4 with three runs and a stolen base as the Orioles beat Boston 10-9. Ex-Bulldogs standout Nathaniel Lowe had a hit, an RBI and a run, all in a nine-run fourth inning that propelled Texas past Philadelphia 11-7. Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, went 0-for-2 with three walks and an RBI in Atlanta’s 7-2 victory against Washington. Meridian CC product Corey Dickerson was 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter in his Nationals debut. Hunter Renfroe was 0-for-4 (with a nice catch in right field) for the Los Angeles Angels and fellow former State standout Brent Rooker 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter for Oakland in the A’s 2-1 surprising win. P.S. The exhibition game between the Double-A Mississippi Braves and Jackson State scheduled for April 5 has been cancelled, reportedly due to concerns about field conditions at Trustmark Park in Pearl. (Tuesday night’s Southern Miss-Ole Miss game was cancelled in the fourth inning because recently installed infield sod was not holding up, and Belhaven University’s weekend series against Covenant College has been moved to Holmes Community College’s field in Goodman.) The M-Braves-JSU game — billed as the Hank Aaron Tribute Game by the Hank Aaron Sports Academy — was originally slated for Smith-Wills Stadium, home of the Double-A Jackson Mets and Generals from 1975-99. It would have been the first such contest between JSU and a Jackson-area pro team since 1991, when the Generals — a Houston affiliate — beat Jackson State 6-3 in an April exhibition at Smith-Wills. The M-Braves, Atlanta’s Double-A club now in its 19th year at Trustmark Park, open their Southern League season April 7 at home against Biloxi. The Shuckers, Milwaukee’s Double-A club, have slated an exhibition vs. Pearl River Community College on April 5 at MGM Park.

24 Mar

whatever happened to …

Bryson Ware, the ex-Germantown High and Pearl River Community College slugger, is now mashing for Auburn. Batting third and playing third base on Thursday night, Ware went 2-for-6 with a home run, a double, two runs and three RBIs as the Tigers beat visiting Georgia 7-6 in 11 innings for their first SEC win. Ware’s two-run double in the ninth made it a 6-5 game, and the 6-foot-2, 211-pound senior then scored the tying run. Ware, who set a single-season homer record at Germantown, is batting .415 with 10 homers and 26 RBIs this season. His 10 homers are tied for fourth-best in the league — Mississippi State’s Hunter Hines also has 10 — and his .902 slugging percentage ranks third. P.S. Jared Shuster, a Southern League All-Star with the Mississippi Braves in 2022 and Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect, threw six impressive innings against the New York Mets on Thursday and may now be the front-runner for the fifth starter job. The left-hander has a 1.45 ERA in five spring games. With former M-Braves star Michael Soroka having been optioned to Triple-A, Shuster’s main competition for the starting job is fellow 2022 M-Braves alum Dylan Dodd, the Braves’ No. 10 prospect. … Atlanta’s minor league system is ranked No. 30 — last — in MLB Pipeline’s latest evaluation of prospect talent. The Braves have no players in the Top 100, though it’s hard to figure how Shuster didn’t make that list. He went 7-8 with a 2.78 ERA in Double-A last year and made the All-Star Futures Game. … Milwaukee’s system ranks 15th, led by a quartet of former Biloxi Shuckers outfielders: Jackson Chourio, Sal Frelick, Joey Wiemer and Garrett Mitchell, who is the likely opening day center fielder for the Brewers. … Nine M-Braves alums played for Atlanta in Thursday’s 2-2 tie vs. the Mets. One Shuckers product played: big league vet Orlando Arcia, who beat out Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake for the starting shortstop job. Wonder how long that will last? … The M-Braves and New South Radio announced that all 138 M-Braves broadcasts will air on WIIN 780 AM and 102.1 FM The Box this season. Chris Harris and Jack Sadighian are back as the broadcasters.

16 Mar

spring flings

Coming back from arm surgery that cost him almost two seasons, Spencer Turnbull has looked sharp this spring, according to reports. The former Madison Central High standout makes his third start today for Detroit in a Grapefruit League game against Philadelphia. Turnbull has a 4.15 ERA and five strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings and has shown a lively fastball and crisp slider. The right-hander, nicknamed “Red Bull,” appeared on his way to a breakout year in 2021 when he hurt his arm in May. He was 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA and a no-hitter on his ledger. He should step right back into the Tigers’ rotation this season. … Ex-Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman got the win in relief as the United States beat Colombia 3-2 in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night. Graveman, who’s with the Chicago White Sox, worked a scoreless fourth inning. Biloxi Shuckers alum Devin Williams, of Milwaukee, pitched a clean eighth for a hold in the victory that sends Team USA to a quarterfinal meeting with Venezuela on Saturday. … Ex-State standout Brent Rooker has made a strong case for cracking Oakland’s opening day roster. He is 9-for-23 with five doubles and eight walks this spring. “I’m just here to make whatever decision they have to make a difficult one,” said Rooker, 28, who is with his fourth MLB club in the past year. He got just 32 big league at-bats with San Diego and Kansas City in 2022 but belted 28 homers in the minors. His main competition for a spot appears to be lefty-hitting Carson Capel, 25. … Chris Stratton, former Bulldogs ace, has had a nice spring with St. Louis. He notched a save on Wednesday and trimmed his ERA to 3.60 in five appearances. Stratton has a 4.52 ERA over 238 career MLB games. … Left-hander Dylan Dodd, who made nine starts (2-4, 3.11 ERA) for the Double-A Mississippi Braves last season, is reported to be a dark horse candidate for Atlanta’s fifth starter job. Dodd, a 2021 draftee, has 11 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA in 8 1/3 innings in Florida. He remains in camp after former M-Braves Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder, also candidates for that spot, were optioned to the minors.

13 Mar

as the wbc turns

If you’re not paying attention to the World Baseball Classic, you should be. Italy — Italy! — has advanced to the quarterfinals. The Venezuela-Dominican Republic game, loaded with MLB stars, had the feel of a World Series Game 7. Canada put up a record 18 runs in its win on Sunday. And then came Team USA vs. Mexico on Sunday night. Before a very pro-Mexico crowd of 47,534 at Arizona’s Chase Field, former Mississippi Braves standout Joey Meneses blasted two home runs to power the Mexicans to a stunning 11-5 victory. “I have never played in an atmosphere like that,” Patrick Sandoval, an MLB pitcher who plays for Mexico, told mlb.com. Meneses’ story is a great one. Signed by Atlanta in 2011, he played for the Double-A M-Braves in 2017, hitting .292 with nine homers and 45 RBIs. The Culiacan native moved on in 2018, changing organizations three times — and playing 894 minor league games all told — before getting a big league call from Washington last August. He hit an impressive .324 with 13 homers in 56 games as the Nationals’ regular first baseman. Then he took a major star turn on Sunday, driving in five runs to stun Team USA. “I have no words,” Meneses said. East Central Community College product Tim Anderson went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the U.S., now 1-1 in pool play and facing a virtual must-win game tonight against Canada. Canada (1-0) features former M-Braves star Freddie Freeman and Mississippi State alum Jacob Robson, both of whom had productive games on Sunday. This is worth your attention.

06 Mar

making a list

A pair of former high MLB draft picks from Mississippi colleges who’ve battled arm injuries have cracked the top 20 on the Oakland A’s list of Top 30 prospects, revealed today by MLB Pipeline. Ole Miss product Gunnar Hogland, the 19th overall pick in 2021, is Oakland’s No. 15, and Mississippi State alum J.T. Ginn, a second-round pick (by the New York Mets) in 2020, checks in at No. 17. Hogland has pitched just eight innings in pro ball so far. Ginn has made 30 appearances over two years, but just 12 last season before an Arizona Fall League stint. He is in big league camp as a non-roster player. It’ll be interesting to see how those two fare in 2023. Former Biloxi High star Colt Keith is ranked No. 4 in Detroit’s system; Southern Miss alum Matt Wallner, who debuted in MLB last summer, is Minnesota’s No. 7; ex-State standout Justin Foscue is Texas’ No. 7; former Bulldogs closer Landon Sims is Arizona’s No. 9; Will Bednar, the CWS star for State in 2021, is San Francisco’s No. 16; ex-Ole Miss standout Ryan Rolison is Colorado’s No. 28; and fellow Rebels alum Doug Nikhazy is Cleveland’s No. 30. (See previous post for the top prospects from the National League East and Central and American League East. All told, 17 state products made the various Top 30s.) … Six Mississippians made USA Today’s top 200 fantasy players for MLB ’23, topped by Austin Riley at No. 27 and Brandon Woodruff at 33. Eleven former Mississippi Braves are on that list, including Riley, the DeSoto Central High alum who also played for the Double-A M-Braves en route to Atlanta. … A handful of Magnolia State products have signed with independent clubs for 2023, including Jacob Robson, who is also slated to play for Team Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Ex-MSU standout Robson signed with the American Association’s Kansas City Monarchs, for whom he played in 2022. Dalton Moats (Delta State) inked with KC, Delvin Zinn (Itawamba Community College) with Milwaukee and Conor Fisk (USM) with Lake Country. Milton Smith Jr. (Meridian CC) signed with Rocky Mountain of the Pioneer League.

03 Mar

power source

Rosters for the minor league teams are far from set, but there’s a good chance the top-rated power prospect in Atlanta’s system will suit up for Double-A Mississippi this season. Jesse Franklin V, who played 15 games for the 2022 M-Braves before an arm injury (and Tommy John surgery) ended his year, was named by MLB Pipeline as the best power threat in the Braves’ thinned-out farm system. The lefty-swinging Franklin, a former Michigan slugger and Atlanta’s No. 14 overall prospect, hit two homers for the M-Braves last year and 24 in A-ball in 2021. He also has 21 career steals. While Franklin seems a logical candidate, it’s really anybody’s guess at this stage which other top prospects might play for new M-Braves manager Kanekoa Texeira this year. Cal Conley, Atlanta’s No. 13 prospect, is a switch-hitting shortstop who plays “full throttle,” per reports, and batted .251 with 16 homers and 36 bags at two levels of A-ball in 2022. The former Texas Tech standout also played in the Arizona Fall League and is in Atlanta’s camp as a non-roster invitee. No. 4 prospect A.J. Smith-Shawver, a right-hander, might land in Pearl at some point. Once a highly regarded high school quarterback, he pitched at Low-Class A Augusta in 2022, posted a 5.11 ERA but fanned 103 batters in 68 2/3 innings. Outfielder Brandol Mezquita, ranked No. 17, hit .268 with 14 steals at two levels of A-ball in 2022, and lefty-hitting catcher Tyler Tolve, No. 29, batted .261 with 12 homers at High-A Rome. A couple of familiar names, neither of whom is a Top 30 prospect, might also reach Double-A in 2023. Former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Brandon Parker, a 23-year-old outfielder, hit .282 with 10 homers at Low-A Augusta and finished 2022 at High-A Rome. And then there’s right-hander J.J. Niekro, son of Joe and nephew of Phil, the famous knuckleballers. Niekro was 7-1 with a 2.09 ERA at Augusta and 3-2, 4.88, at Rome last season. (He has tinkered with a knuckler but not used it in a game as yet.)

27 Feb

whatever happened to …

Drew Bianco, the former Oxford High star and son of the Ole Miss coach, is getting a ton of attention after making a sensational catch for Houston in a game on Sunday. Bianco, playing center field for the Cougars, made a long run and went over the outfield wall to snag a drive off the bat of an Incarnate Word hitter. (The video is all over the Internet and was SportsCenter’s No. 1 play among its daily Top 10.) Bianco, an All-State pick and state champion at Oxford, is a grad transfer at Houston after four seasons at LSU, where he had modest numbers (.202, 10 homers) on some outstanding teams. This year, he has made two highlight-reel catches for the Cougars, matching his number of hits in five games. Also on the UH roster is former Ole Miss and Magnolia Heights pitcher Braden Forsythe. P.S. Two familiar names appear on mlb.com’s list of the top dark horse candidates for opening day rosters: Brent Rooker with Oakland and Jason Heyward with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mississippi State product Rooker is with his fourth organization in less than a year. The 2017 SEC Triple Crown winner has 102 homers in the minors — 28 in Triple-A in 2022 — but batted just .200 with 10 homers in 81 big league games, most of those with Minnesota. He hopes to stick as the A’s left fielder. Heyward, a former Mississippi Braves star, has been reunited with old buddy Freddie Freeman. They debuted with the Double-A M-Braves together in 2009. Cut loose by the Chicago Cubs after last season, Heyward has struggled at the plate for several years but reportedly revamped his swing and stands a good chance of making LA’s club. His outfield defense is still top drawer.

10 Feb


Four Mississippi college products are on the rosters for the World Baseball Classic, three with the U.S. team and one with Canada. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, Mississippi State’s Kendall Graveman and ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson — all members of the Chicago White Sox — will suit up for Team USA when the 20-team event gets under way next month. MSU product Jacob Robson, who had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2021, is on the Canada team, which is in the same five-team group — Pool C — with the U.S. That group begins play on March 11 in Arizona. Lynn, 35, is an 11-year veteran who has 123 wins and a career ERA of 3.52. Graveman has pitched eight years in the majors, working in relief the last few years, and has a 4.04 ERA. Anderson, a shortstop, is a .288 career hitter over seven seasons with 97 homers and 104 steals. He won the American League batting title in 2019. Robson, originally drafted by Detroit, got a brief call-up in ’21 but was back in Triple-A last year. He was released midseason and finished the year with the independent Kansas City Monarchs before heading to Australia to play winter ball. Former Biloxi Shuckers reliever Devin Williams, now Milwaukee’s closer, made the loaded U.S. roster, which includes the likes of Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw. Former Mississippi Braves Ronald Acuna (Venezuela), Freddie Freeman (Canada) and Andrelton Simmons (Netherlands) are also on WBC rosters.

01 Feb


Former Mississippi State standout Jordan Westburg is ranked the No. 74 prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline and is the only Mississippian on the list. The infielder, who reached Triple-A last summer and belted 27 homers at two levels, is one of eight Baltimore prospects in the Top 100. Atlanta is the only organization without a single player in the Top 100. … The Braves’ list of non-roster invitees to big league spring training includes a host of 2022 Mississippi Braves, among them outfielders Justin Dean and Cody Milligan, infielder Luke Waddell and pitchers Jared Shuster, Dylan Dodd and Victor Vodnik. … Ex-Biloxi High star Colt Keith, regarded as one of the top third base prospects in the minors, received a non-roster invite to Detroit’s major league camp, as did outfielder Justyn-Henry Malloy, who played for the M-Braves last season before being traded. … MSU alum Justin Foscue and Mississippi College product Blaine Crim have received non-roster invitations to Texas’ big league camp. … Taylor Broadway, a former Ole Miss closer, is on Boston’s NRI list. Traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Red Sox last summer, the 2021 draftee reached Double-A. … Tampa Bay signed minor league free agent Gavin Collins, a former State standout, and invited him to big league camp. Catcher/third baseman Collins, 27, a 2016 draftee by Cleveland, played in the Guardians’ system in 2022. … Former Jackson Senators pitcher/coach Jeff Ware has been promoted to Toronto’s big league staff as assistant pitching coach. … Lindy’s 2023 preseason magazine rates Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez as the No. 3 draft prospect for this summer. Ex-Southern Miss pitcher Hurston Waldrep, now at Florida, is No. 17 on that 50-player chart, and Magnolia Heights shortstop Cooper Pratt is No. 46. P.S. NAIA member William Carey University, originally slated to open Mississippi’s college season on Feb. 2, will instead debut on Saturday with a doubleheader against Campbellsville in Hattiesburg. … On Friday, weather permitting, NCAA Division II Mississippi College hosts Arkansas-Monticello, NAIA Blue Mountain hosts Bethel and NAIA Rust visits Tuskegee.