30 Mar

gut check time

Things were quickly going south for Pearl River Community College on Tuesday. Freshly ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA Division II poll, the Wildcats lost a lead and lost the first game of a twinbill at Mississippi Gulf Coast, then fell behind in the first inning of Game 2 on a Bulldogs bomb. What’s the old saw? When the going gets tough … . The Wildcats got going, rallying for a 9-2 win behind two homers from Matt Mercer, a Petal High product, and the pitching of Leif Moore (St. Martin) and Cole Tolbert (West Jones). “I think a lot of the character of this team is coming out now,” PRCC coach Michael Avalon said in a school release. Tate Parker, the former West Harrison star who leads all D-II jucos in homers with 10, had a quiet day. But other hitters stepped up with big knocks in Game 2, including Mercer, D.K. Donaldson (West Harrison) and Preston Soper (Germantown). Moore shook off the first-inning homer to pitch four scoreless innings thereafter, and Tolbert followed with a strong two. The split left PRCC with a 20-6 overall record, 8-2 in the MACCC. Another challenge arrives on Saturday, when East Mississippi, 9-1 in the league after a Tuesday sweep of Itawamba, comes to Poplarville. P.S. Ole Miss, deposed from the No. 1 ranking in the Baseball America poll after getting swept by Tennessee, unleashed its frustration on North Alabama, pounding five homers in a 20-3 victory in Oxford. The Rebels, now ranked ninth by BA, are 17-7.

16 Feb

juco jottings

Based on the linescore, some wacky stuff happened in Fulton on Tuesday. Itawamba Community College put up a 10-run inning for an 11-3 lead after three, then surrendered 11 runs in the seventh and lost to Snead State (Ala.) 23-16 in Game 1 of a doubleheader. Perhaps in a state of shock, the Indians lost Game 2 6-1. The Indians (3-3) are ranked No. 17 in the NJCAA Division II preseason poll; they figure to tumble when the first regular season poll is released. … Jones College, under new coach Wes Thigpen, moved to 3-1 with a sweep of Coastal Alabama-East on Tuesday, winning both games 10-0. Kade Keeton, from Brandon, got the win with six shutout innings and went 3-for-3 with two runs and an RBI in the opener at Ellisville. … Preston Ratliff had a day, hitting two home runs and notching the victory on the mound in Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s split with Baton Rouge. The Bulldogs, under new coach Bob Keller, are off to a 2-4 start. … Led by Brock Butler (.667, a homer, seven RBIs), seventh-ranked Meridian CC is 5-1 heading into a Saturday twinbill against visiting Hinds, which is 4-2 in Dan Rives’ first season as Eagles head coach. … No. 4 Pearl River, the defending state champion, and No. 14 East Central are off to 4-0 starts. The Wildcats have been paced by John Griffin Bell (.500) and Tate Parker (.467, two homers, seven RBIs). Coleton Smith has two homers and four RBIs for the Warriors.

09 Dec

birthday boys

What do Fred Lewis and Del Unser have in common? Both played college ball in Mississippi, both got a hit in their first major league game — and both were born on this date, 36 years apart. Lewis, who turns 41, was born in Hattiesburg, played high school ball at Stone County and juco ball at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before moving on to Southern University. Drafted in the second round in 2002 by San Francisco, the lefty-hitting outfielder played parts of seven years in the big leagues and produced at least one game that Giants fans will never forget. On May 13, 2007, Mother’s Day, in just his 17th big league game, Lewis hit for the cycle at Colorado’s Coors Field. The homer he hit that day was the first of his career, a rare feat. He would hit 26 more and finish his MLB career in 2012 with a .266 average. Unser, who turns 77, is an Illinois native who played at Mississippi State in the mid-1960s, was drafted three times while in Starkville and ultimately signed with Washington after being a first-round pick in 1966. Unser enjoyed a 15-year career with five different clubs. He pounded out 1,344 hits — good for a .258 career average — and won a World Series ring with Philadelphia in 1980, going 5-for-11 with three RBIs and four runs in that postseason. … Also born on this date: former Jackson Generals third baseman Chris Truby, now 48, who played four years in the majors. P.S. Former MSU star Buck Showalter interviewed for the New York Mets’ manager job on Wednesday and team officials were “pretty impressed,” according to the New York Post. Showalter, 65, won 1,551 games as manager of four different MLB clubs between 1992 and 2018 and was a three-time manager of the year. He last managed with Baltimore in 2018, when a gutted Orioles team finished 47-115.

14 Jul

power grid

While the big league stars were out in Colorado on Tuesday, former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker generated some luminosity down in Triple-A. Rooker blasted three home runs and drove in a career-high seven runs to power St. Paul to a 19-1 win over Columbus. Rooker, who started this season in Minnesota but didn’t hit enough to stick, now has 17 homers on the season, tied for the most in the Triple-A East. The right-handed hitting outfielder/DH is batting .245 with 41 RBIs for the Saints as he awaits another big league shot. “(Y)ou have to just stay confident in yourself and make the right adjustments,” he told milb.com. “I believe in myself and know I can be successful (in the big leagues).” … In Double-A, Ole Miss alum Grae Kessinger hit his sixth homer for Houston’s Corpus Christi club. The infielder, in his second pro season, has lifted his average to .213 with a recent hot streak. … In High-A, ex-State star Justin Foscue and former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim, hitting 2-3 in the Hickory lineup, produced long balls. Crim, who has been on a tear, has 13 homers and Foscue, a 2020 draftee, four for the Texas affiliate. (Foscue’s former Bulldogs teammate and 2020 draftee Jordan Westburg went 2-for-5 for Aberdeen (Baltimore) in that same game.) … In Low-A, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product Brandon Parker went yard for Augusta, an Atlanta farm club. Parker, in his second pro season, has six homers but is batting just .174. … And in the Florida Complex League on Monday, ex-DeSoto Central High star Blaze Jordan got his first pro homer. The storied slugger, 18, a third-round pick by Boston last year, is hitting .194 through eight games. P.S. Bobby Wahl, the former Ole Miss pitcher, has been released by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wahl, 29, who has big league time, has an 11.12 ERA in 15 games this season for three minor league teams in the Milwaukee and L.A. systems.

17 Jun

stop thief!

You wouldn’t necessarily go to a Mississippi Braves game to watch Shea Langeliers play catcher, but you’d probably come away impressed. Take Wednesday night’s game, for instance. Langeliers, Atlanta’s No. 3-rated prospect, threw out two would-be base stealers in the Double-A team’s 2-1 win against Birmingham at Trustmark Park. (For the record, before throwing out Laz Rivera for the second time, Langeliers appeared to pick him off first base; the umpire called Rivera safe.) Langeliers has thrown out 17 of 29 attempted base thieves. That’s 59 percent. A 30-percent rate is considered good. The 2019 first-round pick has just two passed balls and two errors over 29 games. From MLB Pipeline’s scouting report: “His athleticism and agility allow him to be a plus blocker and receiver and he perhaps has the best arm of any catcher in the Minor Leagues, one that allowed him to throw out 41 percent of potential basestealers in 2019.” Oh, and he is also the M-Braves’ best hitter. … No. 4 prospect Braden Shewmake, hitting just .127, did drive in one of the M-Braves’ runs, his 11th RBI. No. 25 prospect Justin Dean (.242) picked up the other, his 14th RBI. Elsewhere in the Atlanta system: No. 5 prospect Kyle Muller became the latest M-Braves alum to advance to the big leagues, working an inning for the Braves in their 10-8 loss to Boston. Muller allowed four hits and two runs in relief of former M-Braves star Ian Anderson, who gave up four runs in four innings. All of that was before M-Braves alum A.J. Minter yielded a game-turning grand slam to Christian Arroyo. Such is the state of the big Braves’ pitching staff. … At Triple-A Gwinnett, No. 1 prospect – and erstwhile Atlanta center fielder – Cristian Pache is hitting .300 since being sent down on May 29. No. 2 prospect Drew Waters, the 2019 Southern League MVP who has yet to get a big league look, is batting .279 with three homers and eight steals. … At High-A Rome, No. 6 prospect Jared Shuster threw four shutout innings Wednesday in a 5-0 win. The left-hander out of Wake Forest is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in five games. … At Low-A Augusta, two Mississippi products, both 2019 draft picks, are feeling their way in pro ball. Brandon Parker, a Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout from Saucier, is batting .160 with five bombs and 19 RBIs in 30 games. Right-hander Jared Johnson, the No. 29 prospect out of Smithville High, allowed three runs with four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings in his only appearance to date.

18 May

quest for sixteen

On March 14, Delta State was 6-10 after being swept in a three-game series by Lee University. But as they like to say up in Cleveland, tradition never slumps, and tradition – or something – kicked in. Today, the Statesmen are 27-16 and about to play for the Gulf South Conference Tournament championship, which would be the program’s 16th. They face a 3-game series against West Florida (32-8) in Pensacola with an NCAA Division II regional bid possibly hanging in the balance. “It’s going to be tough,” said second-year coach Rodney Batts in a YouTube video posted by the school. “But we’re still in this thing. You get to this point, anything can happen. You’ve got to beat the best.” In last week’s tourney bracket, DSU beat top-seeded Lee and, facing elimination, reached the championship series with a walk-off win against Alabama-Huntsville. Darek Sargent tripled and Chad Ragland singled him home for a 4-3 win. “There’s something special about this team,” Ragland said. Hayden White is hitting .361 with 10 homers, and Jake Barlow has 17 bombs and a .314 average. Hunter Riggins (8-4) and Christian Day (7-2) have been a good 1-2 in the rotation. West Florida’s lineup includes two Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alums: Dylan Menhennett (.403) and Miller Hancock (.367). Both played for Batts during his tenure in Perkinston. P.S. William Carey won its opener Monday in NAIA Tournament play, beating Benedictine Mesa 2-1 as Sloan Dieter — who else? — threw a five-hitter and belted a home run. Carey plays again tonight in the Opening Round (regional) at O’Fallon, Mo.

01 Nov

ring master

Though he has yet to pitch in a World Series game, Mississippi native Tony Sipp, a free agent since August, figures to collect a second World Series ring in the last three years as a result of the Washington Nationals’ stunning takedown of the Houston Astros. Sipp, a veteran left-handed reliever, was a member of the Astros — but not on their postseason roster — when they won the 2017 title. He appeared in 36 games for the Nationals this season but was released in August when they restocked their bullpen at the trade deadline. The former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star had an uneven season, posting a 4.71 ERA. He had signed with Washington as a free agent coming off a resurgent 2018 season with the Astros, for whom he pitched in the playoffs. In 2017, Sipp endured the worst of his 11 big league campaigns (5.79 in 46 games) and was left off Houston’s postseason roster. Still, he got a ring – his first – after the Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Series. At age 36, Sipp’s playing days may be behind him.

14 Aug

long ball madness

Home runs are cool and all, but the “juiced ball” has gotten a little out of hand in the big leagues this year. Yet another case in point: Entering this season, Jarrod Dyson had seven home runs in 1,917 career at-bats. The McComb native and former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star hit his seventh of 2019 on Tuesday night in his 305th AB. Dyson is 5 feet 10 (maybe), 165 pounds and 34 years old. Tuesday’s homer was Dyson’s third career leadoff bomb, all coming this season. This is to take nothing away from the season Dyson is having, which is outstanding. Playing regularly in center field for Arizona, which remains in the playoff hunt, Dyson is batting .259 with 51 runs (five shy of his career-best) and 24 steals (11 short of his best). (He has set a career-high for ejections, getting the first of his career last week arguing a called strike.) He has batted .308 over his last 15 games. Tuesday’s homer, which he pulled down the right-field line at Coors Field, was his only hit in the 9-3 win against Colorado, but it sparked a five-run first inning. “Dyson started the party,” Diamondbacks teammate Nick Ahmed told The Associated Press.

25 Jul

quiet contributor

He came in from the bullpen in the seventh inning of a 1-0 game with a runner on and two outs. He struck out the batter, the only one he would face. His team, the Washington Nationals, went on to win 2-0 over Colorado in Game 2 of a twinbill. Tony Sipp, the former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star from Pascagoula, did his job Wednesday. Again. He’s a situational reliever, typically called on just to get one or two hitters. It’s not a job that warrants many headlines, but Sipp has been good at it this season, especially so over the last couple months. The 36-year-old lefty has posted eight straight scoreless appearances. He has yielded just one run in his last 13 games. He has been a quiet contributor for a Nationals club that has won 35 of its last 50 and pulled within 4 games of first-place Atlanta in the National League East. For the season, Sipp has eight holds and a 3.79 ERA – inflated by some early scuffles – in 19 innings spread over 33 appearances. A former 45th-round pick out of Clemson, Sipp is in his 11th big league season. He signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with Washington as a free agent in March. The Nationals, who have had their share of bullpen issues this season, surely feel they are getting their money’s worth from Sipp.

05 Jun

just stuff

The wolves are howling again in Queens, where Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway’s job as manager of the New York Mets appears in serious jeopardy. The Mets dropped their third straight on Tuesday after Callaway’s controversial decision to pull starter Noah Syndergaard with a lead in the seventh inning. Callaway later said he regretted making the move. The Mets are 28-32, 5½ games back in the National League East. … What more can one say about Austin Riley? The DeSoto Central product hit a go-ahead homer to spark Atlanta’s win on Tuesday and is now batting .324 with nine bombs and 25 RBIs in his first 18 MLB games, one of the best starts in history. … Former Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland could come off the 10-day injured list on Friday for Boston, according to the Boston Globe. He leads the team with 13 home runs. … Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, enjoying a resurgence at the plate for resurgent Washington, left Tuesday’s game with a forearm contusion after an HBP and is considered day-to-day. Dozier is batting .283 over his last 15 games, boosting his season average to .223 with eight homers. … T.J. House, the former big leaguer from Picayune, is pitching for the Milwaukee Milkmen in the independent American Association. The 29-year-old left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.10 ERA in three starts. House was in Triple-A in the Chicago White Sox’s organization in 2018 before being released in June. He last pitched in the majors in 2017 with Toronto. As a rookie with Cleveland in 2014, House put up a 5-3 record and 3.35 ERA in 18 starts but never replicated those numbers in limited opportunities thereafter. … Former Petal High standout Demarcus Evans, recently promoted to Double-A in Texas’ system, yielded a couple of runs on Tuesday but wound up earning a win when his Frisco team rallied to beat Amarillo. Evans had made two scoreless appearances before Tuesday. He had an 0.81 ERA and six saves at Class A Down East. … USM product Bradley Roney has yet to yield an earned run in four appearances at Class A Florida in the Braves’ chain as he continues his comeback from injuries that had kept him out since mid-2017. … Brandon Parker grew up on the Coast rooting for the Braves. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been a Braves fan,” he told Biloxi’s WLOX. On Tuesday, the Braves, shopping for a power bat, drafted the former West Harrison High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star in the 10th round. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound right fielder, a Dallas Baptist signee, hit 38 home runs the last two seasons at MGCCC. He was the NJCAA Division II player of the year in 2018 when he batted .424 with 24 homers and 81 RBIs.