18 May

playing the game

Comes a time for everyone, as the old scout says in “Moneyball,” when you’re told you can no longer play the children’s game. The time may have come for the likes of Mitch Moreland and Jarrod Dyson, veteran free agents in their late 30s with no team to suit up for. But as long as some team somewhere wants you, as long as you still dream of making the major leagues, you soldier on, as Ti’Quan Forbes is doing in 2022. Columbia native Forbes, a pro since 2014 without a big league look, became a minor league free agent last fall. The 25-year-old third baseman had signed with an independent club before the Arizona Diamondbacks came calling in mid-April. He is making good on this, perhaps final, opportunity, batting .283 with four homers and 18 RBIs for Double-A Amarillo. Forbes, who goes 6 feet 4, 225 pounds now, was drafted in the second round out of Columbia High by Texas and traded to the Chicago White Sox (for major league pitcher Miguel Gonzalez) after a productive 2017 season in High-A ball. He reached Triple-A Charlotte last summer but hit just .237 with two homers in 50 games. That trail ran out. He has picked up another. A player can still have an MLB breakthrough at Forbes’ age. Dyson didn’t make The Show until he was 27, and he played 12 big league seasons. Ex-Delta State star Trent Giambrone was 27 when he got the call last year in his sixth minor league season. Giambrone is back in the minors now, playing the children’s game, like Forbes. They haven’t been told they can’t. P.S. William Carey’s fine season ended Tuesday with a loss to Hope International in the NAIA Opening Round at Lawrenceville, Ga. The SSAC Tournament champion Crusaders (37-17) went 2-and-out in the regional.

15 May

have a day

On Tim Anderson Bobblehead Night at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, it was only fitting that the former East Central Community College standout would play a leading role in the White Sox’s walk-off 3-2 win against the New York Yankees. With the score knotted at 2-2 Saturday, Anderson got a one-out single in the ninth inning off Aroldis Chapman. Yankees broadcasters credited Anderson with distracting Chapman into walking the next batter and then falling behind 3-0 to Luis Robert. On a 3-1 pitch, Robert poked a single into right field and Anderson scored the winning run from second base just ahead of a throw by Aaron Judge. The bobblehead commemorated Anderson’s walk-off homer vs. the Yankees in the Field of Dreams Game last summer. The dynamic Anderson went 3-for-5 Saturday, boosting his average to .339, second in the American League. He was just the brightest star on a day filled with shining moments from Mississippians in the majors. To wit: In the ChiSox-Yankees game, Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman pitched two scoreless innings (the sixth and seventh) for Chicago, registered his eighth hold and trimmed his ERA to 1.56 in 15 games. … In Atlanta, a scuffling Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star, went 3-for-4 and delivered the game-deciding run in the eighth inning of a crazy 6-5 victory over San Diego. … In St. Louis, MSU product Dakota Hudson blanked San Francisco over five innings, picking up the win — he is 3-2, 3.06 — as the Cardinals stopped the Giants’ six-game win streak 4-0. McComb native Corey Dickerson went 1-for-4 for the Cards. … Former Southern Miss standout Nick Sandlin picked up a win for Cleveland, working 1 1/3 scoreless innings (in the eighth and ninth) in the Guardians’ 3-2, 10-inning win against Minnesota. Sandlin is 3-1 with a 3.65 ERA in 12 games in middle relief. … Chris Stratton, the MSU product from Tupelo, struck out two batters in the eighth inning and got his fourth hold for Pittsburgh in a 3-1 win against Cincinnati. … Hunter Renfroe, the former State star from Crystal Springs, belted his ninth home run in Milwaukee’s 9-3 loss to Miami. He is tied for the National League lead in homers. … Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers, who has found his form in recent outings, worked a scoreless ninth inning for the Los Angeles Angels in their 9-1 win vs. Oakland in Game 2 of a twinbill.

09 May

fun while it lasted

On paper, it was a mismatch. On the field, for three innings at least, it was not. George County High product Justin Steele, making just the 15th start of his big league career, cruised into the fourth inning Sunday at Wrigley Field with a 1-0 lead against the Los Angeles Dodgers and ace Walker Buehler. A wonky fourth — two infield hits, two walks, a wild pitch — cost Steele and the Chicago Cubs the lead, and the young left-hander couldn’t answer the bell for the fifth, departing with a thumb injury after his warmup tosses. The Dodgers, with Buehler going seven innings, won the game 7-1. Buehler entered the game, his 100th career start, with a 3-1 record and a 2.12 ERA. Steele was 1-3, 5.50, winless since beating Milwaukee (and fellow Mississippi native Brandon Woodruff) in his first start of 2022. Originally set for a Monday start, Steele found out only hours before ESPN’s Sunday night feature that he’d be getting the ball against the National League’s best team, the one with three MVPs in the lineup. He struck out Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman to start the game and yielded just a lone hit (to Cody Bellinger) through three. The wheels started to come off in the fourth. Steele, 26, battled long and hard — eight years — to reach the big leagues in 2021. He’s now battling to nail down a role with a rebuilding Cubs club, and there certainly have been encouraging signs. P.S. Two other Mississippians made Mother’s Day starts and experienced mixed results. Konnor Pilkington, former Mississippi State standout, made his first career start — fourth appearance — for Cleveland and lasted 3 2/3 innings (two runs allowed) in a game the Guardians won 4-3 against Toronto. Ex-State star Dakota Hudson, having an erratic season for St. Louis, went four innings, yielding five hits, four walks and three runs in a game the Cardinals lost 4-3 to San Francisco.

28 Apr

where are they now?

Will Bednar, one of the heroes of Mississippi State’s national title run last year, has made a smooth transition to pro ball. The right-hander, the 14th overall pick in the July draft, threw five no-hit innings Wednesday night for San Jose in the San Francisco system. “I don’t try to get too high or too low, but it’s definitely a confidence booster …,” he told milb.com after Wednesday’s outing. Bednar has yet to get a win in four starts for the Low-Class A club but has a 1.62 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 16 2/3 innings. He was limited to seven innings last summer after signing with the Giants as the top draft pick from the state. Among the other 2021 draftees: Gunnar Hoglund — taken 19th overall by Oakland out of Ole Miss — is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. … Ole Miss product Doug Nikhazy is 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA in three starts for High-A Lake County in the Cleveland system. … Reed Trimble, taken by Baltimore out of Southern Miss, is on the injured list (shoulder surgery) and has yet to play this season. He batted .200 in 22 games in his pro debut lat season. … Tanner Allen, SEC player of the year and Ferriss Trophy winner at MSU, is batting .255 with a homer and seven RBIs for Miami’s High-A Beloit team. … Eric Cerantola, MSU alum, is 1-1, 4.76 at Low-A Columbia in the Kansas City organization. … Ex-Bulldogs standout Christian MacLeod, a Minnesota draftee, is on the 60-day injured list at Low-A Fort Myers and hasn’t pitched in 2022. … Taylor Broadway, Ole Miss’ closer in 2021, is pitching at Double-A Birmingham, where he has made three appearances after a recent promotion. He has a 9.45 ERA overall in six outings. … USM product Ryan Och has worked nine innings and yielded one run for San Diego’s High-A Fort Wayne club. … Will Warren, a Jackson Prep alum drafted out of Southeastern Louisiana, is 1-1, 2.65 in four starts at High-A Hudson Valley in the New York Yankees’ chain. P.S. Former State standout Kendall Graveman got his first save for the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, working two perfect innings as the ChiSox stopped an eight-game skid with a 7-3 win against Kansas City. Graveman, primarily a set-up reliever, has a 1.74 ERA in nine games. … Recent transactions of note: Chris Ellis went on the 10-day IL in Baltimore, Pittsburgh designated Anthony Alford for assignment, and Cleveland demoted both Konnor Pilkington and Kirk McCarty to Triple-A.

25 Apr

a memorable moment

For Michael Harris II, it was a minor milestone along what’s expected to be his route to the major leagues. For at least some of the smallish crowd at Trustmark Park on this lazy Sunday afternoon, it was one for the memory banks. Harris, Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect, hit his first Double-A home run on Sunday, a towering, pull-side shot that landed in the Farm Bureau Grill behind the right-field wall. Over the 17 years the Mississippi Braves have played in Pearl, fans have been treated to memorable moments from a long list of touted hitting prospects who made The Show: Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis, Austin Riley and Ronald Acuna, to name a few. Now there is Harris. The 21-year-old outfielder is batting .317 with 13 RBIs, eight runs and six stolen bases, one of the few bright spots for a scuffling (4-11) M-Braves club. Braves fans be advised: Get out to the TeePee to see him soon. He might not be there very long. P.S. In other long-ball news: Riley, the former DeSoto Central High standout, hit his second homer since becoming a dad in Atlanta’s loss to Miami on Sunday, and East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson hit his 14th career leadoff bomb for the Chicago White Sox in a loss to Minnesota. … Former Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty made his big league debut Sunday for Cleveland, giving up two homers and four runs all told in relief in a loss to the New York Yankees. McCarty, a Hattiesburg native, becomes the 19th USM product to play in the majors. … Ex-George County High standout Justin Steele also had a tough day on the bump, yielding four hits, four walks and three runs in three innings in the Chicago Cubs’ loss to Pittsburgh. Steele is 1-2, 5.40 in three starts. … Faring even worse on Sunday was Ole Miss alum Chris Ellis, who faced five batters, retired none and left with shoulder discomfort in Baltimore’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Charged with five runs, Ellis saw his ERA climb to 10.38 in two appearances.

23 Apr

denied

The anticipation was high. Kirk McCarty, the ex-Southern Miss star from Hattiesburg, was scheduled to make his big league debut today, starting on the bump against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It’s not happening. Cal Quantrill has come off the COVID-19 list and will get the ball for Cleveland. McCarty, brought up from Triple-A earlier in the week, might still get in the game as a reliever, of course, but a start against Aaron Judge and Co. would have been so much cooler. (In Friday’s game, a Cleveland loss, Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington threw two scoreless innings in relief for the Guardians in his third big league game. He has yet to yield a run.) … In other MLB news: Former State standout Nathaniel Lowe extended his hit streak to eight games, raised his average to .412 — tops in the American League — and belted his first home run in Texas’ win against Oakland. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, made his 2022 debut for Pittsburgh, coming off a rehab assignment, and went 0-for-3 as the leadoff batter at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Pirates won the game over the Cubs 4-2, with ex-State star Chris Stratton getting the save. … Ex-East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson was handed a one-game suspension for flipping off the Cleveland crowd in a game on Wednesday. Anderson issued an apology, then appealed the suspension and played Friday. He went 0-for-4 and his eighth-inning throwing error — his sixth E in three games — proved costly in the Chicago White Sox’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota. MSU alum Kendall Graveman suffered the blown save and took the loss in that game.

22 Apr

and that happened …

On a night when Houlka native Tyreque Reed decked an opposing pitcher and sparked an ugly, benches-clearing brawl in a Double-A game, there were more than a few uplifting developments Thursday involving Mississippi-connected players. To wit: At Trustmark Park in Pearl, Atlanta prospect Darius Vines went 6 1/3 innings to post his first win of the young season as the Mississippi Braves beat Chattanooga 4-3. Vines, the Braves’ No. 14 prospect (per MLB Pipeline), has a 2.51 ERA in three starts in his first Double-A campaign. In that game, ex-Southern Miss star Chuckie Robinson, the Lookouts’ catcher, went 1-for-4 with a run and Gulfport native Jacques Pucheu worked two scoreless innings for the visitors. … Former M-Braves standout Cristian Pache, shipped to Oakland in the Matt Olson trade, hit his second homer of the season for the A’s. … Shea Langeliers, another M-Braves product also moved to Oakland in the Olson deal, belted his fourth homer for Triple-A Las Vegas. The highly regarded catcher is batting .341. … Petal High alumnus Anthony Alford, on a rehab assignment for Pittsburgh, homered for the second straight game at Triple-A Indianapolis. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Justin Foscue hit his first homer of the year — a grand slam — for Double-A Frisco in the Texas system. … Meridian native LeDarious Clark hit an opening day bomb for Lancaster in the independent Atlantic League. … MSU product Nathaniel Lowe went 3-for-4, boosting his average to .396, and helped Texas rally to beat Seattle in MLB. … And last but certainly not least, Ole Miss’ Dylan DeLucia tossed a five-hit, eight-strikeout complete game to beat Mississippi State 4-2 in the series opener in Oxford. For State, Kellum Clark homered on his 21st birthday. P.S. Reed, playing for Portland in the Boston system, will surely get a suspension for his actions in the brawl. The fifth-year pro, originally drafted by Texas out of Itawamba Community College, is 3-for-11 this season and carries a .278 average with 58 homers for his minor league career.

21 Apr

play ball

It’s opening day in the independent Atlantic League, where Jackson native Stan Cliburn will manage his 3,570th minor league game when his Southern Maryland Blue Crabs meet Lexington. Cliburn’s club includes former Ole Miss star and onetime big leaguer Braxton Lee and Southern Miss product Bradley Roney. Cliburn, entering his 33rd season as a pro manager, was the Atlantic League’s manager of the year in 2021 when he steered the Blue Crabs to a 63-57 record and into the playoffs with a late surge. Forest Hill High alum Cliburn had a long playing career in pro ball and spent part of the 1980 season with the California Angels. Lee, a lefty-hitting outfielder from Picayune, played in the Cincinnati system in 2021, batting .224. A former Southern League batting champ, he got 17 at-bats with the Miami Marlins in 2018. Roney, a right-hander, pitched in the New York Mets’ system last season, finishing at Triple-A. Roney, who pitched for the Mississippi Braves in 2016, ’17 and ’19, has a 3.71 career ERA in pro ball. … Also in the ALPB is former East Mississippi Community College standout LeDarious Clark, an outfielder with Lancaster. P.S. Mississippi State product Nathaniel Lowe snagged a screaming line drive Wednesday night and started 3-6 triple play, the seventh in Texas Rangers history. Caught up in the tri-killing was ex-State star Adam Frazier, who redeemed himself quite nicely by going 3-for-4 with a walk and a run in Seattle’s 4-2 victory. Frazier is batting .294 as the Mariners’ new leadoff man.

20 Apr

three on a match

The Cleveland Guardians’ bullpen is well-stocked with former Magnolia State college stars for today’s doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox. Southern Miss product Kirk McCarty was added to the roster and joins former USM teammate Nick Sandlin and ex-Mississippi State standout Konnor Pilkington on the Guardians’ 28-man club. Hattiesburg native McCarty, a 5-foot-8 left-hander, was brilliant in three starts at Triple-A Columbus this season, posting a 0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. A seventh-round pick in 2017, he is 19-26 with a 4.31 ERA in his minor league career. One report said McCarty is a candidate to start against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium this weekend. That would be quite the debut. Pascagoula native Pilkington debuted last weekend (see previous post). Sandlin, a Georgia native, debuted in 2021 and pitched well (2.94 in 34 games), though he has an 8.31 in 4 1/3 innings in 2022. Also on the Cleveland roster is Harrison Central High product Bobby Bradley, a first baseman who has seen limited playing time this season.

20 Apr

random numbers of note

9 — Wins for Buck Showalter’s New York Mets, most in the majors. The former Mississippi State player and new Mets manager saw his club sweep a twinbill from San Francisco on Tuesday to improve to 9-3.
5 — Innings played in right field by former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna on a rehab assignment in the Atlanta system. Acuna doubled in three at-bats for Triple-A Gwinnett and appears on track for an early May return to the Braves’ lineup.
129 — Career MLB home runs for Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State standout who hit his first as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.
4 — Homers, in 36 at-bats, for MSU product Jordan Westburg at Double-A Bowie in the Baltimore organization. The 30th overall pick in the 2020 draft is batting .306.
10 — Active hitting streak for the M-Braves’ Michael Harris II, Atlanta’s top prospect who is batting .366 with nine RBIs and three steals in 10 games in his first Double-A campaign.
10 — Consecutive wins by Southern Miss, which beat Tulane 11-5 Tuesday to move to 28-8 on the season. The Golden Eagles are ranked in the top 10 in most of the polls.
6 and 7 — Where Mississippi State and Ole Miss sit in the SEC West standings heading into their series this week in Oxford. Both the Bulldogs (6-9, 22-16) and Rebels (5-10, 21-15) began the season as consensus Top 25 teams.
.308 — Batting average for Alcorn State’s Diego Lopez-Molina, a sophomore from Puerto Rico who leads the lowly Braves (2-23) in hits and RBIs and ranks second in runs, homers, OBP and slugging.
12 — Homers for Jake Barlow, who has helped nationally ranked Delta State climb to 25-11, 16-5 (and first) in the Gulf South Conference. He hit 19 bombs last year and 11 in 2019.
4 — Consecutive wins for William Carey University, which beat West Alabama 12-7 Tuesday behind Chris Williams’ three-hit, three-RBI, three-run effort and ran its record to 27-15. The Crusaders, 13-8 in the SSAC, host Tougaloo this weekend in a non-conference series.
42 — Runs scored by Chris Hart, who also has six homers, 23 RBIs and a .311 batting average for Millsaps, 18-18, 8-10 Southern Athletic Association with one conference series remaining — at home vs. Sewanee this weekend.
5 — Wins in six decisions for Brett Sanchez, who has helped Belhaven to a 20-12 mark, 16-9 in the American Southwest Conference. Sanchez, who has a 2.31 ERA in his eight starts, went 9-2 in 2021 for a 20-win team.
16-4 — Pearl River Community College’s MACCC record, which leads the league standings by 2 games over Hinds and East Mississippi. The Wildcats (28-8) are currently ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA Division II poll.
4 — Undefeated Sumrall High School’s spot in the latest MaxPreps Top 25. Northwest Rankin is No. 25. Sumrall is 25-0, NWR 25-2 after both posted wins on Tuesday.