03 Nov

touching the bases

The jaw-dropping no-hitter by Houston in Game 4 on Wednesday night — following Philadelphia’s jaw-dropping five-homer game on Tuesday night — ensures that there will be a Game 6 in Houston on Saturday night. Brookhaven native Lance Barksdale is scheduled to be the home plate umpire for that game. Barksdale, who worked first base in Game 4, has been umpiring in MLB since 2000 (full-time since 2006) and is highly rated by those who rate such things. He was 18th in overall accuracy out of 96 umps who worked behind the plate in 2022, per umpscorecards.com. He has received a number of major assignments: the World Baseball Classic, the All-Star Game and multiple postseason series, including two World Series. He was behind the plate for Game 5 of the 2019 Series between the Astros and Washington (and made a couple of memorable ball-strike calls). … The Astros have thrown 15 no-hitters in their 61-year history. Among them are a combo effort in 2003 that was started by Weir’s Roy Oswalt and finished by former Jackson Generals star Billy Wagner and a true no-no in 1986 by ex-Jackson Mets ace Mike Scott. … Oswalt, incidentally, pitched for both the Astros (10 seasons) and Phillies (two) and aided in postseason runs by both clubs. A Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer, he won 163 games, second only to Guy Bush among state natives, in a stellar big league career. … Today is the 69th birthday of Sunflower native Larry Herndon, who played 14 years in the majors and won a World Series ring with Detroit in 1984. Herndon, who went to high school in Memphis and attended Tennessee State, batted .274 with 107 homers and 92 steals as an outfielder with St. Louis, San Francisco and the Tigers. In Game 1 of the ’84 Series against San Diego, Herndon hit a go-ahead two-run homer that propelled the Tigers to victory. He went 5-for-15 in the five-game series. He coached in the Detroit system in 2022. … Props to former Mississippi Braves Dansby Swanson and Max Fried and Biloxi Shuckers alum Trent Grisham for winning National League Gold Gloves. … Chris Ellis, the ex-Ole Miss and M-Braves standout, has elected free agency after being dropped from Baltimore’s 40-man roster. Ellis, 30, missed virtually the entire ’22 season with a shoulder injury.

12 Sep

alumni news

The second no-hitter in Milwaukee Brewers history was delivered by a pair of pitchers who cut their teeth on the Coast. Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader, who stifled Cleveland 3-0 on Saturday, are among the large contingent of Brewers pitchers who came up through their system, including a stop at Double-A Biloxi. Shuckers fans saw Hader blow away hitters at MGM Park in 2015 and ’16 on his way to becoming one of the most feared closers in the big leagues. Burnes played for Biloxi in 2017 and is now an integral part of one of the best rotations in MLB, along with fellow Shuckers alums Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and Adrian Houser. Supporting Hader in the bullpen are ex-Shuckers Devin Williams and Brent Suter. Milwaukee pitchers lead all of baseball in strikeouts, rank second in batting average against and third in ERA. More important, they rank fourth in wins with 88, which ranks them first in the National League Central and bound for the postseason. Burnes (10-4, 2.25 ERA) and Hader (31 saves) combined for 16 strikeouts against the Indians. Harrison Central High alum Bobby Bradley punched out three times in his three at-bats. P.S. Whatever happened to … Tim Dillard, the former Itawamba Community College standout, is now working as a TV analyst for the Brewers, the organization with which he spent most of his long playing career. The colorful Dillard, who has quite the Twitter following, formally retired from pitching in February, ending a career that began in 2003 and concluded with a stint with the independent Milwaukee Milkmen in 2020. A Saltillo High alum – and son of former big leaguer and Ole Miss alum Steve Dillard – Dillard appeared in over 500 minor league games and 73 MLB contests, the last with the Brewers in 2012. In 2019, at age 35, he went 9-9 with a 4.75 ERA at Triple-A Nashville in Milwaukee’s system. He signed a minor league deal with Texas this past off-season but was released in February.

11 Jul

running hot

There’s hot and then there’s whatever the Mississippi Braves are right now. The top team in the Double-A South won its sixth straight game on Saturday night at Trustmark Park. The last five of those wins have come against the league’s second-best team, Pensacola. Saturday night’s win rated an exclamation point. Not only were the Blue Wahoos dismissed by a 6-0 count, Bryce Elder and Daysbel Hernandez combined on a no-hitter. On a night when top-rated prospects Shea Langeliers and Braden Shewmake went 0-for-8, two others stepped up with big hits. Justin Dean, the diminutive, dynamic leadoff batter, belted a two-run homer to dead center field, and Trey Harris, the brawny right fielder, smacked a three-run, opposite-field double. The defense was clean and even produced three double plays. Can they bottle this? Elder, Atlanta’s No. 11 prospect, threw seven innings in his third Double-A start; he is 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA. The talented arms just keep coming in the Braves’ system. The M-Braves, 37-22 and 4 games up in the Double-A South’s South Division, go for seven in a row today against Pensacola. On the bump? Spencer Strider, the No. 20 prospect who has climbed three levels this season. He is 1-1, 3.95 in three starts. P.S. Meanwhile, the season-ending injury to Ronald Acuna might open the door for former M-Braves star Cristian Pache to get another shot in Atlanta. The swift center fielder is batting .252 with three homers and 13 RBIs at Triple-A Gwinnett. Another possibility is Drew Waters, the 2019 Southern League MVP for the M-Braves who is batting .257 with five homers, 18 RBIs and 15 steals for the Stripers. He is slated to play in today’s All-Star Futures Game in Colorado.

19 May

a little history

To a list that includes Hall of Famers Jim Bunning and Jack Morris and future HOFer Justin Verlander, add Spencer Turnbull. The former Madison Central High star threw a no-hitter for Detroit against Seattle on Tuesday night, joining those legends as Tigers pitchers to pull off the feat. As for the list of Mississippi products (native, prep or college alums), well, Turnbull is it. Natives Guy Bush, Claude Passeau, Boo Ferriss, the great old-timers, never threw one. Neither did recent college products Cliff Lee, Jeff Fassero or Pat Rapp. Weir’s Roy Oswalt threw the first inning of a six-man no-hitter in 2013 and Mississippi State alum Jonathan Papelbon worked the last inning of a four-man no-no in 2014. But those fall into a different category. Considering the rate of no-no’s this season – Turnbull’s is the fifth – it wouldn’t be a shock to see Brandon Woodruff or Lance Lynn toss one, but for now, Turnbull stands alone. “I don’t really know how to think of it in a historical perspective,” Turnbull told reporters postgame. “Just for myself, obviously, it’s the greatest achievement in my life so far, or at least my baseball career.” Turnbull threw 117 pitches at the Mariners, allowed two walks and struck out nine. He capped the performance by fanning Mitch Hanigar on three pitches, the last a 95 mph fastball that Haniger swung through. “You’re getting my best three pitches right here,” Turnbull said of his approach against the final batter. Drafted out of Alabama in 2014, Turnbull debuted in the majors in 2018 and is 10-25 with a 4.33 career ERA pitching for bad teams. He is 3-2, 2.88 this season for a 16-26 team. Contending clubs certainly will have noticed. P.S. Tigers catcher Eric Haase became the first rookie to catch a no-hitter since former Delta State star Eli Whiteside caught Jonathan Sanchez’s no-no for San Francisco in 2009. … Mitch Moreland, the ex-State standout from Amory, has gone on the injured list for Oakland with a rib injury. He is hitting .237 with four homers.

20 Aug

just stuff

St. Louis right-hander Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star, told reporters after Monday’s game that he wasn’t surprised when he was pulled in the seventh inning with a lead because he knew his pitch count was running high. The surprise, Hudson said, came when he got into the Cardinals’ clubhouse and learned that he had not allowed a hit to the Milwaukee Brewers. Alas, the no-hitter was broken up in the eighth, but St. Louis won 3-0 to take sole possession of first place in the National League Central. The hyper-focused Hudson went 6 2/3, walking four and fanning seven, to improve to 12-3, 3.63 ERA. He had thrown 111 pitches when he departed. “He had more than done his job,” manager Mike Shildt told mlb.com. Hudson’s last no-hitter was in high school in Tennessee. … No Mississippian, native or college alum, has thrown a solo no-no in the big leagues. Roy Oswalt worked the first inning of a six-man no-hitter for Houston in 2003, and Jonathan Papelbon finished off a four-man no-no for Philadelphia in 2014. … A day after belting two homers in a big win for Washington, Fulton native and Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier went on paternity leave to return home for the birth of his first child. … Curious to see what kind of impact Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton will have with Atlanta. The Braves, who have three outfielders on the injured list, claimed the light-hitting but fast-running center fielder on waivers Monday. His likely roles are pinch runner and late-inning defensive replacement. Hamilton has 295 career MLB steals, most ever by a Mississippian, and swiped an all-time pro record 155 in the minors in 2012. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Travis Demeritte, traded to Detroit in the Shane Greene deal, has quietly gotten off to a nice start: .292, two homers, 10 runs, three doubles, two triples and three steals in 18 games for the Tigers. He is one of eight M-Braves products to debut in the majors in 2019. … DeSoto Central High’s Blaze Jordan is ranked the No. 11 high school prospect for the 2020 draft by mlb.com’s Jim Callis. An MSU commit, Jordan hit .440 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs in 37 games for the MHSAA Class 6A state champs last season.

05 Oct

nothing doing

There were seven no-hitters – two by Max Scherzer — in the big leagues this season, running to 294 the total number of official no-hitters since 1876. You won’t find Mississippi legends Guy Bush, Claude Passeau or Boo Ferriss on that list. Atley Donald, Joe Gibbon and Oil Can Boyd aren’t on there, either. In fact, no Mississippian (native or college alum) has thrown a complete game no-hitter in the majors. However, five players with Magnolia State connections have been involved in no-no’s. Vern Bickford, who pitched for the original Jackson Senators in the ’40s when they were a Boston Braves farm club, threw a no-hitter for Boston against Brooklyn on Aug. 11, 1950. On Sept. 25, 1986, former Jackson Mets pitcher Mike Scott tossed a no-no for Houston against San Francisco. On June 11, 2003, in one of the strangest no-hitters, Weir’s Roy Oswalt and ex-Jackson Generals star Billy Wagner pitched the first and last inning, respectively, of a six-man gem thrown by the Astros against the New York Yankees. And on Sept. 1 of last year, Mississippi State product Jonathan Papelbon got the last three outs for Philadelphia in a four-man no-hitter vs. Atlanta.