24 Mar

take cover

Those weren’t UFOs — or UAPs, if you prefer — flying around Dub Herring Park in Poplarville on Saturday. Those were baseballs, and 11 of them went out of the yard for home runs as No. 5 Pearl River Community College battered Itawamba CC 13-3 and 18-1. Nine different players homered for the Wildcats (30-5, 10-0 MACCC), with Hollis Porter — the Mississippi State transfer from Hurley — going deep twice to push his national-best total to 14. Alex Wade also hit two bombs. “I was really proud of our guys. They swung it really well,” PRCC coach Michael Avalon said in a school release. The Wildcats had 26 hits all told in the 15 innings of play. Not to be overlooked are the dominant efforts of winning pitchers Caleb Dyess and J.T. Schooner. … Meanwhile on Saturday, East Central CC, the No. 1 team in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, saw its 31-game win streak snapped by Northwest, which beat the Warriors 8-7 in Game 2 of a twinbill in Decatur. ECCC is 31-1, 7-1 in the league. The unranked Rangers are 21-8, 7-1. Tenth-ranked Jones swept Coahoma to move to 27-5 and 9-1.

13 Aug

three-pronged success

One by one, three Magnolia State products took the mound on Saturday and delivered the kind of performance playoff-chasing teams need this time of year in the big leagues. “Bring in the sheets,” as Oppenheimer might say. Former George County High star Justin Steele and Mississippi State alums Brandon Woodruff and J.P. France steered their teams to meaningful wins. Steele, a 2023 All-Star and a Cy Young contender in the National League, toughed out five innings for the Chicago Cubs at Toronto, yielding six hits and three runs. The left-hander left with a lead, which the bullpen squandered, but watched the Cubs rally to win 5-4. He is 13-3 with a 2.79 ERA, tied for the NL lead in wins and second in ERA. “(T)he year he’s had has been insane,” teammate Julian Merryweather told mlb.com. The Cubs, on a 19-6 roll, stayed within 2.5 games of NL Central leader Milwaukee, which beat the White Sox 3-2 behind Woodruff. The big right-hander from Wheeler worked 6 1/3 innings in his second start after four months on the injured list. He allowed four hits, a walk and two runs. In four outings this year, the two-time All-Star is 2-1 with a 1.99. “He’s in a really good place after two starts (off the IL),” manager Craig Counsell said in an mlb.com piece. In Houston, France continued his remarkable season, which might garner some rookie of the year consideration. He went seven innings in an 11-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels. He has won five straight — one in relief — and stands 9-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 17 games. He leads American League rookies in wins and would be second in the league in ERA if he had enough innings to qualify. “(J)ust trying to pitch my game,” the bespectacled righty told mlb.com. The Astros’ win kept them 2.5 games back of AL West leader Texas, which never seems to lose. (Ex-State star Chris Stratton pitched three scoreless innings in the Rangers’ 9-3 win vs. San Francisco on Saturday, his fifth scoreless appearance since being acquired at the trade deadline.) P.S. Tanner Allen, the 2021 SEC player of the year and Ferriss Trophy winner at MSU, was promoted to Double-A Pensacola in the Miami organization. He did not play Saturday. … Northwest Mississippi Community College product Dalton Fowler made his pro debut in the Florida Complex League, throwing an inning (two runs) for Tampa Bay’s rookie team. Fowler, a Southaven native, was a ninth-round pick by the Rays out of Memphis, where he was the American Athletic Conference’s pitcher of the year in 2023. … Fowler’s Memphis teammate Dalton Kendrick, an Hernando High alum and the AAC’s saves leader last season, was drafted in the 18th round by the Angels but has yet to appear in a game.

27 Aug

whatever happened to …

Cody Reed, the ex-Northwest Mississippi Community College star from Horn Lake, is toiling in Double-A as he tries to make his way back to the big leagues with Tampa Bay. The 29-year-old left-hander, now in his 10th pro season, has a 3.00 ERA in four games for Montgomery, having struck out seven and walked one in six innings. Reed was an effective reliever for the Rays in 2021 with a 3.72 ERA and three holds in 12 appearances before an injury (and surgery) halted his season in late May. He made a handful of rehab appearances in the minors, became a free agent after the season, re-signed with the Rays and then got hurt again in the spring. He finally returned to duty in mid-July and has pitched in 10 games all told. Reed isn’t on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster, but experienced lefties are always in demand, so it would not be a surprise to see him back in The Show in September for the playoff-hunting Rays. P.S. On the topic of lefties and comebacks, Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz, on San Diego’s injured list all season, has a 7.71 ERA in five rehab games spread over three levels. He is currently at Triple-A El Paso. When healthy and in form, Pomeranz, 33 and in his 13th pro season, can certainly help the Padres in their playoff push. He had a 1.75 ERA for San Diego in 2021 and a 1.45 in 2020 with a combined 22 holds and four saves.

16 Mar

under the radar

Cody Reed, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout, has re-signed with Tampa Bay on a minor league deal and received an invitation to the Rays’ major league camp. Reed, 28, a left-hander who first arrived in the majors with Cincinnati in 2016, pitched in 12 games (3.72 ERA) in relief for Tampa Bay last season before being shut down by an arm injury that required surgery. He was dropped from the 40-man roster at season’s end. The Horn Lake product has a 5.22 career ERA in 65 games, most as a reliever. … Other non-roster players with Mississippi ties who have been invited to big league camps include Jonathan Holder (Mississippi State) with the Chicago Cubs, JaCoby Jones (Richton) with Kansas City, Jacob Robson (State) with Detroit, Bobby Wahl (Ole Miss) with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ethan Small (State) with Milwaukee, Grae Kessinger (UM) and J.P. France (State) with Houston and Kirk McCarty (Southern Miss) with Cleveland. More invite announcements are forthcoming as spring training games begin on Thursday. P.S. Former Ole Miss ace Gunnar Hoglund is one of the four young players traded by Toronto to Oakland in the Matt Chapman deal. Hoglund, recovering from Tommy John surgery last spring, was a first-round pick by the Blue Jays last summer. His pro debut could come later this season. Hoglund joins MSU product J.T. Ginn as a newcomer in the suddenly rebuilding A’s system.

21 Sep

go figure

A panel of “MLB experts” overlooked Austin Riley in a recent mlb.com poll regarding top MVP candidates; he didn’t get a single vote. Those who follow the Atlanta Braves closely are scratching their heads. Former DeSoto Central High star Riley has been a major player in the Braves’ drive to the top of the National League East this summer, and he was at it again on Monday night. The Braves’ slumbering offense finally broke out in an 11-4 win at Arizona. Riley, the cleanup batter, contributed three doubles and three RBIs. For the year, the 24-year-old third baseman is batting .300 with 30 doubles, 29 homers, 92 RBIs and 81 runs. Since the All-Star break, he has batted .333 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs. He has been outstanding on defense, as well. It hurts Riley’s MVP case that he plays on a team that also features, among others, Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Adam Duvall, who’ve had many shining moments. The Braves have potentially crucial series looming against San Diego (Sept. 24-26) and Philadelphia (Sept. 28-30). Might be an opportunity for Riley to win over some voters. P.S. Tonight in Milwaukee, Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff (9-9, 2.55 ERA) gets his shot at stopping surging St. Louis, which has won nine straight to jump to second in the wild card race. … Ex-Ole Miss star Chris Ellis, who has found new life as a starter for Baltimore, won’t get a shot at the Phillies tonight because of arm fatigue. Ellis has been pushed back in the rotation because of a tired arm. He has a 2.82 ERA in five starts for the O’s. … Tampa Bay, running away with the American League East, sent Cody Reed to Triple-A Durham for a rehab appearance on Sunday, and the ex-Northwest Mississippi Community College star threw a scoreless inning. The left-hander might be due for a return to the big leagues.

17 Sep

time to shine

At just the right time it would appear, Adam Frazier is heating up. The former Mississippi State star went 7-for-10 with three runs and two RBIs in San Diego’s last two games, big wins over San Francisco, the best team in the National League. The Padres, a half-game back of St. Louis in the battle for the second wild card, begin a three-game series with the Cardinals tonight at Busch Stadium. Frazier, who hit .324 as an All-Star with Pittsburgh to begin this season, started slowly with the Padres and even faded from regular playing time. In 42 games with the Padres, the lefty-hitting second baseman is batting .264 — but over his last 15, he’s at .349. Typically a leadoff batter in Pittsburgh, Frazier hit cleanup for the Padres on Thursday against Giants ace Kevin Gausman. He singled his first time up in the second inning and scored the game’s first run. He finished 3-for-5 with two runs as San Diego beat Gausman (14-6) and the Giants 7-4. The Padres are showing signs of life after a prolonged funk; they’ll meet a Cardinals team that has won five straight. … MSU product Dakota Hudson, coming back from Tommy John surgery, has an 0.66 ERA in four rehab appearances in the minors. He might be ready to help out in St. Louis’ bullpen. P.S. Cody Reed, the Northwest Mississippi Community College alum from Horn Lake, threw a scoreless inning Thursday in a rehab appearance for Tampa Bay’s Florida Complex League team. Reed, a lefty reliever, has been on the injured list since May and recently had shoulder surgery. There is speculation the Rays, top team in the American League, might activate Reed soon. He had a 3.72 ERA in 12 games before he went on the IL.

21 Apr

comings and goings

Brent Rooker came off the injured list on Tuesday and started both games of Minnesota’s twinbill at Oakland. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable day for the ex-Mississippi State star. He went 0-for-6 and watched two homers by former Bulldogs standout Mitch Moreland sail over his head in right field as the Twins dropped both games to the streaking A’s. … Madison Central High product Spencer Turnbull, back from a bout with COVID-19, is slated for his 2021 debut today in Game 2 of Detroit’s doubleheader against Pittsburgh. (Snow is in the forecast.) Turnbull, 4-4 with a 3.97 ERA last season, made one tuneup start at the Tigers’ alternate site. His goal today? “Do what I expect of myself, pitch at the highest level I can and don’t worry too much about results,” Turnbull told the media on Tuesday. “Just go out there, compete and have fun.” … George County High alum Justin Steele has been sent to the Chicago Cubs’ alternate camp. The left-hander pitched well – no runs allowed in three appearances – in his first big league look. … Cody Reed, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout, went on the injured list for Tampa Bay on Tuesday. He joins Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn (White Sox), Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (White Sox), Petal’s Demarcus Evans (Texas), State alum Jonathan Holder (Cubs), State alum Dakota Hudson (St. Louis) and UM product Bobby Wahl (Milwaukee) as Mississippians on the IL. Hudson presumably is out for year after Tommy John surgery.

02 Apr

arlington legacy

Nate Lowe became, on Thursday, the latest in a long line of former Mississippi State sluggers to suit up for the Texas Rangers. Acquired in an off-season trade with Tampa Bay, the lefty-hitting first baseman/DH went 2-for-6 and drove in four runs in his Texas debut. Ex-Bulldogs Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark, Jon Shave and Mitch Moreland also played in Texas. The Rangers-Mississippi connection goes way back — to the club’s second year in the Lone Star State. Donny Castle was the eighth overall pick in the 1968 MLB draft, taken out of Coldwater High by the Washington Senators, who moved to Arlington, Texas, in 1972. Castle, perhaps best known from his time as the coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College, was a Kokomo, Ind., native who grew up in Coldwater. He played pro ball for 11 years, getting a cup of coffee (four games) with the Rangers in 1973. A lefty-hitting first baseman/DH, Castle hit .268 with 115 homers in the minors. He coached at NWCC from 1998-2005, winning 271 games and a state title. P.S. The first hit by a Mississippian in 2021 was delivered by JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High who stroked an RBI double in his first at-bat for Detroit. The first win by a Mississippian went to Ole Miss alumnus Mike Mayers, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Los Angeles Angels, who beat the Chicago White Sox. … A couple of former Mississippi State stars are closing in on significant milestones in their MLB careers. Hunter Renfroe, whose Boston debut was delayed by rain, needs three homers to reach 100. Moreland, who went 0-for-2 in his Oakland debut, needs 32 hits to reach 1,000.

22 Mar

up in arms

Cody Reed, who was on the injured list during Tampa Bay’s run to the World Series last fall, is back on the bump this spring and looking sharp. The Northwest Mississippi Community College product from Horn Lake has retired all 12 batters faced over four appearances. “He looks totally healthy. He’s landing the breaking ball in the zone,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told mlb.com. Reed made only two appearances for the Rays after they acquired him from Cincinnati just before the trade deadline last year. The left-hander went on the IL with a finger injury. Reed was up and down from Triple-A to the Reds during his time (2015-20) in their system while also shuffling between starting and relieving. His career ERA is 5.33, but he’s better than that stat might suggest. He appears to be a lock for a spot in Tampa Bay’s bullpen. P.S. Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull is on Detroit’s injured list and away from the team in accordance with COVID-19 protocols. Turnbull, 4-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 2020, was a candidate to be the Tigers’ opening day starter, but the Detroit Free Press reports that he may not be cleared by the beginning of the season on April 1. “It’s getting more and more unlikely that he’s going to be able to do much between now and then, as of right now,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’ll see as we get toward the end of camp, if he’s available or not.” … Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz has been shut down by San Diego due to “left forearm tightness.” The left-handed reliever, who posted a 1.45 ERA in 20 appearances last season, is expected to return to action soon. … Justin Steele, the former George County standout, was optioned to the minors by the Chicago Cubs; the left-hander was briefly on the Cubs’ active roster last season but has not yet made his big league debut. … Arizona released Bradley Roney, the ex-Southern Miss star who had signed as a minor league free agent in the off-season.

03 Feb

launch party

Fourth-ranked Northwest Mississippi Community College takes on 2-0 East Mississippi today as conference play begins for the Mississippi junior colleges. Fourteen of the 15 schools are slated to meet in doubleheaders. Northwest, the highest ranked of five state jucos in the NJCAA Division II poll, is 2-0 after pounding Coahoma in a twinbill last Friday. Kelton Hall went 5-for-6 with a homer in the two games, and Peyton Puckett, a Mississippi State transfer, had a five-RBI game. The Rangers were 14-1 – best start in program history – in 2020 when the season was halted. East beat Itawamba and Northeast in a round-robin event in Booneville last weekend. Blayze Berry, another State transfer, had a big debut for the Lions, going 3-for-4 with a homer and getting the win in relief vs. ICC. No. 7 Pearl River hosts East Central today, No. 11 Northeast (1-1) is at Holmes (1-1) and 12th-ranked Jones welcomes Meridian. Hinds, No. 9 in the NJCAA poll, will open its season Saturday at Southwest.