20 May

honor society

Dakota Jordan, who has had a bunch of good days swinging the bat for Mississippi State this season, had a good day Monday without ever touching one. The former Jackson Academy star from Canton won the state’s Ferriss Trophy, was named one of the 25 semifinalists for the national Golden Spikes Award and also earned second-team All-SEC recognition. Jordan is batting .363 with 17 home runs, 63 RBIs and 51 runs through 55 games for the nationally ranked Bulldogs, who play Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament at Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday night. … MSU shortstop David Mershon and pitcher Khal Stephen made first-team All-SEC, and Ole Miss outfielder Andrew Fischer was a second-team pick. … Former Madison Central High standout Braden Montgomery, now at Texas A&M, was named first-team All-SEC and also a Golden Spikes semifinalist. … Southern Miss pitcher Billy Oldham and DH Slade Wilks earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors, and pitcher Nikko Mazza, shortstop Ozzie Pratt and outfielder Dalton McIntyre — a Ferriss finalist — were pegged on the second team. Banks Tolley, an Ole Miss transfer from Madison, was named the Sun Belt’s newcomer of the year and ex-Pearl River Community College star Luke Lyon, now at Troy, was a second-team All-SBC pick. … Pearl River CC’s Michael Avalon was named the MACCC coach of the year and the Wildcats’ Hollis Porter, an MSU transfer, earned player of the year honors. PRCC won the regular season title in the conference. … In the MHSAA State Championships that begin Tuesday at Pearl’s Trustmark Park, two of the seven classification Mr. Baseball winners will take part: Ty Long of Class 4A Ripley and Landon Harmon of 2A East Union. Long is a USM signee, Harmon an MSU commit. Tupelo’s Lake Reed was the 7A winner, West Jones’ Camden Clark in 6A, South Jones’ Cole Richardson in 5A, Mooreville’s Mason McMillin in 3A and Pine Grove’s Gehrig Shinall in 1A.

20 May

trophy time

The Ferriss Trophy has been around since 2004, and it’s become kind of a big deal to be named the best college player in a state where baseball is quite a big deal. The list of winners is impressive. Nine of them are still active in the pro game, four of them currently playing in the big leagues, two of them owning World Series rings. The 2024 award — honoring former Delta State coach Boo Ferriss and presented by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum — will be given out today at a ceremony at the Pearl River Resort in Philadelphia. The finalists are Brett Sanchez (Belhaven), Dakota Jordan (Mississippi State), Ethan Lege (Ole Miss), Dalton McIntyre (Southern Miss) and R.J. Stinson (William Carey). The oldest active winner is Drew Pomeranz, the 2010 recipient from Ole Miss. Currently pitching in Triple-A with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the big left-hander was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft and has made 289 MLB appearances, winning a World Series with Boston in 2018. Nick Sandlin (Cleveland), Brent Rooker (Oakland), Hunter Renfroe (Kansas City) and Chris Stratton (KC) are in The Show. Stratton won a ring with Texas last year; Rooker was an All-Star in 2023; Renfroe has 180 career home runs; and Sandlin has a career ERA of 2.99 over four seasons. Two-time Ferriss winner Jake Mangum, the former MSU star, probably should have been in the big leagues by now; he is batting .329 in Triple-A for Tampa Bay and has a .290 career average. Last year’s winner, Kemp Alderman of Ole Miss, a second-round draft pick last July, is currently on the injured list in A-ball in Miami’s system. Tanner Hall, the 2022 winner from USM, has spent most of this season on the shelf, having made just three appearances in Minnesota’s system. Tanner Allen, the 2021 winner at MSU, is in Double-A in Miami’s chain and batting .250 as a regular outfielder. Among the 2024 finalists, Jordan is the highest rated MLB draft prospect, checking in at No. 24 on the latest mlb.com list. Each of the five is well-credentialed.

18 May

out of the blue

Former Ole Miss catcher Nick Fortes hangs his hat on his work behind home plate. A game like he had at the plate on Friday night for the Miami Marlins was an unexpected but welcome bonus. Fortes went 3-for-3 with a walk, a home run and three RBIs as the Marlins routed the New York Mets 8-0 at loanDepot Park. The fourth-year big leaguer, who shares catching duties with Christian Bethancourt, entered the game with just 10 hits and one homer all season. Miami, the worst team in the National League at 14-32, has won three in a row, all by shutout, all with Fortes behind the plate. “Definitely most proud of the shutouts,” he told mlb.com. “(It’s) the No. 1 priority of my job.” Fortes was a .319 hitter — and a Johnny Bench Award semifinalist — at Ole Miss in 2018, when Miami drafted him in the fourth round. He reached the big leagues in 2021, singled in his first at-bat and homered in his second. He has hit just .212 since, but his defense has kept him in The Show. … Colt Keith’s first trip as a big leaguer to his old stomping grounds seemed to do something to perk up his bat. The former Biloxi High star, who lived in Arizona for several years as a kid, went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs as Detroit whipped Arizona 13-0 at Chase Field. A large group of family and friends reportedly were there to see it. Keith, who signed a huge contract in the off-season before playing a single MLB game, entered Friday’s contest batting .171 with just 20 hits but playing regularly at second base. The Mississippi Gatorade player of the year in 2019, Keith was drafted in the fifth round by the Tigers in 2020. He hit .306 with 27 homers as one of their top prospects in 2023. … Ian Mejia is not among the highly rated pitching prospects on the Mississippi Braves’ staff, but the right-hander is certainly gaining his share of attention. He threw the fifth no-hitter in Trustmark Park history on Friday night, beating Biloxi 2-0 in a seven-inning nightcap to a doubleheader. Mejia, 24, was drafted out of New Mexico State in 2022 and is in his first Double-A campaign. After Friday’s gem, which included 11 strikeouts, he is 4-0 with 1.69 ERA and 54 punchouts, leading the Southern League in the latter two categories. His no-no was the first solo job for the M-Braves since Tommy Hanson’s in 2008.

12 May

in other news …

It wasn’t the debut everyone was talking about on Saturday, but it was significant just the same. J.T. Ginn, the former Mississippi State standout from Brandon, struck out 10 batters and allowed one run in six innings in his first start for Triple-A Las Vegas in the Oakland system. The 24-year-old right-hander, in his fourth pro season, threw 99 pitches, allowed just four hits and two walks and finished his outing with a punchout. The lone run scored with two outs in the sixth, when former Mississippi College star Blaine Crim delivered an RBI knock for Round Rock, which went on to win the game 4-3. Ginn was 4-1 with a 4.15 ERA in six Double-A starts this season. Drafted by the New York Mets in the second round in 2020 (and later traded to Oakland), Ginn has been limited by injuries to 45 pro games. It appears he has regained the form that made him such a prized amateur prospect. (BTW: Ginn’s alma mater, Brandon High, knocked out Northwest Rankin on Saturday and advanced to the MHSAA Class 7A championship series.) P.S. Kudos to the state’s Big 4 Division I schools: Southern Miss walloped Arkansas State 19-3 as Slade Wilks hit two big homers; Mississippi State whipped third-ranked Arkansas (and ex-Lewisburg High star Brady Tygart) 8-5 with Dakota Jordan homering again; Ole Miss crushed No. 2 Texas A&M 10-2 behind the arms of Liam Doyle and Josh Mallitz; and Jackson State knocked off Bethune-Cookman 5-0 as Erick Gonzalez and two relievers combined on a five-hitter. … Belhaven University bowed out of the CCS Tournament in Tennessee with a pair of losses on Saturday. The Blazers, who finished second in the league in the regular season, are 25-17. The NCAA Division III Tournament selections will be made on Monday.

11 May

friday snapshots

Ole Miss upended second-ranked Texas A&M 4-3 in Oxford as Jackson Ross delivered a game-tying double in the eighth inning and scored the go-ahead run on an Ethan Groff sac fly. Wes Mendes and Connor Spencer shut the Aggies out on one hit over the last three innings. … Carson Paetow capped a pivotal three-run eighth with a two-run homer and Billy Oldham threw seven strong innings as Southern Miss beat Arkansas State 5-2 on the road. … Brett Sanchez threw a three-hitter and Belhaven batters, led by Owen Abney and Hunter Harrell, pounded out 14 hits in an 11-2 win over LaGrange (Ga.) in the CCS Tournament. The Blazers get top-seeded Maryville (Ky.) today in a winners bracket game. … On the high school front, Jackson Prep whipped visiting MRA 11-1 to advance to the MAIS 6A finals and, down the road on Lakeland Drive, Brandon beat host Northwest Rankin 6-3 in Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 7A South State series. … In the minors, Ian Mejia tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings with nine strikeouts to pace the Double-A Mississippi Braves to an 8-0 win at Rocket City. Mejia is 3-0 with a 2.02 ERA. … In MLB, ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier’s first homer of the year, a two-run shot in the ninth inning, lifted Kansas City to a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Angels. … Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet worked six shutout innings and fanned a career-high 11 with no walks as the Chicago White Sox beat Cleveland 6-3. … MSU product Jordan Westburg drove in the first run of the game with a double and Baltimore went on to beat Arizona 4-2.

10 May

noteworthy

Belhaven University is sitting pretty in the CCS Tournament. The NCAA Division III Blazers won their opener Thursday and have ace Brett Sanchez primed to go today against LaGrange (Ga.) in a winners bracket game at Maryville, Ky. With Colton Sylvester (7-1) tossing a six-hitter and Eli Britt and Hunter Harrell combining for six RBIs, second-seeded Belhaven whipped Huntingdon (Ala.) 8-1 Thursday. … William Carey University is the No. 2 seed behind Mid-America Christian (Okla.) in the four-team NAIA Opening Round tournament the Crusaders are hosting next week at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Blue Mountain Christian is the fifth seed in the five-team Shreveport Bracket hosted by LSU-Shreveport. The top-seeded Pilots feature several Mississippi juco players, including Hinds Community College alum Vantrel Reed, their top hitter at .393 with eight homers and 58 RBIs. … Jackson State’s Myles White was named the SWAC co-hitter of the week after going 9-for-15 with eight RBIs and four runs in the Tigers’ sweep of Mississippi Valley State last weekend. White, who went 0-for-4 in a 5-0 loss at nationally ranked Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday, is batting .346 with 31 RBIs and 36 runs for the 30-17 Tigers. … MUW’s season ended Tuesday with an upset loss to Westminster (Mo.) in in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament at Fulton, Mo. The Owls finished 22-15. … The New York Yankees have claimed ex-Mississippi State pitcher Colby White on waivers from Tampa Bay. White had a 17.61 ERA in nine appearances at Triple-A Durham; the right-hander, whose career ERA is 2.83, missed all of 2022 and a chunk of 2023 after arm surgery. … MSU product J.P. France, recently demoted to Triple-A by Houston, reportedly has a shoulder injury that may sideline him for a lengthy period. An 11-game winner in 2023, he was 0-3 with a 7.46 this season when the Astros sent him down. … Former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner, sent to the minors after a 2-for-25 start with Minnesota, hit his fifth homer for Triple-A St. Paul on Thursday. The lefty slugger is batting .353 with four homers in May. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Jacob Gonzalez, the first player drafted — 15th overall — out of the state in 2023, went 2-for-4 Thursday to boost his average to .306 for High-Class A Winston-Salem in the Chicago White Sox’s chain. Gonzalez, a shortstop, has three homers, 12 RBIs and five steals.

09 May

ouch

Having a rough week? Can’t be much worse than what the Ole Miss team is enduring. On Sunday, the Rebels squandered a ninth-inning lead and lost 10-9 at Auburn on a walk-off passed ball. On Wednesday, back in Oxford, they squandered a sixth-inning lead — for the first time all season — and lost 12-9 in 15 innings to Murray State. And now the Rebels get a day to recover before Texas A&M, 41-8 and ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation, comes to Swayze Field for a three-game SEC series. The Rebels (25-23) used 10 pitchers against Murray State — a 31-win team — and they combined to allow 12 hits with eight walks and two HBPs in the 5-hour, 40-minute marathon. To their credit, UM relievers hung up zeroes from innings 10-14, but a grand slam — the Racers’ third bomb — spelled doom in the 15th. Ole Miss’ staff ERA is 6.06, and they have allowed double-digit runs in four of their last eight games. A&M’s hitters, who have 113 homers (fourth in the nation), must be licking their chops. Former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery, a Golden Spikes finalist, has 24 of those 113 and is batting .342 with 76 RBIs. P.S. The Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament at Maryville, Tenn., was pushed back a day because of weather. Second-seeded Belhaven plays Huntingdon (Ala.) today in the tourney opener. … The NAIA Tournament field will be announced today. SSAC champion William Carey is hosting an Opening Round (regional) at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. Blue Mountain Christian, SSAC runner-up, has earned an at-large invite.

07 May

what a relief

Emmanuel Clase is the headliner in the vaunted Cleveland Guardians bullpen. Nick Sandlin plays an “Also Starring” role — and plays it very well. The former Southern Miss standout got four outs in the sixth and seventh innings on Monday and picked up the win in a 2-1 victory against Detroit. Sandlin is 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA and a save in 19 appearances for the Guardians, who lead the American League Central with a 23-12 record. Clase (0.49 ERA) pitched the ninth for his 11th save. The side-arming Sandlin stranded a runner in the sixth inning on Monday and has allowed just two of 14 inherited runners to score. He has a 0.62 WHIP. A second-round pick by Cleveland in 2018 after a sensational career at USM, Sandlin has a 2.95 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP over 160 career MLB appearances. At USM, he had 20 saves over his first two seasons, moved into the rotation as a junior and went 10-0 with a 1.06, earning All-America honors and the state’s Ferriss Trophy. He went back to the bullpen in pro ball. … Filling in for regular closer James McArthur, ex-Mississippi State star Chris Stratton weathered a shaky ninth inning to notch his second save in Kansas City’s 3-2 win vs. Milwaukee. The surprising Royals are 21-15, tied for second in the AL Central. Stratton, in his first season with KC, is 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 14 games; five of the nine earned runs he has yielded came in one appearance. McArthur, the Ole Miss alum who has seven saves this season, was down Monday, so Stratton — 14 career saves — got the call in the ninth. Aided by a double play, he got through the Brewers’ 3-6 hitters despite walking two. Stratton was also a Ferriss Trophy winner back in 2012, when he was the SEC’s pitcher of the year (as a starter) and later a first-round pick by San Francisco. … It’s “official” in Philadelphia: Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull will move to the bullpen. In his first season with the Phillies, Turnbull is 2-0 with a 1.67 in six starts. But Philadelphia now has five other healthy starters, making a move necessary. Turnbull, who has started all but one game in his 67 career MLB appearances, reportedly would prefer to remain in the rotation. “He can do a lot of different things, because he gives you length, obviously,” Phils manager Rob Thomson told mlb.com. P.S. MSU product Brent Rooker won the AL player of the week award after batting .438 with three homers — two in one inning — and seven RBIs for Oakland in the week ending May 4. Rooker also won a POW award in 2023.

06 May

names to know

Slade Wilks, Southern Miss: Extended his hitting streak to 21 games on Sunday, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs, to spark USM to a 6-5 curfew-shortened win over Coastal Carolina, completing a sweep of the Sun Belt Conference series.
Jordan McCladdie, Jackson State: Went 5-for-8 with six RBIs and four runs to pace JSU (29-16, 12-11) to a SWAC sweep, 22-3 and 7-4, over Mississippi Valley State. Game 3 is today in Jackson.
Noah Magee, Delta State: Threw four shutout innings in relief as the Statesmen, who scored four times in the first inning, held off top-seeded Lee 5-3 to stay alive in the GSC Tournament at Oxford, Ala. DSU, now 30-21, gets Valdosta State today.
Blaise Priester, Meridian Community College: Banged out four hits, including a homer, and knocked in four runs to propel MCC to a 15-8 win over Copiah-Lincoln CC and into the NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament. (No. 1-ranked East Central and No. 13 Jones face winner-take-all Game 3’s today.)
Andrew Fischer, Ole Miss: Drove in five runs, three on a clutch double in the ninth inning, but couldn’t prevent the Rebels from suffering a brutal 10-9 loss at Auburn. (The Tigers, 4-20 in SEC play, scored the winning run on a wild pitch, a steal and a passed ball.)
Khal Stephen and Jurrangelo Cijntje, Mississippi State: Each notched his seventh win, combining to strike out 14 batters while allowing just four runs over 12 innings, as the Bulldogs took the first two games of their weekend series vs. Alabama. (Alas, State could not complete the sweep, falling 10-5 on Sunday.)

04 May

big time

Any win is big this time of year in college baseball. Each of the state’s Big 3 NCAA Division I schools got one Friday, and big flies played a big role. Ole Miss, which is practically in desperation mode, won at Auburn 11-7 for its 24th win, sparked by home runs from Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters Jackson Ross, Andrew Fischer and Will Furniss. Surging Mississippi State picked up win No. 31, a 13-3 run-rule rout of Alabama in Starkville. The Bulldogs hit four bombs, including a pair by red-hot Hunter Hines, and Khal Stephen notched win No. 7. Southern Miss got win No. 29, getting a homer from Nick Monistere and three run-scoring doubles in a 7-2 victory against Coastal Carolina at Hattiesburg; Billy Oldham earned win No. 6. … In the MACCC playoffs, Hinds Community College pulled off an upset win vs. Northwest Mississippi CC in Game 1 at Senatobia. Braden Richardson, Cameron Hill and Tyler Jonas went deep for the Eagles, the latter hitting a late grand slam in the 9-5 victory. That best-of-3 series continues today, while the other three will begin. The series winners move on to next week’s NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament in Poplarville. … Delta State needs a win today to stay alive in the GSC Tournament at Oxford, Ala. The NCAA D-II Statesmen, seeded third, were upset by No. 6 West Florida, which got to closer Josh Hill for a run in the ninth in a 4-3 win. All-GSC pick Dylan Coleman was 3-for-5 with an RBI for DSU, which plays 7-seed Shorter today.