31 Mar

opening acts

One of the most disappointing MLB teams in 2022, the Chicago White Sox needed to get off to a good start this season. With the aid of Mississippi products Tim Anderson and Kendall Graveman, they did exactly that on Thursday, beating the world champion Houston Astros 3-2. Anderson, former East Central Community College star, went 2-for-4 with a walk and a run — both in a ninth-inning rally — and Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman earned the win after throwing a scoreless eighth inning. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, like Anderson and Graveman a star in the WBC, gets the start for the ChiSox today at Minute Maid Park. Elsewhere on Opening Day, MSU alum Adam Frazier, in his Baltimore debut, went 2-for-4 with three runs and a stolen base as the Orioles beat Boston 10-9. Ex-Bulldogs standout Nathaniel Lowe had a hit, an RBI and a run, all in a nine-run fourth inning that propelled Texas past Philadelphia 11-7. Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, went 0-for-2 with three walks and an RBI in Atlanta’s 7-2 victory against Washington. Meridian CC product Corey Dickerson was 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter in his Nationals debut. Hunter Renfroe was 0-for-4 (with a nice catch in right field) for the Los Angeles Angels and fellow former State standout Brent Rooker 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter for Oakland in the A’s 2-1 surprising win. P.S. The exhibition game between the Double-A Mississippi Braves and Jackson State scheduled for April 5 has been cancelled, reportedly due to concerns about field conditions at Trustmark Park in Pearl. (Tuesday night’s Southern Miss-Ole Miss game was cancelled in the fourth inning because recently installed infield sod was not holding up, and Belhaven University’s weekend series against Covenant College has been moved to Holmes Community College’s field in Goodman.) The M-Braves-JSU game — billed as the Hank Aaron Tribute Game by the Hank Aaron Sports Academy — was originally slated for Smith-Wills Stadium, home of the Double-A Jackson Mets and Generals from 1975-99. It would have been the first such contest between JSU and a Jackson-area pro team since 1991, when the Generals — a Houston affiliate — beat Jackson State 6-3 in an April exhibition at Smith-Wills. The M-Braves, Atlanta’s Double-A club now in its 19th year at Trustmark Park, open their Southern League season April 7 at home against Biloxi. The Shuckers, Milwaukee’s Double-A club, have slated an exhibition vs. Pearl River Community College on April 5 at MGM Park.

28 Dec

not to be forgotten

You could put together a fairly impressive list of star-quality seasons by Mississippi natives in the major leagues. Fred Valentine’s 1966 campaign belongs on that list. The Clarksdale native, who died on Monday at the age of 87, batted .276 with 16 homers, 29 doubles, seven triples, 59 RBIs and 22 stolen bases for the Washington Senators that year, after which he got MVP votes. On July 29, 1966, the switch-hitting outfielder enjoyed what might have been his greatest day in The Show. He banged out seven hits, drove in four runs and scored four more in a doubleheader sweep against Boston at D.C. Stadium. Valentine, nicknamed “Squeaky,” went to high school in Memphis and was a two-sport star at Tennessee State before signing with the Baltimore Orioles in 1956. He debuted in the big leagues in 1959, with the Orioles, and spent parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished with a .247 career average, 36 homers and 47 steals in 533 games.

15 Dec

veteran presence

The Baltimore Orioles, a young team seemingly on the rise in the rugged American League East, have added a versatile veteran to their roster for 2023, signing former Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier. Frazier, 31 and a seven-year big leaguer, reportedly has agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract as a free agent. A left-handed hitter, he batted .238 with three homers, 42 RBIs and 11 steals in a down year with Seattle in 2022. While primarily working at second base, he played five different positions and may be headed for a utility role with his new club. The O’s currently list Ramon Urias as their starting second baseman. Frazier, 5 feet 10, 181 pounds, is a .273 career hitter who has popped as many as 10 homers in a season. He was an All-Star with Pittsburgh in 2021. Baltimore went 83-79 in 2022 — a huge turnaround from the year before — and finished fourth in the AL East behind three playoff teams. P.S. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn has pledged to play for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic next March. The veteran right-hander, 35, went 8-7 for the Chicago White Sox in 2022. Teammate Tim Anderson, an East Central Community College alum, also is expected to play for the U.S. … Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez and ex-Southern Miss pitcher Hurston Waldrep, now at Florida, are ranked Nos. 5 and 10, respectively, on MLB Pipeline’s new list of the Top 100 MLB draft prospects for 2023. Magnolia Heights shortstop Cooper Pratt is No. 31, USM pitcher Tanner Hall, the 2022 Ferriss Trophy winner, is No. 89 and Oxford High catcher Campbell Smithwick No. 92.

17 Sep

let the dogs out

Friday was a banner day for ex-Mississippi State stars in the big leagues and the minors. Start in Milwaukee, where Bulldogs alumnus Hunter Renfroe led off the ninth inning with a double and eventually scored the walk-off run in a 7-6 victory against the New York Yankees. (Garrett Mitchell, a rookie who spent most of this season at Double-A Biloxi, got the winning knock for the Brewers, clinging to hope in the National League wild card race.) Move to St. Louis, where Chris Stratton threw three pitches, got one key out and notched the win for the Cardinals, who are closing in on the NL Central title. Stratton got the final out of the seventh inning with two runners on base and St. Louis rallied in the bottom half to go ahead and ultimately beat Cincinnati 6-5. Stratton is 4-0 with a 3.06 ERA since he joined the Cards in August and has a 1.29 in his last seven appearances. At Tampa Bay, Nathaniel Lowe blasted his 25th homer to help also-ran Texas beat the wild card-chasing Rays 4-3. Tampa Bay is third in the American League wild card standings, behind Toronto and Seattle. … Down in the minors: Justin Foscue homered and drove in four runs as Frisco, Texas’ Double-A club, clinched the second-half title in the Texas League South; Jordan Westburg went 5-for-5 with his 17th homer for Triple-A Norfolk (Baltimore), his 26th overall this season; and Brent Rooker smacked his fifth homer for Triple-A Omaha (Kansas City), his 24th all told in the minors this season.

02 Sep

hit parade

Matt Wallner’s power isn’t in question. The key to the ex-Southern Miss star’s long-term success, according to the scouting report by MLB Pipeline, is improving his overall hit tool. Minnesota Twins brass have to be beaming over what they saw on Thursday night, when their No. 5 prospect put on a veritable hitting clinic at Triple-A St. Paul. Wallner hit for the cycle, banging out five hits all told, including his fifth homer for the Saints, and driving in six runs in an 18-6 victory against Omaha. “It felt pretty good,” Wallner told milb.com. “It was the first time I’ve ever been able to do something like that in my life, so it was pretty fun.” The career home run leader at USM, Wallner now has 26 homers this season, not including the jaw-dropping one he blasted in the All-Star Futures Game. The 6-foot-5, lefty-hitting outfielder batted .299 with 21 homers at Double-A Wichita before being promoted to St. Paul on July 14. He is at .245 in 37 games for the Saints. He is still striking out at a high clip — 49 in 139 at-bats — but has 27 walks, boosting his on-base percentage to .379. A Minnesota native, Wallner was the 39th overall pick in 2019 by the Twins, the team he dreamed of playing for as a kid. He is close. … Jordan Westburg, the former Mississippi State star and Baltimore’s No. 5 prospect, homered for the third straight game for Triple-A Norfolk, giving the infielder 14 for the Tides and 23 on the season. Overall, between Double-A and Triple-A, Westburg is batting .253 with 85 RBIs. The 30th overall pick in 2020, he is also close to his MLB debut. P.S. In MLB, it was quite a night for Mississippi Braves alums. Rookie Spencer Strider set a franchise record with 16 strikeouts in a dominating performance during Atlanta’s 3-0 win vs. Colorado; Austin Riley hit his 33rd homer for the Braves, and rookie Michael Harris II hit his 14th. Joey Meneses, up after 10 years in the minors, hit a walk-off homer for Washington to cap a four-hit game and is batting .354 with seven homers in 25 games. In that same game, a 7-5 Nationals win, 2021 M-Braves star Shea Langeliers hit his third homer and drove in three runs for Oakland.

21 Aug

getting up to speed

An injury and subsequent surgery stalled Reed Trimble’s pro career just as it was getting started. After months of rehab, the former Southern Miss star got back in the game in July, and it appears things are starting to hum. Playing at Low-Class A Delmarva in the Baltimore organization, Trimble hit a leadoff home run on Saturday — the first homer of his two-year pro career — and added another hit to boost his average to .260 in 19 games. He has seven RBIs and 11 runs. The Northwest Rankin High product spent two seasons at USM, batting .345 with 17 homers and 12 steals as a switch-hitting center fielder for an excellent team in 2021. The Orioles drafted him 65th overall. In an interview with a Baltimore radio station shortly after he was drafted, Trimble said this about his affinity for baseball: “So I think it’s the simplicity of it, the purity of it and the ups and downs that come along with it that I love so much.” He experienced some downs right out of the chute, batting just .200 in 22 games across two levels last summer. Then in December, he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The recovery time was reported as 6-9 months. He made it back on July 14, playing the first of two games in the rookie Florida Complex League before moving up to Delmarva on July 22. Trimble takes a seven-game hit streak into the Shorebirds’ game at Salem today. He is hitting .273 this month. He has yet to show much power (five extra base hits) or speed (no steals), though that’s understandable in light of his recovery timeline. Trimble fell out of Baltimore’s latest Top 30 prospect chart after trade and draft acquisitions were filtered in, but he’ll no doubt climb back in soon. P.S. Kudos to former Jackson Mets infielder Ron Gardenhire, who was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame on Saturday. In 13 years as the Twins’ manager, Gardenhire won more than 1,000 games and six American League Central titles.

05 Aug

eye on …

Justin Foscue looks ready to take the next step on the minor league ladder. The ex-Mississippi State standout rapped two doubles and a homer and drove in three runs for Double-A Frisco on Thursday night. With 10 hits, including three home runs, in his last 12 games, the 23-year-old infielder is batting .281 with seven homers and 48 RBIs in his first full Double-A campaign. He is rated Texas’ No. 4 prospect in the new MLB Pipeline rankings. He has played mostly second base this season but also has seen some time at third. Foscue was drafted 14th overall in the 2020 draft that followed the pandemic-shortened college season; only two Bulldogs position players have been picked higher: Will Clark (No. 2 in 1985) and Hunter Renfroe (No. 13, 2013). Foscue is batting .279 overall with 24 bombs in his two pro seasons. It’ll be interesting to see who gets to the big leagues first, Foscue or his former State keystone mate Jordan Westburg, Baltimore’s No. 5 prospect now in Triple-A. P.S. Brent Rooker, traded from San Diego to Kansas City, hit his first home run for Triple-A Omaha on Thursday. The former State star has 20 homers on the season. … MSU product and veteran big leaguer Jonathan Holder has been assigned to Triple-A Iowa in the Chicago Cubs’ system after a brief rehab assignment in rookie ball. He has been on the injured list all season.

15 Jul

going places

Promoted to Triple-A St. Paul by Minnesota, Matt Wallner went 0-for-4 in his debut with the Saints on Thursday. On Saturday, the former Southern Miss slugger will be in Los Angeles, where he is slated to play in the All-Star Futures Game at Dodger Stadium with other top prospects. In his last game at Double-A Wichita on Wednesday, Wallner, the Twins’ No. 8-rated prospect, put up a 4-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs. For the year at Wichita, he hit .299 with 21 homers, 64 RBIs and eight steals. The 6-foot-5, lefty-hitting outfielder leads all Twins players in homers in 2022 while also improving his plate discipline. In 278 at-bats in his first Double-A season, he had 107 strikeouts, 62 walks and a .436 on-base percentage. “Just trying to take my walks when I can and just try to be more selective on pitches to drive the ball more and hit for more power,” Wallner told mlb.com. “I think it’s helped the average, as well.” Wallner joins an impressive list of Mississippi products who have participated in the Futures Game, including Billy Hamilton, Hunter Renfroe, Nathaniel Lowe, Dakota Hudson and Ethan Small. P.S. USM product Kirk McCarty has been reclaimed by Cleveland off waivers from Baltimore, which claimed the rookie left-hander off waivers from the Guardians last week. McCarty is 0-2, 9.00 ERA, in three MLB games with Cleveland, which assigned him to Triple-A Columbus, where he has spent most of this season. … In keeping with the USM theme, former Golden Eagles star Reed Trimble, on the injured list (shoulder surgery) all season, was assigned to Baltimore’s Florida Complex League club, going 0-for-3 in his Thursday debut. Trimble was a second-round supplemental draft pick (65th overall) in 2021 and batted .200 with eight RBIs and 14 runs in 22 games in the low minors.

14 Jul

twin streaks

Seattle stretched its win streak to 10 games on Wednesday with some major contributions from Mississippi State product Adam Frazier. Meanwhile, former George County High star Justin Steele, the Chicago Cubs’ starter on Wednesday, failed in his effort to halt Baltimore’s win streak, which also went to 10 games. In the opener of a doubleheader at Washington, Frazier went 2-for-4 with a home run and threw out a runner at the plate from right field in the Mariners’ 6-4 victory. In Game 2, Frazier went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base and had a hand in two double plays at second base in a 2-1 win. An All-Star in 2021, Frazier has not had a good first season with Seattle (.229, three homers, 23 RBIs) but is showing signs of heating up (.346 in his last seven games). At Wrigley Field, Steele, just off the paternity list, gave up three runs on four hits in the first inning and wound up allowing four runs all told in six innings against the Orioles. It was a bad omen when the first batter of the game, Cedric Mullins, lined a single off Steele’s left hip. The loss in the 7-1 game dropped Steele to 3-6, 4.15 ERA, on the year. He was 2-0 with a sub-3.00 ERA over his previous six starts before running into the suddenly red-hot O’s. P.S. Interesting stat: Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton does not have a hit or a walk in nine games for Miami but has scored six times and swiped three bags. He scored twice in the Marlins’ 5-4 comeback win against Pittsburgh. … Ex-MSU star Brent Rooker returned to Triple-A El Paso on Wednesday and promptly hit homers No. 15 and 16. He was 0-for-7 in his brief stay with San Diego. … Atlanta prospect Vaughn Grissom hit his first Double-A homer on Wednesday at Pearl’s Trustmark Park and is 6-for-10 in two games with the Mississippi Braves.

06 Jul

names in the news

Former Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty has been claimed off waivers by Baltimore, added to the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Left-hander McCarty was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three appearances as a rookie with Cleveland this season. … USM product Nick Sandlin was recalled from Triple-A by Cleveland on Tuesday and gave up a couple of runs in a loss to Detroit. He was sent down in late June despite a 2.98 ERA through his first 19 games. … Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson has begun rehab assignment 2.0 at Triple-A Memphis in the St. Louis system. Dickerson’s first rehab was shut down after two games. He went on the injured list June 5 with a calf injury, batting .194 for the Cardinals at the time. … Former Mississippi State teammates Justin Foscue and Jordan Westburg, both 2020 draftees, are ranked in MLB Pipeline’s new Top 100 minor league prospects list. Foscue, now in Texas’ system, is No. 63, Westburg (Baltimore) No. 96. Foscue is in Double-A; Westburg already has reached Triple-A. … Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, Rebels pitcher Hunter Elliott and Southern Miss pitchers Tanner Hall and Hurston Waldrep made the cut for the Collegiate National Team. Team USA, managed by UM coach Mike Bianco, is playing in the Honkbalweek Haarlem tournament in The Netherlands, opening against Japan on Saturday. (Waldrep has put his name in the transfer portal at USM.)