04 Apr

just stuff

Brock Wilken, Wake Forest’s all-time home run leader and now Milwaukee’s No. 7 prospect, smacked a two-run homer to power the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers to a 7-0 win Wednesday night in an exhibition game against Pearl River Community College at MGM Park. The Shuckers open the Southern League season Friday at home against Montgomery. … Former Shuckers star Jackson Chourio hit his first big league homer for the Brewers in a loss, the team’s first, against Minnesota. The highly touted Chourio is off to a .350 start in his rookie campaign. … The Norfolk Tides, Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate, banged out 29 hits in a 26-11 win against Charlotte in game highlighted by Heston Kjerstad’s 10-RBI effort and Kyle Stowers’ three homers. Ole Miss alum Errol Robinson, a minor league vet in his first year in the Orioles’ system, contributed a little: one hit and two runs. He is batting .316. … Hunter Renfroe, ex-Mississippi State star, got his first hit of 2024 — he is now 1-for-19 — and picked up an assist on a sensational throw from right field, but his Kansas City club lost to Baltimore. … East Central CC alum Tim Anderson went 0-for-2 and ex-Ole Miss standout Nick Fortes 0-for-3 as Miami fell to 0-7 with a 10-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Anderson, a free agent signee, is batting .231 with one RBI, no homers and no steals. Fortes is batting .083. … MSU product Brent Rooker went 0-for-4 in Oakland’s loss to Baltimore and is at .100 on the season for the 1-6 A’s. … Former State standout Justin Foscue, recalled from the minors on Tuesday by Texas, has yet to make his MLB debut. The Rangers are off today, host Houston this weekend.

02 Apr

birds of a feather

On a Baltimore team loaded with youthful talent, Jordan Westburg is fitting right in. The second-year big leaguer out of Mississippi State hit his first walk-off home run on Monday night, giving the Orioles (3-1) a 6-4 victory against Kansas City. “I just love being a part of this clubhouse,” Westburg, 25, said in a postgame TV interview. “It’s just so much fun to play here in Baltimore.” A first-round pick out of Starkville in 2020, Westburg debuted with the Orioles last summer and hit .260 with three homers in 68 games for a playoff-bound club. He hit just 10 homers in three years at State but blasted 60 in the minors in three seasons. He started at second base Monday but has also played third and shortstop, versatility that should serve him well. Westburg was 0-for-3 Monday when he dug in against the Royals’ Nick Anderson in the ninth inning and drove an 0-2 pitch the opposite way and into the right-field seats at Camden Yards. “I’m pretty excited about that one,” the normally even-keeled Westburg said. P.S. Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley hit the first homer of 2024 by a Mississippian in the majors, a three-run bomb earlier Monday in the Braves’ 9-0 win at Chicago’s frigid Guaranteed Rate Field. Riley, who has 135 career homers, has started at third base on opening day for the Braves for five straight seasons. The team had six different starters in an eight-year stretch following the Chipper Jones era. … Ex-MSU standout Justin Foscue might get his first big league opportunity with Texas after Rangers third baseman Josh Jung went down Monday with an injury (fractured wrist). Foscue was a late cut this spring and is now at Triple-A Round Rock. … Former Bulldogs ace Ethan Small is rehabbing an oblique injury and is not currently with San Francisco, which acquired the left-hander in a spring trade with Milwaukee.

29 Mar

tough start

Quite the hard-luck day for the two Mississippi natives who got the nod as starting pitchers on Opening Day in the big leagues. Ocean Springs’ Garrett Crochet pitched brilliantly for the Chicago White Sox in his first career MLB start Thursday but was saddled with the loss when the ChiSox came up empty in a 1-0 defeat against Detroit. Much worse was what happened to Lucedale’s Justin Steele, who was sailing along in the fifth inning for the Cubs when he injured his left hamstring fielding a bunt. He is expected to land on the injured list with what was labeled a strain. “Spirits are high,” Steele told mlb.com postgame. “I’ll have a speedy recovery from this … . ” Steele, a 16-game winner in 2023, yielded three hits, a walk and a run with six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings in a game the Cubs would lose 4-3 at Texas. Crochet, a converted reliever, allowed one run (a sac fly) and five singles with eight strikeouts, including the first batter he faced, over six innings. “He’s got weapons to get people out. So he stood out there like a man today and did his job,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said in an nbcsportschicago.com article. One of the hits yielded by Crochet was an infield knock by Biloxi High product Colt Keith, who was making his MLB debut for the Tigers. The hit glanced off Crochet’s glove and rolled under the second baseman’s hand. “I was imagining a bomb to right-center, but that’ll work, too,” Keith said with a chuckle in a TV interview. For the record, the first hit (and RBI) of the season by a Mississippian (native or school alum) was a first-inning single by ex-Mississippi State star Jordan Westburg, whose Baltimore team whipped the Los Angeles Angels 11-3. P.S. Kudos to Southern Miss leadoff batter Dalton McIntyre, who banged out five hits and scored four times in the Golden Eagles’ 14-4 win over visiting Troy. USM (17-9, 5-2 Sun Belt) had 20 hits (six doubles) all told in the seven-inning game.

11 Mar

next dog up

First, there was Rafael Palmeiro. Then Will Clark, followed by Palmeiro again, then Mitch Moreland and most recently Nathaniel Lowe. Now, it looks like Justin Foscue might join the list of Mississippi State products to start at first base on opening day for the Texas Rangers. An oblique injury may keep Lowe, the starter the past three seasons, on the shelf at the start of this season. Foscue, still learning the position this spring, reportedly stands a good chance of getting the nod on March 28, when the world champion Rangers open at home against the Chicago Cubs. Foscue — Texas’ No. 5 prospect — was held out of the Cactus League games over the weekend after reporting some pain in his side but was in the lineup today. He has hit .308 this spring in 26 at-bats. He batted .266 with 18 homers and 14 steals at Triple-A Round Rock in 2023, where he did play nine games at first. Defense might be the key for Foscue as he battles MLB veteran Jared Walsh, a non-roster invitee, for the first-base job the remainder of the spring. “It’s just (about) continuing to get reps in,” Foscue, a first-round pick out of MSU in 2020, told mlb.com. Palmeiro was the Rangers’ starter from 1989-93 and then again from 2001-03. In between, his former “Thunder and Lightning” partner Clark manned the spot (1994-96 and ’98). Moreland came along in 2013 and also opened at first in 2016. Lowe was acquired from Tampa Bay in a trade and took over in 2021, winning a Silver Slugger the next season. P.S. MSU alum Jordan Westburg, Southern Miss product Matthew Etzel and ex-Ole Miss standouts Errol Robinson and Anthony Servideo all played in a Baltimore split-squad game on Sunday. Only Westburg is on the big league roster.

11 Oct

chipping in

Nathaniel Lowe made a couple of noteworthy contributions Tuesday night in Texas’ American League Division Series-clinching win. The Mississippi State product blasted a 437-foot homer in the sixth inning, capping the scoring in a 7-1 victory over Baltimore. Less attention-grabbing but certainly significant was a second inning at-bat that ended in an out. Leading off the inning, Lowe battled Baltimore starter Dean Kremer for 15 pitches before lining out to left field. The Rangers proceeded to score five runs in that inning, knocking out Kremer (53 pitches all told) and seizing command at Globe Life Field. Lowe’s homer, on a 1-1 pitch, was one of four by the mighty Rangers, who hit an AL-best 233 this season. Lowe, who has prodigious power, had 17 homers, which ranked just seventh on the team. He has not had a hot postseason — 4-for-22 — but his team has won five straight, by a 32-12 count, and is headed for the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2011. (Another ex-MSU first baseman, Mitch Moreland, was on that club.) Baltimore, the AL East champion and top seed in the playoffs, is going home. Former State star Jordan Westburg had a hit and scored the lone run for the Orioles on Tuesday but also struck out three times, including the game’s final out. MSU alum Adam Frazier was 0-for-2, capping a hitless series. P.S. Texas will meet the Houston-Minnesota winner in the ALCS. The visiting Astros crushed the Twins 9-1 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-5. Ex-Southern Miss standout — and Minnesota native — Matt Wallner was 0-for-2 with two walks for the Twins. The lefty-hitting Wallner should be in the lineup tonight vs. Astros righty Jose Urquidy when the teams meet again at Target Field. … Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, will make his 28th career postseason appearance tonight for Los Angeles, which faces elimination against Arizona in the National League Division Series. Lynn is 5-5 with a 5.28 ERA in playoff games.

29 Sep

building blocks

The 2023 phase of Baltimore’s long-term rebuild, which culminated Thursday night in a division title, included the off-season signing of free agent Adam Frazier and the late June call-up of rookie Jordan Westburg. The two Mississippi State alumni made solid contributions as the Orioles, predicted to finish near the bottom of the American League East, won their first division title since 2014 — back in the Buck Showalter era — by beating Boston 2-0 at Camden Yards. The young Orioles also clinched home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Westburg, a 2020 first-round pick who started at second base Thursday, is batting .259 with 21 extra-base hits, 23 RBIs and 25 runs in 65 games. He was raking in Triple-A when the O’s brought him up. Frazier, an eight-year veteran signed for $8 million for 2023, pinch hit for Westburg in the eighth inning, walked and scored the big second run. The lefty-hitting Frazier is hitting .242 with 13 homers, 60 RBIs, 59 runs and 11 steals in 138 games. Both also made numerous highlight-reel plays on defense at various positions. Two years after losing 100 games, the Orioles celebrated their 100th win in a raucous clubhouse Thursday. “Pretty damn awesome,” Frazier said in an mlb.com article. P.S. In Atlanta, the Braves whipped the Chicago Cubs for the third straight night and clinched home field through the World Series, should they get there. Ex-DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley went 3-for-4 — single, double and triple — and scored three times in the Braves’ 5-3 win. Now hitting .282, Riley has 116 runs, third on the team and fifth in the National League. The fading Cubs, in a 6-13 skid, fell to fourth in the NL wild card standings, a half-game behind Miami; the Marlins’ game against the New York Mets was suspended (until Monday?) with Miami leading 2-1 in the ninth. … In the AL West, where nothing is settled, third-place Seattle walked off division-leader Texas 3-2 on a clutch knock by J.P. Crawford; Mississippi Braves alum Dylan Moore scored the winning run in the ninth. The Mariners are 3 games back of the Rangers in the division and 1 game back of Houston in both the division and the AL wild card race. The Astros are third in the wild card standings — a game back of Toronto — and will throw J.P. France (11-6, 3.83), the rookie out of MSU, in tonight’s game at Arizona, which will start Cy Young candidate Zac Gallen (17-8, 3.49). The Diamondbacks are second in the NL wild card standings, just ahead of the Marlins and Cubs. … A pair of former first-round draftees out of MSU faced off — sorta — in the inconsequential St. Louis-Milwaukee game. Ethan Small (28th overall pick, 2019) notched his first MLB save in his fourth appearance over two years as the playoff-bound Brewers beat the also-ran Cardinals 3-0. St. Louis starter Dakota Hudson (34th overall, 2016) allowed all three runs in five innings of work to fall to 6-3, 4.98, this season.

28 Sep

down the stretch

Another wild night in Atlanta saw another clinching for the Braves, another amazing milestone for Ronald Acuna and another crippling loss for the Chicago Cubs. Former Mississippi Braves star Acuna stole his 70th base on Wednesday night — notching the first 40 homer-70 steal season in MLB history — and scored the game-winning run on an Ozzie Albies hit in the 10th inning as the Braves topped the Cubs 6-5 at Truist Park. (If Acuna doesn’t win MVP, it’s a crime.) Atlanta clinched the top seed and home-field advantage in the National League postseason. M-Braves alum Albies homered and drove in three runs all told; he has 33 and 107. The Cubs, suffering a second straight heart-breaking defeat in the ATL, are now tied for third in the NL wild card race with Miami, which holds the tiebreaker. In other games of note: Former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman pitched a tidy fifth inning in relief and plucked the win as Houston beat Seattle 8-3 and clung to the third wild card in the American League, 1.5 games ahead of the Mariners. Graveman has two wins, four holds and a 2.45 ERA in 22 games for the Astros, who have won just five of their last 15. (Nothing has been clinched in the AL West, which Texas still leads.) Baltimore, with MSU product Jordan Westburg contributing a hit and an RBI walk, beat Washington 5-1 and reduced its magic number for clinching the AL East to 1. Rookie Westburg is batting .261. P.S. Milwaukee, which has clinched the NL Central, recalled former State standout Ethan Small from Triple-A Nashville. The former first-rounder did not pitch Wednesday. … Four Biloxi Shuckers and two M-Braves made milb.com’s Southern League All-Star team. The Shuckers’ Carlos F. Rodriguez (9-6, 2.77 ERA) was named the pitcher of the year, and outfielder Jackson Chourio, catcher Jeferson Quero and utilityman Tyler Black also made the team. The M-Braves were represented by pitcher Luis De Avila and second baseman Luke Waddell. … Mississippi State ranks 10th and Ole Miss 11th in Collegiate Baseball’s 2024 recruiting rankings. Arkansas’ class was rated No. 1, and 10 of the top 11 are SEC schools (if you include Texas). Southern Miss did not crack the top 50.

18 Sep

testing, testing …

The Chicago White Sox kept testing Tim Elko this season. The ex-Ole Miss slugger passed each one. Elko hit a grand slam in Double-A Birmingham’s season finale on Sunday, giving him 28 home runs over three levels in his second pro season. He batted .295 overall and drove in 106 runs. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman, a 10th-round draftee in 2022, started the season at Low-Class A Kannapolis, where he hit .297 with 17 bombs in 66 games. Promoted to High-A Winston-Salem, he batted .319 with five homers in 31 games before moving up to Birmingham in the challenging Southern League, where hit .269 with six homers in 34 games. Elko, of course, hit a lot of big homers at Ole Miss: 46 over five seasons, including 24 for the 2022 national champions. P.S. Other big knocks from Mississippians on Sunday: In the big leagues, Mississippi State product Adam Frazier lashed a two-out, two-strike double down the left-field line in the ninth inning, driving in the tying run for Baltimore at Camden Yards. The Orioles beat Tampa Bay 5-4 in 11 innings to clinch an American League playoff berth. … In the Low-A Carolina League, ex-State standout Colton Ledbetter, a 2023 draftee, hit a two-run homer and picked up another RBI to power Charleston (a Tampa Bay affiliate) to 4-2 win over Down East in Game 1 of the league championship series. … In the independent Atlantic League, Southern Maryland sent out a message congratulating Ole Miss alum Braxton Lee on his 1,000th career hit, coming in the Blue Crabs’ season finale. Picayune native Lee, who batted .297 for the Blue Crabs, won a Southern League batting title in 2017 and has three MLB hits from 2018 on his ledger. The 1,000 hits includes 76 he got in one year at Ole Miss; the total doesn’t include Lee’s hits at Pearl River Community College.

16 Sep

on this date

On Sept. 16, 2007, Seth Smith — a September call-up by the Colorado Rockies — made his big league debut, launching an 11-year career that should have gotten more acclaim than it did. The left-handed hitting outfielder, a Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss alumnus, went 0-for-2 in that first game but went 5-for-6 thereafter, making enough of an impression that the Rockies kept him on their postseason roster. He was 3-for-6 with two RBIs and two runs as a pinch hitter as the Rockies rolled into the World Series before losing to Boston. Ten years later, early in his final season, Smith hit a big home run that won a game for Baltimore. “It was a good, professional at-bat,'” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said at the time. “He’s a good guy to have up in that situation.” That would be a great summation of Smith’s career. He batted .261 with a .344 on-base percentage, banging out 126 homers among his 934 career hits, scoring 525 runs and driving in 458 while playing for five different organizations. Soft-spoken and deeply religious, Smith never sought the limelight. He never made an All-Star team or won a World Series ring, but he had a positive impact everywhere he went. He played on four teams that reached the postseason, batting .262 with four homers, and on six winning clubs overall. In his last season, with the ’17 Orioles, Smith batted .258 with 13 homers in 111 games. He played his last game on his 35th birthday, Sept. 30. Then he retired — with no fanfare, no formal announcement — and returned to Mississippi, settling into family life.

06 Sep

clutch performers

Having lost two straight and with the Chicago Cubs breathing down their necks in the National League Central, the Milwaukee Brewers needed a rescue on Tuesday night at Pittsburgh. Up stepped Brandon Woodruff. The ex-Mississippi State standout from Wheeler threw seven shutout innings, never allowing a runner past first base, to lead the Brewers to a 7-3 win that kept them 2.5 games ahead of the second-place Cubs. Woodruff, who missed almost four months (April 8-Aug. 6) of the season with a shoulder problem, is now 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA in eight starts. Over his last three, the former All-Star right-hander has allowed three runs in 19 innings with 25 strikeouts and six walks. Tuesday’s 97-pitch outing was his longest of the year. “I think Woody is back,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell told mlb.com. “I think he’s really been back for a while.” … In another meaningful game, former MSU stars Jordan Westburg and Adam Frazier delivered in the clutch in Baltimore’s comeback 5-4 win against the Los Angeles Angels. Frazier smacked a pinch-hit double in the ninth and scored the tying run in that frame as the O’s rallied for two to take a 4-3 lead. After the Angels tied it, Westburg bounced into a 6-3 putout — with the infield in — to push the go-ahead run across from third base in the 10th. The first-place Orioles maintained a 3.5-game lead over Tampa Bay in the American League East. Westburg, a rookie, is batting .268 with 20 RBIs in 52 games. P.S. In the minors, Ole Miss product Kemp Alderman had a double and an RBI for Jupiter as Miami’s Low-Class A club clinched a Florida State League playoff berth with a 5-0 victory over Dunedin. Alderman, a second-round pick in July, is batting .196 with six doubles and 11 RBIs for the Hammerheads.