William Carey University earned a bid to the NAIA national tournament by winning its first Southern States Athletic Conference championship on Sunday. Blake Freeman hit a pair of three-run homers and John Snyder delivered some clutch relief pitching to pace the Crusaders past Faulkner 11-7 Sunday at Mobile, Ala. Carey (34-10) won four straight in the SSAC Tournament, beating top seed Loyola (New Orleans) twice. The NAIA field will be announced Thursday; the Opening Round is set for May 17-20. … Delta State, 2-0 in the GSC Tournament, plays Alabama-Huntsville today in Oxford, Ala., for a berth in championship series. … In the junior college playoffs, Meridian, Itawamba, East Central and Hinds advanced to the NJCAA D-II Region 23 Tournament, which will start May 17 at Pearl River’s Herring Park. PRCC, the MACCC regular season champion, and LSU-Eunice are also in the six-team field. … MUW (20-9) will play in the USCAA Small College World Series in Dubois, Pa., beginning May 17. … The Texas Rangers claimed former Mississippi State catcher Jack Kruger off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. He goes on the 40-man roster and will likely be assigned to Triple-A Round Rock. Kruger made one appearance, on defense, for the Angels before being squeezed out of a roster spot because of a trade.
A snapshot into the mercurial life of a major league relief pitcher: On Tuesday in Anaheim, former Ole Miss pitcher Mike Mayers was summoned from the Los Angeles Angels’ bullpen in the seventh inning with one out and a Texas runner at third. In his first game in a week, he struck out the first batter, but the second, Joey Gallo, a lefty slugger facing a shift, laid down a squeeze bunt up the third-base line for a hit. The runner scored, cutting the Angels’ lead to 3-2. After he struck out ex-Mississippi State standout Nate Lowe to end the inning, Mayers barked at Gallo, apparently miffed about the bunt. Mayers worked a 1-2-3 eighth, trimming his ERA to 0.93, and the Angels won the game 6-2. On Wednesday, Mayers was summoned in the eighth with one out, a runner on first and the Angels again up 3-1. Gallo was the first batter. He walked on a 3-2 pitch. The next batter, Adolis Garcia, hit a three-run bomb. Lowe followed with another homer. Mayers trudged off, his ERA suddenly swollen to 3.72, and the Angels lost the game 7-4. Mayers has had a good year to date. He has a win, two holds and a save. He had allowed only one homer in his first eight appearances. Then came Wednesday. His next appearance will be interesting to watch.
When you put the ball in play, something good might happen. Something did for Mitch Moreland and the Oakland A’s on Sunday. The Mississippi State product’s hard-hit liner in the bottom of the ninth got past Detroit’s third baseman and scored the game-winning run, notching the eighth straight win for the A’s, who began the season 1-7. Moreland hasn’t yet found his groove with the A’s, who signed the 12-year veteran as a free agent in the off-season. Used primarily as a DH, he is batting just .206 with five RBIs and has yet to homer or double. But A’s manager Bob Melvin felt confident in sending the left-handed hitter up as a pinch hitter against Tigers lefty Gregory Soto with the game on the line. “It was a little unorthodox with the left-on-left pinch hitter there, but Mitch has been around,” Melvin told mlb.com. “He’s smart in what he’s looking for. He was just trying to shoot it the other way where there were some holes open.” … Nate Lowe, another ex-State standout, got a walk-off hit for Texas in a 1-0, 10-inning win vs. Baltimore. It was the second walk-off RBI of Lowe’s career and gives him 16 RBIs, second in the American League. After a sizzling start, Lowe is hitting just .230 for the Rangers, who acquired him from Tampa Bay in the off-season. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson hit the first pitch of the first game of a twinbill out of Fenway Park, propelling the Chicago White Sox to a 3-2 win over Boston. It was the ninth career leadoff homer for Anderson, who is batting .310.
Mississippi State product Nate Lowe hit two home runs and picked up four RBIs as Texas whipped Toronto 7-4 Tuesday night in the big leagues. Lowe is hitting .381 with three homers and 14 RBIs for his new club.
Itawamba Community College’s Lane Domino banged out seven hits, including three homers, to pace the 11th-ranked Indians’ sweep of a doubleheader against Coahoma in Fulton.
Northwest Rankin High’s Ryan Herbison hit two homers, including a grand slam, as the Cougars beat region rival Brandon 16-10 in Class 6A.
William Carey University’s Sloan Dieter homered, drove in six runs and scored four to spark the Crusaders to a twinbill sweep of Southeastern Baptist in Hattiesburg.
Pearl River CC’s Landon Gartman threw a seven-inning complete game, allowing three hits, no walks and fanning 12, to help the No. 2 Wildcats beat No. 7 Meridian 4-1 and earn a split of their MACCC doubleheader in Poplarville.
Nine MSU pitchers threw one inning each and struck out a combined 17 batters as the Bulldogs beat Southern University 15-1 in Starkville. Mikey Tepper and Eric Cerantola each K’d the side.
Spring training numbers often are misleading. Nate Lowe’s Cactus League stats were nothing to get excited about: .205, one home run, 15 strikeouts and eight walks in 44 at-bats for Texas. Was the Mississippi State product out of sync? Well, three games into the real season, Lowe is batting .357 with a homer and nine RBIs — most in the American League and a franchise record for the first three games of a season. Lowe’s 465-foot, three-run blast on Sunday propelled the Rangers’ to their first win of 2021, 7-3 at Kansas City. There were reports in the spring that Lowe was taking too many good pitches. As it turned out, that was part of a plan to work on strike zone discipline. “We have to consistently stay in the strike zone,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said in an mlb.com story. “Nate Lowe does as good a job of that as anybody.” Acquired from Tampa Bay in an off-season trade, the lefty slugger hit .251 with 11 homers in 71 games for the Rays in 2019-20. He batted .348 with five homers and 49 RBIs in his one season (2016) in Starkville. P.S. Ex-State star Brent Rooker, recalled from Minnesota’s alternate camp when Josh Donaldson went on the injured list, went 0-for-2 in his 2021 debut on Sunday. … Ex-East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson is considered day-to-day for the Chicago White Sox with a hamstring strain suffered Sunday. … Ocean Springs High product Garrett Crochet made his ’21 debut Saturday for the ChiSox and retired all seven batters he faced, touching 99 mph and fanning three. … Former State star Hunter Renfroe is 0-for-7 in his first two games for Boston, which is 0-3. Former Bulldogs standout Mitch Moreland is 1-for-9 for Oakland, which is 0-4.
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.
Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central High standout, will not be on Cleveland’s opening day roster, the team announced. Bradley was competing at first base this spring with the more experienced Jake Bauers. Bradley is hitting .303 in the Cactus League to Bauer’s .200, but Bauers is out of minor league options. Bradley, who played briefly in the majors in 2019, is not. Bradley has big-time power and no doubt will get to Cleveland sometime this season. … Though Minnesota has not named a starting left fielder, signs point to Brent Rooker, the Mississippi State product whose 2020 debut was curtailed by an injury. Rooker, batting .286 with a home run this spring, was in the lineup, in left and batting fifth, for today’s Grapefruit League game against Atlanta. Rooker’s competition is 29-year-old journeyman Kyle Garlick, another right-handed hitter who has four homers this spring. Rooker’s defense still needs polish, but the Twins, who made him the 35th overall pick in the 2017 draft, seem to love the thunder in his bat. “You’re looking for ways to get a guy like that in the lineup because you know he can do damage, you know he can be a very productive major league offensive player,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said in an mlb.com piece. “That’s something that we can say with some certainty and feel good about it.” … Outfielder Eloy Jimenez’s injury surely increases the chances that Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton will make the Chicago White Sox’s 26-man roster. The speedy outfielder is in camp on a minor league deal. … Ex-State standout Jonathan Holder, battling for a bullpen role with the Chicago Cubs, is on the shelf with a “pec injury” and may be on the injured list when the season starts. He put up an 8.10 ERA in four games this spring. The veteran right-hander was signed in December after five seasons with the New York Yankees, for whom he posted a 4.38 ERA in 157 games. He reportedly still has minor league options remaining. … The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation is accepting applications through April 23 for the 10-week Charley Pride Fellowship Program, an internship designed to promote diversity. The Grammy-winning Pride, a Sledge native who played minor league ball, was a part-owner of the Rangers for a time and was often around the team. A field at the team’s spring training complex bears his name. Pride died in 2020. … Zack Shannon, the former Delta State slugger, recently was released by Arizona. He hit .289 with 26 home runs in two seasons in the low minors. He blasted 50 homers — a school and state record 31 as a senior — in two years at DSU.
Though his projected big league debut is two years away, Mississippi State product Justin Foscue is a player to keep an eye on in 2021. Foscue, drafted 14th overall by Texas last summer, has been rated the No. 8 second base prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline. Shortly after the draft, the Rangers put Foscue on their 60-man roster and invited him to the alternate training camp. Not every 2020 draft pick got that chance. He is already at their spring training facility in Arizona and, per an interview last week on milb.com’s “The Show Before The Show” podcast, is brimming with confidence as his first actual pro season approaches. “They told me they believe in my abilities,” Foscue said. “They believe in me. I appreciated them telling me that.” He said he has devoted a lot of off-season work on his defense. “That’s where I can take the biggest jump,” he said on the podcast. Foscue, who turns 22 on March 2, is likely to spend the ’21 season in the minors – “unless something crazy happens,” he said. When he eventually encounters the bright lights, big crowds and electric moments of the major leagues, his time at State and Dudy Noble Field will have him well-prepared. As Foscue said during the podcast: “(Dudy Noble) is the best place to play in college baseball. The best. By far. Not even close. … I’m so happy I got the opportunity to play there.”
Change was in the wind for several Mississippi-connected players on Thursday. On the big league front, ex-Mississippi State star Nate Lowe was traded from Tampa Bay to Texas, which has an apparent affinity for first basemen from MSU. In the Rule 5 draft’s minor league phase, three Mississippi college products changed organizations, with Ole Miss’ Errol Robinson and Southern Miss’ Chuckie Robinson going to Cincinnati and Itawamba Community College’s Tyreque Reed to Boston. Lowe, a lefty slugger who hit 11 homers in 71 games for the Rays over the last two seasons, projects as Texas’ first baseman in 2021. “I told him to expect competition, but we made this deal anticipating he would win the job and be our first baseman,” Rangers GM Jon Daniels told mlb.com. Former State star Rafael Palmeiro spent 10 of his 20 MLB seasons with the Rangers, and Will Clark manned first base for Texas for five years (between Palmeiro’s two stints there). Mitch Moreland, currently a free agent, spent the first seven of his 11 MLB seasons with the Rangers. … Errol Robinson, a shortstop, went from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Reds in the first round of the Rule 5 Triple-A phase, and Chuckie Robinson (no relation), a catcher, moved from Houston to the Reds in the third round. Errol is a .262 career hitter in four pro seasons and has reached the Triple-A level. “He’s a really good athlete. He’s extremely versatile,” Rob Coughlin, Cincinnati’s director of pro scouting, told mlb.com. Chuckie is a .249 hitter over four pro seasons and played at the Class AA level in 2019. He has a 15-homer season on his ledger. Reed, a storied slugger at Houlka High and ICC, was plucked out of the Texas system by the Red Sox in the first round of the Triple-A phase. “(W)e really believe in the power potential, so we’re excited to bring him into the organization,” Boston’s VP of professional scouting Gus Quattlebaum told mlb.com. Reed, a first baseman, is a .281 hitter with 41 homers in three pro seasons. He played high-A ball in 2019.
Lance Lynn’s 104-71 career record is impressive, as is his 3.57 ERA. The ex-Ole Miss star has averaged 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings over a nine-year big league career. But perhaps the most impressive thing about the newest member of the Chicago White Sox’s rotation is his tenacity. He shows up for work and gives all he’s got. He made 13 starts for a last-place Texas team in the 60-game 2020 season, went 6-3 and averaged 6.5 innings per. On one memorable occasion, Aug. 14 at Colorado, the 33-year-old right-hander came into the Rangers’ dugout after the eighth inning, sitting at 98 pitches with a 3-2 lead, and proclaimed, “I’m finishing it.” He did, a complete-game two-hitter. From 2012-19, he made at least 29 starts each season, excepting 2016 which he missed after Tommy John surgery. Traded by the Rangers late Monday for two prospects, Lynn joins former East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson and Ocean Springs High alum Garrett Crochet on a White Sox team that could be scary good in 2021. P.S. Onetime Mississippi Braves outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. earned Korean Baseball Organization MVP honors for 2020. He hit .349 and led the league with 47 homers and 135 RBIs in 142 games for the KT Wiz. He fell five batting average points short of winning the Triple Crown. This was his fourth season in the KBO. He is reportedly looking for an MLB offer.