26 May

main attraction

Like so many of his Mississippi Braves teammates this season, Drew Lugbauer doesn’t hit much. But when the left-handed Lugbauer does get into one, it typically goes a long way. He hit his 10th home run of the season on Thursday night, a majestic blast into the Farm Bureau Grill beyond the right-field fence at Trustmark Park. It was the third homer in as many games on this homestand for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound former Michigan star who is nicknamed “Slugbauer.” He is, at present, the main attraction on a team that is last in the Southern League in runs and last in the South Division with an 18-23 record that includes a 6-2 loss to Pensacola on Thursday. Lugbauer, 26, is batting just .217, actually one of the better averages in Thursday’s lineup. Ten of his 26 hits this season have left the yard. He leads the SL in homers and is on pace to break the M-Braves’ single-season record of 28 homers that he set last year. (For the record, the Jackson Mets/Generals record at Smith-Wills Stadium is Darryl Strawberry’s 34 in 1982.) In his third season with the M-Braves, Lugbauer is also the career homer leader with 56. Many a fearsome slugger has passed through Pearl since 2005: Jeff Francoeur, Matt Esquivel, Kala Ka’aihue, Jason Heyward, Michael Rosamond, Ernesto Mejia, Evan Gattis, Dustin Peterson, Ronald Acuna, to name a few. Lugbauer has bragging rights over all of them. … Austin Riley, another of those former M-Braves sluggers, had quite the night for Atlanta on Thursday, hitting two monstrous homers in an 8-5 win against Philadelphia at Truist Park. Riley, a former DeSoto Central standout, is just the third player to hit two homers of 455 feet-plus in one game in the last nine years; the other two did it at Coors Field in Colorado. Riley has nine homers on the season for the first-place Braves. P.S. Surprising Baltimore (second-best record in MLB) just completed a 5-1 road trip through Toronto and New York (Yankee Stadium) and ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier went 10-for-27 with two homers, seven RBIs and six runs in the six games. Frazier is hitting .253 with six homers and 23 RBIs in his first season with the Orioles. … Shout-out to former M-Braves ace Julio Teheran, who threw five solid innings (but took a loss) for Milwaukee on Thursday in his first big league game since 2021. Teheran, part of a combo no-hitter for the M-Braves in 2010, has 78 career MLB wins. He ranks with the best of the many standout pitchers who have come through Pearl. … Southern Miss is 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament after Danny Lynch delivered a walk-off win against Troy. Jackson State bowed out of the SWAC Tournament with a second straight one-run defeat.

05 Apr

pennant fever

Friday is opening day No. 18 for the Mississippi Braves, who’ll take on the Biloxi Shuckers at 6:35 p.m. at Trustmark Park in Pearl. A championship is the ultimate goal, of course, for a franchise that has won two Southern League pennants (2008 and 2021). The 2023 roster is expected to be released today, when the team holds its first workout. The talent in Atlanta’s minor league system has been thinned out in recent years, but the organization has a true knack for scouting and development, so expect a competitive team. Jackson-area Double-A teams have won eight pennants all told, and this year marks a notable anniversary of two of those titles. Twenty years ago, the independent Jackson Senators won the Central Baseball League championship. In one of the most dramatic moments in Smith-Wills Stadium’s long history, Keto Anderson delivered a game-winning hit in the bottom of the 10th inning of the decisive fifth game against Amarillo. That Senators team included Jeremy McClain, Gerard McCall, Ryan Creek, Kenny Rayborn, Robbie Kison, Vernon Spearman and onetime big leaguer Lonnie Maclin. Thirty years ago, the Double-A Jackson Generals won the Texas League championship, the first for the franchise as a Houston Astros affiliate. League MVP Roberto Petagine was the star of that team, which also included Brian Hunter, Jim Dougherty, Alvin Morman, Ray Montgomery, Lance “Bam-Bam” Madsen and Jackson native Fletcher Thompson.

28 Sep

put a ring on it

The 2022 season already had been a good one for Justin Foscue. It got better on Tuesday night when the former Mississippi State standout and his Frisco teammates won the Texas League championship by beating Wichita in the decisive third game of the series. Foscue, rated the No. 5 prospect in the Texas Rangers’ system, batted .288 with 15 homers and 81 RBIs in his second pro season. The second baseman was a first-round pick out of State in 2020. Mississippi College product Blaine Crim also played a big part in Frisco’s success this year, hitting .295 with 24 bombs and 91 RBIs, but he was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock earlier this month. … The Southern League pennant will be decided tonight between Pensacola and Tennessee at Kodak, Tenn. Former McLaurin High star Davis Bradshaw is an outfielder for the Blue Wahoos, a Miami affiliate; he batted .286 in 27 games after a well-earned promotion from A-ball. The host Smokies, a Chicago Cubs affiliate, have Pontotoc native and Itawamba Community College alum Delvin Zinn on their roster; the shortstop batted just .137 in limited at-bats this year but did steal 12 bases. … The Eastern League crown will go to either Erie or Somerset; they play their Game 3 tonight at Bridgewater Township, N.J. Former Jackson Prep standout Will Warren has been a solid starter (7-6, 4.02 ERA) for Somerset, a New York Yankees’ farm club. … The Triple-A Championship final four is set for Las Vegas: Durham and Nashville will play Saturday for the International League title with the winner to meet the Pacific Coast League champ, either El Paso or Reno, in Sunday’s finale. Delta State alum Dalton Moats (3.60 ERA) is a reliever for Durham (Tampa Bay), and ex-MSU standout Ethan Small (7-6, 4.50) pitches for Nashville (Milwaukee). P.S. In the big leagues, Mississippi college products Corey Dickerson, Dakota Hudson and Chris Stratton celebrated a National League Central title with the St. Louis Cardinals, who eliminated Milwaukee from that race with a 6-2 win on Tuesday. … Ex-Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner, a Minnesota native now with the Twins, hit his first Target Field home run on Tuesday; it came on the last pitch thrown by Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn. Wallner’s Twins beat Lynn and the Chicago White Sox 4-0. … The White Sox, essentially out of playoff contention, announced that former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, their All-Star shortstop, is done for the season with a hand injury. He hit .301 in 79 games. … Ole Miss product Mike Mayers has been designated for assignment (for the second time in 2022) by the Los Angeles Angels. The 30-year-old right-hander had a 5.68 ERA this season.

09 Sep

southern exposure

No trophy is on the line when the Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers engage in their season series each year. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were such a thing? The Magnolia Cup? Catfish Clash? Blues Bowl? It might help generate a little more interest in the Southern League rivalry that has been going on since Biloxi became a league member in 2015. The teams sit at the bottom of the league in attendance in 2022, Biloxi at 137,298 and Mississippi at 135,467. That’s kinda sad. The season series has been competitive. The teams met for the 27th time on Thursday at Biloxi’s MGM Park, and the Shuckers — Milwaukee’s Double-A affiliate — beat the M-Braves — Atlanta’s farm club — 5-3 before an announced crowd of 2,015. Biloxi now leads the season series 15-12 with three games remaining. The series was even at 9-9 before the Shuckers took five of six at Trustmark Park in Pearl in August. Ouch. The M-Braves won the first two games of the current six-game set by identical 13-2 scores, bashing eight home runs. Take that. The M-Braves’ Drew Lugbauer, the SL’s home run leader, hit two on Wednesday, boosting his total to 26. Of his team-record 44 career homers, 16 have come at MGM Park. The Shuckers won Thursday’s game on the strength of two homers — the first of the season — by Terence Doston. The M-Braves, 30-28 in the second half, still have a mathematical shot at the South Division title; they are the defending league champs. The Shuckers (25-34) have been eliminated, reduced to a potential spoiler role. In the overall league standings, the Shuckers (59-67) lead the M-Braves (59-68) by a half-game. P.S. Former M-Braves star Jason Heyward and Shuckers alum Brent Suter are among the 30 nominees for the 2022 Roberto Clemente Award. The annual award “recognizes the MLB player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” Heyward is with the Chicago Cubs, Suter pitches for the Brewers.

30 Aug

something’s clicked

You might say Cade Bunnell has exceeded expectations. Actually, that would be a large understatement. A former 40th-round draft pick who played sparingly in college and hit .185 in A-ball this season, Bunnell finds himself batting .344 with six homers and 23 RBIs in 27 games for the Mississippi Braves. Having replaced Atlanta No. 1 prospect Vaughn Grissom as the M-Braves’ shortstop earlier this month, Bunnell is batting .327 with four homers in 15 games since he took on that role. Double-A pitching? What’s the big deal? The lefty-hitting Bunnell goes into the team’s home series (today-Sunday) against Tennessee after banging out three homers and driving in 10 runs in a six-game set at Birmingham. Bunnell, 25, who goes 6 feet, 190 pounds, was drafted in the last round — No. 1,207 overall — by the Braves in 2019 out of Indiana. In two years there, he hit under .200 with one homer in 60 at-bats. He hit .141 in rookie ball in 2019 and .216 (albeit with 13 homers) at Low-A Augusta last year. He has served three stints in 2022 with the M-Braves, having spent most of the season at High-A Rome, batting .185 with seven homers. But forget all that. Bunnell is in some kind of groove right now, helping the M-Braves (27-23, 4.5 games out of first) stay in the chase for a second-half title in the Southern League South. P.S. The top-rated position player prospect on the M-Braves team, No. 13 Justyn-Henry Malloy, also has been productive, batting .284 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 37 games since he came up from Rome. The 6-3, 212-pound outfielder was a sixth-round pick last year out of Georgia Tech. … Tennessee, a Chicago Cubs affiliate, features a pair of Mississippi products: pitcher Walker Powell out of Southern Miss and infielder Delvin Zinn from Pontotoc by way of Itawamba Community College. … The M-Braves’ Negro Leagues Tribute Night (see previous post), rained out in the last homestand, has been rescheduled for Saturday (6:05 p.m. start) at Trustmark Park.

23 Aug

one more for the show

Another day, another big league debut for a Mississippi Braves alumnus. And, no, it doesn’t get old. Drew Waters made his long-awaited debut on Monday, with the Kansas City Royals, joining the more than 160 former M-Braves who have appeared in The Show since 2005. He didn’t set off any fireworks, but the 23-year-old outfielder drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning that put the Royals ahead in a game they would win 6-4 against the Chicago White Sox. He revealed afterward that he was almost late for the day game at Kauffman Stadium because he was confused over the starting time. He played right field, hit ninth, went 0-for-3 — but was awarded player of the game honors by his teammates for drawing the clutch walk. A second-round pick by Atlanta in 2017, Waters had a monster year for the M-Braves in 2019, winning the Southern League batting title and MVP honors at age 20. A five-tool prospect — and a really sharp guy — the switch-hitter hit .319 with five homers, 41 RBIs, 63 runs, 35 doubles, nine triples and 13 stolen bases. His progress seemed to stall at Triple-A Gwinnett, and the Braves traded him in mid-July to the Royals for a 2022 draft pick. He took off again at Triple-A Omaha, hitting .295 with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 31 games before the call-up. “There’s definitely been peaks and valleys in my journey,” Waters told mlb.com. “But I would say this tops it all, being here with the guys who are now my teammates and being able to put on a Royals uniform.” … Waters’ debut notwithstanding, the Former M-Brave Player of the Day Award has to go to Michael Harris II, whose 13th homer of the year helped Atlanta beat Pittsburgh 2-1. Harris, a strong rookie of the year candidate, debuted back in May, the first of an impressive crop to arrive in 2022. That list includes Vaughn Grissom (.391, three homers with Atlanta), Joey Meneses (.318, five homers with Washington) and Shea Langeliers (.273, one homer in six games with Oakland).

16 Aug

a homecoming

Davis Bradshaw’s 11th Double-A game may have a little different feel. A homecoming feel. The outfielder, in Pearl with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos to take on the Mississippi Braves, played high school ball just a few miles down the road at McLaurin. Now 24 and in his fourth pro season, Bradshaw isn’t on Miami’s list of Top 30 prospects. But make no mistake, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound lefty hitter can put bat on ball. Bradshaw hit a ridiculous .756 as a senior at McLaurin in 2017. He hit .442 in his one season at Meridian Community College. Drafted in the 11th round by Miami in 2018, he hit .354 in rookie ball that year. He was leading the High-Class A Midwest League in batting at .310 when he was promoted to Pensacola earlier this month. He is off to a modest start with the bat for the Blue Wahoos — .241 (7-for-29) — but has a .405 on-base average and nine runs in his 10 games. What Bradshaw lacks is power: two career homers. He hit eight bombs at MCC in 2018, so maybe that tool is in there somewhere. … The M-Braves and Blue Wahoos both stand 20-19, in a three-way tie for second in the Southern League South, 5 games back of Montgomery. Their six-game series runs tonight through Sunday at Trustmark Park.

13 Aug

worth noting

Though prospects Michael Harris II, Vaughn Grissom, C.J. Alexander, Jared Shuster and Darius Vines, among others, have been plucked from their roster, the Mississippi Braves are still kicking. Atlanta’s Double-A club beat Tennessee 16-14 on the road Friday night and is 20-17, second place in the Southern League South in the second half. Recent arrival Javier Valdes, a catcher, is batting .353 with two homers and six RBIs in four games. Cade Bunnell, who has moved to shortstop to replace Grissom, is batting .400 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 14 games for the M-Braves. Outfielder Justyn-Henry Malloy, in 25 games since arriving from A-ball, is hitting .289 with three homers and 16 RBIs. And first baseman Drew Lugbauer, on the roster all season, leads the SL with 23 homers. If the pitching can hold up, this club appears to have the firepower to make a run at the second-half title and a playoff berth. … Overshadowed by the exploits of Harris and Grissom with Atlanta, Joey Meneses, another former M-Braves star, has had quite a debut in The Show himself. Playing for Washington, Meneses is batting .370 with four homers in eight games since being called up. The 30-year-old Mexico native, who played in Pearl in 2016-17, logged more than 3,000 at-bats over 11 years in the minors, hitting .281. “I feel like, up here, you have a little bit more energy and more motivation, obviously,” he told the Washington Post regarding his hot start. … Southern Miss product Chuckie Robinson had a great seat — the Cincinnati bench — for Thursday night’s Field of Dreams Game in Dyersville, Iowa. Called up for the first time in his pro career, he did not get in the game and is now back with Triple-A Louisville. Hopefully, that won’t be his only major league experience. … Former Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton was outrighted to Triple-A Jacksonville by Miami on Friday. Used primarily as a pinch runner, the veteran Hamilton scored nine runs and stole seven bases in 20 games but had just one hit in 13 at-bats. … Ex-South Panola standout Emaarion Boyd, one of two prep players drafted out of the state in July, is 2-for-5 with two walks and a caught stealing in two games for Philadelphia’s Florida Complex League team. The 11th-round pick was considered one of the fastest players in the 2022 draft.

08 Aug


While the Atlanta Braves — and all those Mississippi Braves alumni on their roster — were getting steamrolled in New York by Buck Showalter’s Mets, the current M-Braves were getting trucked in Pearl by the rival Biloxi Shuckers. The Double-A M-Braves dropped Sunday’s series finale 6-5 at Trustmark Park, their fifth loss in the six games against Biloxi. They fell from 17-10 and first place in the Southern League South at the start of the homestand to 18-15 and second behind Montgomery. Biloxi bolted to 17-16, third place. There was an ominous sign early in Sunday’s game. With the bases full and two outs in the top of the first inning, a pop fly into left field off the bat of Biloxi’s Thomas Dillard was lost in the sun by Justyn-Henry Malloy. Two runs scored. A wild pitch made it 3-0. The M-Braves later lost another ball in the sun and had some adventurous catches in the outfield, as well. Down 6-1 in the seventh, the home club battled back but wound up with their second one-run loss in the series. They also lost two two-run games. Dillard, the former Ole Miss star, had a big series for the Shuckers, going 7-for-23 with two walks, a homer, five RBIs and four runs. He had three hits Sunday and is batting .229 (.365 on-base percentage) with nine homers and 60 RBIs on the season, his first full year in Double-A. Immediately after the game, the wounded M-Braves boarded a bus for a seven-hour trip to Kodak, Tennessee. That’s a lot of time to sit and think about what just hit them.

02 Aug

coming down

For the first time in 16 days, the Mississippi Braves will take the field tonight at Trustmark Park in Pearl with a team that’ll look a little different. Most notably, staff ace Jared Shuster has moved up to Triple-A Gwinnett and veteran outfielder Trey Harris has been traded. What hasn’t changed is the M-Braves’ position in the Southern League South second-half standings. They are still in first place at 17-10, 5 games north of the last-place Biloxi Shuckers, who visit for a six-game series that begins tonight. Vaughn Grissom, Atlanta’s No. 4 prospect, is still around and still hitting a ton. In 15 games for the Double-A M-Braves, shortstop Grissom is batting .387 with two homers, 10 RBIs and six stolen bases. Outfielder Justyn-Henry Malloy, who came up from A-ball at the same time as Grissom, is batting .268 with two homers and 10 RBIs. And slugger Drew Lugbauer is still around, as well, leading the club with 21 homers. That trio forms a pretty stout middle of the order. The team’s player of the week for last week was outfielder Justin Dean, who hit .304 with seven RBIs. He leads the team with 16 steals. The reigning pitcher of the week is Darius Vines, a rated prospect who is 6-4 with a 4.14 ERA after going 3-0, 1.17, in July. He is scheduled to start Thursday night. P.S. On Wednesday, the Hattiesburg Black Sox, champions of the Mississippi Baseball Congress State Tournament (a.k.a. the semi-pro tourney), will play an Indiana team in the opener of the 16-team NABF World Series at Battle Creek, Mich. The Black Sox’s roster includes Marcus Ragan (MVP of the state tournament) and Hinds Community College’s Vantrel Reed (tourney batting champ) plus four other all-tournament selections: ex-Mississippi College star Casey Echols, ex-Delta State standout Layne Todder, Hinds CC and Purdue alum Pablo Lanzarote and Northwest Rankin High’s Brady Thomas.