06 Aug

cuts like a knife

Former George County High standout Justin Steele’s major league debut will have to wait. Added to the Chicago Cubs’ 30-man active roster on Sunday, the left-hander – drafted in 2014 — was sent back to the alternate camp today, when rosters were cut to 28. Also shipped out was Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack, who had not allowed an earned run in three relief appearances for Toronto. Former Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl and Southern Miss alumnus Cody Carroll had previously been sent out by Milwaukee and Baltimore, respectively. Also missing from Opening Day rosters: East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, the 2019 American League batting champ, is on the injured list (groin injury) for the Chicago White Sox, where he was joined this week by Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman (neck), who scuffled in his first two starts for Seattle this season as he returns from 2018 Tommy John surgery. In other news: Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his New York Mets debut on Wednesday, going 0-for-4 as the center fielder. … Former Mississippi Braves catcher Joe Odom made his big league debut for Seattle on July 28, then went back to the alternate camp on Aug. 2. … Southern Miss’ Chandler Best finished 2-2 with a 1.99 ERA for the Acadiana Cane Cutters, a Texas Collegiate League team that featured several Mississippi connections. A rising sophomore left-hander, Best ranked second in the college summer league with 33 strikeouts. Fellow USM pitcher Mathew Adams had a 5.78 ERA in 12 appearances; Ole Miss’ Drew McDaniel a 7.36 in five games; and Belhaven’s Reed Vincent a 4.62 in eight games. Trace Henry, a former Jones Junior College star from Mooreville, was one of the league’s top hitters at .341. USM’s Billy Garrity hit .213 in limited at-bats. … Ole Miss’ Gunnar Hoglund, a right-hander with mid-90s stuff, is rated the No. 14 draft prospect for 2021 by MLB Pipeline. He was a first-round supplemental pick out of a Florida high school in 2018. … The Hattiesburg Black Sox rebounded from a tough loss to win their second game in the National Baseball Congress World Series, the double-elimination event in Kansas. The Black Sox, the state’s semi-pro champs, play the Hutchinson Monarchs tonight. Pablo Lanzarote, a former Hinds Community College star, homered for the second straight game to help the Black Sox beat the Denver Cougars 9-4. Marcus Ragan, an East Mississippi CC alum, and Jamal Washington drove in two runs each for Hattiesburg, and Austin Sanders, another Hinds CC product, picked up the win.

03 Aug

high cotton

Outstanding pitching and some hot hitting from Chris Swanberg powered the DeSoto Xplorers to the Cotton States League championship in New Albany over the weekend. The Xplorers beat the HillCountry Generals 10-3 on Sunday in the title game of the college summer league, which featured 10 teams this year. Swanberg, who plays at Memphis, went 4-for-4 in the final, driving in two runs and scoring two. Zack Coon, a Blue Mountain College player, drove in three runs. Blue Mountain alums Adam Dill and Jackson Vance combined on a three-hitter for the Xplorers. In their first-round game, the Xplorers got a four-hit shutout and 14 strikeouts from Sam McMillin, and Alabama State product Austin King tossed a three-hit shutout with 13 K’s in their semifinal win. HillCountry beat the top-seeded North Delta Dealers in the semis as Eli Jackson, another Blue Mountain alum, homered and drove in five runs. … Team McCarty, managed by former Southern Miss and current pro pitcher Kirk McCarty, won the inaugural Deep South Collegiate League tournament over the weekend.

31 Jul

summer’s end

The Magnolia State will be represented in the venerable National Baseball Congress World Series this year. The Hattiesburg Black Sox, champions of the Mississippi Baseball Congress (semi-pro) state tournament, are among the 13 teams from five states invited to play in the Kansas-based NBC event, which starts Aug. 3. The Black Sox open the double-elimination tourney against the Colorado Cyclones in Hutchinson. Some games are also being played at Wichita State’s Eck Stadium. The Black Sox won the state title – their third in a row — last weekend, beating the Jackson 96ers 5-2 in the final at Vicksburg’s Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi. Tournament MVP Casey Echols, a former Hinds Community College and Mississippi College standout, drove in two runs for the Black Sox. Hinds CC alum Justin Smith had an RBI, and ex-Warren Central and East Mississippi CC star Marcus Ragan scored the game’s first run. Delta State product Layne Tedder got the win and Clyde Kendrick, a former Texas Rangers farmhand from Vicksburg, notched the save. “These are guys that should be playing on TV,” Black Sox coach Trey Aby told the Vicksburg Post. … The Cotton States League’s postseason tournament starts tonight when the Black Prairie Mudcats play the Golden Triangle Jets and the Tallahatchie Rascals meet the Toccopola SwampMonsters in the opening round in New Albany. Round 2 of the 10-team event is Saturday. The North Delta Dealers are the top seed after a 13-3 season led by Alex Frillman (Holmes Community College), who hit .450; Dylan Hale (Northwest CC), a .405 hitter with 21 RBIs; and Walker Johnson (East Central), who is 2-0, 3.24 ERA. The Woodall Mountain Lookouts (12-6) are the 2-seed. Trace White (Delta State) batted a league-best .455 for the Lookouts. … The Deep South Collegiate League’s eight-team playoffs were slated to start Wednesday and Thursday in Poplarville and Petal. Seven Southern Miss players participated in the first-year league, including Gabe Montenegro, Hunter Stanley and Reed Trimble.

10 Jul

there and here

San Francisco has placed Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High star, on the injured list for what was described only as “medical purposes.” Hamilton is in the Giants’ camp on a minor league deal but was expected to make the active roster before the season begins. Reports were unclear on when he might be able to come off the IL. The 29-year-old outfielder is a .242 career hitter with 299 steals over seven big league seasons. … Milwaukee has added former Mississippi State star Ethan Small and Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard, both 2019 draft picks, to its 60-man pool of eligible players for summer camp. Small, a left-hander picked in the first round, is the Brewers’ No. 2 prospect; he made seven appearances in the low minors last summer. Dillard, a catcher and a fifth-rounder, batted .249 with seven homers in his first pro season. … Adam Moncure is among the hottest hitters in the Cotton States League, batting .400 (.581 on-base) with two homers and a league-best 12 RBIs in nine games for the Black Prairie Mudcats. Moncure, from Clinton, hit .341 as a freshman at Meridian Community College in 2020. Blue Mountain native Sam McMillin, a left-hander at Union University, is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 19 innings for the CSL’s DeSoto Xplorers. … Luther Woullard, a former Jones (Junior) College star from d’Iberville, is playing for the Macon Bacon of the Coastal Plain League, a high-level college summer circuit. As a senior at New Orleans in 2020, Woullard batted .381 with 14 RBIs before the season was halted. He’ll have a year of eligibility left at UNO. Woullard was an All-MACJC outfielder who put up big numbers on some outstanding Jones teams in 2017-18. … Aiden Moffett of Taylorsville High has committed to LSU, per the Laurel Leader-Call. Though he was not highly recruited during his abbreviated sophomore year, Moffett has turned heads with his summer team. Playing for the Louisiana Knights, a travel team based in Mandeville, right-hander Moffett reportedly received offers from Southern Miss, Texas A&M and LSU over the course of just one weekend. … Former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker, who’ll be deploying a DH in every game as Atlanta’s skipper this season, told espn.com that he once asked Bobby Cox about managing with the DH. “Get a bag of balls and sit on it, watch the game,” Cox told him.

11 Jun

a little draft drama

A handful of in-state players could be picked during the four rounds of Day 2 of the MLB draft, but none carries more intrigue than J.T. Ginn or Blaze Jordan. Right-hander Ginn, a sophomore-eligible at Mississippi State, is listed by ESPN as the fifth-best player available today. Jordan, a senior infielder out of DeSoto Central High, is, at No. 42, among mlb.com’s top 10 rated prospects still available. (Ginn is No. 44 on mlb.com’s chart.) Ginn’s situation is clouded by the fact he had Tommy John surgery in March. He was drafted 30th overall in 2018 as a two-way star at Brandon High but passed on a $2 million bonus to play at State. He had a strong freshman year – 8-4, 3.17 ERA – but began to develop an arm problem, which ultimately led to the surgery. That could impact the signing bonus he’ll be offered if he’s drafted today. Plus, he has three years of eligibility left at State, so he might just decide to stay in school. Jordan has been on pro scouts’ radar for several years; he famously slugged a 500-foot home run in a contest when he was 13. Now 17, he is listed at 6 feet 2, 220 pounds. His power potential is unquestioned. His ability to make consistent contact reportedly might be an issue. He played a lot of third base at DeSoto and in summer ball but may be better suited to first. Jordan is an MSU signee and could well wind up in Starkville if he slides to, say, the fourth or fifth round. P.S. A third in-state college summer league is set to get underway on Saturday when the Deep South Collegiate League debuts in Laurel. The DSCL, organized by Gulfport High assistant coach Colton Caver, will play the rest of its schedule at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville and Columbia High. … The New Albany-based Cotton States League opened its 12th season on June 5. The wood-bat college summer league has 10 teams this year, up from six in 2019. … The new Southeast Collegiate League, based in Jackson, Hattiesburg and Baton Rouge, La., was scheduled to start play this week. The SECL is also slated to play some games at PRCC’s field.

05 Jun

here and there

On this date five years ago, the Biloxi Shuckers ended the 54-game road trip that launched their inaugural season with a victory at Birmingham. They stood at 33-21 when they won their first game at MGM Park, which had been under construction, the next night. The Shuckers went on to clinch the first-half championship in the Southern League South on June 14 with a win over the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park. That Shuckers team, a Milwaukee affiliate, featured Josh Hader, Orlando Arcia (who hit the first homer at MGM), Adrian Houser and Brent Suter, among others, and reached the SL Championship Series before falling to Chattanooga. … On June 5, 1992, Pete Young, the ex-Mississippi State and McComb High star, made his MLB debut for Montreal, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Young posted a 3.86 ERA in 17 games over two years with the Expos. … Among the big wave of minor league players released in recent days by major league clubs are: Southern Miss alum Luke Reynolds (by the Chicago Cubs), ex-Mississippi State standout Jacob Billingsley (Houston), MSU product Hunter Stovall (Philadelphia), former Ole Miss star Chris Ellis (St. Louis), George County High alum Walker Robbins (St. Louis) and ex-MSU standout Daniel Brown (Milwaukee). Ellis, also a former M-Braves pitcher, made his big league debut last summer, appearing in one game for Kansas City. … Looking ahead to next week’s draft: If State’s Justin Foscue goes in the first round (as widely projected), the second baseman will be the 13th Bulldogs player to be picked in the opening round since the draft started in 1965. That’s more than all but 14 other schools, according to mlb.com. Stanford leads the way with 23 first-rounders, followed by Arizona State with 21. Six schools have had 13 first-round picks. … The Cotton States League is slated to open its season tonight with three games at two different fields at BNA Bank Park in New Albany. The wood-bat college summer league is in its 12th year. The new Southeast Collegiate League, based in Jackson, Hattiesburg and Baton Rouge, La., starts play next week. … New coaches are settling in at two state junior colleges. Luke Stanley, former Delta State player from Oxford, is the new Mississippi Delta CC coach, replacing Dan Rives, who moved into the AD chair. Longtime Holmes CC coach Kenny Dupont retired and is succeeded by Scott DeLoach, a former Mississippi State player from Madison.

30 May

something new

The new Southeast Collegiate Baseball League is scheduled to begin play on June 8 with multiple teams based in Jackson, Hattiesburg and Baton Rouge, La. The wood-bat college summer league is a joint venture between former big leaguer Chris Snopek’s P360 Performance Sports and Baton Rouge-based Traction Sports Performance, of which ex-big leaguer and LSU alum Ryan Theriot is Director of Business Development. The league will give playing opportunities to graduated high school seniors and college-level players with eligibility remaining, according to a press release. The 2020 prep and college seasons were halted in March by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the players listed on the SECL rosters are Hayden Dunhurst and Trey LeFleur from Ole Miss, Southern Miss’ Hunter LeBlanc, D.J. Stevens of Jackson State, Delta State’s Jake Barlow and Bryson Ware, a former Germantown High standout headed for Auburn. “The phone was already ringing about forming a college league,” Snopek, a former Ole Miss star, said in the release. “We thought we could put a few teams together, but the response has been incredible, so we realized this was bigger than we expected.” P360 owns baseball training centers in Jackson, Flowood and Hattiesburg. Former USM pitcher and onetime big leaguer Scott Copeland will be involved with the SECL’s Hattiesburg teams. Traction Sports has a facility in Hattiesburg as well as Baton Rouge. The SECL commissioner is Cory Hough. For more information, visit p360performancesports.com or tractionsports.com.

22 May

plowing ahead

The New Albany-based Cotton States League has expanded from six to eight teams for 2020 and is scheduled to begin its season on June 5. The wood-bat college summer league celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2019, with the Tippah County Tribe winning the championship. Returning for the Tribe are pitcher Braden Quesinberry, a Harding (Ark.) University alum who went 6-1 with a 1.41 ERA; J.T. McGee (Northern Kentucky), a .350 hitter with two homers and 13 RBIs; and Brandon Hale (Southeastern Louisiana), a .327 hitter. New to the Tribe roster is catcher Matthew Priest, a redshirt freshman at Mississippi College in 2020. More than 120 players from roughly 30 different schools participated last year, per the league’s website. Most of the players have a Mississippi connection. Many of the state’s junior colleges are represented, as are a number of four-year schools from various divisions. Mississippi State commit Blayze Berry is on the HillCountry Generals’ roster. The XPlorers’ roster lists Kyle Crigger from Louisiana Tech, Chris Swanberg from Memphis and Austin King from Alabama State. Another Memphis player, Ian Bibiloni, is with the North Delta Dealers along with Mississippi College’s Markarius “Woogie” Lee. Delta State’s Trace White is on the Tallahatchie Rascals team. Belhaven’s Nathan Herron (one of the CSBL’s top hitters in 2019) and Jared Heun are with the Golden Triangle Jets, as is UAB’s Hunter Hill. Blue Mountain’s Easton Williams is with the Tupelo Thunder, and Millsaps’ Sam Suggs is on the Mudcats’ roster. P.S. The Cape Cod League, widely considered the best of the college summer loops, cancelled its season, as did the New England Collegiate Baseball League and the Valley League. The popular Coastal Plain League delayed its start to July 1, and the Prospect League and Alaska League also have announced a tentative July 1 start. The Texas Collegiate League plans to open on July 3. The National Baseball Congress World Series, the big late summer amateur event in Wichita, hasn’t made a decision on hosting the event.

23 Jul

high cotton

A showdown between the top two teams in the Cotton States League turned into a run-rule rout, with the North Delta Dealers beating the Tippah Tribe 16-3 in four innings Sunday at BNA Bank Park in New Albany. Both are now 10-6 with three games left in the college summer league’s regular season. Tripp Benson, a Belhaven University alum, went 3-for-3 with a homer and five RBIs in Sunday’s game. Connar Gardner (Itawamba Community College) and Ian Biblioni (Lakeland native) drove in three runs each, and Markarius Lee (Mississippi College) scored twice. Lee, batting .373, leads the league in runs with 19, and Benson (.346) is tied for the lead in RBIs with 17. Biblioni (.378) and Gardner (.348) also rank among the top 12 in batting. The Dealers play again tonight against the Golden Triangle Jets. The Tribe is back in action Thursday against the Tallahatchie Rascals. … Sam Williams, a Magee High product, leads the Tribe in hitting at .359, and teammate Braden Quesinberry tops the CSL in wins with four and sports a 1.85 ERA. … The league’s top hitter is Nathan Herron (Belhaven) of the GT Jets at .419. Klay Houston, a Fulton native who pitches for Angelo (Texas) State, has an impressive 38 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings for Tallahatchie. P.S. Mississippi State’s Jordan Westburg extended his hitting streak Monday to seven games for Hyannis in the Cape Cod League. Westburg is 23-for-63 (.365) with three homers and 11 RBIs in 15 games.

10 Jun

summer sessions

The New Albany-based Cotton States League is under way, with the Tippah County Tribe, featuring several Blue Mountain College players, off to a 3-1 start. Among the league’s top hitters to date are Northeast Mississippi CC alum Landon Wilkerson (.500, eight RBIs for the Tupelo Thunder) and Belhaven’s Nathan Herron (.500, homer, nine RBIs for the Golden Triangle Jets). Northeast CC alum Nikolas Wilcher is 2-0, 1.80 ERA for 3-2 Tupelo. This is the CSL’s 11th season. … In the Texas Collegiate League, the Acadiana Cane Cutters’ roster is replete with Mississippians: Southern Miss’ Hunter LeBlanc, Fisher Norris, Josh Lewis and Drew Boyd, Delta State’s Kris Peet, Hunter Stafford and Bailey Hargrave, Hinds Community College alum Noah Hughes and Jones JC product Trace Henry. … The Cape Cod League season starts today, though none of the Mississippi State or Ole Miss players slated for the high-profile summer league are there yet for obvious reasons. One of the main attractions in the Cape figures to be J.T. Ginn, who starred as a freshman (8-4, 3.36 ERA) for State this season after being a first-round MLB draft pick last summer. Ginn is ticketed to pitch for Orleans. After a star-studded career as a two-way player at Brandon High, Ginn was drafted 30th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers but passed on the pro opportunity to play at State with no apparent regrets. The Hyannis team has a distinct Mississippi flavor, with three MSU players and one from Ole Miss listed on the club’s preseason roster. Bulldogs Tanner Allen, Rowdey Jordan and Jordan Westburg are joined by the Rebels’ Anthony Servideo. UM’s Tyler Keenan and former Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet, now at Tennessee, will play for Harwich, and State’s Justin Foscue is on the Wareham roster.