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.

07 Sep

whatever happened to …

Garrett Crochet, the former Ocean Springs High star now in the Chicago White Sox’s system, made his first appearance in a game in two months on Wednesday, when he threw a scoreless inning for Double-A Birmingham. The 11th overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Tennessee, Crochet made a fairly dazzling MLB debut a couple months later. The 6-foot-6 left-hander struck out the first two batters he faced in a 1-2-3 inning and threw six of his 13 pitches at 100 mph or better. He didn’t allow a run in six innings that season and posted a 2.82 ERA with 14 holds and 65 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings in 2021. He has struggled to stay healthy ever since. He missed all of the 2022 season after spring Tommy John surgery and began 2023 in the minors on a rehab, making his White Sox debut on May 16. No longer throwing 100, Crochet put up a 3.60 ERA in 10 games before going on the injured list with a shoulder problem, which apparently has persisted. Crochet, 24, struck out two of the three batters he faced for Birmingham on Wednesday — a positive sign. Reports are he wants to return to the White Sox before their season, which has gone off the rails, comes to an end. P.S. As the Texas Rangers have gone into freefall in the American League West, their bullpen has been heavily criticized. Don’t point at Mississippi State alum Chris Stratton. Since coming over from St. Louis at the trade deadline, Stratton has a 2.08 ERA, a win and three holds in 14 games for the Rangers. He allowed a run Wednesday — after starter Max Scherzer had been KO’d — but 11 of his 13 other appearances have been scoreless. … Rangers first baseman and ex-MSU star Nathaniel Lowe was ranked as the best defensive first sacker in the AL in a poll of managers, scouts and execs conducted by Baseball America.

24 Aug

something different

On this date in 2010, Roy Oswalt the MLB pitcher became Roy Oswalt the MLB left fielder, appearing at a position other than on the bump for the only time in his 13-year career. The former Weir High and Holmes Community College star, with Philadelphia at the time, came in as a replacement for an ejected player in the 15th inning of a 16-inning game against Houston. And, of course, the ball will find you, as they say. The first batter of the inning, Jason Castro, hit a fly ball to left field, which Oswalt caught without incident. Oswalt came to bat in the bottom of the 16th and grounded out for the final out of the Astros’ 4-2 win in the 5-hour, 20-minute affair. Oswalt, who retired in 2013, was 163-102 with a 3.36 ERA for his career, making three All-Star Games. He wasn’t a terrible hitter, either, banging out 101 hits (.154 average) with a homer and 36 RBIs. P.S. Tim Anderson returned Wednesday from his five-game suspension and went 2-for-5 with an RBI and scored the game-winning run in a 5-4 victory for the Chicago White Sox against Seattle. East Central CC product Anderson was the ghost runner in the bottom of the 10th, took off for third base on a failed pickoff attempt by the Mariners catcher and scored when the shortstop’s throw got past the third baseman.

23 Aug

playing the numbers

Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High standout, has piled up a lot of numbers in his major league career — and it seems highly uncertain that he’ll be adding to the totals. The skinny outfielder, just released from Triple-A by the Chicago White Sox, has played in 951 games and gotten 2,988 at-bats over an 11-year MLB career. Originally drafted by Cincinnati, he has played for eight different big league clubs, five in the last three years. He has just 22 MLB at-bats the last two years and only one hit; his career average sits at .239. But his 326 stolen bases are the most ever by Mississippi native, and he has scored 454 runs. And there are a couple of other numbers that might entice a big league team to bring Hamilton aboard when rosters expand from 26 to 28 in September. Though he has never won a Gold Glove, Hamilton has 73 defensive runs saved and 58 outs above average as a center fielder, both very good numbers according to MLB Trade Rumors. His career highlight reel is impressive. He has spent a good chunk of this season on the injured list, most recently with a shoulder problem. But he can still run and catch, even at 32. Here’s hoping he gets another shot.

18 Aug

a few atta-boys

Emaarion Boyd, the second-year pro out of South Panola High, got the walk-off knock Thursday for Low-Class A Clearwater in the Philadelphia organization. Boyd was 2-for-5 with a walk, a run and a triple in the 5-4, 11-inning win against Dunedin. Boyd, 19, the Phillies’ No. 13 prospect, ranks second in the Florida State League in steals (49), fifth in runs (65), ninth in triples (five) and 10th in batting average (.272). “His ceiling is that of a speedy table-setter,” according to the scouting report on mlb.com. … Lance Lynn, former Ole Miss star, tossed seven shutout innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who beat Milwaukee 1-0 for their 11th straight win on an eighth-inning homer by Austin Barnes. The Dodgers are 4-0 in Lynn’s four starts since acquiring the veteran right-hander from the Chicago White Sox and 3-0 in his starts at Dodger Stadium. “I’ve always enjoyed pitching in this ballpark, and it’s definitely a lot better as a home player,” Lynn told mlb.com. He is 3-0 with a 1.44 for the Dodgers after going 6-9, 6.47, with the struggling ChiSox. … Tim Elko, the ex-Ole Miss slugger, hit his first Double-A home run for Birmingham and now has 23 for the season across three levels. A 2022 draftee by the White Sox, the big first baseman is batting .267 for the Barons, .301 with 88 RBIs for the year. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, now with the White Sox, finally issued an apology (on Instagram) for the fight he started with Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez on Aug. 5. Anderson will begin serving a five-game suspension (reduced from six on appeal) today. The two-time All-Star and 2019 batting champ went 2-for-17 while his appeal was pending and is at .230 for the year. … Konnor Griffin, Jackson Prep’s two-way star, and Samuel Richardson, Lewisburg High slugger, are among the 50 players on the rosters for Sunday’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in Phoenix. Both played on state championship teams this past season. Pitcher/outfielder Griffin, an LSU commit considered a top MLB draft prospect for next summer, participated in the Baseball Factory/Under Armour All-America Game last Sunday in Arlington, Texas, and has been invited to USA Baseball’s 18U national team tryout camp set for Aug. 21-25 in California. Those who make the final roster will compete for Team USA in the U-18 World Cup in Taiwan in September. Richardson, a Missouri commit, played in the Hank Aaron Invitational in Atlanta on July 30. … Drew Davis, a pitcher/infielder at Sumrall, has made the 15U Team USA that is going to the Dominican Republic for a tournament in September.

17 Aug

to the rescue

On a night when ace Justin Verlander got a little wobbly, Kendall Graveman led a four-man relay team of relievers who carried home Houston’s 12-5 win against Miami. Former Mississippi State standout Graveman, rescued from the sinking Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline, has been just what the Astros wanted, posting a 2.35 ERA in seven appearances. After Verlander allowed a five-run lead to shrink to one on Wednesday night, Graveman replaced him in the sixth inning and put the Marlins down 1-2-3 on eight pitches. (None of the four Astros relievers allowed a hit.) It was Graveman’s fourth straight scoreless outing for a team that is trying to chase down Texas in the American League West. (The Rangers lost Wednesday and lead by just 2.5 games.) Graveman, a converted starter now in his ninth MLB season, is in his second stint with the Astros, who acquired him from Seattle in a deadline trade in 2021. After helping Houston reach the ’21 World Series, he went to the White Sox as a free agent. He pitched well there, racking up 14 saves and 35 holds in 110 games before the Astros, the reigning world champs, got him back. “It’s an organization that’s run very well and … (I’m) thankful that they would want me back,” he told the Houston Chronicle at the time of the trade. P.S. Charlie Morton was masterful for Atlanta in a 2-0 win against the New York Yankees, notching his 12th win of 2023 and 128th career. That total leads all former Mississippi Braves by a wide margin on the career wins list. For the record, the leader among former Jackson Generals is Freddy Garcia with 156. Kevin Tapani, with 143, is tops among ex-Jackson Mets. … Tough break for ex-Ole Miss star Justin Bench, who was hitting .354 at Low-Class A San Jose (San Francisco system) when he went on the injured list on Wednesday. A utility player who made the All-College World Series team for the ’22 champs, Bench hit .370 in rookie ball before moving up to San Jose in mid-July.

12 Aug

here and there

Back in May, playing for Ole Miss, Calvin Harris hit four home runs in a game. On his list of 2023 highlights, that might still be No. 1 — but what he did Friday night has to be a close second. Harris’ first homer as a pro was a two-run walk-off shot that gave Low-Class A Kannapolis an 8-7 win against Down East. A fourth-round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox, Harris, a catcher, is batting .297 in seven games for the Cannon Ballers. … On Fernando Valenzuela Night at Dodger Stadium, ex-Ole Miss ace Lance Lynn threw five innings, allowing one unearned run, and struck out nine as Los Angeles beat Colorado 6-1. Lynn, 36, is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA since joining the Dodgers at the trade deadline. He has 1,881 career strikeouts over 333 career games. … Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley went 3-for-4 with his 27th homer and two RBIs in Atlanta’s 7-0 win over the New York Mets. Riley, a 2023 All-Star, is batting .355 with five homers in his last 15 games and .333 with 11 bombs, 28 RBIs and 21 runs since the All-Star break. … In manager Bruce Bochy’s return to San Francisco, former Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe belted his 14th homer — 70th career in MLB — to help Bochy’s Rangers beat the Giants 2-1. Bochy, in his first year in Texas, won three championships with the Giants; the Rangers are seeking their first. … Southern Miss product Nick Sandlin threw four pitches and got a hold in a Cleveland win on Thursday. On Friday, he threw three pitches, the last of which was blasted for a walk-off homer by Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco. That came after the Guardians had scored three times on wild pitches in the top of the ninth. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams tossed six shutout innings in his second start for Double-A Tulsa in the Dodgers’ system. The 22-year-old right-hander is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA for the Drillers. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves scored 18 runs in a sweep at Rocket City, getting homers from Luke Waddell, Drew Lugbauer and Jesse Franklin V. Franklin has a 22-game on-base streak.

06 Aug

the only one

Al Jones, a tall right-hander from Charleston, made his big league debut for the Chicago White Sox on this date in 1983, becoming the first and to date only Alcorn State alumnus to make The Show. On in relief against Baltimore at old Memorial Stadium, he gave up two hits, got Cal Ripken Jr. to hit into a double play, then was pulled after walking the next batter. He wound up being charged with a run but got a hold in a game the White Sox won 6-4. Jones pitched only 26 more games in MLB, finishing his career in 1985 with a 3.77 ERA and five saves. He stayed in the game, pitching until 1999 in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, where he had a 3.69 over six years. Alcorn’s program, which has fallen on hard times in recent years, has produced some good players, foremost among them Bill Foster, a Negro Leagues legend from the 1920s and ’30s who is enshrined in Cooperstown. The Braves have had 13 players drafted, including Jones (13th round in 1981), Corey Wimberly, Angel Rosa, Marcus Davis and John Harrington. Greg Daniels hit .545 for the 1983 Braves, the second-highest average ever by an NCAA Division I player. Current Atlanta star Michael Harris II’s father played at Alcorn. But Jones is the only one to reach the big leagues — 40 years ago today — and there are no Braves alums currently in affiliated ball. P.S. Up in the Cape Cod League, Southern Miss’ J.B. Middleton got the win and Kros Sivley the save as Hyannis beat Falmouth on Saturday to advance in the playoffs. USM’s Will Armistead pitched the ninth inning in Hyannis’ win in Game 1 on Friday. … Yarmouth-Dennis, with Braden Montgomery (Madison Central alum) and Hunter Hines (Mississippi State) on its roster, faces a decisive Game 3 today against Brewster. Montgomery is 2-for-9 with a homer in the series; Hines, the CCBL home run champ, didn’t play in a win in Game 2. … The semi-pro Hattiesburg Black Sox went 2-2 in the NABF Major Division World Series in Michigan, bowing out in Saturday’s quarterfinals. … The Smith-Wills Stadium-based Hank Aaron Sports Academy is holding its Fantastic 44 “Winner Take All” game today at 6 p.m. The 44 participating players are from high schools all over the state and were selected by coaches and instructors that oversaw three showcase events this summer at the Jackson facility.

30 Jul

present arms

Stars must have been aligned on Saturday night. By some cosmic coincidence, five Magnolia State college products got the ball as starting pitchers in minor league games, scattered from Double-A to Low-Class A. Collectively, they pitched pretty darn well, allowing five runs and striking out 21 batters over 25 innings all told. Only one got a decision, however, and that was a loss. Most impressive among the bunch was former Ole Miss star Gunnar Hoglund, who delivered four perfect innings, fanning three, for Low-A Stockton (Oakland system). The 19th overall pick in the 2021 draft (by Toronto), Hoglund spent several weeks on the injured list this season and has scuffled (6.32 ERA in nine starts) since his return. Saturday’s outing certainly was a good sign. The hard-luck loser on Saturday was Southern Miss alum Dalton Rogers. He threw 5 2/3 innings for High-A Greenville (Boston), allowing just two runs. He dropped to 1-3 with a 5.11 ERA; he had a 2.49 ERA in Low-A to start the season. Ex-Ole Miss star David Parkinson, in pro ball since 2017, worked 6 2/3 for Double-A Reading (Philadelphia), allowing a lone run with six strikeouts. He trimmed his ERA to 4.61. Former USM standout Hunter Stanley tossed 4 2/3 innings for Double-A Akron (Cleveland), giving up a lone run with four strikeouts. He trimmed his ERA to 5.02. Houston Harding, a Mississippi State and Itawamba Community College product, made his first start for Double-A Rocket City (Los Angeles Angels) in the Southern League and went four innings, allowing one run (a home run). Harding had a 1.32 ERA in A-ball this season but has not been as effective (12.42) in nine Double-A appearances. Saturday’s start was a positive step. P.S. A pair of Mississippians in the majors hit noteworthy homers: Tim Anderson belted his first in over a year and Brent Rooker hit his first since appearing in the All-Star Game. East Central Community College product Anderson, who has 98 career bombs, hit a leadoff shot for the Chicago White Sox, his first in 327 at-bats this season. Slumping for much of the season, Anderson is 20-for-57 (.351) since the All-Star break. Ex-MSU star Rooker’s homer was his 17th for Oakland but first in 20 days. His bomb at Colorado went 462 feet, longest by an A’s player this year. He is batting .269 since the break, .248 on the year.

29 Jul

on the rise

The Biloxi Shuckers won their fourth straight game Friday night at MGM Park and moved into a tie for first place in the Southern League South, fueled by a pair of the top prospects in Milwaukee’s productive pipeline. Jackson Chourio, the No. 2 prospect (per mlb.com) in the minor leagues, went 3-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs in the Shuckers’ 9-5 win against Birmingham, and Tyler Black — the Brewers’ No. 5 prospect — added a triple, two RBIs, two runs and a stolen base. Chourio, signed out of Venezuela in 2021, is batting .281 with 15 homers, 65 RBIs, 57 runs and 31 steals. Black, the 33rd overall pick out of Wright State in 2021, is at .281 with 14 bombs, 46 RBIs, 67 runs and 45 steals, which leads the league. Black leads off and Chourio hits second for a Shuckers team that features six of the Brewers’ top 15 prospects. Four recent Shuckers alums — Sal Frelick, Brice Turang, Joey Wiemer and Abner Uribe — have had an impact as rookies for the Brewers, who lead the National League Central. The Shuckers, winners of eight of their last 10, moved to 15-10 in the second half with Friday’s win. They got an assist from the Mississippi Braves, who took down first-place Pensacola 4-1 Friday at Trustmark Park as Nolan Kingham threw five shutout innings, Jesse Franklin V banged out three hits and two RBIs and Drew Lugbauer slugged his 15th homer. P.S. Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier didn’t get a hit Friday for Baltimore but made two great stops at second base and turned a double play to help the first-place Orioles beat the New York Yankees — and Aaron Judge — 1-0 at Camden Yards. Anthony Santander hit a walk-off bomb in the ninth. … As part of the Chicago White Sox’s fire sale, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers and ex-MSU standout Kendall Graveman went to Houston. Lynn is 6-9 with a 6.47 ERA this year but is 129-93, 3.71, for his career. Graveman, who pitched for the Astros in 2021, is 8-for-12 in save opps with a 3.48 ERA in 2023.