It will go down as one of the great moments in baseball history. Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout, a 3-2 count, a one-run game, two outs in the ninth in the final game of what had been a fantastic World Baseball Classic. No one on the planet had a better view of this matchup of giants than Lance Barksdale, the veteran MLB ump from Brookhaven. He was behind the plate as Ohtani threw a perfect slider that Trout flailed at in what is being called the strikeout heard ’round the world. Japan won the WBC title, beating the United States 3-2 Tuesday night at Miami’s sold-out loanDepot Park. Barksdale, who has called a lot of big games, seemingly had a good night calling balls and strikes. The Mississippi-connected contingent of players on Team USA’s roster also performed well. Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College star, went 1-for-2 in the finale and batted .333 with five RBIs and three runs in seven games all told. Biloxi Shuckers alum Devin Williams, he of the “Airbender” changeup, threw a scoreless eighth inning Tuesday with two K’s. He didn’t allow a run in four WBC appearances. Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman warmed up Tuesday when Jason Adam was struggling in the sixth but didn’t get in. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in two WBC games. And Lance Lynn, the grizzled veteran out of Ole Miss, worked nine innings over two starts, allowing three runs, and Team USA won both games. P.S. In spring training news: Former State standout J.T. Ginn from Brandon threw three scoreless innings for Oakland against the Los Angeles Angels and got the win in his Cactus League debut. Ginn reached Double-A last summer and likely will return there this season. … Madison Central High alum Spencer Turnbull pitched well again, allowing one run (a Josh Donaldson homer) in 4 2/3 innings for Detroit against the New York Yankees. … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, who missed all of last season with an arm injury, is expected to start 2023 on San Diego’s injured list, per reports. The veteran lefty had a 1.62 ERA out of the pen for the Padres in 2020-21.
Coming back from arm surgery that cost him almost two seasons, Spencer Turnbull has looked sharp this spring, according to reports. The former Madison Central High standout makes his third start today for Detroit in a Grapefruit League game against Philadelphia. Turnbull has a 4.15 ERA and five strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings and has shown a lively fastball and crisp slider. The right-hander, nicknamed “Red Bull,” appeared on his way to a breakout year in 2021 when he hurt his arm in May. He was 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA and a no-hitter on his ledger. He should step right back into the Tigers’ rotation this season. … Ex-Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman got the win in relief as the United States beat Colombia 3-2 in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night. Graveman, who’s with the Chicago White Sox, worked a scoreless fourth inning. Biloxi Shuckers alum Devin Williams, of Milwaukee, pitched a clean eighth for a hold in the victory that sends Team USA to a quarterfinal meeting with Venezuela on Saturday. … Ex-State standout Brent Rooker has made a strong case for cracking Oakland’s opening day roster. He is 9-for-23 with five doubles and eight walks this spring. “I’m just here to make whatever decision they have to make a difficult one,” said Rooker, 28, who is with his fourth MLB club in the past year. He got just 32 big league at-bats with San Diego and Kansas City in 2022 but belted 28 homers in the minors. His main competition for a spot appears to be lefty-hitting Carson Capel, 25. … Chris Stratton, former Bulldogs ace, has had a nice spring with St. Louis. He notched a save on Wednesday and trimmed his ERA to 3.60 in five appearances. Stratton has a 4.52 ERA over 238 career MLB games. … Left-hander Dylan Dodd, who made nine starts (2-4, 3.11 ERA) for the Double-A Mississippi Braves last season, is reported to be a dark horse candidate for Atlanta’s fifth starter job. Dodd, a 2021 draftee, has 11 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA in 8 1/3 innings in Florida. He remains in camp after former M-Braves Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder, also candidates for that spot, were optioned to the minors.
It has been quite the journey for Lance Lynn, who checked off another career achievement on Monday night when he pitched in the World Baseball Classic. The ex-Ole Miss standout delivered a dominant five innings (hitting the 65-pitch limit on the nose) as the United States pummeled Canada 12-1 in a pivotal game. Team USA’s star-studded lineup scored a record nine runs in the first inning against Canada’s overmatched pitchers — a 19-year-old from A-ball and an independent leaguer — and Lynn took it from there, allowing just two hits and fanning six. The 35-year-old Lynn has virtually done it all in the game. He has played in the Little League World Series, won a prep state title with an undefeated team in Indiana, helped Ole Miss win an SEC crown and reach three regionals during his time in Oxford, won a World Series as a rookie with St. Louis, made two All-Star Games and now won a WBC game. Perhaps a WBC title is in the offing. The burly right-hander has 123 MLB wins since 2011 and will be a key figure again in the Chicago White Sox’s rotation this season. P.S. Grae Kessinger, another Ole Miss product, hit his second homer of the spring on Monday for Houston. The grandson of former MLB All-Star Don, Kessinger is 4-for-15 with the world champion Astros in Grapefruit League play. Now 25, the former second-round pick has played in Double-A the last two years with only modest results. … Tampa Bay optioned right-hander Colby White, a Mississippi State alum from Hattiesburg, to Triple-A. White missed all of 2022 with an arm injury.
If you’re not paying attention to the World Baseball Classic, you should be. Italy — Italy! — has advanced to the quarterfinals. The Venezuela-Dominican Republic game, loaded with MLB stars, had the feel of a World Series Game 7. Canada put up a record 18 runs in its win on Sunday. And then came Team USA vs. Mexico on Sunday night. Before a very pro-Mexico crowd of 47,534 at Arizona’s Chase Field, former Mississippi Braves standout Joey Meneses blasted two home runs to power the Mexicans to a stunning 11-5 victory. “I have never played in an atmosphere like that,” Patrick Sandoval, an MLB pitcher who plays for Mexico, told mlb.com. Meneses’ story is a great one. Signed by Atlanta in 2011, he played for the Double-A M-Braves in 2017, hitting .292 with nine homers and 45 RBIs. The Culiacan native moved on in 2018, changing organizations three times — and playing 894 minor league games all told — before getting a big league call from Washington last August. He hit an impressive .324 with 13 homers in 56 games as the Nationals’ regular first baseman. Then he took a major star turn on Sunday, driving in five runs to stun Team USA. “I have no words,” Meneses said. East Central Community College product Tim Anderson went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the U.S., now 1-1 in pool play and facing a virtual must-win game tonight against Canada. Canada (1-0) features former M-Braves star Freddie Freeman and Mississippi State alum Jacob Robson, both of whom had productive games on Sunday. This is worth your attention.
Sal Frelick, who played for the Biloxi Shuckers in 2022, went 3-for-5 with two RBIs to help Italy upset The Netherlands in pool play today and reach the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic. Frelick, an outfielder, is one of Milwaukee’s top-rated prospects and likely will make his MLB debut in 2023. … Mississippi State product Jacob Robson went 4-for-4 with a walk, scored three times and drove in a run as Canada opened WBC play with an 18-8 win against Great Britain. Robson played independent ball last year and spent several seasons in Detroit’s system. He got some big league time in 2021. … Delta State swept a three-game series from Christian Brothers this weekend to improve to an eye-popping 77-4 all-time against its Gulf South Conference rival. … Surging Blue Mountain Christian suddenly dropped three straight at home against SSAC power Mobile to fall to 18-7, 3-3. The Toppers’ Josh Smith, the NAIA pitcher of the week, got roughed up for 10 hits, seven walks and five earned runs in the series opener. Mobile is 20-2, 6-0. … William Carey dropped two of three to Talladega in Hattiesburg in its SSAC opening series. The Crusaders, who had never lost to Talladega, are 16-6 overall. … After its controversial (see previous post) loss against New Orleans on Friday, Mississippi Valley State fell 35-3 to the Privateers on Saturday and 16-3 today. (Note: Valley’s Davon Mims was 1-for-8 with five strikeouts, presumably all legit, in Games 2 and 3.) … Mississippi State, 11-5 with five wins in a row, will play Nicholls State and Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday and Wednesday at MGM Park in Biloxi. … Former Ole Miss right-hander James McArthur was optioned to Triple-A by Philadelphia. The 2018 draftee has yet to make his big league debut. … There is a nice piece on former Jackson Mets standout Al Pedrique on milb.com. The new manager of the Double-A Reading Phillies has been playing, coaching or managing in pro ball since 1978. He spent parts of four seasons as the JaxMets’ shortstop in the early 1980s and played parts of three years in the majors. “What is beautiful about this game is you learn something every day,” Pedrique said.
Four Mississippi college products are on the rosters for the World Baseball Classic, three with the U.S. team and one with Canada. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, Mississippi State’s Kendall Graveman and ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson — all members of the Chicago White Sox — will suit up for Team USA when the 20-team event gets under way next month. MSU product Jacob Robson, who had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2021, is on the Canada team, which is in the same five-team group — Pool C — with the U.S. That group begins play on March 11 in Arizona. Lynn, 35, is an 11-year veteran who has 123 wins and a career ERA of 3.52. Graveman has pitched eight years in the majors, working in relief the last few years, and has a 4.04 ERA. Anderson, a shortstop, is a .288 career hitter over seven seasons with 97 homers and 104 steals. He won the American League batting title in 2019. Robson, originally drafted by Detroit, got a brief call-up in ’21 but was back in Triple-A last year. He was released midseason and finished the year with the independent Kansas City Monarchs before heading to Australia to play winter ball. Former Biloxi Shuckers reliever Devin Williams, now Milwaukee’s closer, made the loaded U.S. roster, which includes the likes of Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw. Former Mississippi Braves Ronald Acuna (Venezuela), Freddie Freeman (Canada) and Andrelton Simmons (Netherlands) are also on WBC rosters.
The Baltimore Orioles, a young team seemingly on the rise in the rugged American League East, have added a versatile veteran to their roster for 2023, signing former Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier. Frazier, 31 and a seven-year big leaguer, reportedly has agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract as a free agent. A left-handed hitter, he batted .238 with three homers, 42 RBIs and 11 steals in a down year with Seattle in 2022. While primarily working at second base, he played five different positions and may be headed for a utility role with his new club. The O’s currently list Ramon Urias as their starting second baseman. Frazier, 5 feet 10, 181 pounds, is a .273 career hitter who has popped as many as 10 homers in a season. He was an All-Star with Pittsburgh in 2021. Baltimore went 83-79 in 2022 — a huge turnaround from the year before — and finished fourth in the AL East behind three playoff teams. P.S. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn has pledged to play for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic next March. The veteran right-hander, 35, went 8-7 for the Chicago White Sox in 2022. Teammate Tim Anderson, an East Central Community College alum, also is expected to play for the U.S. … Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez and ex-Southern Miss pitcher Hurston Waldrep, now at Florida, are ranked Nos. 5 and 10, respectively, on MLB Pipeline’s new list of the Top 100 MLB draft prospects for 2023. Magnolia Heights shortstop Cooper Pratt is No. 31, USM pitcher Tanner Hall, the 2022 Ferriss Trophy winner, is No. 89 and Oxford High catcher Campbell Smithwick No. 92.