05 Jun

three things

1 — After playing some six hours of do-or-die baseball over a 10-hour period, leaving the field after midnight on Sunday, Southern Miss earned the right to play again today. With a second straight Super Regional appearance on the line, the Golden Eagles will be up for it. USM meets Penn at 2 p.m. at Plainsman Park for the championship of the Auburn Regional. The Eagles scored a 9-4 revenge win against Samford in their first game on Sunday, then knocked off undefeated upstart Penn 11-2 in the nightcap. Heroes were all over the place. Matthew Etzel, Slade Wilks and Nick Monistere drove in two runs apiece against Samford, and three pitchers turned in a workmanlike effort, scattering 11 hits. The battle against Penn was toe-to-toe until the ninth, when USM scored eight times. Monistere, the freshman out of Northwest Rankin High, scored twice and drove in three more runs, and Dustin Dickerson, suddenly a slugger in the postseason, hit a three-run homer. But the big star was 6-foot-6 lefty Justin Storm, who retired 17 of the 18 batters he faced — 10 via strikeout — after coming on in relief.
2 — Former Ole Miss star Grae Kessinger is getting his first big league call-up today with the Houston Astros, who play at Toronto. Kessinger — the grandson of longtime MLB star and Ole Miss alum Don Kessinger — is having a big year at Triple-A Sugar Land, batting .284 with six homers and 32 RBIs. He has played shortstop, second and third base. Kessinger was drafted in the second round in 2019 and had put up very modest numbers before this season, his first in Triple-A. It’s unclear what Kessinger’s role will be; the Astros apparently are concerned about an oblique injury that has kept second baseman Jose Altuve out for a couple of games. The only other Mississippi product to debut in MLB this season also plays for the Astros. Right-hander J.P. France, a Mississippi State alum, was called up May 6 and has nailed down a spot in the Houston rotation.
3 — AJ Smith-Shawver, 20 years old and two years out of high school, made an impressive debut with Atlanta on Sunday, retiring seven of the eight batters he faced in relief against Arizona, and joins a ridiculously long and impressive list of former Mississippi Braves pitchers who have had a positive impact in The Show. The parade started with Blaine Boyer in 2005; he was one of four members (the others: Macay McBride, Anthony Lerew and Zach Miner) from the M-Braves’ original rotation to make the majors. Since then, we’ve seen the likes of Chuck James, Jo-Jo Reyes, Charlie Morton, Matt Harrison, Kris Medlen, Tommy Hanson, Craig Kimbrel, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Luis Avilan, Alex Wood, Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims, Max Fried, A.J. Minter, Michael Soroka, Ian Anderson, Spencer Strider, Bryce Elder, Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd. (That’s not the entire list.) Smith-Shawver was a seventh-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2021; he started this season in A-ball and made just two appearances for the Double-A M-Braves during his rapid rise. Atlanta’s scouting and development staff deserves a round of applause.

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