Not including last year’s canceled baseball season, the Mississippi State Bulldogs have two consecutive College World Series trips. Chris Lemonis only has one full season under his belt as head coach in Starkville. His first season was filled with immediate success, and he’s hoping his 2021 team can replicate those results.
2019 Record: 52-15 (20-10)
2020 Record: 12-4
Perfect Game Recruiting Class: 18th
The Bulldogs were coming off a massive season in 2019 with their fifth 50+ win season and the second most in program history. Lemonis was postseason bound once again last year before the season was cut short. The Bulldogs lose a lot of offense but bring back a lot of good arms for 2021.
The short season was a bit of a roller coaster ride early on. Mississippi State dropped an embarrassing midweek to Texas Southern followed by a series loss to Long Beach State. But they got hot again before conference play with a pair of midweek wins against top 5 Texas Tech.
The pitching returns two arms from last year’s rotation. Christian MacLeod steps into the Friday night ace position after being the Saturday guy last year. MacLeod had obnoxious numbers in four starts last year at 4-0 with a 0.86 ERA and 35 strikeouts over 21 innings.
— Mississippi State Baseball (@HailStateBB) February 15, 2020
Eric Cerantola is the other returning arm. He was the Sunday starter last year and likely returns to that role again this season. He had good numbers with a 3.18 ERA but needs to build on working deeper into games as he failed to pitch into the sixth inning in four starts last year.
Will Bednar is the new face to the rotation although he did have a spot start in the Saturday game against Quinnipiac last year. He mixes four pitches with his fastball sitting around 95mph. He recorded a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings last year including one run over 5.1 innings in the lone start.
The bats uncharacteristically struggled in the small sample size from last season. They ranked 13th in the conference in batting average and slugging percentage and last in on base percentage and runs scored. To make matter worse they lose their top producers in first round picks Justin Foscue and Jordan Westburg.
The good news is they get a trio of seniors back with tons of experience. Josh Hatcher leads returning starters with a .311 average and two homeruns. He’ll anchor the offense along with Tanner Allen (.240/.387/.400) and Rowdey Jordan (.308/.395/.338).
Until some newer faces emerge those are the guys who will lead the offense. A pair of talented freshmen from last year will also factor in. Shortstop Kamren James was hitting .308 with 12 RBI’s in his first year. Catcher Logan Tanner holds the second best slugging percentage among returning starters at .439.
The biggest strength for Mississippi State this year is going to be the pitching. They bring some strong, experienced arms to the rotation albeit with just 3.1 innings against SEC bats between them. They also boast one of the deepest bullpens in the conference.
The bats need to improve and are the biggest question mark. The trio of veteran leadership can go a long way in that respect but some other guys will need to step up and provide a spark. They’ll be tossed into the fire out of the gate with three consecutive top 10 matchups in the State Farm College Classic to start the season.
“From Our Haus to Yours”