Updated: Dec 28, 2019
We're taking a look back and a look ahead at college baseball teams from around the country. Next up are the Mississippi State Bulldogs!
There are few places where baseball matters more than it does in Starkville, Mississippi. The hallowed Dudy Noble Field housed an elite Mississippi State team in 2019, and Head Coach Chris Lemonis and staff will look to continue the Bulldogs' dominance in 2020.
A Look Back at 2019
Sporting a 52-15 (20-10 SEC) record in 2019, Mississippi State had their winningest season in 30 years. Highlighted by series wins against Auburn, Georgia, and Ole Miss (in fact, the Bulldogs finished the year 4-0 against the Rebels), Mississippi State ended the season tied atop the SEC West Standings.
The Bulldogs' impressive resumé earned them the #6 national seed and the right to host a Regional. After Mississippi State dispatched Southern University, the Bulldogs promptly took down Central Michigan for a spot in the Regional final. In the process, the Diamond Dawgs ended Central Michigan's 19-game winning streak. Miami survived the losers bracket but was no match for Mississippi State who defeated the Hurricanes, 5-2, en route to a Regional Championship.
Mississippi State matched up against #11 Stanford in the Starkville Super Regional. Despite their #11 seeding, Stanford spent most of the season in the top five, and brought an elite pitching staff to town. However, Mississippi State quickly eliminated Stanford in two games. The Super Regional was capped off with a send off for seniors Jake Mangum and Elijah MacNamee that no Bulldogs fan will soon forget. The MacNamee bomb that drove in Mangum was voted as one of the top ten moments from the 2019 NCAA Tournament (see a full list here).
Mississippi State's trip to Omaha started off with a bang. A four-run explosion in the ninth prompted a walk-off win over SEC West foe, Auburn (also good for one of the best moments from the NCAA Tournament). A tight loss to Vanderbilt and a gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of Louisville ended the Bulldogs' season, but not before they further entrenched themselves as a national power.
Mississippi State offered a balanced diet of elite pitching and offense in 2019. The Bulldogs outscored their opponents by an average of 3.9 runs per game, good for third in the country. This talent was well-reflected in the MLB draft which saw 11 Diamond Dawgs drafted, tying a program record set in 2016. LHP Ethan Small (1st round), OF Jake Mangum (4th round), and RHP Colby White (6th round) all were selected within the first ten rounds of the draft. Of all of the Bulldogs' draft selections, only IF/OF Tanner Allen elected to return.
In addition to their drafts picks, Mississippi State also saw four players earn All-American honors. Small earned All-American accolades from multiple sources and was also named the the National Pitcher of the year by Collegiate Baseball. Sophomore Justin Foscue earned All-American for his play at second base, and RHP JT Ginn scored Freshman All-American recognition from multiple sources.
Not only did Mangum produce another All-American year, but the senior outfielder also set the Mississippi State and SEC career hits record with 383 hits. He left an indelible mark on the Mississippi State program and will not soon be forgotten.
A Look Ahead at 2020
Despite being hard hit by the draft, there is reason for optimism in Starkville; Mississippi State brought in the seventh best recruiting class in the country in the fall. The Bulldogs will be hoping for some immediate contributions including from freshman RHP Will Bednar whose fastball touches 95 mph. (See the top ten recruiting classes here.)
Mississippi State will start the season on a nine-game homestand. After hosting Wright State for their first weekend series, the Bulldogs will welcome 2018 National Champion, Oregon State, to the Dude. The following weekend, the Bulldogs will take their first road trip of the year when they head out to southern California to play Long Beach State.
The next nine games will test Mississippi State as the Bulldogs will face off against four teams who made a Regional in 2019, including two teams who made the College World Series. A midweek against Southern Miss will prepare Mississippi State for a series with Quinnipiac, the 2019 MAAC Champion and a squad that defeated ECU in the opening round of the Greenville Regional. (Read more about Quinnipiac here.)
A last-minute addition to the schedule, Texas Tech will visit Biloxi and MGM Park for two midweek games with Mississippi State. The nine-game gauntlet ends with Arkansas coming to town for the Bulldogs' first SEC series in a matchup that will set the tone early in the SEC West race.
A trip to Baton Rouge will offer a challenging start to SEC road play. Mississippi State will be looking to avenge a 2019 series loss in Starkville at the hands of LSU.
From the SEC East, Kentucky will close out Mississippi State's March weekends. Conference play continues with a trip to Auburn which will precedes Super Bulldog Weekend (April 9th-11th) when Mississippi State will take on rival, Ole Miss. The Rebels will be looking for revenge after getting swept last year by the Bulldogs. Series at South Carolina, versus Texas A&M, and at Alabama will follow.
Mississippi State will finish conference play against two SEC East squads: Missouri and Vanderbilt. Ending the year against the 2019 National Champion will give the Bulldogs one more shot at boosting their resume before the regular season ends.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: Mississippi State will host a Regional and compete for Omaha.
It's a little hard not to imagine some growing pains for Mississippi State in 2020. Losing leaders like Mangum and MacNamee is hard for a team to recover from. Also, the departure of Small leaves a large hole in the rotation. Ginn will provide some stability to the rotation, but the Bulldogs will need freshmen and JUCO transfers to fill in the back end of the rotation and the bullpen. The talent but maybe not the experience is there. I anticipate a slower start to the year for the Bulldogs, but ultimately, they should be clicking on all cylinders come Regionals. This team should host a Regional and should be in contention for Omaha.
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