Bulldogs play Gamecocks in baseball

MSU baseball coach Andy Cannizaro, right
Staff Writer

Don’t look now, but there is a familiar entity at the top of the Southeastern Conference baseball standings.
No. 13 Mississippi State (23-12, 8-4), which won the league crown a year ago, went into Thursday tied for first in the overall SEC race and look to stay there after this weekend’s three-game series at No. 17 South Carolina (21-11, 7-5).
At first glance, it might be no surprise to some to see the Bulldogs back on the perch. However, how they have gotten there has, in some ways, been nothing short of amazing with the number of injuries that have had to be overcome.
“Teams all over the league have meetings on Wednesdays or Thursdays to talk about setting a 27-man travel roster,” MSU head coach Andy Cannizaro said. “We’re just taking whoever is available and that’s like 23 or maybe 24 guys. I can’t even begin to tell you how pumped up and how excited I am that our guys are doing what they are doing. It’s really neat to watch. Our guys are competing and fighting so hard and it’s more and more impressive each and every day.”
The injuries have seemingly been endless for the Bulldogs. Somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen pitchers are either injured, recovering from injury or playing through injury. The ailments haven’t stopped there. Position players have been banged up, too.
Infielder Hunter Stovall has battled a hamstring injury for most of the season and is currently playing through a hand injury after getting plunked with a pitch on Sunday. Outfielder/pitcher Jake Mangum injured his left wrist on Sunday. Both players are hoping to gut it out and play this weekend at South Carolina.
That’s just the makeup of this team says senior catcher Josh Lovelady. Lovelady sees a group willing to do absolutely whatever it takes to keep on rolling.
“You look at our team and we’re playing with 20 or 23 guys or something like that and you just go, ‘man,’” Lovelady said. “It’s like when we were younger and had 10 guys on a team and just rotated and played. That’s how it is now. We’ve got two guys on the mound that are position players in Cole Gordon and Jake Mangum. That’s what you see back in Little League. It’s awesome. It’s like reliving what we did back then, then, you look at the SEC standings and we’re right there at the top. We know we can continue to do that and we tell the younger guys, ‘just continue to come out every day and give it your best and you never know what will happen.’ Just like we’ve done the last few weeks, we’re going to continue to do it.”
The Gamecocks will provide another stiff challenge for MSU, but the Bulldogs are seemingly becoming adept at handling all kinds of adversity. State has won eight of its last nine league games. Three of those came in a weekend sweep on the road, at instate rival Ole Miss. Two came last weekend in a series win over SEC-East-leading Kentucky.
Banged, bruised and battered, nothing seems to be slowing down these Bulldogs. Cannizaro hopes to see it all continue in South Carolina.
“I can’t even speak highly enough about the effort and the fight and the grit that our guys that are in a jersey and available for us right now are giving us each and every day,” Cannizaro said. “I’ve been so proud of this team. They don’t take no for an answer. They just keep coming back and keep coming back. There is so much pride that our guys are playing with right now, as a position player group and as a pitching staff, that it’s a lot of fun to come to the ballpark every day and watch our guys compete.
“It doesn’t matter who shows up everyday. Our guys don’t want to lose.”