Lemonis encouraged by scrimmage action of Bulldogs in baseball

Chris Lemonis

Staff Writer

It might seem sacrilege to some football enthusiast in the south but college baseball is – sort of – back.

Fresh off of a wild five months that included a coach resigning, a losing record-turned-Omaha run and the hiring of a new head man, Mississippi State is back at it inside Dudy Noble and enjoying a different fall than it had a year ago. The Diamond Dawgs began fall practices last week under new head coach Chris Lemonis and had their first fall scrimmages of the year this weekend.

Lemonis was pleased with the action in which he saw from his first Bulldog team. He’s coming over from a successful tenure at Indiana and inheriting quite the situation with the return of Jake Mangum and a large part of the lineup and pitching staff.

On Friday afternoon, Lemonis put the two teams on the field in a scrimmage situation as it played four innings. Among some of the highlights were home runs by Mangum, sophomore Jordan Westburg and true freshman Hayden Jones. The teams combined for six extra-base hits and put the baseball around the yard nicely.

There was, of course, some pitching that took place as well. MSU got a chance to mix in several different players including junior college newcomers Colby White and Jack Eagan. White was, perhaps, the most impressive pitcher of all as he struck out two batters and was touching 97 miles per hour.

In all, Lemonis likes the players that he has on his team led by some seniors with many miles behind them already.

“The leadership piece has been huge with Jake Mangum, Elijah MacNamee and Cole Gordon,” Lemonis said. “Gunner Halter has been good at shortstop and we have a lot of good young pitchers. We’re still learning the process. Some of the newcomers are still learning the process and I tell them they have to breathe a little bit.”

Mangum is experiencing a bittersweet fall. He’s in his final season as a Bulldog and turned down two opportunities to go pro in order to finish out his career with MSU.

The All-Southeastern Conference centerfielder made a nice opening appearance on Friday when he showed off his defensive prowess with a diving catch in centerfield, an outfield assist on a gunned down runner at third base and then the home run at the plate. He’s approaching each day with no regrets.

“This is year four and has gone by really quick," Mangum said. "I hope it slows down a little bit. We’re excited though. Everyone is ready to go and we’re all healthy. A lot of guys are buying in to win a national championship like we have every year.”

With the fall in full swing now, the Diamond Dawgs are now focused on the 2019 season. Lemonis sees a tremendous opportunity ahead of him but much work to be done, including around him at the stadium.

All of that fails to compare to the setback MSU had last season as it played inside the Palmeiro Center for most of fall practice and fell behind the usual curve. Lemonis likes the start this particular team is getting.

“Getting a chance to see a scrimmage, see the pitchers get out there and get in a full practice segment, we’re all excited,” Lemonis said. “It’s been hectic, and we’ve been bouncing around taking care of some things but getting a chance to come out here has been good.”

Scrimmages will continue throughout the fall and are open to the public, though fans are reminded of the active construction zone that prevents them from sitting in the grandstands.