STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - With just under two months until the opening of the new Dudy Noble Field and the start of the Chris Lemonis era, the Mississippi State baseball program received its first preseason national ranking from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
After a 2018 season that included 21 come-from-behind victories, seven walk-off wins and a magical run to the College World Series, the Diamond Dawgs begin the season ranked No. 27 by the publication.
Of the 40 teams in the preseason rankings, 11 of those appear on the Bulldog’s 2019 schedule, including seven SEC opponents, with 31 games versus ranked teams. A 14-day stretch at the beginning of the season will feature a weekend set with No. 30 Southern Miss, games against No. 4 Texas Tech and No. 40 Sam Houston State in the Frisco College Classic and a mid-week contest with No. 35 East Carolina.
The 2019 squad features 18 returners from the CWS squad a season ago, including nine student-athletes that started at least 30 games in the field. The pitching staff will look to fill a pair of open spots in the weekend rotation, with Ethan Small’s 18 starts in 2018 being more than the rest of the returning staff combined from last season.
On Monday (Dec. 17), senior Jake Mangum was named to Collegiate Baseball’s Preseason All-America squad. He was the lone SEC representative on the first team and the only SEC position player selected to the first or second team of the publication’s All-America squads. Mangum and the freshman All-American duo of Tanner Allen and Rowdey Jordan are the only returners that started at least 50 games for State last season.
A talented crop of 18 newcomers join the fold, as well, including two freshmen and one transfer student-athlete choosing the Maroon and White over Major League Baseball following the 2018 First Year Player Draft. Freshmen Eric Cerantola (30th Round; Tampa Bay) and JT Ginn (1st Round; Los Angeles Dodgers), along with junior Gunner Halter (26th Round; Cleveland) were each chosen in the 2018 MLB Draft.
The Bulldogs open the 2019 season with a three-game series at Dudy Noble Field against Youngstown State on Feb. 15-17.