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2021 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 8 Mississippi State

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Tanner Allen (Photo by Andrew Woolley/Four Seam Images)

Last season: 12-4
Final ranking: No. 13
Coach (record at school): Chris Lemonis (64-19, two years)

Top 200 draft prospects: RHP Eric Cerantola (No. 39), RHP Will Bednar (No. 43), LHP Christian Macleod (No. 49)

The good news: The Bulldogs bring back a strong core both in the lineup and on the mound, giving them one of the most talented rosters in the country. They’re particularly deep on the mound, where lefthander Christian Macleod was on his way to a breakout 2020 and gives them a premium arm at the front of the rotation. Righthanders Will Bednar and Eric Cerantola also have high-end stuff and if they can grow into their roles as starters, Mississippi State could have one of the top rotations in the country. With veteran relievers Spencer Price and Riley Self back for a fifth year and a deep, talented group of hard-throwers in the mix as well, runs will be hard to come by for opponents. Offensively, the Bulldogs get back fourth-year juniors Tanner Allen, Josh Hatcher and Rowdey Jordan. That trio brings back plenty of experience and feel for hitting and makes for a strong core to build around.

The bad news: Mississippi State lost its double-play combination of second baseman Justin Foscue and shortstop Jordan Westburg in the first 30 picks of the 2020 draft. Not only did that duo anchor the infield, Foscue and Westburg were also the Bulldogs’ top two hitters and leave a significant hole behind. Redshirt freshman Kamren James will slide over from third base to take over at shortstop. He has a strong, physical frame and a similar profile to Westburg, though he’ll face a learning curve after playing just 15 games a year ago. At second base, Mississippi State added Scott Dubrule as a graduate transfer from Jacksonville. He holds the Dolphins’ all-time hits record (249) and has played 197 career games, the third most of any active player in the country. His experience will be an asset and his feel for hitting should translate to the SEC, helping to further deepen the Bulldogs’ lineup. True freshmen Lane Forsythe and Davis Meche give Mississippi State some depth up the middle.

Player to know: Tanner Allen, OF.

A fourth-year junior, Allen has been a regular in Mississippi State’s lineup since arriving in Starkville. He’s hit .315/.390/.477 in 143 career games for the Bulldogs, played for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and shown he can do a bit of everything at the plate. He was bit hard by the injury bug early last season and between that and the shortened draft, he is back in Starkville—to the benefit of the Bulldogs.

Path to Omaha: The Bulldogs have a well-rounded team plenty capable of playing deep into the postseason. To advance to a third straight College World Series, they’ll need to make the most of their hard-throwing rotation and deep bullpen. This team doesn’t have a big power threat in the heart of the order but should be able to score runs in a variety of ways and have power throughout the lineup. Mississippi State’s combination of high-end talent, depth and experience will make it tough to beat.

Colton Cowser2 Courtesy20 (1)

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2021 Lineup
POSNAME, Yr.AVGOBPSLGABHRRBI
CLogan Tanner, R-Fr..268.388.4394125
1BJosh Hatcher, R-Jr..311.338.5086129
2BScott Dubrule, R-Sr.Transfer -- Jacksonville
3BKellum Clark, Fr.HS -- Brandon, Miss.
SSKamren James, R-Fr..308.339.42352112
LFBrandon Pimentel, R-So..184.286.2654918
CFRowdey Jordan, R-Jr..308.395.3386506
RFTanner Allen, R-Jr..420.387.4002505
DHLuke Hancock, R-So..231.310.3082603
POSNAME, Yr.WLERAIPSOSV
LHPChristian MacLeod, R-So.400.8621350
RHPWill Bednar, R-Fr.001.7615231
RHPEric Cerantola, R-So.113.1817220
RPSpencer Price, R-Sr.000.007102
RPRiley Self, R-Sr.101.17870

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