After back-to-back trips to the College World Series, Mississippi State began the 2020 season as a consensus top-25 team among the six national polls.
And while much was expected of the Diamond Dogs with a solid core of hitting and pitching returning, things hadn’t exactly started the way many people had planned. MSU was 12-4 when the season was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak but the injury bug had already bitten the Bulldogs hard in the opening month.
JT Ginn, State’s Friday night ace and the 2019 National Freshman of the Year, was lost for the season after throwing only 58 pitches in the opener. Ginn underwent elbow surgery and is eligible for the MLB Draft this year. He was a first-round selection out of high school.
Tanner Allen had already sustained two injuries early on – the first of which came in his first at-bat of the year when he fouled a ball off his left knee. That incident cost him three games. Allen also broke a bone in his left hand attempting to make a diving catch in the final game of the Long Beach State series and had missed five games when the season was canceled.
Injuries weren’t the only setback Mississippi State had in the first few weeks of the 2020 campaign. It had already suffered a shocking 8-4 loss at home to Texas Southern, a team that was 0-9 entering that contest. That loss would’ve continued to be a black eye on the Diamond Dogs’ RPI all year and could’ve impacted their hosting chances for the postseason.
MSU had also already had two games against Samford and Southern Miss rained out before the season was canceled.
But things weren’t all gloom and doom for the Bulldogs. They already owned a series win over Oregon State and were coming off a two-game midweek series sweep of No. 4 Texas Tech in Biloxi when play was halted.
I thought those wins over the Red Raiders might’ve been just the spark that Mississippi State needed before the start of Southeastern Conference play at home against an Arkansas squad that had also been stumbling somewhat out of the gate.
Three freshmen caught my eye during the first few weeks. Christian MacLeod was moved into the Friday night role with Ginn’s injury and was 4-0 with a 0.86 ERA, 35 strikeouts and only six walks in 21 innings.
Kamren James flashed some leather at third base and was also hitting .308 with a home run and 12 RBIs in 15 games. Logan Tanner was tied for the team lead with two homers and had thrown out three of the seven runners that attempted to steal on him behind the plate.
We’ll never know if the Diamond Dogs would’ve made it to Omaha for the third season in a row but they certainly had enough talent to, even with all the tough luck early on.
As they say, that’s baseball and there’s always next year.