STARKVILLE – Dustin Skelton was a workhorse behind the plate for Mississippi State last season, catching 57 of 67 games.
With Skelton selected by the Miami Marlins last summer, the Bulldogs will now have to break in a new backstop. MSU is carrying three catchers on its roster in sophomore Luke Hancock and freshmen Logan Tanner and Austin Kelly.
“All three of us are capable of doing the job back there,” Hancock said. “They’ve both improved since they’ve gotten here in the fall. I try to talk to them as much as I can and try to help if they need help with anything. I knew Austin in high school so we’re pretty good friends. I feel like the veteran even though I’m not.”
Hancock played in 26 games last season but only started four games at catcher. The Houston native hit .326 with four doubles and 14 RBIs as a freshman last spring.
“I'm excited about Luke,” said MSU coach Chris Lemonis. “He's caught JT (Ginn) since he was about 14, so they've been together a long time. Luke is a pretty steady personality back there.”
Tanner is a two-way player for MSU that is also expected to pitch some. The 6-foot, 218-pounder was a two-time first team All-State selection at George County as well as a second team All-American.
“(Logan Tanner) is another guy coming up that was maybe one of the better catchers in the country coming in, so we feel like we'll have a good spot there,” Lemonis said.
Kelly is another highly touted freshman backstop for the Diamond Dogs. He was the 2019 Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Player of the Year at Washington School and holds school records for the most career hits, home runs and RBIs.
“We feel good about it,” Lemonis said. “I'll be honest with you, I was more nervous about last year at this point and Skleton ended up having one of the better seasons behind the plate over anybody in the country.
"I give a lot of credit to Kyle Cheesebrough, our catching coach, and to those guys and their work ethic.”