STARKVILLE – Not only does Mississippi State have to replace 2/3 of its outfield but also has to makeup for the leadership and big plays lost by the graduation of Jake Mangum and Elijah MacNamee.
But the Bulldogs feel good about the options they have available in the outfield this year. Junior switch-hitter Rowdey Jordan moves from left field to center field while junior Tanner Allen transitions from first base to right field.
Jordan started 66 of 67 games in left last year and batted .290 with 15 doubles, six home runs, 49 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. He also only committed one error in 2019 giving coach Chris Lemonis plenty of confidence in his ability to make the switch to center field.
“We were just so good with Jake, but we have moved Rowdey over,” Lemonis said. “Rowdey's a great center fielder, so I had a center fielder playing left field last year."
Allen started every game at first base last season but did have two outfield starts during his freshman campaign in 2018. He is the team’s leading returning hitter and run producer with a .349 batting average and 66 RBIs last spring.
Allen also added 23 doubles, one triple and seven homers to his offensive totals.
Left field could be a revolving door for the Diamond Dogs as they look for someone to replace Jordan there. Josh Hatcher made one start in left last year but is expected to play most of his innings at first base this spring.
Juco transfer Brandon Pimentel is also expected to split his time between first base and the outfield. Pimentel possesses plenty of power – belting 14 home runs as a freshman at Howard College in 2019 – so Lemonis will try to keep his bat in the lineup.
MSU has a pair of outfielders that were on the team last season but received little to no playing time. Sophomore Bryce Brock played outfield in three games and pitched in seven others last season. He will strictly be an outfielder and hitter this season.
Hunter Blalock is a strapping 6-foot-5, 219-pounder from Madison Central that redshirted for the Bulldogs a year ago.
Blalock isn’t the only big guy that State has patrolling the outfield either. Brad Cumbest is 6-foot-5, 250-pounds and also plays tight end on the football team. Cumbest drew two starts in right field last year and six other starts as a designated hitter.
Cumbest appeared in 33 games total batting .286 with four doubles, one homer and 11 RBIs.
The Diamond Dogs also signed three freshmen who can also help out in the outfield in Drew McGowan, Kyte McDonald and Hunter French. McGowan is a two-way player that will also pitch.
Lemonis likes the depth and match-up options he can make with his lineup in left field.
“Bryce Brock has been a nice surprise,” Lemonis said. “Drew McGowan is a young kid for us. Hunter French has been one and we just got Brad Cumbest [back] from football. Brad is very talented, but just getting back and getting his feet wet. I think out there with us having two left-handed hitters and two right-handed hitters, that we can use that.”