STARKVILLE • Mississippi State is missing two-thirds of its weekend pitching rotation from a year ago.
But the one pitcher that is still around is certainly a solid starter the Bulldogs can build the rest of their staff around. Former first round draft pick JT Ginn moves up a day to be the Friday night ace while MSU turns to Christian MacLeod and Eric Cerantola to round of the rotation.
“We have a chance to have a dynamic pitching staff but a couple of them haven’t done it yet,” said MSU skipper Chris Lemonis. “That’s the piece that we have to find out, what happens between the lines. We all know JT and feel like we can go Friday night with anybody in the country with JT.”
Ginn was named the National Freshman of the Year by Perfect Game last season going 8-4 with a 3.13 earned run average across 17 starts. The right-hander fanned 105 batters and only walked 19 in 86 1/3 innings of work.
Bulldog coaches were beaming about MacLeod in 2019 as well. However, the 6-foot-4 southpaw was forced to sit out last season after contracting mononucleosis.
“Christian MacLeod is a guy that we loved last year and had to redshirt because of an illness,” Lemonis said. “He’s back and we feel like he has a chance to be one of the better No. 2’s out there in the country. We felt that way last year and didn’t get to have him. That was the left-hander we needed for most of last year.”
Cerantola, a righty from Canada, showed flashes as a freshman last season. He posted a 3-0 record and 4.30 ERA across 11 appearances and four starts while striking out 21 and walking 11 in 14 2/3 innings.
“Eric Certantola has had a really good spring training,” Lemonis said. “If he figures it out, he’s a first-rounder type of guy. His stuff, we saw it at the SEC Tournament where he was 96 to 98 (miles per hour). In a starting role he’s not throwing that hard but we feel like he has a chance.”
Lemonis is looking to a pair of senior relief pitchers to provide leadership as well as innings for his bullpen.
Riley Self and Spencer Price have both been closers during their time at State and are trying to bounce back from shaky showings last season.
“I’d love to be able to get those guys back in the mix with their experience and maturity with everything,” Lemonis said. “Spencer had an okay fall and Riley didn’t pitch this fall so us seeing them this spring will be a big piece for us.”
Lemonis praised the work of Josh Hatcher during the offseason.
The junior first baseman/ outfielder hit .321 with three home runs and 21 RBIs in 45 games last spring.
“From last summer until now, Josh Hatcher may be the most impressive guy that we have,” Lemonis said. “Not to put pressure on him but he’s just been really good in everything that he’s done.”