Mississippi State Baseball: Diamond Dawgs set to begin 2021 season

Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis goes to Oxford to play Ole Miss for the first time as the Bulldogs head coach this weekend.chris lemonis
Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis goes to Oxford to play Ole Miss for the first time as the Bulldogs head coach this weekend.chris lemonis /
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Mississippi State Baseball: 2021 Pitcher Preview

An abundance of arms is never a bad thing, and that’s what Mississippi State and pitching coach Scott Foxhall will have to work with in 2021. There will be no shortage of talent on the mound this season.


Mississippi State will trot out one of the best starting rotations in the conference this year. Left-hander Christian MacLeod was dominant in four starts in 2020 and will be the Friday night guy. MacLeod went 4-0 with an impressive 0.86 ERA and 35 strikeouts while walking six.

He was named Co-National Freshman of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper last season and will finally have the chance to showcase his talent throughout a full season.

Hard-throwing righty Will Bednar looked like a rising star in his four outings in 2020. He pitched 15.1 innings and garnered a 1.76 ERA while striking out 23 and walking six. Bednar was dynamite out of the bullpen and was transitioning to a starter role before the season was cut short.

Bednar made his first start against Quinnipiac, in which he went 5.1 innings, allowing just two hits and an earned run while striking out eight. He looks ready to be the No. 2 in MSU’s rotation.

Eric Cerantola, another hard-throwing right-hander, is the favorite to start on Sundays. He has struggled with command in his previous two seasons, but his upper-90s fastball and wipeout breaking ball has shown that he can be effective in the SEC.

Cerantola showed improvement in four starts in 2020, owning a 3.18 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 11 walks. It will be key for him to get ahead of hitters if he wants to succeed this season.


The Bulldogs will have tons of options to choose from this year in relief. A lot of new faces join the pitching staff and could see significant roles this season. Furman transfer Stone Simmons and JUCO arm Parker Stinnett will likely see time on the mound, along with Jackson Fristoe, Cade Smith, and Drew Talley.

Brandon Smith returns this season after missing 2020 with Tommy John surgery. He was impressive in his freshman campaign in 36.2 innings of work, with a 3-0 record and a 3.93 ERA. Smith could factor into the starting rotation at some point, but it seems that he will start the season out of the bullpen.

Landon Sims was MSU’s go-to guy out of the pen a season ago, and he settled in nicely to the tune of a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings, striking out 23 and walking seven. Sims will be one of State’s top options in relief in 2021.

Senior Carlisle Koestler saw action both starting and relieving last season. In his first season at State last year after anchoring Southeastern Louisiana’s rotation these previous three years, Koestler was in his first season. He was 0-1 with a 4.42 ERA in 18.1 innings for Mississippi State last year.

KC Hunt, Chase Patrick, and Jaxen Forrester pitched in their first seasons in Starkville in 2020, and they will likely have roles this season as well. Freshman Mikey Tepper will also make his debut on the mound this season.

The lefty returnees include Houston Harding and Jared Shemper. Harding was solid in two-midweek starts last year, including a win over Texas Tech. Harding had a 1-0 record with an ERA of 2.79. Shemper struggled last season but will try to bounce back in 2021.

Cameron Tullar and Davis Rokose should see time on the mound for the first time in maroon and white this season. Tullar comes from Wabash Valley College, where he earned several NJCAA honors in his two years.

On the back-end, Mississippi State will once again have the veteran right-handers Riley Self and Spencer Price. Self has been a staple in the Bulldogs’ bullpen for four years, and he improved a ton last season after a disappointing 2019.

Self went 1-0 with a 1.77 ERA in 7.2 innings last season. His experience will be leaned on in pressure situations this season.

Price was dominant in 2017 as the closer, ending the year with 14 saves in 31 appearances. An injury sidelined him for 2018, and he was used sparingly in 2019.

Price looked like his old self again last season, recording two saves and allowing no runs in 7.1 innings pitched. He looks primed to have a big season for a team that should win a lot of games.