The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Reigning SEC champs open against Texas Tech

With the baseball season beginning on Friday, head coach Andy Cannizaro discussed topics including the team’s condition, goals and mindsets about their matchup against  No. 17 Texas Tech and Western Illinois this weekend. 

Cannizaro said he looks forward to playing such a wellrounded team as Texas Tech and sees the Diamond Dawgs doing well against them.

“To be able to start my head coaching career against them is going to be a really cool opportunity,” Coach Cannizaro said. “It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for our team and it’s one that we’re really excited about. We’ve had a tremendous last two or three weeks of practice.” 

He said he can feel the cultural pressure Starkville presents him, with many people watching practices from Left Field Lounge, itching to get a glimpse of the highly anticipating Diamond Dawgs. Cannizaro proudly referred to Mississippi State as the “Mecca of college baseball.”

“We had Cowbell Yell the other night where 1,000 people showed up,” Cannizaro said. “It was a college baseball pep rally. That doesn’t happen anywhere else in the country.”

There is speculation going on around the young team, as many see Mississippi State as the baseball team with much rebuilding to do to replace Reid Humphreys, Dakota Hudson, Austin Sexton and other greats that left for the MLB.

The pitchers of Mississippi State have a lot to prove. Along with with their new faces, Mississippi State hired a new pitching coach, Gary Henderson. The Bulldogs will have a great sense of direction under his successful 28 years of experience and talent.

Cannizaro said the Bulldogs and staff are ready to tackle the challenge. He announced that Friday night’s starting pitcher will be Konnor Pilkington. Cannizaro thinks the 6’3”, 230 pound, left handed pitcher has potential and will be the next great Mississippi State pitcher. 

“We’re going to have him for the next two years,” Cannizaro said. “His best is yet to come. I think he’s going to have a chance to leave here as a high first round draft pick guy. He will be our Friday night starter.”

Pilkington said it is an honor to play for Mississippi State and pitch the first game against Texas Tech with help under Henderson’s tremendous impact on their techniques. 

 “I was ecstatic,” Pilkington said. “‘I’m really looking forward to it. Texas Tech is ranked high in everything, but it really doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m just going to go out there and give them all I have.”

The returning players for the Diamond Dawgs are looking forward to getting another shot at a College World Series appearance. At preview day, Redshirt senior Cody Brown said being one of the veterans is about giving guidance to the players to form a team.

“Having some veterans on the team like myself, Josh Lovelady, and Brett Rooker is important to give some guidance to such a young class.” Brown said. “I’ve been in the league for four years now going on my fifth, so I know the ins and outs of both sides. I see where I can help the younger guys to progress and move forward. We have to get right with our game.”

Brown said he looks forward to the game and believes Mississippi State has a solid roster that is willing to compete. Reigning SEC Freshman of the Year and First Team All-SEC Jake Mangum is another returning Diamond Dawg who is set to excel for the 2017 season. Mangum said Cannizaro is a coach with great skill and uses an approach to put the team in the direction of success.

“He’s able to top the game and let you know immediately, hey, this is what you need to better if we’re going to win.” Mangum said. “He’s going to win a lot of ballgames, he’s going to a great recruiter, coach, and just a person to lead this program where it needs to go. I can’t wait to watch him do it.”

With a win this Friday, it will help the Bulldogs jump into the Top 25 Rankings, as they stand at No. 32.

They ended the season at No. 11 after losing to Arizona in Super Regionals.

At No. 32, Cannizaro said it puts Mississippi State in position to do better than projected, making him and his player’s performance even greater. 

“National polls are just based around guys that they know are coming back,” Cannizaro said. “We have really good players coming back. We have really talented guys that a lot people just don’t know about yet. We have guys who are hungry to prove themselves and who are going to have really big years for us.”

Cannizaro and the Diamond Dawgs will take Dudy Noble Field on Feb. 17 at 4 p.m. against the No. 17 Texas Tech.. To continue opening weekend, the Bulldogs will play against Western Illinois Feb. 18 at 4 p.m. and Feb. 19 at 12 p.m. They will conclude with a game against Texas Tech Feb. 19 at 3 p.m.

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Reigning SEC champs open against Texas Tech