Members of the Mississippi State baseball team demonstrated their skills in preparation for the 2022 season through a set of scrimmage games, referred to as the Fall World Series, which concluded on Tuesday.
After claiming the school's first national championship nearly four months ago, MSU lost some standout players to the MLB draft, including the College World Series Most Outstanding Player Will Bednar and SEC Player of the Year Tanner Allen. Despite this, the team has had many returning players step up and fill major roles, while experienced transfers and a talented freshman class have fit in well.
The Fall World Series scrimmage games featured two teams --Team Cheese and Team Goat-- and gave nearly every player the chance to perform. Four games were played, with Team Cheese claiming the 3-1 series victory. Here are five players who stood out through the series.
1. Luke Hancock
Luke Hancock is one of the team's most experienced players, and it showed during the scrimmages. He finished 6/12 with 4 runs scored and 1 RBI. In the first two games he was fifth in the batting order and had success, so he was moved to leadoff hitter for the third and fourth games. Defensively, he played catcher for Team Goat, but he also has valuable experience at first base. Last season, Hancock was one of the most difficult players in the SEC to strike out, and had 17 strikeouts with 47 walks. He upheld his reputation for having a great eye at the plate by striking out only once while being walked four times in four games.
2. Parker Stinnett
Right-handed pitcher Parker Stinnett played a fair amount last season-- he pitched 18.2 total innings, struck out 31 batters and walked 16. This year, Stinnett will likely play a much bigger role on the team. He had one of the best performances of any player in the Fall World Series and stood out among the other pitchers. Stinnett pitched for 7.1 innings over two games. He had 16 strikeouts, including nine in his first appearance and seven in his second. He totaled only two walked batters and gave up two hits and two runs. His strike-to-ball ratio was also extremely impressive. Out of the 107 pitches he threw, 75 of them were strikes -- that's roughly 70%.
3. RJ Yeager
RJ Yeager is one of the standout transfers on the team. Before coming to Mississippi State as a graduate student, he played at Mercer University. In his 2021 season at Mercer, he had a .308 batting average with 49 runs scored and 50 RBIs. He is also strong on defense and had a .969 fielding percentage while playing at the shortstop position in the 2021 season. Through the four Fall World Series games, Yeager had a .286 batting average and totaled five runs, four RBIs and one home run. With his proven success at Mercer and the way he has performed for MSU in the offseason, it seems as if Yeager will be a great addition to a young Bulldog team.
4. Bryce Chance
After the way Bryce Chance played in the Fall World Series, it is hard to believe that he is only a true freshman. He finished 9/12 at the plate-- a .750 batting average unheard of in baseball. Along with an insanely high batting average, Chance added seven runs scored and three RBIs while striking out only once. He also recorded a stolen base in the second game of the series. The only game he did not record a hit in was the final game, but he went 0/1 with an RBI and two runs scored after being walked twice. Defensively, he was used in both left and right field and was a designated hitter at one point. Chance has shown his value in nearly every aspect of the offense and appears versatile on defense.
5. Slate Alford
Slate Alford was the other true freshman that stood out over the course of the scrimmage games. He finished with a .428 batting average in 14 plate appearances and recorded at least one hit in every game while playing third base for Team Cheese. Alford also scored five runs on his own and added seven RBIs. He was the only player to record two home runs, one of which came in his very first game with the team. He struggles some with reading pitches at the plate, but that will improve as he faces college-level pitchers and gets more experience. Alford is a powerful hitter who will likely become a valuable Bulldog in the coming years.