Takeaways from Mississippi State baseball's first fall scrimmage

Joel Coleman

Six months after Mississippi State baseball's 2020 season came to an unceremonious end because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bulldogs were back on the diamond at Dudy Noble Field on Sunday for their first scrimmage of fall ball. While it's of course way too early to make any kind of sweeping judgements about MSU's upcoming spring based on 7 1/2 innings of fall practice, there were at least a few nuggets of note. Here are five takeaways as Team Maroon defeated Team Black.

– It's easy to see the potential and depth of the pitching staff. The Bulldogs turned to 15 different arms over the course of the scrimmage and seven of them worked 1-2-3 frames. Those with perfect innings were Cameron Tullar, Houston Harding, Jack Eagan, Jaxen Forrester, K.C. Hunt, Chase Patrick and Blayze Berry. Meanwhile Mikey Tepper and Riley Self also contributed scoreless innings of work. The exciting thing for Mississippi State is with all these options, it's not like the Bulldogs need them all to be immediate, top-end contributors. Remember, with essentially everyone back from last year's pitching staff – save for J.T. Ginn – MSU already has extremely solid starting and relief options. Now throw in a few of these newcomers who stand out and it stands to reason this could be up there in the conversation for the deepest overall pitching staff in Mississippi State history.

– There was a good early sign from Brandon Pimentel. As much as you can't take away a ton from one scrimmage, you can take away even less from one at-bat. But still, it was good to see when outfielder Brandon Pimentel stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning and ripped a double to right field (he was also hit by a pitch earlier in the scrimmage). You might recall Pimentel was struggling mightily back during the spring, batting just .184 with only a .286 on-base percentage and slugging just .265. This after his bat originally came to the Bulldogs with plenty of hype. With no more Justin Foscue and Jordan Westburg in the MSU batting order, the Bulldogs desperately need Pimentel to step up and pick up some of the slack in 2021. If nothing else, Sunday was a decent start.

– We got our first hints at who'll fill out the infield. Speaking of Foscue and Westburg, we got our first real glimpse at who'll try to fill their shoes in the infield. Scotty Dubrule, Davis Meche and Peyton Puckett all played in Foscue's old second base spot on Sunday. Kamren James, Tanner Leggett and Lane Forsythe each stood in the old Westburg role at shortstop. Of course James played third for the Bulldogs back during the spring, so with him sliding over to short, Kellum Clark and Landon Jordan each played third in Sunday's scrimmage. The guess here is that Dubrule winds up winning the second base job, James will be the starting shortstop and Clark/Jordan battle at third with one of them being a designated hitter on a lot of days. We'll see. But for now, it appears we at least are starting to know for sure what the options are.

– The Bulldogs are incredibly fortunate at catcher. Logan Tanner and Luke Hancock give Mississippi State an incredibly strong duo behind the plate. They are both solid defensively and they can just rake. Tanner actually hit the first home run of the fall. He drove one into the Left Field Lounge in the second inning against Preston Johnson. Tanner went on to have a 2-for-2 day with a walk and a pair of RBI. Not to be outdone, Hancock also had a 2-for-2 day with a walk that included a home run of his own (a drive into the right-field plaza off of Cade Smith). He, too, had two RBI. So add it all up and State's catching duo was 4-for-4 with 2 homers, 2 walks and four RBI. That'll work.

– As Jordan and Allen go, so might go Mississippi State. Not breaking any news here, but Rowdey Jordan and Tanner Allen are kind of the heart and soul of these Bulldogs. They are both entering their fourth seasons in maroon and white and have been starters from the time they got to Starkville. Those two likely need to be steadying forces for MSU to get to where it wants to go in 2021. That was somewhat apparent on Sunday. Jordan was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Allen was 0-for-2 with a strikeout, though he did add in a walk. Both guys were playing on Team Black and their squad mustered just two total runs in defeat. Now Sunday was no cause for concern at all. It just emphasized how Mississippi State's offensive heartbeat is likely to revolve around its two most recognizable faces. The Bulldogs need them to be consistently productive from Opening Day on come February.

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