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Months after fans called for Lemonis’ job, Mississippi State baseball back in postseason

Chris Lemonis has an overall record of 203-112 in six seasons as head coach at Mississippi State (Photo courtesy of MSU Athletics)

Three months ago, Mississippi State fans were calling for the job of head baseball coach Chris Lemonis with some even dropping as low to call the championship he helped bring to Starkville three years ago “a fluke” rooted in recruiting classes of a previous coach. Fast forward to now, and those same fans seem to be pleased with the product the Bulldogs are displaying as postseason play begins this week.

Lemonis – who has stayed true over the past two sterile seasons to his belief that college baseball is a game of ebbs and flows when asked about fan perspective – is once again a popular man inside one of the sport’s biggest meccas. The Bulldogs (36-19, 17-13 SEC) are back in the top half of the Southeastern Conference, are nationally ranked, and carry with them a top-25 RPI.

During a Saturday press conference coming off a game three loss but a series win over Missouri (23-32, 9-21), Lemonis made it clear that he’s just pleased to see his guys back in the SEC Tournament and not watching from home like in 2022 and 2023.

“Nothing else matters now,” Lemonis said. “Getting these guys to Hoover is huge, and then, preparing for a regional is the biggest thing. We go the entire year to prepare for these next couple of weeks, and I like where we’re at.”

Outside of administrators, assistant coaches, and of course his own team, one person who has remained steadfast in Lemonis’ corner – at least from afar – is Eric Sorenson of D1Baseball. The national analyst and writer has consistently preached that Bulldog fans must be patient because after all, Lemonis was the final piece of a national championship puzzle that had been one or two pieces short on many occasions in years past. Sorenson has often appeared on radio shows and podcasts and begged the question of, Doesn’t Lemonis deserve at least a little leeway?

Sorenson, like temperamental Mississippi State supporters, is happy to see Lemonis and his team return to postseason play.

“I think Chris Lemonis has done his best job [yet], and he needed to,” Sorenson said on SportsTalk Mississippi going into the Missouri series. “Early in the year, people were clamoring for him to be gone, but we’ve had discussions over the years about coaches on the hot seat, and I’m always a little conservative when it comes to that because I think people get knee-jerk reactions to a cold streak or something like that.

“I think this is Chris Lemonis’ chance to prove that the national championship wasn’t a fluke, and the last two years were flukes.”

With Mississippi State going into the SEC Tournament as a five-seed and certainly a lock to advance to the NCAA Tournament, the jury (or committee in this case) is still out on whether the Bulldogs have done enough to host a regional. When asked about the possibility, Lemonis feels as if his team has gone above and beyond to earn a host site.

“We finished fifth in the SEC – the hardest league in the country. We have the nicest facility, the biggest attendance. I think we’ve done [enough]. We have an extra SEC win from the Governor’s Cup (vs. Ole Miss) and we’ve got work still to do in the SEC Tournament,” Lemonis said, arguing his case. “It would shock me if we didn’t [host].”

Kendall Rogers, Sorenson’s editor at D1Baseball, virtually agrees with Lemonis. However, Rogers said an early exit in the SEC Tournament combined with the stars aligning for other contenders such as South Carolina or Alabama would put the committee in a predicament as to whether Starkville deserves to host for the first time since that national championship run in 2021.

“They’re hosting going into the SEC Tournament. Now, if they bow out of there really quick and some other teams that are in the mix go on a run, maybe that changes. But I feel very, very good about Mississippi State at this juncture,” Rogers shared.

Making a run in the SEC Tournament won’t be an easy task for the Bulldogs, though, as they open with rival Ole Miss. While the Rebels (27-28, 11-19) are coming off a poor showing against LSU and narrowly grabbed the tournament’s final spot, it’s still a rivalry game. So far this season, the teams have split the four games they’ve played.

First pitch from Hoover, Ala., between Mississippi State and Ole Miss is tentatively set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. CT. The game can be listened to on participating SuperTalk Mississippi stations and watched on the SEC Network.

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