SuperTalk Mississippi

MSU makes Lemonis hire official

Dudy Noble Field. Photo courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc.

Just two days after their elimination from the College World Series, Mississippi State has hired a new head baseball coach.

Earlier today, reports stated that Mississippi State hired Indiana’s Chris Lemonis as the new head coach of the Bulldog baseball team, and now MSU has confirmed the reports.

Lemonis compiled a 141-91-2 overall record in four seasons as the head coach of the Hoosiers and took them to three NCAA Tournaments. Lemonis replaces Gary Henderson, who took over at the beginning of the season following Andy Cannizaro’s resignation. Apparently, leading MSU out of turmoil to a berth in the College World Series wasn’t enough to get Henderson the full-time gig.

For Lemonis, he brings almost 25 years of coaching experience with him with stops at Louisville and The Citadel as an assistant before becoming the head coach at Indiana. While the Bulldogs are fresh off of their 10th trip to the CWS, Lemonis says that he’s ready to get to work and make it back to Omaha.

“It’s an incredible honor to be the head coach at Mississippi State,” Lemonis said. “The tradition, fan base and facility in Starkville are second to none in college baseball. My goal is to keep the program moving forward, strive for championships and ultimately win in Omaha. We will be aggressive in attracting the best players in the country to Mississippi State, and when they get here, we will develop them to their fullest potential on and off the field.”

The Bulldogs are banking on Lemonis bringing top talent to Starkville as a he has been able to get 69 players selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. Recruiting and in-game decision making were among the two most important factors for Athletic Director John Cohen when making this decision.

“Chris is a winner and has elevated programs everywhere he has coached,” Cohen said. “He understands what it takes to get to Omaha, and he’s done it as a coach and a player. He is the most dynamic recruiter I have been around in my 25 years in college baseball, and his track record of identifying and developing Major League talent in his 24 years of coaching illustrates that. Chris is also one of the elite baseball tacticians in the country. We are excited that Chris will successfully lead us into a new chapter of Mississippi State baseball.”

Lemonis’ success as a recruiter and as an assistant at Louisville seemed to be a key component of his resume for this job, and the hire has received praise from several analysts.

“I think this is a fantastic hire. Chris is incredibly sharp and known as one of the best recruiters in the country. He was front and center as Louisville became a national power in college baseball. I think Chris will fit in perfectly at Mississippi State,” Mike Rooney, ESPN College Baseball Analyst, said.

Fundamentally sound baseball may be taken for granted, but while Lemonis was the head coach at IU, his teams hold three out of the four highest single-season fielding percentages in Indiana history, and they finished with a .979 fielding average in 2017.

This won’t be Lemonis’s first time in Starkville. His father, Thomas, was a 1973 Mississippi State graduate in electrical engineering, and Chris lived in Starkville as a newborn during his father’s time in school.

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