Mississippi State junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe the C Spire Ferriss Trophy during a ceremony at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in the tenth year for the award.
“It was a great honor to hoist up the Trophy with Boo Ferris and everybody there, my family and coaches,” Renfroe said Monday afternoon after practice. “It was real honor because of all the great players from Southern and Ole Miss and others.”
Renfroe led the Bulldogs with a .362 batting average and was fourth in the Southeastern Conference with 51 RBI. He led the SEC with 15 home runs.
Renfroe anchored the middle of the lineup for the No. 18 (Collegiate Baseball) Bulldogs (40-16, 16-14) and helped lead MSU to a fifth place finish in the SEC.
Renfroe beat out Delta State pitcher Josh Branstetter, South Mississippi pitcher Andrew Pierce, Ole Miss catcher Stuart Turner and Rebel pitcher Bobby Wahl.
Renfroe is the fourth Bulldog to win the award. Shortsop Thomas Berkery and catcher Ed Easley received the award in back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007. Pitcher Chris Stratton, a first round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants, took home the hardware last year.
Bulldogs ready to defend SEC Tournament Title
The Bulldogs will look to remake some of the magic of last year’s SEC Tournament Title, as they enter as the defending champs.
The 5-seed Bulldogs (40-16) will open the tournament with a first round game against 12-seed Missouri (18-31) Tuesday at Hoover Met in Hoover, Ala. in the last game of the day.
The loser will go home, while the winner moves on to face 4-seed South Carolina in the double elimination portion of the tournament on Wednesday.
MSU will give sophomore right hander Trevor Fitts the ball. This will be his second start of the season and his second start of the year.
The Tigers will throw junior lefty Rob Zastryzny. Zastryzny (2-9, 3.64) hasn’t seen the mound in over two weeks.
Bulldogs move up in the polls
After taking two-out-of-three from South Carolina last weekend, the Bulldogs moved up in the polls.
MSU moves from No. 23 to No. 18 in the Collegiate Baseball poll, they move from No. 24 to No. 16 in the Baseball America Poll, they move from No. 21 to No. 13 in the Perfect Game poll and moved from No. 16 to No. 13 in the USA Today poll.
MSU head coach John Cohen on Monday’s SEC teleconference
Opening statement: “Really proud of our kids this past weekend. I feel like we were very productive. We lose an extra inning ball game and every coach in our league feels like, you’re one or two pitches away from winning that extra game. We played a very good South Carolina club and really I think put ourselves in position to be in the discussion for several things in the postseason. The thing that’s in front of us now is a really solid Missouri club.”
Missouri’s starter Rob Zastryzny: “Looking at the left-hander we’re going to face, he’s going to be a really tough challenge for us. I’ve heard from several sources, he’s the type of kid who can end up in the first five rounds. He did not pitch last weekend, and we’re going to prepare for him.”
On MSU’s starter: “For right now it’s Trevor Fitts. Missouri is a little bit more left-handed than we had anticipated You look at their stuff and we’re going to see what happens, but for now Trevor Fitts is a guy who’s going to get the ball on Tuesday.”
On the new SEC Tournament format: “I do like this format because I think our league is different. I can foresee a time where a club is going to have a very, very high RPI, who might be at the back end of our league, you know who is very, very capable of getting in the NCAA Tournament and I think those teams deserve to be in the SEC Tournament.”
On Rob Zastryzny: “We’re gathering as much information as quickly as we possibly can. It’s something we’ll go over this afternoon, evening and tomorrow. It really helps us, I think, because of the short-term nature of the turnaround for the SEC Tournament, it really helps us that we’re playing the night game because that enables us to get more and more information. Because this is a team we haven’t played, nor do we know much about him.
“He is very capable of running through innings. He’s a guy, you could swing and miss. He’s a guy who is a prospect. He’s the real deal. If we’re not ready for him, he’s a guy that can beat you for sure.”
On MSU rotation with a win: “We can’t imagine getting Kendall (Graveman) involved until Thursday. That will be shortening him again, one day and we did that the week before as well. I was just listening to Mike (Bianco) talk and (Bobby) Wahl got backed up a little bit and so did our guys because we had rain at Ole Miss.
“From day to day your checking with your guys, you’re monitoring all arms and just seeing how they feel. We do fell like the strength of our staff is our bullpen. So that’s even more day to day than your starting situation . I don’t know which starter on Wednesday. To be honest with you, it’d probably depend who is not going to pitch on Tuesday.”
On Ross Mitchell: “It is remarkable. It’s a real testament to the kid. It’s a real testament to Butch Thompson. I think it’s a neat thing. The reason it’s a neat thing to me is the next Ross Mitchell who steps into our program and we want to make a long reliever out of him, you know kids aren’t traditionally excited about that role but if you look it up and look at Ross Mitchell, he can get you excited about that role because he’s somebody who’s done so much for our program.”
Why Trevor Fitts: “You can’t put your weekend guys in jeopardy. Because it’s a Tuesday game and turnaround is so short, you have to protect your guys. Fitts has been very productive in bullpens and his last start was against Oral Roberts and he pitched really well early in that ball game. We just feel like this opportunity has presented itself and he’s our best candidate for a Tuesday ballgame.”
On Hunter Renfroe: “I don’t know if he’s the best hitter I’ve ever coached, I think he’s the most gifted athlete on a baseball field I’ve ever coached. And the difference there is he’s a legitimate five-tool guy, at least at the college level.
“He’s a rare bird. He’s somebody who can do so many athletic things. He’s a 6.6 runner who can throw a baseball 98 miles an hour off the mound. He’s a guy with tremendous power. There are lot of moments in his three years so far when our club has been speechless after watching him do something.”
On returning to SEC Tourney as defending champs: “There’s going to be a familiarity because we have so many guys back. You know what’s interesting is, I’m not sure how they’re going to respond playing in the dark. Because certainly we played in the day every day we played in the tournament. But you know, I think every year is different and it’s a new experience. Our club is different. Tim’s (Jamieson) club is different. I know this, Tim’s club is no shock that they’ve played well in the postseason because he and his staff do such a great job. I consider him one of my closes friends. I learned so much from him, having been with him at Missouri.”
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson
On being in the tournament: ”We’re excited to be here to continue to play here. The first year in the SEC with a chance to play. All our guys who struggled most of the year have been playing better lately. We’re obviously excited about just having the opportunity to see what this is all about.”
On opening against friend John Cohen: ”I’m looking forward to it. John and I didn’t get to compete against each other this year. We didn’t play Mississippi State this season. It’s going to happen sooner or later. Next year’s schedule they get to come to Columbia. It’s something that’s going t happen eventually and I’m looking forward to it. I’m anxious to see John’s reaction than anything else.”
On starting Rob Zastrynzny: “We’re still going to have to score runs. Rob has been great the entire career at our place. He’s going to be a high draft at the end of the year and he’s going to have a good professional career. He’ll complete fine, but we’ve got to score runs.”
On playing MSU for the first time: “I think it’s always going to be about us for the most part, try to get some scouting reports on them. I think it’s kind of interesting. You go into it not having played before and it’s a lot more intriguing than having played each other three times and knowing a lot more about each other. It’s a matchup and you just go out there and try to play your best because you really don’t know what to expect.”
On experience returning from last year’s Big 12 title team: “Most of the guys that can draw from it are on the pitching staff. We’ve been playing seven first-year players in our lineup, most of the year. I think there are enough guys who can draw from it. You get a chance to play a little bit better at the end of the year like we did, get into the tournmanet and win the first game and you never know what can happen. And that’s the intriguing thing about this tournament, with the first day being what the way that it is, obviously you have to win the first, especially for us because we need to keep playing to keep playing.”
On saving Rob Zastrynzny: “Actually he started two weekends ago at Alabama, he had some back spasms for about three weeks he’d been fighting. We gave him a couple of extra days and he pitched on Sunday against Alabama, which means he wasn’t ready Thursday and he wasn’t ready Friday to pitch against Kentucky. Once we found out we were in, we skipped him on Saturday because we knew our only chance to keep playing is to win on Tuesday.”