The final series at the Cliff will be an emotional weekend for former players, coaches, and fans. It is an important weekend for the Cliff, but an even more important series for Kentucky’s hosting chances. The Cats need to pick up a series win to get back to .500 in conference play. Before the series gets underway tomorrow night, here is a look at some names to know for this weekend’s opponent Mississippi State.
Jake Mangum- Centerfielder
Mangum came onto the scene as the best freshman in the SEC two years ago. He turned down a pro contract with the Yankees to return as the primary hitter for the Dogs. Mangum is known as a high-average hitter with good speed and good range in the outfield. He has been a tough out for three years now, but he only had three hits last season against UK. Mangum will set the tone for MSU at the top of the lineup and in centerfield. I wasn’t joking about his ability to track down balls and take great routes in center.
JAKE. MANGUM! That’s just straight up unfair, but we love it!
— MSU Baseball ? (@HailStateBB) April 25, 2018
Konnor Pilkington, Pitcher
If you looked at mock drafts a year ago, Pilkington would have been a consensus top 15 pick this summer. Pilkington was a member of the USA Collegiate Team in 2017 and was the #3 prospect in the SEC before this season. The 2018 season has been a little harder on Pilkington. In SEC games, Pilkington has allowed 24 runs in 42.2 innings. His struggles continued last week when he allowed seven runs in 4.2 innings to a woeful Alabama team. Pilkington still has ace stuff, but he has not been the same pitcher in SEC games as he was in his first two seasons.
Ethan Small, Pitcher
While Pilkington has struggled, Ethan Small has carried the MSU rotation against SEC opponents. Small has a 2.76 ERA in conference play with a team-high 57 strikeouts. The junior missed all of 2017 with an injury but has made a loud return in 2018. Small has given a boost to his draft stock by being the Dogs’ best starter this season.
Gary Henderson, Interim Head Coach
How perfect is it that Henderson returns to UK for the final series at the Cliff? Henderson was named the interim head coach after Andy Cannizaro resigned in February under shady circumstances. Prior to being named head coach, Henderson was the pitching coach in Starkville, a job that he had held since 2016. Henderson had moderate success at UK, but could never take the program to the next level. MSU struggled early with Henderson in charge, but they have since rebounded and are on the the bubble headed into the final two weekends of the season. Henderson has done a good job of putting this program in the right direction after Cannizaro resigned after the first week of the season.
John Cohen, Former Coach, Current Athletic Director
There will four coaches at the Cliff this weekend that coached at UK and MSU. Nick Mingione, Keith Madison, Gary Henderson, and John Cohen all spent time in Lexington and Starkville as either an assistant or head coach. Cohen took the Cats to their first SEC Championship in 2006 and took MSU to the College World Series Title Series in 2013 with Mingione as his assistant. The current AD at MSU, Cohen is looking for a full-time coach. It is easy to guess that Cohen will call Mingione about the opening.