February 24, 2017 5:12:56 AM
Get to know more about Mississippi State baseball's competition for the second weekend of the season.
Judging by last year's games started, Marist had eight bona fide everyday starters last year and four of them return. In Marist's opening weekend series against Bucknell, left fielder Frankie Gregoire batted .333 in the third slot in the lineup, driving in five runs and slugging .867. The other returners are second baseman Anthony Lazar, right fielder Tyler Kirkpatrick and third baseman Andrew Louse. Lazar struggled in opening weekend, but the others were either near or better than their season numbers last year.
The hot bat among the newcomers was center fielder Matt Pagano who went 6 for 13 with a double and two RBIs.
Charlie Jerla was Marist's best starter last year and he had a good start to 2017, pitching 5 2/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts, three walks and two hits allowed. While Marist did not have its starters announced as of Thursday, I think it's reasonable to assume MSU will see Jerla this weekend: he had a 3.83 ERA last year over 84 2/3 innings, allowing 95 hits and 33 walks while striking out 61.
Last year's No. 2 starter, Sean Keenan, is also back, but is first outing lacked luster: 4 1/3 innings, two hits, two runs (both earned) and five walks issued. Last year's closer, Ryan Thomas (12 saves in 29 appearances) also got beat up in his first and only outing of 2017, a one-inning appearance in which he allowed four hits and four runs, two of them earned. Two more strong guys from last year's staff, Mike Coss and Tony Romanelli, also return, so there's some meat to this pitching staff.
Before we get to the breakdown, here's a quote from Andy Cannizaro: "Historically, that's been a pretty good program. Just within the last couple of years, they've had a lot of really high draft picks, particularly on the mound. A couple of years ago they had the Cape Cod League pitcher of the year that was at Indiana State. It's a program that's going to come in here and expect to win baseball games."
The Sycamores are bringing the long ball to Dudy Noble, having already hit six of them in 2017.
Of Indiana State's six true everyday starters from last year, only two return: shortstop Tyler Friis and center fielder Tony Rosselli. Friis started as the hottest Sycamore on the roster, going 8-15 in his first three games with a home run, three RBIs and two walks for an on-base percentage flirting with .600. Rosselli was good in his own right, going 4-11 (.364), but nothing as eye-popping as the bat Friis will bring to Starkville.
Indiana State didn't have issues replacing those lost starters in opening weekend, it seems: other than Friis, the team had five players register five or more hits.
Indiana State returns both of last season's top starters in Ryan Keaffaber and Tyler Ward. Keaffaber is slated to start the Saturday meeting with MSU while Friday's anticipated starter is Will Kincanon, who did not start the season well: 1 2/3 innings, eight hits, eight runs (seven earned), two walks, four strikeouts. Keaffaber did not start 2017 well, either, but his 3.48 ERA over 95 2/3 innings pitched (just 15 walks allowed) proves some quality.
Last year's closer, Jeremy McKinney, is back, alongside strong reliever Ethan Larrison and Damon Olds (although Larrison did not appear in opening weekend for reasons I do not know).