STARKVILLE — Jason Dietrich has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Butch Thompson as the Mississippi State baseball team’s pitching coach, a source confirmed.
Thompson was hired Thursday as the new head coach at Auburn. He replaces Sonny Galloway, who was fired for cause after two seasons. D1 Baseball’s Kendall Rogers reported Dietrich, who has spent the past three seasons at California State University at Fullerton, flew to Starkville on Friday and met with MSU baseball coach John Cohen. Rogers reported a deal was expected to be done.
“One of the Nation’s Elite Pitching Coaches will be joining our program soon #HailState,” Cohen tweeted Thursday.
Dietrich has some big-time credentials. In the past three seasons, Cal State Fullerton led the nation in walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP, 1.061), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.98), fewest walks allowed (288), and walks per nine innings (1.55). The Titans also were third in ERA (2.54) and fourth in shutouts (28) in that span. MSU was 34th in ERA (3.37), 43rd in WHIP (1.288), 40th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.33), tied for 212th in fewest walks (643), tied for 95th in walks per nine innings (3.41), and tied for 52nd in shutouts (14) in that stretch.
Cal State Fullerton advanced to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, this past summer built on a staff ERA of 2.89, which was the worst in Dietrich’s three-year tenure. The Titans had a staff ERA of 2.24 in 2014 and 2.47 in his first season in 2013.
Dietrich built his career on the West Coast. Prior to Cal State Fullerton, he worked as the pitching coach for the University of California-Irvine. He coached the Anteaters for five seasons after severing as the recruiting coordinator for California State Los Angeles, a Division II school.
His only experience outside of the West Coast came in 2004 and 2005 with the Hyannis Mets in the Cape Cod League.
Cohen’s last two pitching coaches have become head coaches in the Southeastern Conference. Gary Henderson took over the Kentucky program when Cohen left for his alma mater in 2009.
n Women’s soccer team will try to bounce back: At Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the MSU women’s soccer team will try to bounce back from a 1-0 loss to LSU on Friday night when it takes on Alabama at 2 p.m. today (ESPNU).
Despite turning in a stellar defensive effort, MSU (4-9-3, 2-5-2 Southeastern Conference) couldn’t overcome LSU (10-4-3, 4-4-1), which extended its home record to 8-0-3.
“This game was in the balance the entire match,” MSU coach Aaron Gordon said. “We had two or three really good looks at goal, but just couldn’t seem to be in the right spot or get the right touch on the ball.”
LSU scored in the ninth minute after a handball set up a free kick for Natalia Gomez, who sent a curving shot into the corner of the net from 30 yards.
“This has been the toughest place to play in the SEC this season,” Gordon said. “We knew that coming in and knew that this team would be tough to defeat at their house.”
Freshman Carly Mauldin had four shots to lead the Bulldogs, while junior Ari Holmes had three shots.
Freshman Courtney Tompkins made her third-consecutive start as goalkeeper. The Palm City, Florida, native made three saves.
The Bulldogs outshot the Tigers (12-10), while LSU edged out MSU in shots on goal (4-2).
n Volleyball team returns home after loss: At Starkville, the volleyball team will play host to Tennessee at noon today in the Newell-Grissom Building.
MSU (13-9, 3-6) is coming off a 3-1 loss to Missouri on Friday night. Set scores were 30-28, 12-25, 16-25, 12-25.
“That first set was all heart and soul from our group, battling to the end and pulling out that win,” MSU coach David McFatrich said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t keep it going for the rest of the match. We have to work on being fearless from start to finish and learn to get back up after we get knocked down. Working on our mental toughness is key right now for the rest of our season.”
Alex Warren led the Bulldogs with 14 kills, while Evie Grace Singleton had 12. Blossom Sato earned the first double-double of the SEC season with 30 assists and 10 digs. Her 30 assists also helped her surpass the 700-career assist mark in her freshman season.
Payton Harris led MSU with 18 digs, while Jazymne Johnson (four blocks) and Warren (two blocks) led the defense at the net.
n Hunter leads men’s tennis team: At Auburn, Alabama, Junior Vaughn Hunter defeated sixth-seeded Rhys Johnson, of Vanderbilt, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, in the round of 32 Friday at the Southeastern Conference Invitational at the Yarbrough Tennis Center.
Hunter lost to Florida’s McClain Kessler 7-6, 1-6, 6-3 in his last singles match.
Junior Rishab Agarwal went 2-0, defeating Arkansas’ Jose Salazar 6-4, 7-6 (2) and Ole Miss’ Filip Kroljevic, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1.
Freshman Trevor Foshey defeated Vanderbilt’s Ryan Smith 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 and lost to Tennessee’s Igor Smelyanski 6-1, 6-4.
In doubles, Agarwal and Foshey defeated Tennessee’s Jess Jones and Sunay Bhat, 8-2. Niclas Braun and Hunter lost to Auburn’s Conner Huertas and Joseph Van Dooren 8-2.
n Women’s golf team will play in Alamo Invitational: At San Antonio, Texas, the women’s golf team will open play today in the University of Texas-San Antonio-hosted Alamo Invitational.
MSU is one of 15 teams converging on the par-72 Briggs Ranch Golf Club. The field includes five teams from the SEC, including last season’s champion, LSU.
The tournament schedule could be altered due to Hurricane Patricia, which is located in the Gulf of Mexico.
Junior Izel Pieters, senior Logan Chaney, freshman Bianca Theron, and juniors Jessica Peng and Ji Eun Baik will play for the Bulldogs.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.