STARKVILLE — While opening weekend seemingly afforded plenty of answers to Mississippi State’s 2020 roster puzzle, a series win over Oregon State left a JT Ginn-sized hole in the Bulldogs’ pursuit of a third straight College World Series appearance.
Following a rocky outing against Wright State in which his velocity dipped from 95-96 miles per hour to topping out at 93, Ginn was scratched from his Friday start against the Beavers due to arm soreness.
Speaking with the media Thursday, MSU coach Chris Lemonis didn’t give a timetable on when the former first round pick could return — leaving the Bulldogs’ starting rotation in limbo just two weeks into the season.
“We don’t know anything really yet besides that he is not pitching this weekend,” Lemonis said of Ginn. “We’ll kind of play it as we get more from doctors and from JT and kind of go from there.”
The second-year head coach backed up his initial thoughts Monday when he revealed to SuperTalk Mississippi that Ginn will not be in the rotation again this coming weekend.
Of course, arm soreness is nothing new with Ginn. The Brandon native battled the same issues last season when he was pulled after an inning in an April start against Tennessee — though he returned to the mound the following week against Alabama.
That said, the obvious choice for replacing Ginn at the No. 1 slot in the interim is redshirt freshman Christian MacLeod. MacLeod, who dazzled in his debut against the Raiders, was similarly dominant Saturday — allowing just two runs on five hits and striking out seven in a five-inning effort.
Behind him, sophomore Eric Cerantola has begun to find a rhythm of his own on the mound. Following a freshman campaign in which he struggled to find the zone throughout the year, Cerantola has allowed just five hits and struck out 14 batters in nine innings pitched this season between starts against Oregon State and Wright State.
As impressive, the 6-foot-5-inch Canadian has thrown 96 of his 163 pitches this season for strikes.
“I was just thinking about the next pitch,” Cerantola said after his season opening win over Wright State. “Coach (Scott Foxhall) always tells me ‘Hey the last pitch doesn’t matter, it’s already done.’ So I just went out there and tried filling it up and I know I have a good (defense) behind me.”
Where things get murky should Ginn miss significant time is the No. 3 spot in the rotation. Graduate transfer Carlisle Koestler — who started 32 games in parts of three seasons at Southeastern Louisiana — tossed three innings of two-hit ball against the Beavers Friday, but whether he can carry that work beyond the fourth and fifth innings in Southeastern Conference play remains to be seen.
Former Furman starter David Dunlavey also offered glimpses of high-end potential as he allowed just two hits in three innings of work in relief of Koestler.
Junior college product Jaxen Forrester is another bullpen guy with past starting experience that could aid in the transition. In 15 appearances for East Mississippi Community College last year, Forrester led the team in innings pitched (53) and strikeouts (76). He also notched a no-hitter East Central Community College on March 23.
Freshmen Will Bednar and Landon Sims have both impressed in spurts thus far but profile more as back end relievers than starters going forward.
Again, it remains to be seen whether Ginn will miss extended time, but should he not be able to go for the foreseeable future, an MSU rotation that already lost sophomore hurler Brandon Smith in the offseason to Tommy John surgery just got a whole lot thinner.
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.
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