Mississippi State pitcher JT Ginn hit 93 miles per hour on the radar gun with his pitches Sunday at Dudy Noble Field. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to the Dispatch
April 15, 2019 2:35:55 AM
It's been a little over a week since freshman pitcher JT Ginn was pulled after just one inning of work against Tennessee with shoulder soreness.
With bated breath, the MSU fan base and coaching staff awaited a read on the youthful sensation's status. Over the past seven days, head coach Chris Lemonis tempered naysayers with reassurances that he did not believe it was anything serious.
The initial diagnosis looked more foreboding when MSU did not announce a Sunday starter ahead of this weekend's series against Alabama.
Then Sunday came.
Donning the customary game three "Nickel-Black" jersey, Ginn routinely pounded the strike zone against the Crimson Tide -- 34 times to be exact.
Touching as high as 93 miles per hour on the radar gun perched atop the center field scoreboard, he fanned Alabama batters with a mix of power and precision. Ginn flashed a high-velocity fastball with a shifting breaking ball en route to four strikeouts in four innings of four-hit ball.
"I was just trying to stick with the fastball," he said. "I knew I had a lower pitch count going into today so I tried to get early contact and get as far in the game as I could."
It's difficult to overstate the importance of a healthy Ginn to the MSU pitching staff.
For a team that desperately lacks depth in its starting rotation, he's been the surefire No. 2 starter from the outset of 2019.
Ginn boasts a 3.35 ERA in nine starts and has 64 strikeouts to his credit. Further, he's given up more than two runs just twice and now holds a 6-1 record on the season.
"He's throwing it harder than he has in weeks," Lemonis said. "So it's nice to have him back out there."
Behind Ginn it's been a season-long struggle to fill the No. 3 pitching slot.
Senior Peyton Plumlee did so with ease in Saturday's 9-1 win -- tossing five innings while giving up just four hits and zero runs -- but he's been marginally consistent at best. Freshman Eric Cerantola has been a disaster of late as his ERA ballooned to 5.40 after beginning the season with four straight outings without allowing an earned run.
Even junior reliever Jack Eagan started Wednesday's game against South Alabama with limited success.
But with Ginn healthy and back to his usual ways the concerns can dissipate. Sunday showed why.
DAWG NOTES: Game three against the Crimson Tide was just the latest offensive explosion for the Diamond Dawgs.
MSU totaled 13 runs on 17 hits on the day and finished the weekend with 28 runs and 40 hits.
This was also the Diamond Dawgs' first SEC sweep of the season.
"The difference in sweeping or going 2-1 is a two-game [swing], and for us, we need to make up some ground so it was big for us this weekend and as we move forward," Lemonis said.
Sophomore first baseman Tanner Allen continued his recent tear with a 4-for-5 day. His batting has now jumped from .240 entering last weekend's series against Tennessee to .276 Sunday.
"Been coming up here early before games and hitting and we've developed a good routine and I feel like that's what got me out of my slump," Allen said.
Senior Marshall Gilbert also joined the hit parade Sunday, notching his second home run in as many days with a long ball over the right field fence in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Gilbert now has three homers on the year.
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch.
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