Hancock making habit of coming up big in pinch-hit situations

 

Hancock

Hancock

 

 

Ben Portnoy

 

 

OXFORD -- Mississippi State freshman Luke Hancock's appearances have been sporadic. 

 

He has appeared in 18 games -- though he started just six. Hancock has also played on consecutive days just twice this season. 

 

Sunday he was unexpectedly thrust into action. 

 

After senior right fielder Elijah MacNamee went down with a foot injury in the second inning, freshman Brad Cumbest replaced him in the field. But with the bases loaded in the top of the fourth inning, MSU coach Chris Lemonis opted for Hancock's bat in place of Cumbest. 

 

Strolling to the plate, Hancock dug in. 

 

MSU had promptly dismissed of Ole Miss starter Gunnar Hoglund when senior Marshall Gilbert tied the game with an RBI single up the middle three batters prior. 

 

Rebels' reliever Zack Phillips was chased two batters later after issuing back-to-back bases loaded walks. 

 

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco turned to right-hander Max Cioffi to set down the side, and more specifically, Hancock. 

 

The scouting report on Cioffi highlighted heavy fastball use. Hancock took note. 

 

Sticking to his brand, Cioffi started the at-bat with a first-pitch fastball. It missed off the plate -- 1-0 to the batter. 

 

Hancock settled in again. He knew what was coming. 

 

Sitting on an outside fastball, Hancock roped the pitch through the left side of the infield for a 2-RBI single to put the Bulldogs ahead 6-2. The rout was on. 

 

MSU went on to score four more runs in the frame. 

 

"He's been really good lately," MSU coach Chris Lemonis said of Hancock. "He's got a good swing but he also has plate presence. He gives us some walks, he gives us some things in there. I thought it was a huge hit in (Sunday's) game." 

 

Standing on first base after the base-knock, Hancock took in the sights. Seated nearby, his family hade made the hour-long trip from his hometown of Houston, Mississippi. It was the first time they'd seen him play on the road this year. 

 

"It means the world," Hancock said of recording the hit. "I grew up a Mississippi State fan, I grew up an hour from Oxford and it just means a lot to do that here. It really means a lot to me and my family." 

 

Following the single, Hancock's day and weekend ended. Sophomore Josh Hatcher pinch ran for him and took the field in right. 

 

It was an eventful three days for Hancock. In Friday's 2-0 win over the Rebels, he recorded a double down the left field line in the top of the ninth -- another pinch-hit situation. 

 

To date, he is now hitting .391 with nine hits in 23 at-bats. He also boasts 11 RBIs on the season. Despite not playing every day, Hancock has stayed true to his approach at the plate. Taking extra repetitions in the batting cages has also kept him fresh. 

 

Friday and Sunday, the extra work paid off. 

 

"Me and (hitting) coach (Jake Gautreau) always talk about just staying within yourself," Hancock said. "Don't try and overdo anything, just try and stay with your approach and good things will happen."

 

Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.

 

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