On Wednesday night, Mississippi State University baseball (1-3) played at Jackson State University (1-1), but the game was not the story of the night, as MSU dominated JSU on the way to a 12-1 win.
The night's story was former pitching coach Gary Henderson coaching his first game as MSU’s interim head coach. Overall, he said he was pleased with the game.
“Obviously really pleased with how well we played tonight,” Henderson said. “We were clearly much more relaxed, much more aggressive and noticeably more energy and played much better.”
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak after the University of Southern Mississippi swept MSU last weekend. Jake Mangum, a junior from Pearl, felt their defense was the biggest point of growth from the weekend.
“We played good baseball tonight, and we needed to do that, we had three bad games this weekend, and we did exactly what we needed to do,” Mangum said. “Cleaned it up defensively. I thought that was the biggest thing we made, the plays defensively that we needed to make. This weekend we did not do that.”
Mangum also said the team did a better job in the batter's box taking counts deep, and not chasing bad pitches. Henderson believed it was a great way to respond coming off of the past weekend.
“Sometimes you play over the course of the weekend, and you get punched in the nose a little bit and you get a couple days off,” Henderson said. "You realize that you are a lot better than how you performed, and you are determined to go out there and prove it. I think we did a nice job of that tonight.”
Aside from the abysmal start to the season having lost three games before coming into the JSU game, the news of Andy Cannizaro resigning rocked MSU and its players. Hunter Vansau, a junior outfielder from Crawford, Texas, explained how the team found out about the news.
“We found out whenever we walked into the room and we were told he was no longer our coach,” Vansau said. “We have not talked about it much at all. It is a long season, and this is just a short part of the season. We can either let it affect us, or we can keep moving forward and keep playing the ball we are playing right now.”
Henderson found out the news in a meeting he had with athletic director John Cohen. He said Cohen had a very short conversation with him about what needed to be done in regards to the task he was undertaking before he had his first team meeting.
“We took care of some housecleaning things, then we talked about establishing an identity, and who we wanted to be and how we were going to get that done,” Henderson said. “So it was not real long, the meeting was direct and to the point, and I think they took it really well.”
The players seem to have taken a liking to Henderson, who was previously a head coach at Kentucky before becoming the pitching coach job at MSU. Henderson has nearly 30 years of coaching experience.
“I trust coach Henderson 100 percent, and I think moving forward he is definitely the best person for this job here at Mississippi State going forward,” Vansau said. “I think the world of coach Henderson. He is a great coach and he has some great history. I respect him so much, and I think he will be a great leader for this team.”
Mangum also thought highly of Henderson and the rest of the coaching staff, so much so he said he would go to war for them.
“Gary is the man, coach Henderson is awesome, he does a great job with the pitching staff early, now he is interim head coach,” Mangum said. “Now he is going to do a great job with it. We love our coaching staff, we would go to war with them any day, and that is what we are going to do.”
The team plans to keep moving forward, have blinders on as they race down the track of games they have scheduled. Moving forward, they are ready and prepared to take care of one thing.
“We were ready to play some ball, we were just ready to get back out on the baseball field,” Mangum said. “Now we are about to go to the hotel, wake up, fly out to Texas and do it all over again Friday.”
MSU will play in Corpus Christi, Texas, in the Kleberg Bank College Classic. They will play three games before making a stop at Texas Rio Grande Valley University on Monday.