It’s undeniable that last season’s pitching was a huge part in winning the National Championship, led by now San Francisco Giant, Will Bednar, as well as stellar closer Landon Sims, who is expected to be the Friday night starter. Sims, named a preseason All-American by Baseball America, held a 5-0 record last season, posting 100 strikeouts in his 56.1 innings pitched with a 1.44 ERA. Yeah, he’s the real deal.
How is Sims handling the transition, though?
"I am really excited for it. It's a new challenge. It's a pretty special spot to be in. I am very fortunate to be in that situation. Obviously, there is nothing final yet. I still have a lot of work to do,” Sims said. “At the end of the day, coming in here, we knew that there would be a good shot that before I left here that I would be starting.”
So, who are the other two starters going to be? Jackson Fristoe looks to be in line for a starting role this season. Starting 13 games as a freshman last season, finishing with a 3-3 record and holding batters to a .223 average. Fristoe did struggle at times, posting a 5.69 ERA, but an improvement is expected in his second season as a Mississippi State University Bulldog.
That leaves one spot in the weekend rotation, and this one is really up for grabs. Landon Sims gave his input.
"Mikey Tepper is a good one,” Sims said. “Andrew Walling is a good one. Really any of the guys who are in the mix for the rotation would be good options like Parker Stinnett, K.C. Hunt, Preston Johnson— and Cade Smith is another good one.”
Out of all of those names, though, Walling seems to be the one catching a lot of eyes. Walling, a former Oregon State pitcher and JUCO transfer from Eastern Oklahoma State College, posted 107 strikeouts in 13 appearances, which is incredible at any level. If Walling can keep this level of production up, he should be a shoe-in for the final starting spot.
As Landon Sims put it, there are no bad options. There’s also no guarantee that the first three weekend starters will be the same ones at the end of the season. It’s a luxury to have this many options, and head coach Chris Lemonis will be looking to find the right ones before conference play begins on March 18 against Georgia.