Hunter Renfroe Continues To Improve

Mississippi State freshman baseball player Hunter Renfroe came in with the credentials that cause you to believe he will be a great player. He was player of the year his senior year of high school, hit 20 home runs his senior season, he has a fastball that has consistently been clocked in the mid to high 90s, and he was drafted in the 31st round of the MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox.

But he learned very quickly even the most talented players have to make adjustments when they go from high school to college ball.

During the fall scrimmages, Renfroe struggled at the plate, hitting .194 in 67 at bats while striking out 19 times.

"In the fall I think I was pressuring myself," said Renfroe. "I was hitting balls right to people, about like I'm doing now. I hit a ton of balls right at people. I also struck out a bunch too, because I was pressuring myself to get a hit. I was trying so hard to get a hit I was out in front and swinging at bad pitches, which I shouldn't have been doing. But this is SEC ball and the pitchers that are on this team are some of the best."

He continued his struggles during the early part of the season, striking out his first four at-bats to start off the season. But of late, he's hitting the ball well.

"I think I am seeing the ball a lot better now than I was early in the spring," said the 6-1, 205-pounder. "During the first part of the season I was pressuring myself a ton because I was nervous the first few games. I had never been in this type atmosphere before. Now, I've gotten used to it and I'm seeing the ball a lot better."

Mississippi State head baseball coach John Cohen saw the improvement during the spring practices.

"The thing we were concerned with him at the beginning, like with most freshmen, was that he was struggling to stay on breaking balls," said Cohen. "We work on breaking balls almost every day (in practice), and his approach to the breaking ball has changed. I think he's seeing it better and evaluating it better. If a freshman can evaluate with the skill level that (Renfroe) has, then you feel like he has a chance to be really, really good. I felt like we had to get him on the field because he's too talented of a kid not to."

Talent-wise, he's not just a good hitter but he also has the potential to be a plus power hitter.

"In practice I've hit a bunch (of balls) out (of the park)," said Renfroe. "At Tennessee (in pregame batting practice) I hit the ball way out of the park. I hit them in the road behind the field."

Coach Cohen expects that to be the norm for Renfroe during his career at Mississippi State.

"He has a lot of tools; the way he runs, the arm strength he has, the power," said Cohen. "He's just one of those really talented kids who could end up being a great player, one of those names that people here will remember for a long time."

It wasn't a guarantee that he would end up being a Bulldog.

"(The Boston Red Sox) drafted me (in the 31st round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft), and as the summer went on they kept talking to me," said Renfroe, who not only hits and catches and plays in the outfield but pitches as well. "They came to Millington, Tennessee and offered me on the spot. I had two days to decide and I decided that I was going to come to Mississippi State instead of playing pro ball."

And he's happy with his decision.

"I think it was the best decision for me because if something happens such as getting hurt or something else I have school to fall back on so I can get a job," said Renfroe. "But I also think coming to college will teach me a lot. I'm playing in (the SEC) the best league beside the pros. It's like playing in double A or triple A."

Another factor in his decision was the fact that he grew up a Bulldog fan, although he was about the only member of his family that pulled for them.

"When I was a young kid I had always wanted to play for State because I was always a State fan," said Renfroe. "And my dream came true. Everybody in my family was always (pulling) for Ole Miss but I was always a State fan at heart. I was always the one cheering for State and they were cheering for Ole Miss."

Now his family members have joined Hunter and are cheering for the Bulldogs. And they hope to be cheering even more next year when Hunter is in the lineup full-time. To help make sure that is the case, Hunter will be playing summer ball, working on his hitting, fielding and pitching.

"(The MSU coaches will) probably want me to do everything I can during the summer just to get some playing time; get some at bats and some reps at every position I will play next season," said Renfroe.

One of those positions will likely be pitcher. Hunter already knows what he will be keying on during the summer months.

"I am going to work on my changeup, my slider and keep my fastball on the outer half and hitting corners," said the youngster, who was consistently clocked in the mid to upper 90s with his four-seam fastball during the fall and spring.

Renfroe and his teammates play Mississippi Valley State University at home Tuesday night beginning at 6:30 pm before taking on SEC and in-state rival Ole Miss this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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