Renfroe Ready To Take His SEC Tourney Swings

Hunter Renfroe is in excellent shape, make no mistake. But that Ferriss Trophy is, literally, a weighty award. "I had to hold that thing all day, and your forearms are trembling toward the end!" Renfroe admitted. "But it was a lot of fun."

A lot of fun, and a satisfying achievement for both Renfroe and Bulldog baseball. The Mississippi State outfielder was presented with the annual award Monday, representative of the top college baseball player in the state of Mississippi.

So, the obvious question: did Renfroe have a speech prepared when he arrived at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, just in case his name was called from among the five finalists?

"Yeah, kind of. I had one in my head, wrote down a few things and memorized them."

Renfroe's junior season results are branded in quite a few minds already, not just at Mississippi State either. Every scouting report on the Diamond Dog offense focuses on the righthanded hitter in the third slot. Even so Renfroe has put together a remarkable campaign, especially in this day of the ‘dead' bat. He goes to this week's Southeastern Conference leading the league in home runs with 15, is fourth in RBI despite often slugging his extra-base knocks with nobody on a base, fourth in on-base average and sixth in batting average.

Those numbers should guarantee Renfroe hearing or at least reading his name again when the All-SEC teams are announced. And this is despite a late-season batting slump that likely means there will be no triple crown winner in the conference this spring.

It speaks well to Renfroe's feats in the first ten weeks and the reputation he built up that no slump was going to deny him status as Mississippi's best collegian in 2013. And the big Dog knows just how quality was his competition. He was matched with a couple of Ole Miss stars in pitcher Bobby Wahl and catcher Stuart Turner; Mississippi Southern pitcher Andrew Pierce; and Delta State pitcher John Brantsetter.

"Bobby and Stuart had one of the best years they've ever had. I don't know about the other guys as much but they were doing well," Renfroe said. "I know it was a tight race, and it's a great accomplishment by me and Mississippi State. With Chris Stratton it's two times in a row, it's great."

Renfroe did follow the lead of 2012 Ferriss winner and teammate Stratton. They give Mississippi State four Ferriss Trophies, along with Thomas Berkerey in 2006 and Ed Easley in 2007. The award, instituted in 2004, of course honors one of the all-time great names in Bulldog baseball history, David M. ‘Boo' Ferris, the 1941-42 letterman and six-year professional.

"It was a great honor to hoist up the Trophy with Boo Ferris and everybody there, my family and coaches," Renfroe said. "And it was real honor because of all the great players from Southern and Ole Miss and others." Nothing was better though that getting to take the stage with Coach Ferriss, who at 91 years young can give-and-take with today's kids.

"We were taking pictures and he said I think I can even teach these guys how to play some baseball! He's a great guy, he's a character, and he had some great things to say."

Renfroe has two national awards to wait on, as he is on the 60-man watch list for the Golden Spikes Award; and already a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy. Those two are given to the player(s) picked by the respective organizing bodies for the best player in college baseball.

They are also after-season honors. Tuesday night, Renfroe and team start playing for post-season success, taking on Missouri in the opening and single-elimination round of the SEC Tournament. May hasn't been kind to Renfroe, as he is 8-of-31 for the month (.258) and has seen his average slide from over .400 to the current .362. He's also been frustrated frequently in RBI situations, outs that fans might shrug off from anyone else in the order but not by the most-feared stick at State in years.

Renfroe agrees, he isn't seeing the same pitches for belting he got in March and April, even with guys on bases ahead of him or some of those behind him heating up. Teams have simply committed that they are not going to let Renfroe beat them. This obsession on his third-slot might well open up opportunity for teammates, but it's still not fun for Renfroe.

"They're not throwing me anything to hit really. I'm chasing and getting too anxious at the plate which has the batting average falling down. I've just got to be more patient at the plate and take my walks when they give them instead of chasing bad pitches and getting myself out."

Yes, walks…it is true that Renfroe has seen more than one man's share of intentional walks and not a few other minus-counts where the pitcher wasn't about to put anything else in the swing zone. Still he wants to make contact again, and against South Carolina there were encouraging signs. He might have been 1-of-12 in the series but two positive trends developed. First, teammates picked him up so State could win the series.

Second, three times he drove an outfielder to the warning track. Not on mere high flies but real drives. The sort that earlier in the season either fell for doubles or left yards. What Renfroe saw were several just-missed shots.

"My timing was a little off this past weekend, I went back and watched a little film and got back where I wanted to be Saturday. I hit the ball really hard and that's all I can ask for, the outcome I'm not worried about." If he keeps contacting like that, the pitchers are who must worry…even in spacious Hoover. Renfroe crushed a shot out of Pearl's comparable-sized Trustmark Park back in April, after all. So no fence is beyond his bat.

"Mentally I'm good," said Renfroe. "The timing is back down, right where I want it. My head is right. Everything is good."

Well, everything maybe but the sore forearms. And what did he have to do Monday afternoon following practice and before leaving for Hoover? Go lift weights, something he'd done earlier in the day holding up the Ferriss Trophy.

"I mean, it's heavy!"

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