Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

True freshman Jake Mangum continues his quest for an SEC batting title.

While Mississippi State is playing for not only an SEC Western Division but also an overall SEC Championship, an individual on the team continues his quest for the SEC batting title, true freshman Jake Mangum.

At the conclusion of play this weekend, Mangum is .019 percentage points behind Texas A&M's Boomer White, .424 to .405.

Despite being a freshman, Mangum is not feeling any pressure.

"I try to stick with my approach," said Mangum, a .455 hitter in high school at Jackson Prep. "My approach hasn't changed since I got here. For me, it is get a good pitch to hit and don't miss it. Put the barrel on it and hit it hard somewhere, hit line drives and ground balls. If you hit the ball hard and level good things will happen. All that I am trying to do is put some type of pressure on the defense when I hit the ball."

While his approach has remained the same from high school to college, the level of competition has changed dramatically.

"Every pitcher that we face in the SEC is tough," said Mangum. "Every time that you step in the box it is a battle. You see a starting pitcher throwing 94 miles per hour with a curveball and a changeup. In high school you may have two at-bats (in a season) where you faced someone throwing 90. Here, you see it every at-bat."

When he first got to MSU, Mangum took advantage of the experience of the older guys by asking them questions.

"The biggest adjustment for me was when I got here I didn't know what to expect so I asked a lot of questions of the older guys," he said. "I asked way too many questions, honestly. But the older guys told me what to expect in the fall and that is what I would be seeing in the spring. So, you kind of know what to expect due to those guys helping me out so much."

Thanks to their input, Mangum then went to work preparing for the spring season by hitting and watching film.

"To be a good hitter you have to hit a lot," said Mangum. "The main thing is working (at it). Here (at Mississippi State) we have so much access to everything. If you want to work on something you can do it. You can hit anytime you want.

"(And) I watch film of every swing that I take. I watch film after every single game. Film doesn't lie. What you see on film is what you are going to get. I watch film of every pitcher that I am going to face. Our entire team watches film."

One other advantage Mississippi State gives him is a staff of very talented pitchers that he faced every scrimmage during the fall. He faced righthanders like Dakota Hudson and Zac Houston who top out at 97 miles per hour and a lefthander like Ethan Small who tops out at 98 miles per hour.

"Fall was very important because it gave first-year players like myself a daily dose of what it was going to be like to face velo every single at-bat," said Mangum.

The final adjustment for the talented freshman has been getting used to playing in front of a lot of fans. That has been the easiest adjustment of all.

"I zone out when the game starts but I notice the fans," said Mangum. "It's a lot of fun to play in front of 15,000 fans at Dudy Noble. That is why our program is so rich in tradition."

And Jake Mangum is trying to add to that rich tradition by leading the SEC in hitting as a true freshman, which would be a first in Mississippi State baseball history.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network.

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