Five Diamond Dogs were named to the 2016 All-SEC teams, announced Monday. Making the first team were RHP Dakota Hudson, C/DH Jack Kruger, 1B Nathaniel Lowe, and OF Jake Mangum. RF/DH Brent Rooker was named to the second team.
Also, John Cohen was named the SEC’s Coach of the Year after directing a historic turnaround. He took the last-place 2015 Bulldogs to the outright SEC Championship, which had never been done in baseball before. Cohen is also the first Mississippi State skipper named Coach of the Year by his peers since Ron Polk in 1989, when Cohen was a starting outfielder on #1’s last SEC championship team.
This is Cohen’s second SEC COTY recognition, though. He earned the same honor at Kentucky in 2006 after directing the Wildcats from the 2005 SEC cellar to a share of the ’06 crown, along with Alabama. So both Cohen and Polk (MSU, Georgia) have the distinction as SEC coaches named COTY at two league programs.
Mangum is the first Bulldog freshman tabbed All-SEC since 1991 when pitcher Jay Powell was a second-team selection. The more ‘recent’ first-team freshman Bulldog to make All-SEC goes even farther back. It was outfielder Rafael Palmeiro in 1983.
Mangum currently leads the SEC in batting, having finished the regular schedule at .427. That’s well in front of Texas A&M’s Boomer White—named SEC Player of the Year--who slumped in his team’s final week to .411. The league batting title will not be settled until both have finished their full seasons, which could easily find them squaring off in Omaha.
Mangum is bidding to be the fourth Bulldog freshman to lead State in batting average since statistics have been recorded, from 1949-on. No State freshman has ever led the SEC in hitting.
Mangum also and obviously was on the All-Freshman Team, too. It’s the third straight year a Bulldog has been on the all-rookie roster, following SS Ryan Gridley in 2015; and 3B Gavin Collins in 2014, as a catcher.
Prior to the All-SEC teams release, Mangum was presented the Ferriss Trophy as the best collegiate baseball player in Mississippi.
Hudson finished the regular season 9-3, tied for second-most wins among SEC pitchers and with the fourth-best ERA, 2.29. He is fifth in league strikeouts and fanned 101 batters in 98.1 official innings against just 29 walks. Hudson has won his last five starts, and threw three complete-game victories during SEC season against Ole Miss, Auburn, and Arkansas. He was thrice the league’s Pitcher of the Week as a result.
During his five-win streak to close out the regular season, Hudson has worked 37.2 innings with just eight walks against 34 strikeouts.
The last State starting pitcher named All-SEC was Stratton in 2012. Before that, it was Paul Maholm in 2003. Hudson was named a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy today, given to the nation’s top player. He also picked up his third SEC Pitcher of the Week recognition by the league office Monday.
Juco transfer Lowe is the only Bulldog to start all 55 regular season games. He is second on the squad in batting at .359 which is good enough for 6th this week in the SEC. He is fourth in the league for hits and second in doubles with 19. Lowe hit five home runs for 47 RBI and has scored 40 runs.
His glove has made maybe as much impact for the Bulldogs. Replacing three-year starter Wes Rea, the transfer first baseman has just two errors in 485 official chances.
Also a juco product, Kruger is nipping at Lowe’s average-heels. He hit .358 for the regular season, playing 48 games with 46 starts as either the catcher or designated hitter. He has hit seven home runs with 38 RBI.
Rooker, a sophomore, batted .324 for the regular season with seven home runs and 44 RBI. He has started 46 games at either DH or rightfield and played in 50 games. Rooker and Kruger both have played errorless defense this season.
The five All-SEC selections matches the program-high first set in 1949 and equaled in 1971, 1977, 1988, and 1989. The last time four Bulldogs were first-team was in 1985 though.
Mississippi State (40-14-1) was practicing on campus today in advance of the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs have a first-round bye as the #1 seed, and don’t play until 4:30 Wednesday against the survivor of Alabama-Kentucky.
Prior to the game, the Bulldogs will be presented their SEC Championship trophy by commissioner Greg Sankey on the field.