January 21, 2019 11:28:03 PM
From Special Reports
The Mississippi State baseball team is ranked No. 9 in the Baseball America preseason poll, which was released Monday.
MSU is one of eight Southeastern Conference teams in the top 25. The Bulldogs are coming off a 39-29 season that saw them overcome a coaching change early in the season. Interim head coach Gary Henderson guided MSU back to the College World Series and a final ranking of No. 6.
The ranking is MSU's highest since it was named a consensus top-10 team prior to the 2014 campaign. It is the Bulldogs' highest preseason ranking from Baseball American since the publication placed MSU No. 8 in its 2014 poll.
MSU is ranked No. 14 by D1Baseball, No. 17 by Perfect Game, and No. 27 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. In the 2018 preseason, MSU appeared in two of the six major polls, earning the No. 32 spot from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers and USA Today Coaches Poll.
MSU returns a lineup that will feature senior center fielder Jake Mangum, left-hander Ethan Small, and outfielder Elijah MacNamee.
The Bulldogs also will welcome a highly regarded recruiting class that features right-hander J.T. Ginn, of Brandon High School. Ginn was a first-round pick in the 2018 MLB First-Year Player draft.
Baseball America gave the Diamond Dawgs the highest preseason ranking for the program since 2014.
New MSU coach Chris Lemonis will open the season against Youngstown State at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, at the new Dudy Noble Field.
Ole Miss comes in at No. 13, while Southern Mississippi is ranked No. 21.
The Rebels went 48-17 and won the SEC tournament title last season. They are ranked in the top 15 of four 2019 preseason polls thanks to seven returning starters from the SEC's best offense in 2018. Ole Miss is the only SEC team to return seven players on offense who started 48 or more games last season.
The Golden Eagles went 44-18 in 2018. All-American outfielder/pitcher Matt Wallner returns to lead the Conference USA preseason favorites.
Vanderbilt, which returns eight starters, is the No. 1 team, followed by LSU, UCLA, Florida, and North Carolina.
The Commodores feature a lineup led by J.J. Bleday, the No. 29 prospect in the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft. Vanderbilt also secured the nation's second-best recruiting class in 2018.
Oregon State, which defeated Arkansas in the College World Series Championship Series, is ranked No. 10. Arkansas is No. 18.
Georgia (No. 15) and Auburn (No. 17) round out the SEC teams in the preseason poll.
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