Mississippi State baseball's Chris Lemonis after 26-3 loss vs. Vanderbilt: 'It's on me'

STARKVILLE — There was a sense of excitement regarding the chess match between Mississippi State baseball coach Chris Lemonis and Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin in Friday’s series opener.

There was the matchup of MSU switch-pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje and a Vandy lineup featuring four left-handed batters and five right-handed hitters. There was balance of the Commodores’ strong pitching against the Bulldogs’ powerful offense. There was the dynamic of Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. stealing bases at will while MSU struggles to throw hitters out.

Those tuning in for the intricacies of a rematch between programs meeting for the first time since the 2021 College World Series championship series were supposed to be treated. Instead, they were given a 26-3 rout for Vanderbilt – ignited by a home run from Bradfield three pitches into the contest.

Mississippi State (14-9, 0-4 SEC) has lost 15 straight SEC games dating back to last season. The latest came in seven innings with Vanderbilt (17-5, 4-0) run-ruling MSU at Dudy Noble Field.

“I’ve got to figure it out,” Lemonis said postgame. “It’s on me. I obviously don’t have the team prepared to play. When you play the way we did tonight, it’s on the head coach. I’m in charge of the program and I’m in charge of our performance. Unfortunately, our performance isn’t where it needs to be.”

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Lemonis said buy-in and competitiveness aren't the issue.

MSU’s last SEC win came April 29, 2022, in its series opener at Missouri. The last SEC series win came the week prior when Mississippi State took two of three at Ole Miss.

MSU was 25-18 overall and 9-10 in conference play following that win vs. Mizzou. The Bulldogs appeared to be gaining momentum toward an NCAA Tournament bid until the Tigers took the final two of the series. Including those two losses, Mississippi State went 1-12 to close its first losing season since 2015.

The number of losses are part of the shock for a program at the top of its sport less than two years ago. However, the nature of the defeats adds to the bewilderment.

Mississippi State lost 21-0 against LSU in 1946. That was the worst margin of defeat against an SEC foe in program history until last season when Tennessee took a 27-2 win at Dudy Noble Field.

In its first home SEC series since that thumping, MSU opened play with a 23-run defeat. Twice in its last four SEC home games, MSU shattered a record that previously stood for nearly eight decades.

Pitching has been the root of the issues with MSU. During the conference skid, the Bulldogs are allowing nearly 12 runs per game.

“I don’t think there’s a disconnect, but I think it’s a maturity factor,” Lemonis said.

Mississippi State baseball coach Chris Lemonis during the game between the VMI and MSU at Dudy Noble Field  on Feb. 17, 2023.
Mississippi State baseball coach Chris Lemonis during the game between the VMI and MSU at Dudy Noble Field on Feb. 17, 2023.

When asked about Lemonis taking accountability, second baseman Amani Larry shifted focus back toward the players.

“It’s not his fault because he’s not playing the game,” Larry said. “It’s our fault. We know we’ve got to play better. He can only do so much.”

Stefan Krajisnik is the Mississippi State beat writer for the Clarion Ledger. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @skrajisnik3.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Chris Lemonis takes blame for Mississippi State baseball woes