MSU Baseball Head Coach Chris Lemonis Signs Extension
STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics) – Chris Lemonis, the 2021 National Coach of the Year who guided Mississippi State to a national championship less than a month ago, has signed a long-term contract extension as head coach of the Diamond Dawgs, MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen announced Monday.
“Chris has made an immediate impact on Mississippi State Baseball, leading our program to a national championship in just his second complete season,” Cohen said. “Chris, his staff and student-athletes continue to raise the high bar of excellence both on and off the field, and we are thrilled about our program’s future. We look forward to having Chris and his family in Starkville for a long time.”
Lemonis will make a base salary of $1.25 million beginning in 2022 and receive a $25,000 increase each year after that.
Lemonis’ assistant coaching staff is the highest paid baseball staff in the country.
“Never a day passes that I am not honored to be the head baseball coach at Mississippi State,” Lemonis said. “I want to thank Dr. Mark Keenum, John Cohen and our administration for their belief in me, and I am looking forward to many more years in maroon and white. We are proud of what we have accomplished so far, and we are excited about the future as we strive for more championships.”
Lemonis has guided the Bulldogs to unparalleled success since arriving in Starkville, including MSU’s first national championship in 2021. He is the first Division I head coach to reach the College World Series in his first two seasons as head coach of a program in the Super Regional era (since 1999). In three seasons at MSU, Lemonis has compiled a 114-37 record (.755 winning percentage) and taken his program to every College World Series that has been played during that span. In each of his two complete seasons at the helm of the Bulldogs, Lemonis has won 50-plus games, posting a 52-15 record in 2019 and a 50-18 mark in 2021. Lemonis notched his 100th win at MSU, doing so in his first 130 games. He is the fastest head coach in program history to reach the 100-win mark.
The owner of a 255-128-2 (.665 winning percentage) career record in seven seasons as a head coach, Lemonis was introduced as the 18th head coach in the storied history of the Diamond Dawgs’ program on June 25, 2018. In his first season, Lemonis became the winningest first-year head coach in SEC history and in the process led his 2019 club to the second-most victories in program history at 52 (54; 1989). The 40 victories over MSU’s first 50 games marked the third-most in the first 50 games of a season in program history and set the tone for a trip to the College World Series. Lemonis became one of just three SEC head coaches to advance to the College World Series in their inaugural season in the conference.
Lemonis’ 2021 club reached the Championship Series at the College World Series for the second time in program history. MSU delivered the school’s first-ever national title after dominating defending national champion Vanderbilt 9-0 in the winner-take-all game of the 2021 College World Series. The pitching duo of Will Bednar and Landon Sims combined to hold the Commodore offense to just one hit and allowed only five base runners to post the eighth shutout of the season for the pitching staff on college baseball’s biggest stage.
The 2021 Diamond Dawg pitching staff became the second staff to fan 700 batters, and at the College World Series, MSU’s arsenal of arms set the NCAA single-season mark for strikeouts with its 766th punchout of the season. MSU finished the season with 817 strikeouts to become the first pitching staff to fan 800 batters in a season in NCAA history. State’s 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings were the most in a single season in NCAA history.
SEC Player of the Year and Golden Spikes Award Finalist in 2021 Tanner Allen finished SEC play with a league-best .411 batting average in conference play and averaged nearly one run per game, 1.7 hits per game and 1.1 RBIs per game in 30 conference games. He also led the SEC in conference-only games in total bases (87) and RBIs (34) and was the only SEC hitter with 50-plus hits (51). Allen was the only SEC hitter to rank among the top 10 in batting average, runs scored, hits and RBIs overall in 2021 and was one of two Power 5 hitters to finish the regular season with 70 hits, 50 runs scored and 50 RBIs.
On June 20, 2021, in a 2-1 win against No. 2 Texas, Bednar and Sims made their first career appearances at the College World Series and promptly broke a College World Series record. The pair combined for 21 strikeouts to break the record for most strikeouts by a team in a CWS game. The previous mark was 20 by Ohio State in 1965 during a 15-inning game. Bednar’s 15 punchouts in that game set an MSU record for a single CWS game and with 11 more in his next two starts, set State’s CWS career record for punchouts at the event with 26. Bednar finished the tourney with a 1.47 ERA in 18 1/3 innings across three starts. In Game 3 of the College World Series, Bednar tossed six no-hit innings to notch the win in the clinching game opposite Kumar Rocker of Vanderbilt. Just 11 days later, the San Francisco Giants selected Bednar with the 14th overall pick of the 2021 MLB Draft. Bednar’s selection in the first round marked three straight seasons for the Diamond Dawgs with at least one first round selection.
MSU continues to be a pipeline to the pros under the leadership of Lemonis as the Bulldogs have seen 19 players selected in the MLB Draft, including four going in the first round. Of the 19 total picks, an MSU record-tying 11 were selected in the 2019 draft, while three went in the abbreviated, five-round draft in 2020 – each in the first 52 picks. Lemonis has seen nine draft picks in the first five rounds of the draft during his MSU tenure.
Off the field, Lemonis’ clubs continue to excel at a high level. The Diamond Dawgs have posted at least a 3.0 GPA each semester during his time as head coach at MSU.