Catcher preview

Gavin Collins is the team's top returning hitter. (Bill Simmonds/ MSU Athletics)

Gavin Collins is the team’s top returning hitter. (Bill Simmonds/ MSU Athletics)

The biggest question for Mississippi State entering the 2014 season was answered early on when Gavin Collins solidified the vacancy at catcher.

The Bulldogs did not have a backstop with any Division I catching experience last spring but Collins went on to start 42 games behind the plate as a true freshman.

Collins is back for year two as is senior Cody Walker, who drew six starts at catcher last year. The duo also welcome junior college transfer Josh Lovelady to the mix as well.

Collins will miss the first 3-5 weeks of the season following surgery on his left hand. The Lake Forest, Calif., native started 45 of the 48 games in which he appeared in 2014 getting three starts as a designated hitter and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team by Perfect Game.

Collins is team’s top returning hitter batting .304 with eight doubles, one home run and 19 RBI.

I think Gavin Collins is very capable of being one of the best catchers not only in the league, but one of the best catchers in the country,” said MSU coach John Cohen.

Collins was selected to the SEC All-Tournament team and played in the Cape Cod League over the summer. He threw out 13 of the 36 runners who attempted to steal against him last year.

Walker appeared in 18 games during his first season in Starkville after transferring in from Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) Community College. He hit .222 with a pair of doubles and drove in five runs.

Cody Walker is coming back and has really been very good for us too in terms of calling a game, receiving, blocking, and all of those things,” Cohen said. “He’s really improved his game as an offensive player.”

The former Little League World Series hero played in the California Collegiate League.

Lovelady comes to MSU via Shelton State (Ala.) Community College. The 6-foot, 205-pounder batted .176 with 14 RBI as a sophomore while suffering from a broken jaw. He hit .360 with a homer and 25 RBI during his freshman campaign.

We think (Lovelady) is going to be a really dynamic leader and defender,” Cohen said.

Former Amory and Itawamba Community College catcher Zack Randolph will not be part of the Diamond Dogs this spring. Randolph, a senior, will focus on his academics according to a team spokesman.

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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