Mississippi State has had recent history of success with transfers from Panola (Texas) College.
Former Panola products Nick Ammirati and Brett Pirtle helped the Bulldogs reach the College World Series finals in 2013 before both went on to professional careers.
Last year, John Cohen dipped back into the Panola pipeline to recruit infielder Matt Spruill. It only took one visit to convince Spruill that Starkville would be his new home.
“Mississippi State was the first school I visited and I committed three days later,” Spruill said. “When I came here I could tell that it was going to be a great opportunity from the facilities and tradition that they had. I was really impressed when I came here.”
Spruill went on to appear in 28 games for MSU last spring including 16 starts at third base. He hit .241 as a junior with a double, two triples, nine RBIs and two stolen bases.
“I learned a lot definitely,” Spruill said. “It was great coming here and being with a new group of guys. Everything they do here is to get us better and I feel like I’ve definitely gotten better since I got here.”
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder from Burke, Va., was the Diamond Dogs opening day starter at third base but went 0-for-3 at the plate in his debut.
“I was excited and also a little nervous,” Spruill said. “When you get out there and see the crowd, you’re in awe. But once you get used to it it’s like ‘okay, I’ve got this’ and you settle down a little bit.”
Spruill is accustomed to success. During his sophomore year, he batted .318 with a dozen doubles, 32 RBIs and 14 steals.
With a season of Southeastern Conference action under his belt now, Spruill understands the differences in play at the two levels.
“The crowds are a lot bigger for one thing,” Spruill said. “It’s an every day thing and don’t have many days off. The games are a lot more intense and you have to focus a lot more.”
Spruill has a supporter that he leaned on a lot last season in his older brother Zeke. Zeke Spruill is in his eighth season as a professional and is a right-handed pitcher with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox this year after spending stints in the Braves and Diamondbacks organizations.
The younger Spruill learned the psychology of how he should approach the game from Zeke.
“It’s more of the mental aspect of how he carries himself,” Matt Spruill said. “He can’t really help me with mechanics because he plays a different position but he taught me to be really intense and be a competitor.”
Matt Spruill is spending his summer playing for the Westhampton Aviators of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. Through 37 games, he is hitting .260 with six doubles, six stolen bases and is second on the team with 23 runs batted in.