Jacob Billingsley burst out of the Mississippi State bullpen back on Feb. 19 to finally make his long awaited collegiate debut.
Billingsley had been a member of the Diamond Dogs’ roster in 2014 and 2015 but a redshirt and shoulder surgery had sidelined him for two seasons.
“I’d been waiting a couple of years so getting out there was big time,” Billingsley said. “I grew up a Bulldog so it’s really fun to finally get to compete with the team I’ve always wanted to.”
Billingsley made his first appearance in the season opener and although it only lasted three pitches, it will be something the Senatobia native will carry with him for the rest of his life.
“Growing up and watching games here probably got me ready for the crowd that was going to be here,” Billingsley said. “But I was a little nervous because it’d taken two years to finally get my shot. It was fun. This is unlike any other place in the country. It was a great time and an experience I’ll never forget.”
Billingsley finished his first season on the field with a 1.80 earned run average in a dozen outings. He struck out 14 and only walked three over 10 innings.
Billingsley was also named the MVP of the Governor’s Cup game pitching a career-best 2 1/3 shutout frames against Ole Miss with three strikeouts.
Having those two extra years to mature and absorb his surroundings seemed to have helped his first year sail smoothly and also made him more grateful for the opportunity.
“You’ve got to appreciate it more,” Billingsley said. “You learn so much just from watching the game. It’s unreal how much I learned from just paying attention during those couple of years.”
Billingsley was billed as the Bulldogs’ closer entering the 2015 campaign before he had to have surgery to remove bone chips from his throwing shoulder. Although he only had one save this past spring, he hopes to have a chance to close out more games moving forward.
“I’m pretty comfortable in pressure situations,” Billingsley said. “I feel like I’d be a good guy for that role but honestly whatever we need, I”ll do. But (closing) would definitely be something I’d be interested in getting back to.”
In high school, Billingsley was a second team All-American and the 2013 MAIS Player of the Year while helping lead Magnolia Heights to back-to-back state titles. He was a perfect 10-0 with a 0.54 ERA and struck out 82 batters in only 51 2/3 frames as a senior.
Billingsley drew offers from Ole Miss, Delta State and several junior colleges throughout Mississippi and Alabama but knew all along where he wanted to come.
“I knew as soon as coach T (former MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson) talked to me that I was coming here,” Billingsley said. “I’ve always wanted to be a Bulldog. That was a no brainer for me.”
Billingsley’s arsenal features both a two and four-seam fastball, a curve, slider and change-up. His slider is currently his go-to pitch but worked on sharpening all of his pitches with the Sanford River Rats in the Florida Collegiate Summer League.
In 11 appearances (seven starts) for the River Rats, Billingsley was 2-2 with one save, a 2.70 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 20 walks. He only allowed 18 hits over 30 innings of work.