By David Brandt/The Associated Press
JACKSON — The first time Mississippi State coach John Cohen saw Hunter Renfroe play baseball, he marveled at his natural ability.
Three years later, he’s also in awe of his work ethic.
The two traits helped Renfroe have a breakout season. On Monday afternoon, he was named the winner of the C Spire Ferriss Trophy during a ceremony at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
The award, voted on by a panel of professional scouts, college coaches and a media member, is given to Mississippi’s top college baseball player. The 6-foot-1, 216-pound Renfroe leads the Bulldogs with a .362 batting average, 15 homers, 51 RBIs and nine stolen bases.
“You just don’t see a talent like this come around very often,” Cohen said. “I’ve had a lot of (MLB) scouting directors come up to me and say ‘It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this type of athlete.’ And when you get to see it every single day, it’s special. But it’s only special if it’s packaged into a guy who works hard and has a likeable personality.”
Renfroe showed occasional flashes of promise during his first two seasons at Mississippi State, but didn’t put it all together this season. He’s anchored the middle of Mississippi State’s lineup this spring, leading the Bulldogs to a 40-16 record (16-14 SEC) and the No. 5 seed in this week’s Southeastern Conference tournament, which begins on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala.
“It’s just confidence,” Renfroe said. “My ability has always been there.”
The Crystal Springs, Miss., native leads the SEC in homers, giving the Bulldogs a rare power threat in a game that’s leaned more toward pitching and defense in recent seasons. Though he may be blessed with baseball talent, he said the finished product didn’t just happen by chance.
Mississippi coach Mike Bianco said Renfroe has been a “tremendous force” in Mississippi State’s lineup this season because of his ability to change the game with one swing.
“I’ve got great power — really quick wrists,” Renfroe said. “But that’s because our strength coach does a really good job with us. My mechanics at the plate — me and coach Cohen have spent endless hours on putting more backspin on the ball to all sides of the field.”
Renfroe’s big season has also caught the attention of Major League Baseball scouts. The junior is expected to be a first-round selection during June’s amateur draft.
The other four finalists for the Ferriss Trophy were Delta State pitcher Josh Branstetter, Southern Mississippi pitcher Andrew Pierce, Mississippi catcher Stuart Turner and Mississippi pitcher Bobby Wahl.
The award is named after former Boston Red Sox pitcher and longtime Delta State baseball coach Boo Ferriss. The 91-year-old was in attendance at Monday’s presentation.
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