STARKVILLE, Miss. – Chris Lemonis, who helped lead Louisville to three College World Series appearances as the Cardinals’ top assistant and directed Indiana to NCAA regional appearances in three out of the last four years as head coach, has been named Mississippi State’s 18th head baseball coach, Director of Athletics John Cohen announced on Monday.
Lemonis, 48, will be formally introduced in a press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday on the right field plaza of new Dudy Noble Field. The press conference is open to the public. It will be streamed live on SEC Network+. Fans attending are asked to enter through the right field plaza gate.
“Chris is a winner and has elevated programs everywhere he has coached,” Cohen said. “He understands what it takes to get to Omaha, and he’s done it as a coach and a player. He is the most dynamic recruiter I have been around in my 25 years in college baseball, and his track record of identifying and developing Major League talent in his 24 years of coaching illustrates that. Chris is also one of the elite baseball tacticians in the country. We are excited that Chris will successfully lead us into a new chapter of Mississippi State baseball.”
Lemonis’ successful coaching career includes 24 years of collegiate experience, including four as a head coach, three College World Series appearances, 12 NCAA regional berths, a combined 786-457 record and three 50-win seasons. Prior to his successful stint at Indiana, Lemonis was tabbed as the 2013 American Baseball Coaches Association/Baseball America Assistant Coach of the Year after developing Louisville into one of college baseball’s most dominant programs.
“It’s an incredible honor to be the head coach at Mississippi State,” Lemonis said. “The tradition, fan base and facility in Starkville are second to none in college baseball. My goal is to keep the program moving forward, strive for championships and ultimately win in Omaha. We will be aggressive in attracting the best players in the country to Mississippi State, and when they get here, we will develop them to their fullest potential on and off the field.”
Widely regarded as one of the elite recruiters and developers of talent in all of college baseball, a total of 69 players have been selected in the Major League Baseball Draft under Lemonis’ watch. Sixteen of Lemonis’ Indiana players were taken in the MLB Draft in the last four years and 14 signed professional contracts.
Lemonis mentored and or recruited 47 players that signed professional contracts after being selected in the MLB Draft during his eight years as the top assistant and recruiting coordinator at Louisville, including a school-record 10 selections in the 2010 MLB Draft. He helped produce 10 first or second round draft choices during a seven-year span. In 2017, Baseball America revisited the Cardinals’ 2013 class, re-ranking it No. 2 in the nation after the on-field success under Lemonis’ watch.
To this date, 12 Cardinals who were recruited by and or played for Lemonis have gone on to reach the big leagues. Those players include Adam Duvall, Chris Dominguez, Cody Ege, Adam Engel, Chad Green, Dean Kiekhefer, Matt Koch, Trystan Magnuson, Justin Marks, Kyle McGrath, B.J. Rosenberg and Tony Zych. Over $28 million in signing bonuses were accrued by Lemonis’ Louisville draftees.
Lemonis leaves a strong legacy at Indiana as he tied for the most NCAA postseason appearances by a head coach in school history. The Hoosiers are the only Big Ten program to record back-to-back NCAA regional appearances in the last two seasons. He became the first coach in program history to earn three NCAA regional berths in his first four years, finishing with a 141-91-2 mark. No Big Ten program since Ohio State in the 1990s has matched Indiana’s run of five bids in six years.
The 2018 campaign saw Lemonis’ squad compile a 40-19 record and earn an at-large berth as the No. 2 seed at the 2018 NCAA Austin Regional. The Hoosiers reached the regional title game after defeating Texas Southern and eliminating No. 25 Texas A&M. Eight Indiana players earned Big Ten honors, including three first teamers, representing the program’s most since 2004.
The Hoosiers were among the Big Ten leaders in several categories, ranking first in earned run average (3.09), second in batting average (.284), first in slugging percentage (.448), first in home runs (68), first in total bases (905) and third in runs scored (360). Four Hoosiers were selected in the MLB Draft following the 40-win season.
A season prior, the Hoosiers produced a 34-24-2 record and earned the No. 2 seed at the 2017 NCAA Lexington Regional. With the postseason appearance, Lemonis became the first coach in program history to make two regionals in his first three seasons as IU’s skipper. Indiana finished as the highest rated RPI team in the league (34th), while seven Hoosiers garnered All-Big Ten honors during the 2017 campaign.
An advocate of playing the game the right way, Lemonis’ teams hold three out of the four highest single-season fielding percentages in Indiana history. The Hoosiers shattered the school record in fielding percentage in back-to-back seasons, including a mark of .979 in 2017.
In year two at the helm in 2016, Lemonis’ club posted a 32-24 overall record and a 15-9 mark in Big Ten play. On a national level, the Hoosier pitching staff finished second in walks allowed per nine innings, second in WHIP, fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio, 11th in team ERA and 25th in hits allowed per nine innings.
During Lemonis’ debut season of 2015, Indiana won 12 of its last 17 games overall with nine of those wins coming against RPI Top 50 teams. The Hoosiers earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Nashville Regional and were 12-5 vs. ranked opponents, including five Top 15 wins.
As an assistant coach, Lemonis’ imprint in elevating the Louisville program to new heights was evident. The former Cardinals’ recruiting coordinator aided Louisville to three College World Series appearances (2007, 2013, 2014) and a 359-159 (.693) record during his eight seasons there, including back-to-back 50-win seasons in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, he was named the ABCA/Baseball America Assistant Coach of the Year.
Lemonis helped the Cardinals produce 15 All-Americans, 54 all-conference selections and a pair of conference Player of the Year winners. Louisville won four BIG EAST championships in the school’s final five years in the conference, and he saw U of L set the school record for wins in a season three different times, including 2013, when the Cardinals won a program-best 51 games.
Prior to his time at Louisville, Lemonis spent 12 seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, The Citadel, including the final four as associate head coach under legendary coach Fred Jordan. While at The Citadel, the Bulldogs recorded five NCAA Regional appearances and finished first or second in the Southern Conference seven times.
Lemonis, who worked primarily with hitters and outfielders at The Citadel, oversaw 35 new offensive records. The Bulldogs boasted seven All-Americans, two Freshman All-Americans, 17 first team All-Southern Conference honorees, a Southern Conference Player of the Year and a Freshman of the Year. Two Bulldogs that played for Lemonis, Britt Reams and Dallas McPherson, each reached the Major Leagues.
Part of nearly 800 wins as an assistant coach, Lemonis’ teams averaged 39.2 victories per year during his career in an assistant role, bolstered by a 44.9 wins-per-season average at Louisville. The Cardinals were college baseball’s winningest program during that eight-year span.
Lemonis not only understands what it takes to get to Omaha as a coach but also as a player. A 1992 graduate of The Citadel, Lemonis played on the program’s only College World Series team in 1990.
He twice earned All-Southern Conference honors and was tops on the team in home runs three times. He led the Bulldogs with a .367 average, 19 doubles, 52 runs, 10 home runs and 66 RBI as senior. A member of the 1993 All-Southern Conference Tournament team, Lemonis ranks in the top 15 all-time at The Citadel in RBI (152), 11th in home runs (23) and 10th in slugging percentage (.538).
Lemonis is also no stranger to Starkville. His father, Thomas, was a 1973 Mississippi State graduate in electrical engineering. Lemonis lived in Starkville as a newborn during his father’s time at State.
A native of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Lemonis and his wife, Jill, have two daughters, Marissa and Mackenzie.
What They Are Saying …
“From the very beginning during his The Citadel days, I knew that Chris Lemonis was a special talent. His success as a recruiter and a coach are not a surprise to me. His work ethic is second to none. Mississippi State just got one of the premier coaches in America.”
– Ray Tanner, Two-time NCAA National Champion Head Coach and NCAA Division I Baseball Committee Chairman
“Chris is one of the better people and coaches in our game. He was a huge part of Louisville’s rise and was an elite recruiter with the Cardinals. He has Omaha experience there and guided Indiana to success as well. I have little doubt that Chris and his staff will do great things with the Bulldogs.”
– Kendall Rogers, D1 Baseball Managing Editor
“I think this is a fantastic hire. Chris is incredibly sharp and known as one of the best recruiters in the country. He was front and center as Louisville became a national power in college baseball. I think Chris will fit in perfectly at Mississippi State.”
– Mike Rooney, ESPN College Baseball Analyst
“Chris has proven himself as a premier recruiter and an outstanding head coach. I’ve always been impressed by his approach to the game and his ability to identify elite talent. Chris is a great fit at Mississippi State.”
– Kyle Peterson, ESPN College Baseball Analyst
“Chris Lemonis is a fantastic hire for MSU. He does a great job of demanding the most out of his players while also being the kind of coach players love to play for. He is one of the best recruiters in the country and I have no doubt he will bring elite talent to Starkville for years to come. Hail State nation is in good hands.”
– Chris Burke, ESPN College Baseball Analyst
“Chris Lemonis’ Indiana teams have consistently been among the best in the Big Ten and in the Midwest. At Indiana and throughout his career, he has recruited very well. But he’s been more than a recruiter. He is a strong hitting coach, as evidenced by the track record of his Indiana and Louisville teams. Lemonis does a great job of identifying and then developing players, traits which will continue to serve him well in Starkville.”
– Teddy Cahill, Baseball America National Writer
“Chris Lemonis is a high-energy, charismatic coach, and a dynamic recruiter who was one of the principal architects of three Omaha teams at Louisville. He knows how to identify talent, and he excels at selling his vision for his program. Indiana was a consistent winner under his leadership, and Mississippi State is getting a rising star in the coaching ranks. This is a very strong hire.”
– Aaron Fitt, D1 Baseball Editor