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IU baseball coach Chris Lemonis leaves program for Mississippi State



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IU head coach Chris Lemonis monitors practice at Bart Kaufman Field. It was announced Monday that Lemonis will be the next head coach at Mississippi State.  Buy Photos

After four years at the helm of the IU baseball program, Chris Lemonis is moving on.

On Sunday night, reports surfaced claiming Lemonis will be the next head coach at Mississippi State. 

By Monday afternoon, the Bulldogs had made the hiring of Lemonis official with a press release.

"It's an incredible honor to be the head coach at Mississippi State," Lemonis said in the release. "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." 

Just a few hours later, IU's own press release confirmed Lemonis had left the IU program for Mississippi State.

"Chris Lemonis cemented Indiana’s reputation as the premier baseball program in the Big Ten by guiding our program to three NCAA Tournament appearances in four years," IU Athletic Director Fred Glass said in the release. "Chris cared deeply for his players, represented Indiana University with class and distinction, and is a good friend to so many of us here at IU and around the state. We wish him and his family the best at Mississippi State."

The IU release also announced a national search for Lemonis' successor has already begun. Assistant coaches Kyle Bunn and Kyle Cheesebrough will remain in their roles with IU, the release said, with Bunn serving as interim head coach, effective immediately.

The baseball program will otherwise be overseen by IU Senior Associate Athletic Director Scott Joraanstad, and Joraanstad will also lead the search for a new coach, according to the release.

Current players and others will have input during the IU coaching search.

Meanwhile in Starkville, Mississippi, Lemonis will be the 18th head baseball coach in the history of the Bulldog program. He was publicly introduced during a press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Dudy Noble Field.

"My dad was a State grad," Lemons said during his introductory press conference. "He was an engineer here, and I went to school on an engineering scholarship. About three weeks in, I said, 'Dad, I don't want to be an engineer,' and he wasn't real happy, because you had to give the scholarship back. So I went from 'E-E' to 'P-E' real quick – and I'm sure he was real proud – but I wanted to be a coach. I loved the game, and my dad's really happy now because he comes to all of my games and watches all of my games. If I would have been an engineer, he wouldn't have anything to do but sit on the couch with my mom. But, man, I love them, and they'll be here a lot. They're so excited that we're down here, they were in tears when I called them."

"Chris is a winner and has elevated programs everywhere he has coached," Mississippi State Athletic Director John Cohen said in the release. "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."

Former Mississippi State Coach Andy Cannizaro resigned just three games into the 2018 season, with interim coach Gary Henderson coaching the Bulldogs to an appearance in the College World Series. 

Lemonis will therefore inherit high expectations from the Bulldog fan base. 

During his four years in Bloomington, Lemonis went 141-91-2, leading the Hoosiers to three NCAA regionals. He was the first coach in the history of the program to make two regionals in his first three seasons.

Under Lemonis, IU had 16 players that were selected in the MLB Draft and 14 of them went on to sign professional contracts. The Hoosiers also earned 25 all-conference individual honors in that span, with the most in one season being the eight players named All-Big Ten after the 2018 season.

"Fred Glass, the AD there, gave me all the support, gave me my first head coaching job, which I'll never forget, and all the staff and administrators and players and coaches," Lemonis said during the press conference. "The four years there were huge for me to be a head coach and to be in this position because the Big Ten is not an easy league. Maybe not SEC, but you deal with weather, you deal with travel, you deal with a lot of different things that as a head coach I think it really matured me over time and prepared me."

Lemonis also had success off the field at IU. He was able to bring in multiple recruiting classes that were ranked among the top 50 nationally by PerfectGame, including the 2018 class which is ranked 39th. 

That recruiting class will now more than likely be given releases from their National Letters of Intent and be given the option to stay with IU or reopen their recruitment.

While Lemonis continued IU’s upward trend in the college baseball world, his replacement will receive the same challenge and it could start with convincing those incoming freshman and junior college players to stay at IU.

Auston Matricardi and Cameron Drummond

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