Updated: Jun 21
By Doug Kyle
The search took a bit longer than some fans would have preferred. And, multiple candidates with multiple career options were reportedly considered. To both relief and praise, Mississippi State Baseball officially filled its Pitching Coach position Monday afternoon that's been vacant for a little over six weeks, announcing Justin Parker in an intra-Southeastern Conference (SEC) move from South Carolina, where he'd held the same position the past two years.
Confirmation came late in the day Monday, following a weekend in which Parker and his wife had spent time in Starkville, getting a thorough and closer look at Dudy Noble Field facilities, where Parker coached for his former employer Gamecocks during a March 30-April 1 SEC series. Meetings with Head Coach Chris Lemonis, his staff, and other university personnel were evidently fruitful, and unofficial word and reports began to leak out after the team was notified by Lemonis of the hire Monday morning.
A meeting with media was not immediately available, Parker hitting the ground running with contacting current Mississippi State players, as well as reaching out to high school and transfer portal recruits. However, a comprehensive career profile and introductory quote were included in the official announcement below for Parker, who will begin his 14th season of coaching college baseball wearing the maroon and white "M over S."
STARKVILLE, MS – Mississippi State head baseball coach Chris Lemonis announced on Monday that Justin Parker has been hired as the new pitching coach for the Diamond Dawgs.
Parker joins the Diamond Dawgs staff after spending the last two seasons as the pitching coach at the University of South Carolina. Before joining the Gamecocks, Parker spent three years as the associate head coach/pitching coach at Indiana University.
"I want to thank Coach Lemonis for this incredible opportunity to join an amazing staff and a program with a storied tradition," Parker said. "Coach Lemonis and I share many of the same coaching philosophies, and I'm excited to begin this next chapter of my coaching career with this storied program. My family and I are fired up to get to Starkville and join the Mississippi State family. I can't wait to build relationships with, teach and develop our players on and off the field."
Parker is widely regarded for his prowess in producing top-quality arms that are selected in the MLB Draft. Nine of the 20 pitchers drafted under his watch have gone in the first 10 rounds.
"Justin is one of the top pitching coaches in the country and is on the rise in the coaching ranks of college baseball," Lemonis said. "He is a terrific baseball talent, and an incredible vision for what he wants to do on the mound and defensively here at Mississippi State. Justin is a huge asset for the Diamond Dawgs, and we are excited to welcome him and his family to Starkville."
This past season at South Carolina, Parker guided the Gamecocks to 608 strikeouts, which stood as the 17th most in the NCAA (5th SEC). Under Parker's guidance, the South Carolina pitching staff tallied 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings, the 20th-best mark in the nation and sixth in the SEC. The Gamecocks also had the 12th-best earned run average in the nation (2nd SEC) at 4.19. Parker helped Jack Mahoney, who had not pitched since 2021, to seven wins and a 4.16 ERA in 17 starts in his junior season. James Hicks had a team-best eight wins and a 3.48 ERA while allowing zero runs in starts in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Regional in Columbia.
During his first season in Columbia, Parker helped a staff riddled by injuries to 501 strikeouts in 479 innings pitched. He helped Noah Hall, who started in the bullpen, to 76.2 innings pitched and a 3.18 ERA in 10 SEC contests. Will Sanders ranked in the top 10 in the SEC in innings pitched, ERA and strikeouts on his way to a 7-3 overall record and a 3.43 ERA. Cade Austin was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball, making 27 appearances with a 5-2 record and a 3.17 ERA.
Parker joined the Gamecocks after spending three seasons as the associate head coach/pitching coach at Indiana. His staff with the Hoosiers had a 3.17 ERA and struck out 462 batters in 383 1/3 innings pitched as Indiana went 26-18 with a Big Ten-only schedule in 2021. Four pitchers from Parker's staff were selected in the 2021 MLB Draft including McCade Brown, who was selected in the third round by the Colorado Rockies and Gabe Bierman, a seventh-round pick by the Miami Marlins.
In the shortened 2020 season, Parker helped lead the Hoosiers to a 9-6 record overall, beating No. 11 LSU, No. 30 South Alabama and No. 17 East Carolina. On the mound, the Hoosiers posted a team ERA of 3.56, striking out 134 batters in 129 innings pitched.
In 2019, Parker helped guide the Hoosiers to the 2019 Big Ten Regular-Season title – the seventh in program history and the first for IU since 2014. Indiana earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, finishing the season with an overall record of 37-23 and a Big Ten mark of 17-7. A school-record 10 Hoosiers were selected in the 2019 MLB Draft, including a second-round selection.
Prior to joining the Hoosiers, Parker served as the pitching coach at UCF for two seasons. During the 2018 campaign at UCF, Parker's staff posted a 3.32 ERA – only the eighth sub-3.50 ERA season in school history. Pitchers struck out 556 batters - good for second in program history - while the Knights set a new program record with 7.1 hits allowed per nine innings and only gave up 405 hits.
Under Parker in his first season with the Knights in 2017, the pitching staff was one of the best in the nation, finishing 10th in WHIP (1.22), 24th in strikeout-to-walks ratio (2.74), 28th in strikeouts per nine innings (8.9) and 52nd in walks per nine innings (3.26). The crowning achievement for Parker's players was the fifth-best ERA in the nation at 3.00.
Following the 2018 season, Parker and UCF had five pitchers selected in the draft - the most since 2002 - and tied for the second-most ever in school history. Thad Ward (5th Round/Boston Red Sox), JJ Montgomery (7th Round/Baltimore Orioles), Bryce Tucker (14th Round/San Francisco Giants), Eric Hepple (27th Round/Colorado Rockies) and Cre Finfrock (29th Round/Toronto Blue Jays) each heard their names called. UCF's Jason Bahr was a fifth-round selection by the San Francisco Giants in 2017. Robby Howell followed him in the 10th round and went to the Cincinnati Reds. Jordan Scheftz (23rd round/Cleveland Indians) and Andy Rohloff (37th round/San Francisco Giants) also heard their names called after one year under Parker.
Before UCF, Parker spent six seasons at his alma mater, Wright State. Parker's pitching staff helped the Raiders to four Horizon League Championship Games, winning in 2015 and 2016.
Parker's pitchers guided Wright State to the Horizon League Championship in 2016. The Raiders posted a 46-17 record and ranked fifth in the country in walks per nine innings at 2.45, 33rd in ERA at 3.49 and 10th in WHIP at 1.2 - all of which led the Horizon League. Jesse Scholtens finished the season 18th in wins (10), 70th in strikeouts (95) and 51st in walks allowed per nine innings. The 2015 season ended with the Raiders leading the league in almost every pitching category including ERA (3.54), strikeouts per nine innings (7.2), hits allowed per nine innings (8.84), shutouts (4) and WHIP (1.33). Luke Mamer was 19th nationally for fewest walks allowed per nine innings (1.19), while Elliot came out of the bullpen to record 11 saves.
The Raiders ranked in the top 100 in hits allowed per nine innings (8.64) and shutouts (4) in 2014, while Elliot posted 13 saves - good for 19th nationally. In 2013, the Raiders averaged 7.5 strikeouts and 8.98 hits per game to rank 46th and 99th, respectively.
During his days on staff at Wright State, Parker guided Scholtens to a ninth-round selection by the San Diego Padres in 2016. Fellow Raider Robby Sexton was also tabbed in the 14th round by the Boston Red Sox in the same draft. His first player ever drafted was Andrew Elliott in the 30th round of the 2015 Draft to the Baltimore Orioles.
Following a professional career, Parker returned to coach his alma mater in 2011.
Parker was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 43rd round of the 2005 MLB June Amateur Draft from Fort Wayne High School (Fort Wayne, Indiana) but opted to play for Wright State University. He was drafted again, this time by the Arizona Diamondbacks, in the sixth round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft, where he spent three years playing for the Diamondbacks minor league affiliates. As a player at Wright State, Parker earned first-team Horizon League selections in 2007 and 2008, Second Team ABCA All-Region in 2007, and was an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District recipient in 2008.
Parker graduated from Wright State with a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership in 2012. He is married to his wife, Angela, and is the brother of former MLB pitcher Jarrod Parker. Justin and Angela have one son, Cameron.
THE PARKER FILE
Position: Pitching Coach
Hometown: Fort Wayne, Indiana
Education: Wright State University (B.S. Organizational Leadership)
Present: Mississippi State (Assistant Coach/Pitching Coach)
2022-23: South Carolina (Assistant Coach/Pitching)
2020-21: Indiana (Associate Head Coach/Pitching)
2019: Indiana (Assistant Coach/Pitching)
2017-18: UCF (Assistant Coach)
2014-16: Wright State (Assistant Coach)
2011-13: Wright State (Volunteer Assistant Coach)