No. 5 Mississippi State (11-0) is the SEC’s lone remaining unbeaten team, and it will host Saint Joseph’s in a four-game series this weekend. Weather – it’s gonna be mighty cold – has altered the schedule. Instead of playing a double-header Saturday, they’ll play two Sunday. So here’s the revised schedule: Friday, 4 p.m.; Saturday, noon; Sunday, 1 p.m. (DH).
I caught up with coach John Cohen this afternoon to get his thoughts on several topics, including Brandon Woodruff, the injury situation, and Saint Joseph’s. Here are some excerpts.
Pitching Woodruff on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, and the plan going forward:
“Well, (Luis) Pollorena bounces back a little bit quicker than Woodruff does. In order to have Pollorena available for the weekend, we felt like we had to throw him on Tuesday. Our plan all along was to pitch Woodruff next Tuesday, which will shorten him one day. Tuesday’s going to be the decision of whether we really shorten him on Tuesday so that we can bring him back and get him going on the weekend, too, because we’re trying to decide and make decisions with that.”
(Woodruff allowed three runs – two earned – on three hits in four-plus innings vs. Rhode Island. He walked four and struck out three. The sophomore will be competing for a weekend rotation spot once SEC play rolls around.)
How’d he do Wednesday, in your eyes?
“His first inning was electric. He was 93, 94 mph with an 84-, 85-mph slider. He struck out the first three guys. His command wasn’t what he wanted it to be. It’s tough to pitch in those conditions. His stuff is just so good, and he’s such an athletic young man, we believe when he gets his command, he’s going to be a very, very good pitcher. When he went to the stretch, he just didn’t command the baseball as well as he wanted to. But again, we really believe that he has a chance to be very, very good, and it’s still early in the year, and he still hasn’t had as many opportunities on the mound even going back to January a lot of our other guys. He’s still playing a little bit of catch-up from that standpoint.”
What’s the status of injured players Wes Rea (quad) and Hunter Renfroe (hand) for the weekend?
“I feel like Wes probably could’ve played yesterday. In an emergency, Hunter could have. Hunter actually took some swings this morning during his BP time, and I think he feels it’s getting better every day. The one thing about it, though, is you don’t want to shove those guys out there when it’s exceedingly cold. You’d kind of like to get them out in more manageable weather, but that’s not something we can control at this point. So we’ll see. It’s really day-to-day, and we just don’t want to hurry them, because we want them to be ready as we get into league play.”
(Rea has missed the last six games, while Renfroe has sat the last three. MSU opens SEC play March 15 vs. LSU.)
Saint Joseph’s quickie scouting report:
“They really pitched it well. If you look at their three right-handers who have pitched on the weekend, they’ve pitched well. They went down and competed against a very good Stetson club and played well down there. Their three right-handers’ numbers are really solid. They have a closer that’s unbelievable, a kid named (Jimmy) Yacabonis. He’s pretty good. He’s a guy at the end of the game they have a lot of confidence in, and he’s got a great arm. I’m reading the scouting report, it says he’ll go 92 with a very good slider. They’re older kids. You look at their weekend guys, they’re throwing three juniors and a senior on the weekends. That’s really important.”
(Saint Joseph’s is 2-4. Yacabonis has two saves in three appearances, with eight strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings of work. The Hawks, who are 2-4, have a team ERA of 2.50.)