No. 3 MSU is set for its final weekend tuneup before SEC begins a week from today. The Bulldogs (16-0) host Central Arkansas (12-1) in a three-game series starting at 6:30 p.m. today. My baseball update focuses on State’s starting pitching and the options coach John Cohen has before him.
One of his weekend options is junior right-hander Evan Mitchell, who will start Saturday’s game. He doesn’t have a decision in three starts, with a 2.08 ERA, 16 strikeouts and 10 walks in 13 innings. I caught up with Mitchell yesterday, and I give to you now the full Q&A.
How do you feel you’ve pitched so far this year?
“I’ve definitely been keeping us in games. I haven’t really been allowing those big, big hits that are clearing the bases. I haven’t been up to where I need to be to help the team, definitely, but I figure I’m taking steps and ready to make that next step this weekend.”
Had to work around trouble last week, how do you avoid those situations in the future?
“Just pounding the strike zone more. I’m not really allowing any big hits so far, and the only trouble I’m getting myself in is through my walks and my command. I had a good bullpen this week, been working on pounding the zone with all four pitches.”
How well would you fit as a Saturday starter in the SEC?
“I definitely feel like it fits me well. Jacob (Lindgren)’s throwing great right now on Friday, and I’m trying to do what I can to keep up with him on Saturday. Right now Kendall (Graveman), he does what he does every weekend, just gets out after out.”
You and reliever Ross Mitchell have been a good pairing:
“Ross is unbelievable the way he gets outs day after day. You saw what he did last year, and doing the same, just throwing that fastball down in the zone every pitch, and that can produce ground ball after ground ball. No matter who he’s behind, he’s going to get his outs.”
With starting options, do you foresee Cohen changing up the rotation week to week based on matchups?
“I really don’t know what he’s kind of thinking, but no matter what situation you’re going to put our staff in, hopefully we’ll pitch to the best of our ability, whether it’s me starting or Will (Cox) starting or Brandon (Woodruff) starting, whatever, or just coming out of the pen. You’ve just got to go out there and get outs and not really think about whether you’re a starter or a reliever.”
With depth you have, what’s the competition within the staff been like?
“Last year I think we were the second-best pitching staff in the nation, but it’s not like a competition where we’re after each other. It’s just, we’re getting better from each other. This is probably the closest team I’ve ever played on in my life, and we’re all just trying to help each other get better and get to our ultimate goal.”
Central Arkansas hitters are good at the plate, what’ve you seen on film?
“We were just watching a little film a few minutes ago, and they’re definitely a real scrappy team, walked more than they’ve struck out so far this year. They really like to bear down with two strikes and force you to make your best pitch. They try to put everything in play and scratch out some runs as much as they can.”