When No. 21 MSU (36-13, 13-11 SEC) takes the field tonight in Oxford to open a critical series against rival Ole Miss (33-16, 12-12), senior left-hander Luis Pollorena (6-2, 3.92 ERA) will be on the mound. And he’ll be matched up against one of the SEC’s best starters, Bobby Wahl (9-0, 1.21). That’s a matchup that, on paper, favors Ole Miss. But being dismissive of Pollorena isn’t usually a good idea.
As the above-linked story notes, he’s had only success against Ole Miss, with a 2.60 ERA in three appearances. That history will give him an extra bit of confidence when he steps on the hill tonight. I caught up with Pollorena on Wednesday, and I’ve got the full Q&A below. Before we get to that, take a gander at Parrish Alford‘s angle on this series.
How big is this series for y’all, especially with the postseason implications?
“We’re not going to see it as a big must-win, because we don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves or try to do too much whenever we just be able to play our game. So right now we’re just taking it one game at a time, and see what happens from there.”
Is this team set up to make a run at the end of the season?
“Yeah, momentum’s on our side right now, and we know that we played a good team. Alabama had a real good record when leading after six (innings), and we came back and beat them twice. That just shows how good we can be late in games. So we feel like we can make a good run towards hosting and going into the SEC Tournament.”
Being thrown into the Friday night role, how do you feel you’ve done?
“I feel like I could do more. I don’t feel like I’ve done what I’m supposed to, but right now I’ve got to be able to go out there and compete this Friday and give my team at least a good quality five or six innings and see how it goes from there.”
What’s been the biggest challenge of being a Friday starter?
“I don’t know. The thing that stands out the most is the walks. It’s an odd thing for me to be giving up so many walks, so that’s something we’ve been working on and taking off velo and working on percentage, early command in the strike zone. We feel like we’ve done a lot of improvement on that, and we’ll see how it goes.”
John Cohen has said that your last 50 pitches are usually better than your first 50. How do you improve on those first 50?
“I feel like the last 50, the last 60 pitches, my velo has gone up, so my control is there. So what I’m trying to do early in the game now, we stay away from velo and work on spotting it where I want and commanding both sides of the plate. I feel like I did a good job against Alabama the first three innings, and then ran into some trouble and wasn’t able to bounce back the way I wanted to. But right now, like I mentioned, we’re not trying to worry about velocity, we’re worrying on commanding the strike zone and both sides of the plate.”
Is your success against Ole Miss a reason for extra confidence?
“Yeah. I usually don’t pay attention to that stuff, but right now I feel like I’m going to use everything I can, and knowing that history is on my side, the confidence is there knowing that I’ve had a good amount of success. I’ve got to be able to use that to boost my game to pick up the team win.”
How do you feel about going up against Bobby Wahl, one of the SEC’s best pitchers? Extra motivation?
“I’m not facing him, I’m facing his teammates, so that’s the best part about it. He could be the best in the league, but at the same time, I’m not the one who has to face him. I have to face their hitters, and our hitters have to face Bobby Wahl. I feel like our hitters can do a great job just putting the ball in play and creating pressure situations like they did this past weekend. I only have to worry about whoever steps in the box and strike one right now.”
Have you been able to scout the Ole Miss offense?
“We’ve done a good amount of scouting report as the week’s progressed, starting Monday. We’ve got a little information every day, not trying to clog up. Using both sides of the plate and using your off-speed pitches is a big thing. I feel like I wasn’t able to do that with my changeup, which is my second pitch, the Alabama week. I wasn’t doing it there, so during the bullpens we worked on getting my changeup back to where it was and back to where it needs to be. A good mix of off-speed and both sides of the plate are the main things we’ve been talking about.”