Starkville Regional: Central Arkansas (39-20) vs. No. 14 MSU (43-17), 7:05 p.m., ESPN3.com (Joe Davis play-by-play, Jay Walker analyst)
The big day is here, as thousands of fans are expected to fill Polk-Dement Stadium in the first NCAA regional hosted by MSU in 10 years. Got a couple of links to help you get ready: a Central Arkansas-MSU advance, and a regional notebook as well.
I’ve also got a game day Q&A for you. I caught up with senior infielder Sam Frost the other day, and you can watch the entire interview in the video above. Or you can read it below.
Frost was named the SEC scholar-athlete of the year earlier this week, which tells you how hard he works in the classroom. He also works hard on the field, and this year all that work has really paid off. A career .223 hitter coming into this season, Frost is third on the team in hitting this year with a .324 average.
He’s been a spot starter and late-innings sub, playing in 43 games with 19 starts. Frost has a .422 on-base percentage with 17 runs and six stolen bases in six attempts. Here’s the Q&A.
SEC scholar-athlete of the year, pretty cool deal.
“It’s just an honor to get this award. It’s an opportunity. I’m just glad to have an academic award so I can get mentioned with all the good ballplayers in the league.” (laughs)
You’ve done well this year, hitting it well in your role. Seems you offense has gone to another level this season.
“Yeah, I’m just trying to simplify. Instead of worrying about trying to hit doubles or whatever, I’m just thinking, get hits. It don’t matter, I’ve just got to put the bat on the ball, find barrel. That’s all I can handle, and wherever the ball goes, just run.”
You came here as a walk-on, right?
“I was a recruited walk-on, then I got all academic money.”
You struggled offensively early in your career, and your progress shows what can happen when you keep plugging away.
“Yeah, I reckon. Our coaches are great. They know what they’re talking about, and they’re always willing to help. I guess it took them four years, but they finally worked on me.”
You’ve developed this persona as a grinder, always dirty at the end of a game.
“No doubt. I feel like if I’m not dirty, then I didn’t play good enough. That means I’m not being aggressive enough on the bases or I didn’t get on base.”
How much do you have to work to stay in the mix?
“That’s been my whole life. Honestly, I think it’s made me better because of it, because it makes me work hard every day. I never take a day off or take practice lightly. I know I’ve got to compete just to get the at-bats I can get.”
A lot of guys who struggle like you did early on disappear or stay on the bench. What kept you plugging away?
“I’ve always felt like I was a good hitter. It just wasn’t clicking for me. It seemed like I’d barrel the ball up, and they’d make a great play. I just couldn’t find the holes. I just stayed positive. My parents, they have to love me and support me, but they’re a big influence, keeping me positive. And it finally started clicking for me.”
You’ve been through everything with this program, from not being in the postseason to now hosting a regional. Are you a guy who tries to help younger players understand what’s at stake?
“Yeah. Coach (John) Cohen loves that, when he says we’ve got 35 coaches on the field. Everybody’s helping everybody. It’s been a long run, and I tell the freshmen all the time, it flies by, take advantage of it.”
What’s it mean to you to have at least one more weekend here at Dudy Noble Field?
“Oh, it’s huge. I’m just glad that we get to play in front of our fans. Obviously our goal is to win a national championship, but to get to do it, to start that road in front of our fans, is huge.”