Starkville Regional: John Cohen

No. 1 seed Mississippi State head coach John Cohen breaks down the Starkville Regional and how he plans to pitch the weekend in a field featuring Cal State Fullerton, Louisiana Tech and Southeast Missouri State.

John Cohen Press Conference – June 2, 2016 – NCAA Starkville Regional

Opening Statement…

“We’re thrilled that we are hosting a really good NCAA regional. Our regional has the best RPI average of any group of four teams. Looking at these clubs, Southeast Missouri State is a great club and they have arguably one of the best left handers in the country. He led the country in strikeouts. They are hitting .310 as a club coming in and they are a four seed with an RPI of 45. They are pretty darn good and I think they can beat anyone in the country. Right out of the gates we are going to have to play really well to win in our first round. Cal State Fullerton is, in my opinion, the most underrated program in the entire country when you look at their body of work and their program. Coach Rick Vanderhook and coach [Jason] Dietrich have done an incredible job with that club. They might have the best pitching staff in the entire country when you look at their numbers. Louisiana Tech is great, with the turnaround they have had and the people they have beaten this year, and their offensive production.We are going to have a fun regional. I think our kids have had a fun week of preparation and they are ready to compete. ”

On Southeast Missouri State’s offense…

“What really sticks out to me is their on-base percentage and how many walks they have. They have a remarkable amount of walks and that means they have been very well coached. They do a really nice job with their short game. They run situationally and they are a really solid team. They don’t have just one thing they do well. You have to control the running game and you have to throw strikes against this club.”

On LHP Joey Lucchesi…

“I think his changeup is one of the best if you are ranking changeups. Left handers have actually had more success against him, and that means his changeup is really good. He can throw the fastball in and he can back door the slider into a right hander. He can go get you 88-92 MPH and he is a great competitor. If you start listing the guys that are pitching in the first game of the NCAA Tournament around the country, he has to be in the group of the Top 10 guys around the country. There is a huge advantage to facing someone like him, because if you can get to him it really bodes well for you as you move forward. It is tough facing a guy of that caliber in the first round. ”

On MSU’s experience…

“I think our kids are loose. It kind of reminds me of the 2013 team [CWS Finalists], because they have fun being around each other and they have fun practicing. Not every group in the country has fun practicing and this group does. I think our kids are ready and I know they are excited about it. We have done all sorts of competitive things throughout the week where they have competed with and against each other. I think they are ready to roll back out there and play baseball again.”

On junior RHP Zac Houston…

“Certainly, Zac Houston has done what you need in the postseason. You need someone to emerge who is playing at a very high level, and he gives us another option. We need to do a great job of seeing who is going to be the best matchup for the opponent we are going to play at that given time. Wes Johnson worked with Houston and shorted his arm swing on the back side. It is much shorter than it was in the early part of the season. It elevated his command, it elevated his stuff and it elevated his breaking ball. When you make an adjustment like that, sometimes you take one step forward and two steps back. I think he had a little bit of that in the middle of the year, but I think he is getting more consistent with the path of the ball. I think they have found something together that is going to bode well for him the rest of his career. ”

On preparing for the postseason…

“I think that is one of the great advantages of competing in the SEC. Coach Wes Johnson said this, SEC play is like playing in 10-consecutive NCAA Super Regionals. Then when you add Oregon into the mix for us it is almost like 11. I think our kids have played in some big situations. They played at LSU, they played at Vanderbilt and Florida. All of that prepares you for these opportunities.

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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