John Cohen and Steve Bieser will match witts from their respective dugouts today when they square off today at 1:30 p.m. in Game 1 of the Starkville Regional.
But the chess match between the two started much sooner during Thursday’s press conference. Cohen was reluctant to release top-seeded Mississippi State’s starting pitching plans until Bieser named his for No. 4 seed Southeast Missouri State.
“We’re really close to making that decision, we’re just waiting to see which direction SEMO is going to go first,” Cohen said. “As soon as we hear something about who they’re going to start that could – and I’m not saying it will – but it could alter where we are with that decision.”
Bieser would like to start senior southpaw Joey Lucchesi on the bump against the Bulldogs. After all, Lucchesi leads the nation with 145 strikeouts this season but will be a game-time decision according to Bieser due to stiffness he experienced when waking up on Thursday.
“(Lucchesi) is really good and it’s a huge disadvantage to facing someone like him,” Cohen said. “The advantage is that if you get to somebody like him and beat somebody like him it really bodes well for you as you move forward. But it’s tough facing someone like him in the first round against a supposed four seed.”
If Lucchesi cannot go, the Redhawks will start junior right-hander Clay Chandler (4-5, 3.91 ERA). Chandler has been SEMO’s No. 2 starter this season and has 95 strikeouts to his credit.
Fortunately for MSU, it has four starters awaiting the word as to which of them will get the nod today. Junior right-handers Zac Houston (5-0, 1.93) and Dakota Hudson (9-4, 2.35) are the most likely pitchers to get the call.
Mississippi State (41-16-1) and Southeast Missouri State (39-19) enter the postseason having won their respective conferences during the regular season. The Bulldogs claimed the Southeastern Conference title at 21-9 while the Redhawks won the Ohio Valley Conference at 22-8 while also earning the OVC Tournament title as well.
MSU will be the third SEC school the Redhawks have played this season going 1-3 on the road at both Ole Miss (2-10, 4-6) and Missouri (7-2, 6-13).
SEMO is 4-7 all-time against SEC opponents under Bieser with three of those wins coming against Missouri and the other against Arkansas. The Redhawks also hold a 7-4 victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa during their last NCAA Regional appearance in 2002.
Mississippi State is 5-0 all-time against the Redhawks.
“We know what we’re up against, it’s great baseball,” Bieser said. “You just can’t make mistakes. That’s something we’ve been working on all season. We hope we’ve corrected those problems and can play a really clean game.”