By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Tyler Fullerton was napping at his home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Sunday when the call came from teammate Jonathan Holder.
“Hey, buddy, you heading back yet?” Holder asked. As in, back to Starkville, a good four hours away. On spring break.
Fullerton thought Holder was joking.
Mississippi State’s baseball team was getting ready to head to Louisiana. This was supposed to be a redshirt year for the freshman outfielder, so he wasn’t going to travel with the team.
“So I just kind of blew it off,” Fullerton said, “and then I saw that coach Cohen had called me.”
Indeed, John Cohen needed Fullerton’s services, because the injuries keep piling up for No. 21 MSU (14-5), which opens SEC play today at No. 13 LSU (14-3). First pitch is at 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs are without four positional starters, so Cohen’s options are dwindling fast. Fullerton stepped in and produced almost immediately, starting in left field and collecting four hits in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to Southeastern Louisiana.
“I’ve still been practicing with the team, and I’m still working just as hard as if I would be playing every day,” he said. “I felt like I was prepared both mentally and physically.”
Fullerton and his fellow true freshmen – including Holder, a pitcher; infielder Matthew Britton; outfielder Phillip Casey; and outfielder/pitcher Brandon Woodruff – have no choice but to fill the gaps. Cohen noted that when the teams take the field tonight, MSU will have 17 combined SEC career starts in the lineup, while LSU will have six players who each have more than that.
Driven to succeed
“We’ve just got to keep moving these guys forward,” Cohen said. “But these guys think that they’re good, and they should, because they have talent and they’re driven.”
Fullerton said age and experience aren’t things he and his teammates worry about. He added that the injured players, in particular outfielders C.T. Bradford and Brent Brownlee, have offered him advice and encouragement on a daily basis.
“Opportunity calls, and you never know when it’s going to happen,” Fullerton said. “Right now we’re just taking the opportunities as they come, and we’re going to do the best we can.”
Today, 7 p.m.
Mississippi State RHP Chris Stratton (4-0, 2.57) vs. LSU RHP Kevin Gausman (4-0, 1.32)
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Mississippi State LHP Nick Routt (1-1, 3.31) vs. LSU RHP Ryan Eades (3-1, 2.13)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mississippi State RHP Kendall Graveman (1-0, 2.82) vs. LSU RHP Austin Nola (3-0, 1.80)