Bulldogs, Rebels collide tonight in Pearl

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

PEARL – When it comes to mid-week games, John Cohen’s practice has been to send as many arms to the mound as possible.
Facing his team’s biggest rival won’t change that approach. In fact, it might be the best mode of attack.
Cohen’s Mississippi State squad takes on No. 11-ranked Ole Miss at Trustmark Park at 6:30 p.m. today in the fourth annual Governor’s Cup game.
Cohen said he’ll start freshman C.C. Watson, but at least seven pitchers will see action for the Bulldogs (14-10). Given how well MSU’s bullpen has performed of late, that should give the Bulldogs a fighting chance.
Over State’s last four games – three of which it has won – the starting pitchers have a collective ERA of 13.94 over 10 1/3 innings of work. The bullpen, in 25 2/3 innings, has an ERA of 4.21, and a reliever has gotten the win every time over the past week.
The Bulldogs used three freshman starting pitchers against Georgia this past weekend, but the bullpen is the best place for MSU’s bevy of young hurlers to grow.
“The starting thing for a young guy to me is more difficult, because they have so much more time to think about it,” Cohen said. “Whereas if they’re in relief, they know it’s a sprint instead of a marathon.”
As further evidence, Cohen pointed to freshman Chad Girodo. After throwing two innings of scoreless relief against Memphis on Wednesday, he lasted just three innings in Sunday’s start versus Georgia, allowing four earned runs on six hits.
The best of the bunch last week was senior Greg Houston, who in three appearances allowed one earned run on three hits in 4 2/3 innings. He picked up the win Sunday, when MSU rallied from a 10-2 deficit over the final two innings to win 11-10.
“To win a game like that, you’ve got to have somebody come in and stop the bleeding, and that’s exactly what Greg Houston did,” Cohen said.
Looking to improve
MSU, which overcame deficits of four, six and eight runs in last week’s wins, probably won’t be able to get away with a slow start tonight. Ole Miss (19-6) has a pitching staff with the league’s fourth-best ERA (3.78).
Offensively, the Rebels are hitting .305 and rank third in the SEC with 206 runs scored.
Two Sunday SEC losses in a row, though, have left a bad taste in coach Mike Bianco’s mouth.
“You’re always striving to get better, and certainly when you lose on Sundays, it kind of puts a damper on a pretty good weekend,” Bianco said. “When you look at the entire season, we’ve played pretty well, but there is certainly room for improvement in all phases.”
Looking to improve is today’s Rebel starting pitcher, David Goforth. The sophomore right-hander, 1-1 with a 2.80 ERA last season, is 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA in 11 appearances, none of them starts. He has three saves.
“Part of that, I think, is my fault,” Bianco said. “We’ve been too conservative with him and haven’t pitched him enough. This is a chance for him to get some innings.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@djournal.com.