Five times during his 12-minute chat with the media this morning, John Cohen used the term "mental toughness" or some variation thereof. He was talking about injuries and fighting through them, and he didn't see any of that in last night's 6-3 loss to Ole Miss, when MSU struck out 16 times.
"We're a beaten up club," he said. "You have real mental toughness, and you can overcome that. Right now we're not overcoming it. That's not anything against our kids. It's just when you're punched out 16 times in a ballgame, you're not overcoming anything."
Cohen talked a lot about injuries, and a new one is shortstop Adam Frazier, whose knee was bothering him last night. Cohen thought there were a couple of ground balls that Frazier would normally get to that he couldn't Tuesday.
As for other injured players, here's what Cohen had to say about outfielder Brent Brownlee and third baseman Daryl Norris, both of whom are slowed by knee issues.
• "I don't know if Brownlee is going to be able to start a game the rest of the year. This Monday he was worse than he has been in a long time."
• "I went to Daryl Norris last night, he got a hit, runs to first base, and I almost ran out there to first base to say, 'Hey, that's the worst I've seen you run since this happened to you.' He said, 'Coach, it's killing me. I can't function.'"
Seems like all of these baseball blog posts wind up focusing on injuries, but that's been the biggest story line of this season thus far. Elsewhere, RHP Ben Bracewell (elbow) will be available this weekend. He was supposed to pitch last night, but Cohen decided to ride reliever Luis Pollorena, who tossed the game's final 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits.
For all the positional problems, Cohen feels fine about his pitching.
"Right now our pitching staff, believe it or not, has provided that leadership and keeping encouraging and trying to move those guys forward. We've been very, very encouraging until last night. Last night was a little bit of get in somebody's face and say, 'This is unacceptable.' …
"As coaches you keep getting in their face and saying, 'Hey, this is coming. The storm is coming. You've got to be tough enough to avoid it.' And we just didn't last night."
As for the Game 3 starter, which has been TBA the last few weeks, Evan Mitchell could again fill that role this weekend, but Cohen doesn't want to commit to anything just yet.
"We certainly have options, and we don't feel like we need to limit them by just stating who's going to pitch on Sunday," he said. "Clearly the first two guys (Chris Stratton and Kendall Graveman), in our opinion, have been able to separate themselves just by attacking the strike zone a little bit more with stuff than some of our other candidates."