I don't believe it's PR spin to say that Mississippi State had a good weekend at LSU. Sure, the Bulldogs (15-7) lost two of three, but consider the context.
MSU started five freshmen in the field each game. Several starters are out injured, including Friday night pitcher Ben Bracewell. This was on the road at one of the toughest venues in the country, Alex Box Stadium. Oh, and LSU is pretty darned good.
"Our kids have had to be resilient," coach John Cohen said. "When you ask kids who are mentally on redshirt mode and now you're starting in SEC play against one of the best arms in the country, I think our kids really competed really hard. But in some respects the SEC doesn't care about competing hard, and they don't care about moral victories. The SEC demands real victories. ...
"If you get those two outs in the ninth on a Friday night, you win two out of three against LSU, against one of the best pitching staffs we're going to face. From that respect, our kids played well, but we've got to win. The kids realize that."
MSU got a win Sunday, 7-1, behind the pitching of Kendall Graveman. He's the subject of a story going in Tuesday's Journal, and he looks to have wrapped up that Sunday starter's role. I'll have more on him here tomorrow.
Between Graveman and Stratton and the rest, MSU had some really strong pitching on the weekend. LSU hit .228, stranded 23 runners and struck out 27 times in the series. While Nick Routt struggled a bit in his Saturday start, Evan Mitchell came in and threw 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball.
"I don't think in an SEC three-game set you can pitch it better than we did this weekend. I think you can pitch it as good," Cohen said.
The pitching will need to continue being strong, because the personnel shortage isn't getting better any time soon. Cohen said today that outfielders C.T. Bradford (shoulder) and Taylor Stark (hamstring) will be out for this weekend's home series with No. 3 Arkansas and could be out up to five weeks. He'd projected a shorter time frame last week.
So, more playing time for the freshmen.
"The bad news is we lost most of the experience from our lineup, but at least the positive thing is some young guys are getting some experience now," Cohen said. "Some of that experience is experience getting punched in the face a little bit when you're not fully ready for it. There are some positives to take away from it. As a coach you're selfish, and the selfish part of you as a coach is that you want all your players. We feel like we have the right players in our program, and you just want the use of all of them, and we don't have that. That's frustrating."
Before facing Arkansas, MSU will host Alabama A&M on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Cohen said freshman Brandon Woodruff (0-0, 2.70 ERA), a Wheeler product, will start on the mound.