By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s players have said all season that there’s something special about this team. John Cohen believes there is certainly something different about it.
The No. 13-ranked Bulldogs (18-2) are off to their best start under Cohen, but it gets a little tougher now. No. 7 LSU (16-1) visits Starkville today to open SEC play with a three-game series.
First pitch tonight is set for 6:30, while Saturday’s game starts at 6 p.m. and Sunday’s at 1:30 p.m.
Cohen recalled one of his earlier MSU teams preparing for a game in Pearl, and the locker room was dead silent, and the players seemed “kind of frozen, not loose, relaxed and confident,” Cohen said.
This team is the opposite of that.
“You can have all the confidence in the world, but if you play against a club like LSU and you don’t play well, you’re not going to win games,” he said. “But I do like the fact that our kids have a grasp of what we’re trying to accomplish. They’re loose, they’re relaxed, they have fun together.”
That demeanor helped MSU bounce back from two losses to Central Arkansas last weekend with a dominating 13-5 win over Southern Miss on Tuesday.
lsu’s on a roll
The trick now is to carry that over into this weekend against an LSU team that’s playing as well as anyone in the country.
The Tigers have won 11 in a row, and they’ll test MSU in every respect. They rank second in the SEC in batting average, sixth in ERA and first in fielding percentage.
The Bulldogs rank second in ERA, at 1.84. Sophomore Jacob Lindgren (2-0, 0.96), who suffered a bone bruise on his left knee last weekend, will start on the mound tonight.
Cohen expects to get a lot of work out of the left-hander.
“If Jacob Lindgren can get us five innings – or even six innings into a ball game – it sets up our bullpen nicely to have a chance to win baseball games,” Cohen said.
Outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who’s hitting .436 with five home runs and 23 RBIs, feels the Bulldogs are ready for SEC play in every aspect but have to guard against over-confidence and stay focused on the basics.
“You’re going to have to put balls in play and line drives and work the counts,” he said.