By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Kendall Graveman was at a peak last weekend, and he’s trying to show his pitching mates the path to where he is.
Graveman, a senior right-hander, pitched a complete game at Arkansas last week, leading Mississippi State to its lone win in the series. The Bulldogs (24-8, 3-6 SEC) are back in action at 6:30 p.m. today to start a three-game series against Florida (14-16, 4-5).
Saturday’s game is at 3 p.m., and Sunday’s is at 1:30.
Graveman (3-2, 2.43 ERA) will start Saturday and hopes he can repeat last week’s performance, which was easily his best of the season.
“My whole goal in the outing was to go out and shove the ball in the (strike) zone and let our defense play,” Graveman said. “I’m just trying to lay a road map out to some younger guys that, hey, if you just pump it in the zone, we’ve got the best defense in the conference, and maybe America, that will make plays behind you.”
The Bulldogs’ starting pitching has been a trouble spot this season, in particular the last two Sundays. Neither Evan Mitchell (at Kentucky) nor Ben Bracewell (at Arkansas) recorded an out before being pulled.
Graveman has been there, which is why he believes he can help. As a freshman, he started a game at South Carolina and was chased after facing just five hitters, recording no outs.
“That’s something that I can always refer to,” he said. “If I had never gone through that, I wouldn’t know how to speak with some of the guys that have been through it.”
Luis Pollorena (4-1, 3.34) will start tonight’s game, with Sunday’s starter to be determined. Jacob Lindgren, the normal Friday starter, is questionable for the second consecutive week with elbow soreness.
The Bulldogs are still seeking their first SEC series win, and resolving the pitching issues is paramount. Coach John Cohen hopes his other pitchers follow Graveman’s example.
“He’s got his identity, and he’s not strayed from that identity. … Kendall never runs away from who he is, and who he is, is pretty darn good,” Cohen said. “I really believe that’s the road map he’s talking about.”
Cohen expects the pitching to get straightened out, and he believes MSU is on the verge of winning the close games it’s been losing. The Bulldogs’ six SEC losses have come by a total of 11 runs.
“Every one of our pitchers has a very specific plan,” Cohen said, “and when they stay on that plan, I think we have one of the better pitching staffs in the country.”