By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State is coming off its best spring showing in school history finishing as the national runner-up at the College World Series.
The Bulldogs added the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class to the mix and wrapped up fall workouts a few weeks ago.
“It was a very, very productive fall,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “We started a little bit later than we normally do. I really liked the way that worked because we got a lot more individual work done going into the official part of the fall and ended up getting into some cooler weather because that’s how we’re going to start our season out. Our fall world series was very competitive. All the little things that you want to have happen happened.”
Eight MSU players moved on to the professional ranks following its run to Omaha last season. The Diamond Dogs began filling some of those holes and figuring out some roles this fall.
“In the fall you see the seeds and the beginnings of what could happen in the spring,” Cohen said. “I think there’s a lot of that in our program. We certainly have many kids who deserve opportunities to play. That’s a great challenge to have going into your season. Everybody has to understand their role and gravitate towards that to be good.”
State lost five pitchers from the 2012 roster causing the staff to shuffle some roles. One player assuming a new slot is Jacob Lindgren. The junior southpaw was a 14-game starter a year ago but will now be used out of the bullpen.
“We feel that he has a chance to be a Chad Girodo type guy,” Cohen said. “When you tell Lingo to go get these three guys out this fall it was 93, 94 miles per hour with an 85 to 87 miles per hour slider. There was no pacing himself, it was just attack. His level of stuff was as good as I’ve seen in college baseball.”
Reliever Ross Mitchell (hip) was held out of spring as was highly touted junior college transfer Paul Young (arm). Junior Brandon Woodruff, from Wheeler, returned from an arm injury late in the fall with Cohen calling his last three outings “phenomenal.”
The Bulldogs must break in a new catcher with no players with Division I experience returning. Cohen has four different backstops vying for the starting role and likes a different aspect from each. He feels good about Daniel Garner’s offense, Cody Walker’s arm strength, Gavin Collins blocking ability and Zack Randolph’s game management skills.
Four players – Brett Pirtle, Kyle Hann, Matthew Britton and junior college transfer Seth Heck – are battling for middle infield spots at second base and shortstop and will all get early opportunities. According to Cohen, Britton’s bat came alive this fall and he likes Heck’s maturity and work ethic.
Mississippi State will open the spring at home with a four-game weekend series against Hofstra on Feb. 14-16.