By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With Mississippi State needing to win three games in two days to advance out of the NCAA Tallahassee Regional, John Cohen has plenty of pitching options.
The Bulldogs (40-23) staved off elimination on Saturday with an 8-1 win over UAB, and reliever Caleb Reed’s 42/3 shutout innings helped save the bullpen for what could be a long day today. State has to beat Samford and then Florida State, and if it can do that, will have to defeat FSU again Monday.
Reed said he approached pitching coach Butch Thompson after the eighth inning Saturday and asked to work the ninth “to save the rest of those guys. That gives us a chance, because that’s our strength of our club, is we have a lot of arms,” said Reed.
Who will start on the mound today? The options include sophomore Ben Bracewell, sophomore Evan Mitchell and freshman Brandon Woodruff.
Luis Pollorena has done a little bit of everything for MSU, which is one reason he’s become an MSU fan favorite. On Saturday he drew his first career position start, in right field, allowing Brent Brownlee to rest a bad knee.
Pollorena had a perfectly executed bunt single during MSU’s five-run sixth inning and scored a run. He had a couple of hard-hit outs, too.
“I felt like that part of our lineup has been a little bit more swing and miss and less contact,” Cohen said. “The thing about Pollo is, I know he’s going to make contact.”
Pollorena, a pitcher who has pinch hit and pinch run this season, even drew cheers for dodging a sharp line drive while leading off third base in the ninth inning.
According to Cohen, a pitcher sitting in the MSU dugout said, “Pollo gets more of an ovation for dodging a foul ball than all of us do for throwing shutout innings.”
Double play leaders
MSU capped its win over UAB with a double play, the second of the game and 70th on the season. That total is tops in the nation.
Most of them have involved shortstop Adam Frazier. Second baseman Matthew Britton, a freshman, has been in on several of them, too.
“Frazier’s one of the best defenders I’ve seen,” Britton said. “He makes the play, all I’ve got to do is catch it and throw it.”
Cohen said Britton deserves some credit for knowing how to turn two.
“He’s got tremendous feet and hands, tremendous awareness,” Cohen said. “He does a lot of things as a freshman you can’t teach defensively.”