Bulldogs’ pitchers can really mix it up

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

OMAHA, Neb. – Mississippi State’s pitching success is as much a matter of contrast as anything else.
Take Saturday’s 5-4 win over Oregon State in the first game of the College World Series.
The Bulldogs started Kendall Graveman, who can hit low 90s with his fastball.
Then Ross Mitchell entered. His fastball tends to stay in the low 80s, with an off-speed pitch that will dip as low as 65 mph. Then came closer Jonathan Holder, with high velocity and a wicked 12-to-6 curveball.
That’s just a sampling. MSU’s pitching staff has not always gotten it done in typical fashion, but it’s gotten it done.
“Ross can throw it slow and get people out on their front foot,” Holder said. “(Chad) Girodo can strike people out with a slider. I throw my fastball and my curveball and mix it up. Kendall – changeup, slider.
“It’s just like we have everything.”
The Bulldogs got 41⁄3 innings out of Graveman on Saturday, which isn’t a long outing but is usually enough for the bullpen. Head coach John Cohen and his pitching coach, Butch Thompson, would ideally like to get long outings from the starters, but they’ve not been shy to lean on one of the nation’s strongest bullpens.
“We knew it was going to take a village of pitchers to get this done,” Cohen said. “That’s kind of how we’ve done it.”
MSU’s bullpen has a 1.69 ERA, including a 2.08 ERA in NCAA tournament play. Mitchell, who’s 13-0, credited the starters for setting him up well, “because I’m such a different pitcher than they are. I might not be the pitcher I am this year if it’s not for the people that are in there before me.
“I kind of feed off them, and it’s worked this year very well.”
Cohen echoed that sentiment.
“I think these are kids that are feeding off of each other, a little synergy, if you will,” Cohen said.
Girodo rings ‘em up
Girodo (8-1, 1.38) has been lights out this postseason. Over his last two outings, the senior lefty has struck out 22 hitters in 111⁄3 innings.
In three NCAA tournament appearances, Girodo is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA. A big reason for his success is a devastating slider, what he calls his “go-to pitch,” but his ability to mix things up has helped, too.
“I’ve been able to get my second and third pitch in the zone,” Girodo said, “and that’s a big deal when you can drop a 2-0 off-speed in there, keep them off-balance.”
Looking ahead
If MSU beats Indiana today (7 p.m., ESPN2), it won’t have to play again until Friday.
If the Bulldogs lose, they will play an elimination game on Wednesday.
brad.locke@journalinc.com