By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
As the game with Tennessee went deep into extra innings on Saturday, Mississippi State’s players went searching for a good-luck talisman. They found one, and so that explained all the green caps during the postgame celebration.
The Bulldogs have special St. Patrick’s Day lids, and pitcher Chris Stratton had the idea of using them to give the offense a spark.
“We asked coach (Tyler) Bratton, he said, ‘We might as well. We’ve got to do something to win this game,'” said relief pitcher Luis Pollorena.
The efficacy of those rally caps can be debated, but that’s not what’s important to head coach John Cohen. What he saw was leadership from an experienced pitching staff, something a young lineup needs.
“I really enjoy seeing our older kids having fun with the game, doing whatever they can to inject some life and trying to do things differently,” Cohen said. “Our young guys are just a little bit more cautious, and those are our positional players.”
The pitching has been MSU’s strong point, while the offense has struggled, but Cohen believes the latter will get it turned around soon. The Bulldogs (24-16) will try to build on their weekend sweep of Tennessee when they face Southern Miss (23-16) tonight at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
State is hitting .262 as a team, which ranks 11th in the SEC. It had its struggles against Tennessee, although MSU posted seven runs on Friday and got some strong at-bats from freshman Matthew Britton, who’s raised his average 28 points to .141.
“He can be a very good offensive player, he’s just not there yet,” Cohen said. “We feel that way about a lot of our young players. They’re going to figure it out, and when they do, we feel like we’re going to compete at a very high level.”
While it’s a non-conference game, winning tonight could help MSU’s postseason rampésumampé, and it could keep the momentum going strong heading into this weekend’s home series with rival Ole Miss.
“The fact that we didn’t play well last week in Pearl (against Ole Miss), it didn’t sit too well with our players,” Cohen said, “and I think they would just like to play better in front of a lot of our fans there.”
Freshman Brandon Woodruff (0-1, 4.24 ERA), from Wheeler, will start on the mound for MSU tonight.