STARKVILLE – Nearly a week into fall practices, Mississippi State’s new crop of baseball talent continues to impress coach John Cohen.
The Bulldogs, who began their five-week fall session on Oct. 9, are looking to their freshmen to eventually get the program back to the elite status it once enjoyed. Two consecutive last-place finishes in the SEC can be attributed in large part to pitching woes.
Cohen’s trying to solve that problem through recruiting, and he likes the new arms in Starkville.
“We have some exciting freshman arms,” he said Wednesday. “Every other pitch you go, ‘Wow, that guy’s going to be special.’ You just don’t know when it’s going to happen. The typical thing of a freshman pitcher is it’s great pitch, then big miss, then great pitch and a big miss.”
He said most of his new pitchers have shown good velocity, and the returnees have shown improvement as well.
State was last in the SEC last season with a 6.59 ERA. Sophomore Nick Routt and senior Tyler Whitney return as weekend starters; they were a combined 8-7 with a 4.60 ERA last season. But they’ll need much better help than they got last year.
“It is a process. But the issue that we have is we’re going to have to have some freshmen speed up that process in order to have some success this year,” said Cohen, who told the Daily Journal last week he thought MSU was “a year away” from making “a huge move.”
The Bulldogs, 25-29 a year ago (9-20 SEC), have been trying to practice on the newly resurfaced Dudy Noble Field. A new drainage system has worked wonders, but all the rain lately has sent MSU inside the Palmeiro Center several times.
“The difficulty is, you don’t want to destroy your field, but you want to go full-speed, and that’s been the two things kind of conflicting each other at times,” Cohen said. “We’re going to find a way to get it done. In the long run, the surface is going to be so much better than it ever was.”
Right-handed pitcher Michael Dixon, a junior college transfer, aggravated an elbow injury in his first falling outing and could miss the rest of the workouts. Otherwise, the Bulldogs are pretty healthy.
MSU returns six position players who started at least 25 games last year. It opens the season Feb. 19-21 with a three-game series against Rhode Island.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal