For the first time this season, Mississippi State has what appears to be a bona fide SEC pitching rotation.
Perhaps it’s too soon to draw that conclusion, but the Bulldogs’ weekend in Knoxville was certainly encouraging. For the first time in league play this season, all three starters went five-plus innings, and all three earned victories as MSU (29-18, 11-13 SEC) swept Tennessee.
Entering the series, State’s weekend starters were 1-9 in SEC games.
Last week, coach John Cohen shuffled the rotation for the second time this season, inserting sophomore left-hander Luis Pollorena into the Friday slot. In his first career start, Pollorena allowed five runs on 11 hits in 51⁄3 innings.
“He’s so hard to run against, he’s so hard to bunt against, and with the new bats, that’s such a big part of the game,” Cohen said. “All those little pieces of the puzzle really add up for you on Friday night.”
Pollorena’s outing was followed by even stronger showings from junior lefty Nick Routt and sophomore righty Chris Stratton. Routt had his longest outing of the season at six innings and 124 pitches, giving up two earned runs on five hits.
Stratton, whose ERA in his previous four starts was 10.19, gave up just two runs on six hits in 52⁄3 innings Sunday. He was full of self-confidence, and he’s also got confidence in the entire starting rotation.
“I think our starters have kind of figured it out at this point,” Stratton said, “and we can really turn it over to our bullpen, and they can get the job done. They’ve been great all year.”
Cohen said he’ll stick with the same rotation this weekend when MSU visits Ole Miss. The first game is Thursday night.
– Shortstop Jonathan Ogden continues to battle a pulled abdominal muscle, but Cohen thinks he’s found a good solution. He rested Ogden on Saturday, and freshman Adam Frazier was a capable fill-in.
“I think that one day of rest really helped him,” Cohen said.
Outfielder Brent Brownlee twisted his knee on Sunday chasing down a ball in the gap. Cohen said it was a “little sore” on Monday, but Brownlee will be good to go this weekend.
Other ailments: Pitcher Devin Jones is better after suffering what Cohen believes was a bout of food poisoning. Outfielder C.T. Bradford’s hamstring is strong enough to where he can pitch if need be. And designated hitter/catcher Cody Freeman has a pulled leg muscle but is getting better.
Let’s play … one
– MSU had a scheduled doubleheader with Mississippi Valley State tonight, but Cohen and MVSU coach Doug Shanks decided one game was enough.
The teams were rained out March 9, thus the doubleheader, but both teams are on a tight schedule this week.
MSU has the series at Ole Miss, while Valley (18-31) has a doubleheader at Louisiana Tech on Wednesday.
Tonight’s first pitch is set for 6:30. Sophomore Kendall Graveman (4-0, 3.67) will start for MSU.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal