By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
OMAHA, Neb. – There is a level of selflessness that has greatly benefited Mississippi State this season, but that doesn’t mean players don’t want to spend some time on the big stage.
That’s especially true with the pitchers. The Bulldogs (50-18), who will play Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. for a chance to advance to the championship round of the College World Series, have plenty of options on the mound with three days off between games.
At Wednesday morning’s practice, coach John Cohen said Friday’s opponent would be a big factor in who he starts, but he likes what he’s seen from several pitchers this week.
“We had some bullpens yesterday that were just phenomenal,” Cohen said. “Some guys really, through their body language and through their work yesterday, said, hey, I really want to pitch, and I’m fresh.”
Among the pitchers he named were Ben Bracewell, Will Cox, Jacob Lindgren and Evan Mitchell. MSU, of course, relies heavily on its bullpen, and that group should be fresh.
So Cohen and pitching coach Butch Thompson simply have to figure out what combination to use, and the players aren’t making it easy.
“This is the biggest stage in college baseball, the College World Series, and everybody wants to play,” Cohen said.
One possible option is left-hander Luis Pollorena – if he’s healthy. The senior has been experiencing some arm soreness and hasn’t pitched since June 1 in the Starkville Regional.
“It’s kind of a real shame, because he’s been healthy all year, and (he’s) just a little bit sore,” Cohen said. “We’ll read that, but knowing the heart of that kid, I would be shocked if he wasn’t available to us some time this weekend.”
After going 2 for 11 against Oregon State in the CWS opener, the seven-through-nine hitters in MSU’s batting order were 4 for 12 against Indiana. Two of those hits sparked a three-run rally in the eighth inning: Demarcus Henderson’s game-tying single and Trey Porter’s two-run single.
Henderson, who batted seventh in the order, has been productive all postseason. In eight NCAA tournament games, the junior outfielder is hitting .355 with four RBIs and six runs scored. He’s a big reason opposing pitchers can’t relax against the bottom part of MSU’s order.
“When you’re behind (Adam) Frazier and you’re behind (Brett) Pirtle and Wes Rea and all those guys and Hunter (Renfroe), it’s kind of hard,” Henderson said. “You get downplayed a lot, but when one’s down, we try to pick each other up.
“Right now we’re seeing the ball pretty good.”
Rematch with OSU
Matt Boyd (11-4) hurled a four-hit shutout as the Beavers (52-12) beat Indiana, 1-0, on Wednesday. That sets up a second meeting between OSU and MSU, who met in the CWS opener on Saturday.
The Bulldogs won 5-4.
If Oregon State wins Friday, the teams will meet again Saturday. A win either day will send MSU to the best-of-three championship series, which begins Monday.