TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | Previewing today’s NCAA regional game between No. 2 seed MSU (39-23) and No. 4 seed UAB (32-29). First pitch is 11 a.m. CT.
• TV: No TV, can be watched on ESPN3.com
• Starting pitchers: UAB RHP Ryan Nance (4-3, 3.66) vs. Mississippi State RHP Kendall Graveman (4-4, 2.92)
It’s simple: The next loss here will be MSU’s final game of the 2012 season. Today it faces a UAB team that gave Florida State all it could handle yesterday before falling, 2-1. Can the Blazers get the kind of pitching performance out of Nance that they got from Michael Busby? Nance is a Mississippi guy, by the way, from Brandon. He played at Northwest Rankin High School and then at Hinds CC.
The senior will be making only his third start of the season, having logged most of his 46 2/3 innings in 22 other relief appearances. One week ago today, Nance got the start against Memphis in the Conference USA Tournament final and earned the win with 6 1/3 shutout innings. He allowed five hits, struck out six and walked three.
Nance has recorded 38 strikeouts and 23 walks this year, with opponents batting .254 against him.
MSU counters with Graveman, who’s been battling a groin injury but, in the coach’s eyes, is healthy enough to pitch effectively. The Bulldogs will need to give him better run support than what Chris Stratton got in yesterday’s 5-0 loss to Samford. It was the third time this year MSU has been shut out, and the second time by a non-SEC team.
The storyline that piques everyone’s interest today is, of course, the fact that Ron Polk is wearing that UAB uniform as a volunteer assistant. MSU coach John Cohen played for Polk at State, and while you probably won’t even see Polk today – unless you can see into the bullpen – it’s still one of those intriguing story angles.
MSU and UAB have met plenty of times. Cohen is 3-1 against the Blazers in his four years at State. But never have they met with this much on the line.
By the way, MSU has an interesting lineup today, with Luis Pollorena making his first career defensive start, in right field. He was a dual-position guy in junior college but has been used mostly in a pitcher’s role. Pollorena, who has three at-bats and one RBI this year, will bat fifth. Also starting today is Matthew Britton at second base, with Sam Frost at third.