ATLANTA | Mississippi State was not a dominant force during the season, but here it is, heading to the Gainesville Super Regional after dispatching Georgia Tech on Sunday, 7-3. MSU was sure dominant in Atlanta, and a corner has been turned by this program.
Coach John Cohen has delivered on what he promised from the beginning.
He promised to build up the talent level. He promised to employ an effective style of small ball. He promised to upgrade the pitching. He promised to field a mentally tough team. He promised a team that would go all out, all the time.
I don’t recall him ever promising a lot of wins, but he knew that all those above-mentioned elements would give MSU a real shot at being a legit SEC team.
The biggest issue Cohen faced upon taking over was the pitching, and it was the best it’s been in four years this past weekend. Starters Luis Pollorena, Evan Mitchell and Nick Routt put together quite an impressive line. Their combined numbers: 23 innings pitched, 16 hits, 6 runs, 5 earned runs, 9 walks, 17 strikeouts. Their ERA was 1.96, and it was the first time since February that MSU pitchers put together three consecutive quality starts.
At the plate, MSU hit a modest .278, but it scored 18 runs on the weekend, and it scored early, notching a run in the first inning of each game. State did not trail in any of the games.
There were several big individual performances at the plate.
• C.T. Bradford, the regional MVP, was 7 of 13 with five RBIs and three runs scored.
• Nick Vickerson was 3 of 7 with two doubles, three RBIs and four walks.
• Jarod Shepherd was 4 of 13 with three runs and two RBIs.
All three outfielders, which includes left-fielder Brent Brownlee, made some big-time plays in the field, sprinting toward the lines and the gaps to track down fly balls that easily could have been doubles or triples.
The trio of Brownlee, Bradford and Shepherd recorded 20 putouts over the three games, and 11 of those belonged to Shepherd, the right fielder. State made two errors all weekend.
If MSU keeps playing like this, Florida will be in for a fight.
• I’ve got video, people. Click here to watch Cohen’s opening statement during last night’s postgame press conference. The audio isn’t great, but you should be able to make out most of what he’s saying.