By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
While acknowledging the rivalry, Mississippi State coach John Cohen isn’t focused much on Ole Miss in tonight’s annual Governor’s Cup game in Pearl.
He’s got bigger worries. His Bulldogs (21-15) were just swept by South Carolina, and they continue to fight through injuries. Third baseman Daryl Norris and outfielders C.T. Bradford and Brent Brownlee are all playing hurt, but their presence is invaluable in a lineup that is otherwise very inexperienced.
“Right now we’re not playing against an opponent, we’re competing against the training room, and we’re competing against the game itself,” Cohen said. “We’re trying to defeat the game itself. The game’s going to find every part of your club.”
The coach then employed a golf metaphor to drive his point home.
“In golf it doesn’t matter who your playing partner is, it doesn’t matter if it’s Tiger Woods or whoever. That tree is still sitting there, and that bunker’s still sitting there. You’ve got to play the course, and we’ve got to play against the game.”
The game won’t let up any time soon. After playing Ole Miss tonight, MSU begins a three-game series with Tennessee on Thursday. That’ll make for seven games in a nine-day span.
Cohen feels that his pitching staff can handle the load, and he’s not discouraged by the 6.11 ERA posted by his starting pitchers at South Carolina.
“I feel like our depth there is really going to help us, especially in the middle of the week and hopefully this weekend,” he said.
Tonight’s game, which doesn’t count as an SEC game, nevertheless marks the crossing over to the second half of the league schedule. Cohen is hoping – expecting – the next five weekends to be kinder to his team.
“We’re right on the edge of doing the things that we want,” he said. “I feel like we’re going to start to click a little bit more offensively in the second half, and hopefully these guys with injuries, we can start getting them closer to being game-ready.”
Freshman pitcher Brandon Woodruff (0-0, 2.70 ERA) will start tonight. The Wheeler product tossed six no-hit innings versus South Alabama last week.
Cohen also plans to get some innings for Ben Bracewell, the former Friday night starter who’s been battling elbow soreness for several weeks.