Location, location, location.
Mississippi State John Cohen believes he’s entering the high rent district of the SEC this weekend, at least in terms of proximity to available talent.
The Bulldogs resume SEC play at No. 8 Georgia, a team Cohen praises for its deep and talented pitching staff and one he just might envy a bit for its baseball-rich geography.
“The biggest thing is they’re within 100 miles of arguably the best baseball talent in America, and from a recruiting standpoint they always do a solid job of getting those kids to show up. They will always have arguably the best talent in the league by sheer geography.”
Game times are 6 tonight, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Bulldogs’ own talent level is something Cohen believes is sub-standard in his first season as head coach.
“Frankly, at times on the baseball field we’re a little short, and that’s why it’s a full-steam ahead recruiting battle for us,” he said. “Every second we are not devoting to our players we’ll devote to recruiting to get Mississippi State back to the talent level it deserves.”
A talent shortage was no immediately evident last weekend when the Bulldogs (13-6, 2-1 SEC) defeated South Carolina twice to win their first league series under Cohen.
The Bulldogs scored double-figure runs in winning the first two games of the series 13-6 and 10-3. State had reached double-figures just once in the previous 11 games.
Infielder Jet Butler leads the team with a .431 batting average, but the Bulldogs are hitting just .288 collectively, 10th in the league.
Part of the low average has to do with adjustment to Cohen’s different style at the plate.
“On-base percentage is so important, and we want to have more walks and more HBPs (hit-by-pitch). Some guys are comfortable getting deep in the count, and some are not. If they’re not comfortable they’re not going to be productive.”
Cohen says his players can immediately improve their production by reducing their strikeouts.
That may be easier said than done this weekend. Georgia is the SEC’s top pitching team with a 3.42 team ERA.
Trevor Holder and Alex McCree, Georgia’s first two starters this weekend, have allowed a combined six earned runs through 34 innings.
“They are just a very talented team, and the thing that jumps out at you first is the amount of quality arms they have on their pitching staff,” Cohen said.
– Tonight: Mississippi State LHP Tyler Whitney (2-0, 1.12) vs. Georgia RHP Trevor Holder (3-1, 2.01)
– Saturday: Mississippi State LHP Nick Routt (2-0, 1.90) vs. Georgia LHP Alex McCree (2-0, 0.77)
– Sunday: Mississippi State TBA vs. Georgia RHP Justin Grimm (1-1, 5.49)
Parrish Alford/Daily Journal