By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
OMAHA, Neb. – John Cohen wants his senior captain on the mound for today’s big game.
Mississippi State (48-18) and Oregon State (50-11) are squaring off at 2 p.m. in the first game of the 2013 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Cohen, MSU’s coach, is turning to senior right-hander Kendall Graveman (7-5, 3.14 ERA).
A Saturday starter during SEC play this season, Graveman is the first guy on the mound for the third consecutive week. He pitched the Starkville Regional opener and the Charlottesville Super Regional opener, allowing five earned runs over 112⁄3 innings in those two starts (3.86 ERA).
Cohen sees Graveman more resembling the pitcher that threw three consecutive complete games earlier this season, before hitting a rough stretch.
“He’s a little less amped up,” Cohen said. “It’s a concern to me when he’s going 91, 92, 93 (mph), in that area, because he really is that guy who needs to sit 87, 88, sinking the baseball.
“We have a lot of faith in his ability to throw the baseball to location, and he’s going to have to, because he’s facing a really good offensive club (today).”
Oregon State closer Max Engelbrekt (5-1, 1.30, five saves) missed the last two games of the Corvallis Super Regional after experiencing severe back spasms.
Coach Pat Casey said Engelbrekt felt good Friday but wasn’t at 100 percent.
“It’s an unfortunate thing, but somebody needs to pick him up and make sure if he’s not able to throw that they’re able to fill that gap,” Casey said.
Good luck charm
Oregon State hopes it was on board the “championship charter” when it flew to Omaha. Its airplane was the same one that carried the Boston Bruins to Chicago for the start of the Stanley Cup finals.
The other game today pits Louisville (51-12) against Indiana (48-18), scheduled for a 7 p.m. start on ESPN. The winner plays the MSU-Oregon State winner at 7 p.m. Monday, while the losers of those two games meet at 2 p.m. that day in an elimination game.
The other side of the bracket starts Sunday, with North Carolina against N.C. State and LSU versus UCLA.