By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – It was a pretty easy call for John Cohen.
The Mississippi State coach said Wednesday that senior right-hander Kendall Graveman will start on the mound Friday when his team opens NCAA regional play against Central Arkansas.
Game time at Dudy Noble Field is 7 p.m.
“They’re a really right-handed club,” Cohen said, “but we really wanted to see what matched up well against them, and we feel Kendall’s our best matchup.”
Graveman (5-5, 3.04 ERA) pitched against Central Arkansas on March 10, giving up four runs – three earned – in 52⁄3 innings. MSU lost that game, 7-3, and lost two of three to UCA that weekend.
Graveman has been the Bulldogs’ most consistent starter, and following that weekend he had a strong stretch that included three consecutive complete games.
His last win came April 13 at Texas A&M, and then Graveman hit a rough patch. Cohen feels he has been rounding back into form over the last couple of starts.
“I think he was a different guy,” Cohen said of the first UCA meeting.
“He progressively got better. Again, he was coming off surgery (for a sports hernia); he wasn’t that far off of surgery that early in the season there in February.”
UCA will start senior righty Caleb McClanahan (10-5, 2.17) against MSU.
Center fielder C.T. Bradford has missed the last three games nursing a muscle strain in his hip flexor region, but the junior said Wednesday that he’s ready to go this weekend.
“I’ve talked to (Cohen) this week, and I’m already healthy. I could play today, so it’s good,” Bradford said.
After an injury-riddled 2012 season that saw him limited to 34 games, Bradford started each of MSU’s first 57 games this season before sitting down during the SEC Tournament. He said the muscle “acted up” on him during MSU’s 17-inning game against Missouri in the opening round.
Cohen benched him as a precaution and Bradford said he has been “taking it easy” as the Bulldogs prepare for this regional.
“We’re a better club with C.T., especially against right-handed pitching,” Cohen said.
Bradford is batting .300 with 22 RBIs and 42 runs scored.
Second baseman Brett Pirtle was happy to be named All-SEC second team by the coaches on Tuesday, but he’s among those miffed that shortstop Adam Frazier didn’t make the first or second team.
“Yeah, about that. He should’ve got more (recognition) than me, I thought,” Pirtle said. “His numbers are so much better.”
Pirtle is hitting .310 with 28 RBIs and 31 runs scored. Frazier is tied for the team lead with a .352 average, and he has 16 doubles, six triples and 54 runs scored. He’s been strong in the field, and the SEC’s coaches did vote him to the all-defensive squad.
LSU’s Alex Bregman was named the first-team shortstop, while Alabama’s Mikey White and Texas A&M’s Mikey Reynolds shared second-team honors.
When asked about the supposed snub, Frazier shrugged it off.
“I’m not really going to comment on that. It is what it is, but obviously you want to make those teams.”