By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – There was going to be no keeping Caleb Reed out of the middle of this action.
He had thrown 5 1/3 innings and 82 pitches just the day before, but Mississippi State’s junior closer would not shut up about getting into Sunday’s decisive Game 3 against Florida in the Gainesville Super Regional.
Reed told his coaches more than once, “I want the ball in the ninth.” Seeing as how he’s been MSU’s best pitcher all season, who was John Cohen to deny him?
As it turned out, Reed was needed in the seventh after freshman Daryl Norris walked the first two batters. State was nursing a 6-4 lead.
“When the game is in front of you and it’s screaming out, you’ve got to have a stop, that’s where we needed Caleb,” Cohen said. “We were just going to ask Caleb to get three outs there and then go somebody else.”
He got the three outs, but unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Florida got a three-run go-ahead home run from Preston Tucker first. With first base open and a struggling Josh Adams on deck, Reed tried to pitch around Tucker, who was 2 of 3 with a double Sunday.
A 3-1 changeup was within Tucker’s reach, though, and he smashed it over the center field wall.
“I got a changeup that I could handle and put a good swing on it,” Tucker said.
It proved the difference in Florida’s 8-6 win, which clinched a spot in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
Cohen doesn’t regret the move.
“We weren’t going to get to the ninth if we didn’t get Caleb into the game,” he said. “He kept telling us on the bench he wanted to be a part of it. … Outside of that one pitch, I thought he did a pretty good job for us.”
– Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan was doubting himself a bit after MSU’s 4-3 win on Saturday. So he reached out to some pretty successful coaches who just happened to be on campus.
Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan and football offensive coordinator Charlie Weis offered O’Sullivan some advice. Donovan’s words?
“For lack of a better term, (he said) I had my head in my rear end last night,” O’Sullivan said, “and I needed to pick myself up. Because the players were going to look at me.”
Donovan also suggested the Gators meet as a team Saturday night. That’s not something they normally do after losses, but O’Sullivan spoke with them for 10 minutes.
He thinks it helped the players for Sunday’s game, but he also thinks it helped him as a coach.
“I’ve probably learned more about coaching in the last 24 hours than I have in the last four years,” O’Sullivan said.
Zunino zaps State
– Florida sophomore catcher Mike Zunino has hurt a lot of teams, which is how he became the SEC player of the year. MSU did not escape his offensive wrath.
In seven games versus the Bulldogs this season, Zunino was 14 of 30 with three doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs. He had two homers in the super regional, including a solo shot Sunday.
“I really liked his comments – I can’t remember where I read it – but he made a comment about last year he swung really hard and had effort in his swing,” Cohen said. “He talked about just putting the barrel where he wanted to and staying in control of his swing. I can see there’s a big difference there.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571