By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia has been especially productive in the late innings this season, while Mississippi State’s pitching staff has been particularly stingy.
So that’s the big strength vs. strength matchup to watch this weekend when these teams meet in the NCAA super regional round, starting with today’s noon first pitch. Game 2 is at 6 p.m. Sunday, with Monday’s if-necessary game at 3 p.m.
The winner of this series advances to the College World Series.
Virginia has outscored opponents 232-76 in the fifth through eighth innings, with 23 comeback wins. Nine of the comebacks were from three runs or more behind, and six occurred in the sixth inning or later.
“In all the games that I’ve watched on television over the last four or five days, they look like they can match up as good as anybody certainly we’ve played this year,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said of MSU’s bullpen.
“They not only can match up well, they’ve got talent.”
The Bulldogs’ bullpen has posted a 1.68 ERA this season. It’s led by Ross Mitchell (12-0, 1.41 ERA), Chad Girodo (7-1, 1.10) and closer Jonathan Holder (2-0, 1.17, 17 saves).
“Personally I hate the short leash,” said starter Luis Pollorena, “but that’s the best part of having a bullpen like that. Even if you go two innings you know you are going to get probably the best bullpen in the country, the way we like to see it.”
Today’s starting matchup is MSU senior right-hander Kendall Graveman (6-5, 2.94) versus Virginia freshman lefty Brandon Waddell (6-2, 3.80).
“We feel like with his leadership he gives us the best opportunity to get off to a good start,” MSU coach John Cohen said of Graveman, who gave up one earned run in 6 1/3 innings to Central Arkansas eight days ago in the Starkville Regional.
Waddell has been Virginia’s normal Friday starter. In his last outing, against Army in the regional here, he tossed seven innings of one-run ball.
Home on the road
MSU has a chance to be the home team twice this weekend.
As the host, Virginia will be the home team today, but then MSU gets to be in the home dugout on Sunday. Cohen won a coin flip to determine the home team Monday if a Game 3 is played.