Price becomes right to close for Bulldogs

MSU's Spencer Price
Staff Writer

There was some question going into the baseball season for the Mississippi State Bulldogs who would be the pitcher that would be able to close down the end of games.
It didn’t take long for MSU head coach Andy Cannizaro and pitching coach Gary Henderson to realize Spencer Price was their guy.
Once Price got his first save for the Bulldogs back on Feb. 25 against Marist, everything began to fall into place for the transfer from Meridian Community College.
Price goes into this weekend’s series against Auburn leading all of Division I baseball with 14 saves. With that success, he has made the National College Baseball Writers Association Midseason Stopper of the Year Watch List.
“I’ve always wanted to be the guy at the end of the game and be depended on,” Price said. “I got the opportunity and just ran with it. I had it in high school and junior college and knew it wasn’t going to be given to me here. I had to earn it. Some things happened, guys went down and that gave me the opportunity. I had my shot.”
Price has gotten saves in nine Southeastern Conference games, including all three games against Ole Miss in Oxford.
It doesn’t bother Price to be used on consecutive days like that.
“Throwing back-to-back days isn’t a big deal for me,” Price said. “I just want to go out there and pitch. I don’t care if I may be a little sore. I’ll do what I need to do in the training room, get my running in and do what I need to do for the next day to help my team win.”
Price has a 3-1 record and a team-best 2.10 earned run average to go along with his saves. He has given up only four runs in his 22 appearances this season.
Cannizaro said the reason Price has been so effective at the end of games is because of a nasty slider.
“He has a true swing and miss pitch with that slider,” Cannizaro said. “It’s a true weapon for him and he’s able to throw it over for strikes at any point in the count. He is such a competitor and the moment is never too big for him. He wants the baseball and wants the opportunity to go out there and close the game down in front of 10,000 people. He has done such a good job of rising to the challenge every time it has been presented to him. He has done a fantastic job and we love getting the ball to him at the end of the ball game because we know he can get the job done for us.”
MSU starting pitcher Konnor Pilkington loves having the NCAA saves leader in the bullpen.
Pilkington knows if he can pitch well enough to get deep into games, Price is there waiting and willing to back him up.
“For him to come in in the ninth and close the ball game out, it’s absolutely the biggest thing,” Pilkington said. “Once you put him on the mound, you are going to get his full effort and for him to come in and shut three or four guys down, whatever he needs to do, it really helps the team out.”
Price said Henderson has done a good job of teaching and has been a calming influence on him as he adjusts to the Division I level.
The “one-pitch-at-a-time” approach is something that Henderson has stressed to Price.
“He’s real big about that and doesn’t wanting the moment to get too big for me,” Price said. “He wants me to try to play my game. He preaches staying calm and have a good plan with each pitch. That’s what I’m trying to do this year.”
Recently, Price injured his ankle while coming off the mound to make a play and he has been wearing a protective boot as a precaution.
Cannizaro said there is no reason to believe at this point that Price won’t be available for the key Southeastern Conference series against coach Butch Thompson’s Tigers.
“He’s moving around better and better each day,” Cannizaro said about Price “I think if we had to play (Thursday), he would certainly be available for us and only another day of rest will do him good.
“We’re going to expect Spencer to be with us this weekend and perform at the level he’s been performing at all year and have absolutely no hesitation to hand him the ball if we are fortunate enough to be leading after eight innings.”