While preparing for his first Southeastern Conference Tournament as the Mississippi State head coach, John Cohen knows certain teams in the eight-team field may have a luxury he doesn’t have.
While there’s something on the line, whether it be a national seed, regional host bid or NCAA Tournament berth, for each squad making the trip this week to Regions Park in Hoover, Ala., Cohen has to allow the possibility of holding his pitching ace for a game two situation.
“I would never suggest a team would come into this thing and not want to win but when you’re talking about short resting a pitcher than you may wait to pitch a guy one more day,” Cohen said.
Mississippi State (34-21, 14-16 in SEC play) knows it can’t afford to take that chance with Cohen still not knowing if his team will make its first NCAA appearance since 2007. A 0-2 finish in the double-elimination postseason event would do nothing but hand doubt to the NCAA baseball selection committee.
“I’d like to think we’re in yet and I don’t think there’s more than three in the Eastern Division that can feel that way heading into this tournament – maybe Arkansas feels like they’re in too but I don’t know,” Cohen said. “Our plan is win every game we can and make it really difficult for us to be left out and get us on a role heading through the postseason.”
SEBaseball.com publisher Mark Etheridge projected on his website Sunday evening with a three-seed for the Bulldogs in his mock NCAA Regional prediction with MSU being sent to Georgia Tech to play Stetson in the first round. BoydsWorld.com has Mississippi State projected Sunday as the 29th-best team in the country.
Mississippi State won’t announce a starting pitcher until they’re required to do so later in the week but will be interested in who Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan puts out on the mound as well.
If the sixth-ranked Gators (41-15, 22-8) decide to go with right-hander Hudson Randall then at least MSU would be able to know their offense had given the sophomore his worst start of the season.
On April 8, Mississippi State handed the Gators a 7-5 victory Friday night victory over Randall when they handed the Florida ace six earned runs on nine hits in just 2 1/3 innings before being pulled.
“Nobody, including us, is rooting to draw Hudson Randall on the mound that’s for sure,” Cohen said. “What I remember about that night was not only did Ogden makes some solid swings (hit two home runs) but there were some very close two-strike pitch calls that if he gets those, it’s a completely different game.”
Cohen says the Bulldogs are preparing their scout work for all three Gators starters (Randall, Brian Johnson and Karsten Whitson) but are focusing their effort right not on the UF everyday players at the plate.
The Bulldogs head coach said MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson will be handing junior closer Caleb Reed a clipboard and not be asked to pitch after going seven innings in the regular season finale loss to LSU.
The outing against the Tigers on Saturday was the longest of the 2011 season for Reed.
“That’s the plan but again knowing Caleb, if we’re leading late in the game he’ll beg us like he has before to go down to the bullpen,” Cohen said.