Mississippi State has announced sophomore left-hander Luis Pollorena will get the start on the mound in the school’s first NCAA appearance in four years.
The 5-foot-6, 160-pound southpaw already has a victory out of the bullpen against Friday’s Regional opening round opponent Southern Mississippi. Pollorena, a transfer from Marion (Ala.) Military Institute, threw 5 2/3 innings of relief allowing just one hit in State’s 5-4 victory over the Golden Eagles at Trustmark Park in Pearl on April 15.
“It just shows that they’re beatable, we did it before and it’s a confidence boost for all of us,” Pollorena said. “My plan doesn’t change – keep the ball down and that’s pretty much it.”
Pollorena may have to rely on the cutter and be given the inside corner of the plate to be successful Friday afternoon (2 p.m., CSS) as Southern Mississippi will likely roll out eight right-handed hitters in its starting lineup.
Pollorena (6-5, 4.44) was told at Tuesday’s practice that he would be getting the ball first when MSU faces Southern Miss (39-17) and the success against the Golden Eagles weighed heavily on the minds of the Bulldogs coaching staff.
“Off the top of my head, I know that Pollorena has some success in the game in Pearl in a big ballpark,” Cohen said Monday.
In that 5-4 victory over a month ago, Mississippi State (34-23) used a pair of right-handers in sophomores Andrew Busby and Kendall Graveman before going to Pollorena after the starting duo failed to find the strike zone.
Pollorena’s last appearance was a nightmare as he brought into a 5-2 lead with runners on base and allowed the game-winning grand slam home run to Florida designated hitter Brian Johnson to give the Gators a lead they would never let go.
“I was just trying to get the outs after Evan gave us a great start,” Pollorena said. “I left the ball belt high but I thought the only thing he could do with it was foul it off. The wind just brought it back.”
When the Starkville Daily News talked with Pollorena early Tuesday, the Laredo, Texas native said he was prepared for any role this weekend.
“I’m fine and confidence wise I know I can throw strikes and let the defense work,” Pollorena said. “I have good guys behind him in the bullpen so all I have to do keep pitching the way I have been all year.”
Mississippi State will face Southern Miss ace right-hander Todd McInnis in the opening game as the fifth-year senior, who was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 32nd round last year, leads Southern Miss innings pitched (89.2), strikeouts (81) and games started (14). McGinnis pitched his first complete game of the season in the Golden Eagles only win during last week’s Conference USA Tournament against Tulane.
“I think I’ve faced him before and he’s their number one for a reason,” MSU senior first baseman Ryan Collins said. “We’ve seen guys in the SEC that are first round so we’re prepared for it but at the same time it’s exciting.”
If the Bulldogs were to win the opening game Friday afternoon, they would face the winner of of the nightcap game in which Georgia Tech hosts Austin Peay. The Yellow Jackets have four of their first hitters in the lineup are left-handed meaning a start for junior Nick Routt could be a good matchup.
The southpaw said Tuesday he threw 8-10 overhand changeups for the first this season with a new grip that he “invented” a couple weeks ago. Routt was roughed up last week in Hoover, Ala., in an elimination game against a primarily patient and right-handed Arkansas lineup.
“I’m comfortable now throwing anything with two strikes but Arkansas was disciplined and maybe I was trying to pick the corners too much,” Routt said. “It’s a different three-fingered split changeup and it was working pretty well for me.”