By MATTHEW STEVENS
Two professional baseball scouts turned to Evan Mitchell’s former high school coach sitting down the third base line Saturday and asked him a very simple question.
“A scouting friend of mine from the Chicago Cubs was here tonight and one of the guys with Toronto also,” former Wheeler High head coach David McDonald said. “They both came up to me and said 'Why didn't you tell me about him?”
The high school coaching veteran that’s seen former players make the major leagues just smiled.
“I said 'I did and you just weren't paying attention,” McDonald responded. “You saw him last year and just weren't paying attention.'"
Pitching with what McDonald guessed was about 100 people from his hometown in the stands, Mitchell showcased the best start of his Mississippi State career.
“I didn’t want to think too much about it,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to just treat it like it was just another start, just another day.”
The 6-foot-2 right-hander from nearby Marietta, Ga., tossed a eight-inning shutout in State’s 8-3 win over Austin Peay Saturday evening that included eight strikeouts and 128 pitches. The number of completed innings and pitches were career highs for Mitchell that had been moved back into the starting rotation the week before the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
“He’s not a freshman anymore, he’s a sophomore,” Cohen said. “Last year he would have had to throw 70-80 innings in our program but we got to bring him along slowly. That’s the way to handle a freshman arm.”
McDonald, formerly the head coach at Wheeler High School, was in the stands to watch both MSU games in Atlanta including seeing his former pupil throw the first NCAA Regional start of his career.
“I think this will help him in the long run because hopefully they'll be hosting one during Evan's career and hopefully this is all behind him as done now,” McDonald said. "He's always been such a laid back kid that I was confident he'd be totally focused on what he was supposed to be doing tonight."
Just like his start last week in the SEC Tournament against Florida in Hoover, Ala., Mitchell (6-1) struggled early to find the strike zone and battled through a 23-pitch opening inning. However, the right-hander made his way through the APSU lineup in 45 pitches through the next four frames.
“His last three outings have been outstanding and that’s why we put the ball in his hands,” Cohen said.
Bradley impresses MLB
scouts with quality start
Even after suffering a disappointing upset loss in the opening game, Georgia Tech still had the luxury of handing the ball to a projected Top 10 pick.
It was that ability that saved their 2011 season as left-hander Jed Bradley tossed a quality start in front of at least nine professional scouts behind home plate all with their radar guns pointed directly at every pitch.
Bradley dominated Southern Mississippi (39-19) to the tune of allowing just two earned runs on eight hits while striking out four over 7 2/3 innings of work in the Yellow Jackets 6-2 victory in the elimination game Saturday afternoon.
“I knew they got shut out yesterday but that doesn’t factor into my approach,” Bradley said. “The only thing I was trying to do was make good pitches and get guys out.”
The 6-foot-4 left-hander was able to find the strike zone with his 91-94 mile-per-hour fastball with good movement and cutting slider. Of the 93 pitches Bradley threw, 60 of them were strikes and none of them included big misses off the plate.
“He threw a lot of strikes,” Georgia Tech Danny Hall said. “It was very critical because we saved our bullpen. For Jed to give us 7 2/3 innings and just have to use one guy, that gives us a great chance to have some arms to go it (today).”
breaks scoreless streak
The good news for Southern Mississippi is they didn’t end their season on its longest scoreless streak of the season.
The bad news is we know this is true because their season is over after the disappointing defeat to host Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon.
Southern Mississippi failed to score in 32 consecutive innings before putting a pair of runs on the board in the eighth inning against Tech.
“It seems like when you’re not doing well nothing goes right for you,” Berry said. “It seems we just couldn’t pull ourselves out of it for whatever reason.”
Going into an elimination game, Golden Eagles head coach Scott Berry tinkered with the lineup for the first time in a long while. Berry put centerfielder Diliberto in the leadoff spot and moved shortstop Ashley Graeter to the cleanup role.
These moves had something to do with senior Tyler Koelling being unable to start while struggling to battle with a hamstring injury.
“Our off the field problems kind of disrupted some things but we will not use that as an excuse,” Berry said. “That’s another thing a good program should be able to deal with.”