Baseball was in the air in Starkville on Friday afternoon as the Mississippi State Diamond Dogs returned to the field for their first official practice of the spring.
The Bulldogs are looking to build on the success of a 2011 season that saw them make a run into NCAA Super Regional play, and they had a near perfect day to get started.
“Wow, it was a great day,” said MSU head coach John Cohen. “We had over 300 coaches here for our coaching clinic and we had great weather for our first day of practice.”
As expected the Bulldogs dominated from the mound. The Bulldogs sent eight pitchers to the mound who combined for a five-hit shutout.
“Some of our better guys were on the mound today,” said Cohen. “We were letting them throw 20-pitch innings. When you know you’re going to get one inning to pitch and that’s going to be it for a week, that’s a pretty comforting feeling in terms of giving it your best shot.”
Ben Bracewell, who is healthy following surgery, opened the action and after allowing two batters to reach base, he shut down the Bulldog bats. The hard throwing righty pitched two solid innings of shutout baseball.
Like Bracewell, Chris Stratton pitched two innings of work and as you might expect, he was crisp, keeping hitters off balance.
Tim Statz, who has gone to a submarine throwing motion and Caleb Reed closed out the scrimmage in dominating fashion, but it was the performance of the new faces that showed promise.
Will Cox, Trevor Fitts, Brandon Woodruff, and Jacob Lingren all pitched an inning and showed potential.
As Cohen indicated prior to practice, the coaching staff won’t force the young pitchers to do more than they are ready for, but they could prove to be ready sooner rather than later.
“Our velocity was really good and our kids were excited,” Cohen said. “We’ve got a long way to go and when that adrenaline starts dying down, it becomes more about execution. Those are the things we are going to work really hard on the next three weeks.”
Overall the MSU coaches were pleased with the production of the five-inning scrimmage and with the overall makeup of the 2012 squad.
“You spent the whole first semester trying to get to understand what the expectation is going to be at practice,” Cohen said. “We came out here and they were locked in. We’ve got the right kids in our program. We are really pleased with the kids we have. We’ve just got to get them some experience.”
Mississippi State will return to the diamond today at 12:30 p.m. and once again on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The Bulldogs open the season on Feb. 17 against Washington State.