February 17, 2013 8:18:13 PM
STARKVILLE - Last season Luis Pollorena became a situational pitcher out of the Mississippi State University bullpen because of his struggles with right-handed bats.
In 2013, the senior left hander has perfected what he and the MSU coaching staff believes is a changeup equalizer that will allow him to be more of the long relief option of the past for the Bulldogs.
After tossing the final 2/3 innings of the first half of the 7-1 doubleheader win Sunday, Pollorena provided 4 1/3 frames of scoreless relief in a 6-0 victory over the University of Portland Sunday evening.
"The thing with our club this year and we say it over and over is pitching and defense," MSU coach John Cohen said. "The difference this year is the amount of experience we have back up and down the order."
Pollorena was one shy of his career high in strikeouts with six in just 66 pitches after coming in for starter Will Cox. The 5-foot-9 southpaw had gotten hit hard in his final split-squad scrimmage last week and needed an outing like Sunday to assure him his stuff against batters who aren't his teammates was still deceptive.
"I felt like I'd react well when the season started because I came in to throw to the square in the nets and then watched video tape," Pollorena said. "Getting shelled in the last outing before the season was the best thing that could happen to me."
The MSU bullpen allowed just a single run this weekend vs. Portland in 15 2/3 innings with 10 different pitchers in four games. Six different bullpen arms recorded multiple strikeouts in their outings including the anticipated late-inning bridge of Pollorena, junior Ben Bracewell and sophomore closer Jonathan Holder.
"When you have as many arms in the bullpen as we do, you can run them out any time you want to," MSU senior catcher Mitch Slauter said. "It's pretty dang hard to get into a rhythm when you keep running people out of that bullpen that is just as good and if not better."
The Bulldogs offense, which was stipend early by the sophomore right-hander Kurt Yinger (0-1), would get the bats going late in the game to provide Pollorena and Bracewell with an acceptable cushion. Yinger, a Camas, Wash., native, would only allow one earned run over seven innings but gave way to a bullpen that was hit hard in a four-run eighth inning. The Bulldogs nearly batted around with RBI hits by by junior outfielder Demarcus Henderson, senior designated hitter Trey Porter and junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
"I was so impressed with the team effort," said MSU freshman Jacob Robson, who had the first RBI of the game. "Confidence wise it was so good for all of us to see quality arms like we have in the fall and early spring."
After leading the country in double plays last season with 71, MSU turned seven in four games this weekend with the final outs being record in that fashion.
"I thought our kids came out and played extraordinary defense," Cohen said. "I see these guys make that type of play in practice and it's fun to see them do in a ballgame scenario."
MSU junior shortstop Adam Frazier extended his streak of 33 multi-hit days in his college career and went a 8 for 16 this weekend with four runs scored and three RBI.
The victory in the nightcap of the doubleheader marks the third time in five years under Cohen that MSU has swept the opening series or games of a tournament to start a season.
"They're a solid club in a very good league and the thing that helps us is they can pitch it and we needed to see that this weekend," Cohen said. "Their pitching coach spent the better part of seven years in the big leagues and they're well coached. They came in here knowing what they're doing."
Mississippi State (4-0) 6,
Portland (0-4) 0
W - Luis Pollorena (1-0) 4.1 P, 3 H, 0 R, 6 K, 2 BB in 66 pitches.
L - Kurt Yinger (0-1) 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 K, 1 BB in 100 pitches.
Most Valuable Player: Senior left-handed pitcher Luis Pollorena - The senior from Laredo, Texas,
Turning Point: 8th inning - MSU used a four-run eight frame to eliminate the possibility of having to use sophomore closer Jonathan Holder twice this weekend. The Bulldogs nearly batted around with RBI hits by by junior outfielder Demarcus Henderson, senior designated hitter Trey Porter and junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
Next game: Tuesday in a mid-week contest against Grambling State University (4 p.m., Dudy Noble Field)
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
1. Acclaimed pianist on stage in Columbus Monday night ENTERTAINMENT
2. Adele Elliott: Hidden COLUMNS