March 10, 2013 7:11:12 AM
STARKVILLE - The first loss of the 2013 season for the Mississippi State University baseball program exposed a major problem going forward.
Suddenly MSU can't get a quality pitching start and may be down its most important arm of the 2013 season. Both of these facts led to its first loss of the 2013 season to its toughest test in the first month of play Saturday.
The nation's longest winning streak came to a end Saturday after another revolving door of bullpen action couldn't save MSU from a 7-5 loss to the University of Central Arkansas in 10 innings. MSU had won 17 in a row before Saturday's defeat and 20 in a row at Dudy Noble Field dating back to a sweep of the University of Kentucky on May 17-19, 2012.
Following a line drive ricocheted off the left knee of MSU sophomore ace pitcher Jacob Lindgren just nine pitches into his outing Friday night, the Bulldogs (17-1) needed a quality start from junior Evan Mitchell less than 24 hours later. That just didn't happen.
another roller coaster ride of inconsistency that would end with two outs in the third inning is exactly what they got.
"I thought Evan had the best stuff he's had all year today and unfortunately we had some calls that didn't go his way," MSU senior catcher Nick Ammirati said Saturday. "Some pitches could've gone either way and I saw it as a stepping stone for him and his confidence. There wasn't a lot of big misses today."
Mitchell walked three batters and hit two more in a 62-pitch Saturday that saw him go to long counts consistently despite only giving up one run on one hit.
"We'll find those guys that can get us five or six innings into a game because we know our bullpen given any chance at all, can be successful for us," MSU coach John Cohen said.
Cohen said the encouragement with the injury to Lindgren is the line drive went off the side of the knee instead of directly off the patella. The sophomore left-hander had a x-ray late Friday night that was negative of any fractures and he is scheduled for an MRI scan Monday morning with no official word on his status for next weekend vs. Louisiana State University until the medical scans come back.
Here's the lines of the starting pitchers since sophomore right-hander Will Cox went seven innings against Samford in a win on Feb. 24:
Feb. 26 vs. Rhode Island - Luis Pollorena: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Feb. 27 vs. Rhode Island - Brandon Woodruff: 4 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K
March 1 vs. St. Joseph's - Jacob Lindgren: 7 IP, H, 0 ER, BB, 13 K
March 2 vs. St. Joseph's - Evan Mitchell: 5 IP, 3 H, ER, 5 BB, 9 K
March 3 vs. St. Joseph's - Kendall Graveman: 5.1 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K
March 3 vs. St. Joseph's - Will Cox: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, BB, 6 K
March 5 vs. MVSU - Brandon Woodruff: 0.1 IP, H, ER, BB, 0 K
March 8 vs. Central Arkansas - Jacob Lindgren (injured): 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER 0 BB, 0 K
March 9 vs. Central Arkansas - Evan Mitchell: 2.2 IP, H, ER, 3 BB, 3 K
MSU has averaged only 4.38 innings per start on the mound this season partially due to inefficiency by the individual pitcher and also because MSU pitching Butch Thompson has wanted to conserve the amount of wear and tear on the weekend rotation in the first month of the season.
MSU ended the debate quickly on what role sophomore right-hander Will Cox will have this weekend as the Amory native pitched in consecutive days in relief. Cox, who had only allowed one earned run in three starts but was bumped from the rotation this weekend, allowed the first UCA run Friday night and finished the final two outs of the 10th inning Saturday.
Sophomore Brandon Woodruff (1-1) was charged with both runs, however only one was earned, in 10th frame and took the loss. MSU pitchers issued nine walks, struck six and stranded 14 base-runners in the game. The Bulldogs avoided even greater damage with the assistance of a season-most four double plays. State's defense has now turned 26.
The Bulldogs (17-1) never led in the game Saturday but MSU battled back to knot the score 1-1 in the fourth, 3-3 in the sixth and 5-5 the ninth inning. Demarcus Henderson went 3-for-4 and Hunter Renfroe, Daryl Norris and Nick Ammirati collected two hits apiece for MSU. Renfroe and Henderson laced RBI singles in the bottom of the ninth and the Bulldogs stranded runners at second and third after knotting the score at 5-5.
The only two pitchers on the MSU roster who haven't been used are today's projected starting pitcher in senior right-hander Kendall Graveman and left-handed senior Luis Pollorena. Everybody else in the MSU bullpen will be on short rest when the two teams meet for a rubber match today at 1:30 p.m.
"A lot of our guys only threw 10-15 pitches (Saturday) so when you do that you have to believe you can come back and pitch again," Cohen said. "We certainly need a good starting performance from Graveman. There's no doubt about that."
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