May 21, 2013 10:43:28 AM
HOOVER, Ala. - Welcome to opening day of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium as The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog will bring you a comprehensive pre-game blog before the first pitch of every game the Bulldogs play in this event.
Also feel free to follow me for live game updates on Twitter through @matthewcstevens
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2012 IN HOOVER: After winning five games in six games culminating with a 3-0 victory in Sunday's 2012 Southeastern Conference tournament championship game against Vanderbilt University, to claim the school's seventh conference tournament championship before 12,526 fans at Regions Park. Playing six afternoon games in the tournament's new 10-team format, MSU won five tournament games for the first time. The Bulldogs won the tournament title for a fourth time in this stadium and by shut out for the first time. MSU's tournament title was the first since a 4-1 win over Ole Miss to grab the 2005 championship.
TODAY'S STARTING PITCHERS AND PROJECTED STARTERS:
PITCHER: Trevor Fitts - RHP - Sophomore - (0-0, 1.65 ERA, 1 start in 2013 season) - MSU will be giving the baseball to sophomore right hander Trevor Fitts (0-0, 1.65) as he'll be pitching 25 miles south of where he dominated at Pelham High School. Fitts made his debut as a starter a week ago, working three innings to lead a split pitching staff in MSU's 3-2 win over Oral Roberts University.
"You can't put your weekend guys in jeopardy (and) because it's a Tuesday game and turnaround is so short, you have to protect your guys," Cohen said. "Fitts has been very productive in bullpens and we just feel like this opportunity has presented itself and he's our best candidate."
Fitts was a two-time Louisville Slugger High School All-American pitcher at Pelham High School after compiling a 31-6 career record with nine saves and 10 shutouts in 53 mound appearances. Fitts set school single-season records for pitching wins (14), strikeouts (151) as a junior that earned him the honor of Alabama Baseball Coaches Association pitcher of the year and Birmingham News player of the year.
"I'll be really relaxed I know that to pitch basically in my hometown and I've been watching baseball there forever so I know everything about the park," Fitts said. "Everybody is texting saying they're hearing I'm getting the Tuesday start. I responded with 'you'll be the first to know'. I must have told 10-15 people that back home honestly."
The key for Fitts is he works off his fastball for strike one that has late movement and can run 89-91 miles per hour and got some ground balls off his slider against Oral Roberts.
PROJECTED STARTERS (2012 statistics):
C - Nick Ammirati, Sr., RH - .276, 22 RBI; Has a hit in five of the last six games while holding down the catching position for injured teammate Mitch Slauter. Ammirati has seen his batting average grow 12 points over the last two weeks. Cohen expresses constantly he is MSU's best defensive catcher in terms of blocking and throwing.
1B - Wes Rea, RS-Soph., RH - .277, 6 home runs, 30 RBI, .989 fielding percentage; Second on the team in home runs and slugging percentage (.460) and has started 38 games at first base after fighting through a quad injury earlier in the season.
2B - Brett Pirtle, Jr., SH - .309, 2 home runs, 26 RBI, .979 fielding percentage; One of the more unique cleanup hitters in the country at 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds. Pirtle has gotten on base in 29 consecutive games and five RBIs in the last four games.
SS - Adam Frazier, Jr., LH - .338, 15 doubles, 7 stolen bases. A preseason All-America team honoree that will likely be drafted in the first 10 rounds of the 2013 MLB Draft next month. Frazier is second on the team in average and was the 2012 SEC tournament most valuable player.
3B - Alex Detx, Jr.., LH - .311, 29 RBI, .451 on-base % - Has 15 multi-hit games and will likely either be the designated hitter but has also had 19 starts at the hot corner. Detz and Frazier have combined as one of the more dynamic 1-2 combinations at the top of the lineup.
LF - Demarcus Henderson, Jr., RH - .273, 17 runs scored, 15 RBIs. Named to the 2012 SEC All-Tournament Team and has started to heat up in the final month of the season. Had two three-hit days last weekend against the University of South Carolina.
CF - C.T. Bradford, Jr., LH - .308, 42 runs scored, 19 walks, 22 RBI, .384 on-base %. Most experienced Bulldog outfielder has seen his average jump 31 points from .277 to .308 and has 21 multi-hit games this season.
RF - Hunter Renfroe, Jr., RH - .362, 15 home runs, 51 RBI, .691 slugging %. A preseason All-America selection who won the C Spire Ferris Trophy Monday. Renfroe is also a semi-finalist for both USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award and the NCBWA's Dick Howser Trophy, given to the nation's top collegiate player. This month Renfroe was ranked No. 13 in Baseball America's Top 100 list of draft eligible players.
DH - Derrick Armstrong, Jr., RH - .250, 8 RBIs, 3 stolen bases. Has started four games this month and has been MSU's option when a left handed pitcher is on the mound. Look for MSU coach John Cohen to turn to senior Trey Porter off the bench late in the game if Missouri turns to a right-handed reliever.
PORTLAND STARTING PITCHER: Rob Zastryzny - LHP - Jr. - (2-9, 3.64 ERA) Missouri coach Tim Jamieson held back its ace pitcher Rob Zastryzny for this single elimination game start. Zastryzny, who is ranked No. 77 in Baseball America's Top 250 prospects for the upcoming 2013 MLB draft in June, leads the team with 81.2 innings pitched and 75 strikeouts. He is by definition Missouri's big-game pitcher with 29 Friday night starts in his career and has pitched in five postseason games with Missouri holding a 4-1 record in those contests. In his postseason career, Zastryzny has a 3.41 ERA in 29 innings pitched while striking out 18 against just six walks. On full rest in the postseason, which Missouri guaranteed by sitting him out this past weekend against the University of Kentucky, Zastrzyny has a 1.71 ERA in 21.1 innings with 15 strikeouts and four walks.
"I'm so excited about being the first Missouri pitcher to throw in the SEC tournament and it's just the same feeling I get throwing on Friday nights," Zastrzyny said. "I get to set the tone for the entire weekend on Friday night and everybody can see how it's done and supposed to work. Hopefully the team can get jumpstarted on my start and realize 'oh that's how we're supposed to play in Hoover'."
The issue in games this season where Zastrzyny takes the mound this season hasn't been with the 6-foot-3 southpaw but with the run support he has gotten from his teammates in the lineup. Six of Zastrzyny's losses have come after he pitched at least 5 1/3 inning and allowed three or less earned runs.
"Rob has never been a concern or issue for us in his career at Missouri, period," Jamieson said. "The major concern for us is scoring runs. We have to make sure we give him some run support, which we have struggled doing this season."
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. The Ups and Downs of Nelson's Pillar BOOK REVIEWS