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Pre-game at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium: SEC Tournament Round 2: No. 16 Mississippi State vs. No. 17 South Carolina - Bulldogs and Gamecocks face off for four time in six days




Matt Stevens


HOOVER, Ala. - After a LONG NIGHT at the ballpark, welcome to second night 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 TUESDAY: Senior catcher Mitch Slauter, who is admittedly "85 to 90 percent" since nursing a broken right hand, delivered the game-winning single in the 17th inning of a 4 hour, 39 minute 2-1 victory for the Bulldogs over the University of Missouri. It was against the team he likely would've signed with out of Barton County Community College in Kansas had MSU not made a late offer three years ago. 








PITCHER: Luis Pollorena - LHP - Senior - (6-3, 4.11 ERA, 11th start in 2013 season) - Pollorena has easily been the most consistent starting arm for No. 24 MSU but the statistics also show the senior left-hander has been hit hard over the last month by allowing a home run in two of his last three starts and averaging three extra-base hits in each of his last five starts. 


Pollorena was somewhat of a hard luck loser at Vanderbilt against projected first round draft Kevin Ziomek but a defensive out at third base to end a 2-run third inning could've been a lot worse and then possibly meant four straight outings without a quality start. 


"To have him hook up with a guy like (Ole Miss ace Bobby) Wahl on Friday night, it really is, in some way, that's the identity," MSU John Cohen said. "Our kids, I don't view them as underdogs in any way, but here's a kid with a heart of a lion. You gotta have some kids like Luis who are overachievers in every aspect of his life." 


While what Cohen preaches about Pollorena is more than true when it comes to grit and ability to grind out innings, the problem is if he continues to battle in the Friday night role then he'll continue to see SEC aces in the opposing dugout that have a first round draft pick arsenal and therefore, the margin for error for the 5-foot-7 southpaw from Laredo, Texas is extremely small. Pollorena will see another version of himself tonight as the University of South Carolina put out a more identical version of Pollorena in the form of 5-foot-8 senior left hander Nolan Belcher.  




PROJECTED STARTERS (2012 statistics): 




C - Nick Ammirati, Sr., RH - .283, 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 - .280, 6 home runs, 30 RBI, .989 fielding percentage; Second on the team in home runs and slugging percentage (.462) and has started 38 games at first base after fighting through a quad injury earlier in the season. 




2B - Brett Pirtle, Jr., SH - .306, 2 home runs, 26 RBI, .980 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 30 consecutive games and five RBIs in the last four games. 




SS - Adam Frazier, Jr., LH - .339, 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 - .310, 29 RBI, .450 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 - .277, 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 - .300, 42 runs scored, 19 walks, 22 RBI, .375 on-base %. Most experienced Bulldog outfielder has seen his average jump 23 points from .277 to .300 and has 21 multi-hit games this season.  




RF - Hunter Renfroe, Jr., RH - .359, 15 home runs, 52 RBI, .677 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 - .277, 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: Nolan Belcher - LHP - Sr. - (7-5, 2.17 ERA): The fifth-year senior, who was used mostly as a middle reliever last year, earned the weekend starting job for the No. 17 Gamecocks this season and is making the most of his opportunity thus far. Belcher, a 5-foot-8 southpaw pitched the decisive game of a three-game set against arch-rival Clemson and threw a complete-game shutout against the Tigers as the Gamecocks took the series 2-1.  


"Nolan has been our Friday night guy all year long," South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said during a Tuesday workout at Samford University. "He deserves the opportunity, having been in this program for five years (including an injury redshirt season), to throw Game 1 of the SEC tournament." 


Belcher allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings by mixing his changeup with his ability to find the strike zone with his breaking stuff last weekend at 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.



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