May 30, 2013 7:55:01 AM
STARKVILLE - Kendall Graveman will get the honor of throwing the first pitch in Mississippi State University's first NCAA regional in 10 years.
MSU coach John Cohen announced Wednesday afternoon the Bulldogs senior right hander will get the start Friday night against the University of Central Arkansas for the opening round game of the 2013 NCAA Starkville Regional at 7 p.m.
Graveman (5-5, 3.04) has had only two quality starts in his last six starts against SEC opponents but the MSU coaching staff felt most comfortable in giving the first postseason start to its most experienced starter against a right-handed dominate UCA (39-20) lineup.
"That's probably not a shock to anybody," Cohen said. "We are trying to win game one because if you do that, you can play a three-game set. Everybody in this tournament wants that opportunity to go 3-0 but you have to win game one to do that."
In the 7-3 loss to UCA on March 9 at Dudy Noble Field, Graveman struggled in MSU's first series loss of the 2013 season. The senior from Alexander City took the loss by giving up three earned runs on five hits and hit three batters in 98 pitches. Graveman went just 5 2/3 innings and left the mound with UCA holding a 4-2 lead.
"You can't replicate that kind of preparation when you can see what kind of swings guys were taking against your pitches," Graveman said Monday. "We know they have a lot of guys that hit the ball well against us so I really need to be focused in on our scouting reports on each hitter."
Just three weeks after taking that loss against UCA, Graveman went on a stretch where he earned three straight complete game victories against the University of Arkansas, University of Florida and Texas A&M University.
In his nine starts at Dudy Noble Field this season, Graveman has failed to last less than five innings only one time (a Feb. 23 start vs. Purdue University) and has a 3-2 victory in Starkville.
"We had a tough time getting (UCA) out but over the past couple of weeks, I feel our pitching staff is getting stronger and not weaker as the year goes on," Graveman said.
UCA coach Allen Gum immediately named senior right hander Caleb McClanahan (10-5, 2.17 ERA) will face top seed MSU in the second game Friday at 7 p.m.
"He's had (a long) week," Cohen said. "We're counting 249 pitches for him over a 10-day period for him. That guy is a warrior and he'll be ready on Friday night."
The senior first-team All-Southland Conference selection came back on two-days rest in Saturday morning's semifinal win over Oral Roberts University.
"Caleb's been really good about that," Gum said. "Just come right at them, here it is." And I tell you, the rest of the staff, the ones that have done really well, have just followed his lead. He's just been a horse for us. I"m proud as heck for him."
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.
2. The beat goes on at 'Unplugged 3' this week ENTERTAINMENT
3. CCT youth: Come on in, meet 'Mississippi Characters' ENTERTAINMENT