Sophomore RHP Preston Brown will get his first career SEC start Friday night against No. 6 Vanderbilt. Photo by: Mississippi State athletics
March 20, 2014 6:36:05 PM
STARKVILLE -- So here's the mission for Preston Brown, should he choose to accept it: Make your first ever Southeastern Conference start Friday night against No. 6 Vanderbilt and be opposite a projected first round draft pick.
The Mississippi State sophomore right-hander will get his first weekend start of his career when the No. 21 Bulldogs (15-8, 2-1 in SEC) hosts the Commodores (18-3, 2-1) Friday for a 6:30 p.m. contest at Dudy Noble Field.
"If you would've told me two years ago that I'd be a Friday night guy in the SEC, I would've said no way," Brown said Thursday. "When our coaches are willing to send me out there, I look at it like this: it's a confidence builder toward me. It's that simple really."
Brown (2-0, 0.75 ERA) has been nothing short of dominant in his three midweek starts this season against Mount St. Mary's, South Alabama and Southern Illinois. The competition for the 6-foot righty gets significantly increased as the Commodores are coming off a series win against LSU last weekend.
In his two starting victories, Brown has allowed just six total hits and no runs over 14 innings. The MSU staff, especially Bulldogs pitching coach Butch Thompson, Brown is known as a ground ball specialist because of his chanegup and ability to pitch his fastball down in the zone. However, the 21-year-old had only eight career innings and one appearance in SEC play before this season so this is certainly his first big test on the mound.
"I feel I'm a completely different pitcher than I was last year because this team last year I was in a different arm slot guy that threw a fastball and slider," Brown said. "Now I'm throwing two kinds of fastballs to both sides of the plate with a changeup and sinker that have been game changers for me. I've got a new game now."
Brown would've gotten the Sunday start against Georgia if weather hadn't forced a Saturday doubleheader that MSU swept before leaving Foley Field.
"We kept thinking about Preston on Sunday (this week) but the more days (of rest) you add for him, it's worse for him," MSU coach John Cohen said Thursday.
The decision for Cohen and Thompson involved Brown or junior left-hander Ross Mitchell (3-1, 1.50) for the Friday night role. However, with Mitchell having thrown 128 pitches on Saturday against Georgia, MSU wanted to give the preseason All-American selection an extra day of rest before getting a start.
"With the amount of pitches Ross threw on Saturday, giving him the extra day is important," Cohen said. "I think we've been able to do that so I didn't want to short him one day. We need to give him the full week to recover."
Junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (2-0, 3.55) will finish out the weekend in the Sunday game scheduled for 1:30 p.m. meaning fifth-year senior Ben Bracewell has been bumped from the rotation for the first time this season.
"Just depends on the situation," Cohen said when asked if Bracewell was the first option out of the bullpen. "Could be Benny, could be Lindgren but it depends on where we all with the lineup."
Vanderbilt will counter with one of the most dominant arms in the nation in junior righty Tyler Beede (4-1, 0.84). Beede was drafted out of high school in Massachusetts in the first round (No. 21 overall) by Toronto in 2011 MLB Draft, only first round pick not to sign in 2011. Beede was a second team All-American selection by Baseball America and is a projected first round draft pick in this year's draft.
"Tyler has a very good understanding of `team' and the building of individual relationships," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "He is very respected by his teammates for his servant behavior, the effort he puts toward other players and his investment level into the game. He will have the opportunity to stay in this game for a while."
Vanderbilt will roll out highly touted junior Jared Miller (5-0, 0.57) on Saturday night and finish with sophomore righty Tyler Ferguson (3-0, 1.63) on Sunday.
"When guys like Beede, Jared Miller and guys like that come into our park, we get excited," MSU junior closer Jonathan Holder said Thursday. "It's pretty nice to see them come in because we know how good they are and they're not Top 10 in the country for no reason."
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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