February 25, 2013 10:39:25 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Local fans know Will Cox can be effective as a thrower.
The college baseball world is getting acquainted with Will Cox the pitcher.
Two years ago as a senior at Amory High School, Cox used a fastball in the mid 80s to cruise to 12-1 record with one save and a 0.41 ERA. He struck out 147 and walked 11 in 85 1/3 innings.
But Cox realized last year talent isn't nearly enough in the Southeastern Conference, so went looking for that third pitch to help him become an even more effective starting pitcher.
"It's all about maturity because I've grown into my body more, and losing the weight over the summer helped me a lot, too," Cox said. "I'm more athletic, and that translates to better performances."
Cox showcased that maturity Sunday, delivering the second quality start of his career to lead the Mississippi State University baseball team to an 8-1 victory against Samford University in the Diamond Classic at Dudy Noble Field. Cox went seven innings, tying his longest career outing, and allowed two hits and one run in 80 pitches.
"The biggest thing that's different about him is his changeup because (MSU pitching coach) Butch Thompson was on a mission to get him a effective changeup," MSU coach John Cohen said. "He now has a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, and a changeup. Anytime you talk to big leaguers, changing speeds is everything."
Cox earned his third career victory thanks in part to one stretch in which he retired 17 in a row. His only mistake was a fastball he left up in the zone that Phillip Ervin hit for a home run on his 69th pitch.
"They love to swing, and that played right into the game plan for (senior catcher Nick) Ammirati and I calling the game," Cox said. "Our defense is special, so I wanted to let them work. It's so awesome to watch them."
Cox's outing allowed MSU to rest its bullpen before games against the University of Rhode Island on Tuesday and Wednesday at Dudy Noble Field (4 p.m. both games). His performance also improves his chances to be considered for a weekend rotation slot in Southeastern Conference play. Cox likely will get a chance if Evan Mitchell or Kendall Graveman continue to struggle or suffer setbacks.
"Will was just so efficient today, and his outstanding outing today allowed us to do so many different things during a tough stretch for us," Cohen said.
MSU (9-0) scored seven runs in the fourth and fifth innings against Patrick McGavin and Cole Limbaugh. Junior shortstop Adam Frazier has had sixth multi-hit game of the season, including a double and an RBI triple in the fourth.
Junior Alex Detz had a career-high three hits and three RBIs in the seventh spot. Detz has started seven straight games at first base, a position he played for the first time in his life three weeks ago during the final spring scrimmages, due to sophomore Wes Rea's quad injury. Detz batted .324 with a .451 on-base percentage in 2012 for Cuesta (Calif.) College. Since getting the start last Saturday, Detz is hitting .316 with seven RBIs, two doubles, and seven walks. He also hasn't had an error.
"I'm starting to feel pretty comfortable over there, but I think (Wes) will get back pretty soon, so that'll be good for everybody," Detz said. "I'll play wherever as long as I'm in the lineup."
Junior Hunter Renfroe missed the game after being hit by a pitch in the hand Saturday. The junior outfielder, who leads MSU with two home runs and nine RBIs, had a wrap on his hand in the dugout. Cohen said Sunday Renfroe will have the hand X-rayed this week by team physicians.
Samford (5-4) defeated MSU twice in the 2012 Tallahassee Regional to end the SEC tournament champion's season. MSU outscored Samford16-3 in two games this weekend in Starkville.
MSU is one of two SEC teams still unbeaten this season. The University of Mississippi is the other. MSU is halfway to the school's longest winning streak of 18.
Sophomore right-hander Brandon Woodruff is expected to start Tuesday. Senior left-hander Luis Pollorena could come on in relief that game or start Wednesday.