March 11, 2013 8:54:56 PM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University coach John Cohen doesn't gamble and can't stand the unknown element to athletic competition.
To avoid the unknown element of his team, Cohen has decided the numbers of senior left-handed pitcher Luis Pollorena aren't to be ignored. The 5-foot-7 southpaw has been nearly perfect not only against in-state rival University of Southern Mississippi but also in Trustmark Park in Pearl.
"I know it's a different year and different team but clearly we like the amount of success Pollorena has had in that ballpark and against that program," Cohen said Sunday.
Of Pollorena's 14 career victories since arriving to Starkville from Marion (Ala.) Military Institute in 2011, four of them have either come in Pearl or against the Golden Eagles program. The most important important of those wins came on June 3, 2011 when Pollorena completed six shutout innings in a 3-0 decision during the first game of the Atlanta Regional at Georgia Tech University.
Pollorena was the only pitcher on the roster to not be used in the past thee-game series against the University of Central Arkansas. He was placed into centerfield on Saturday for one batter when junior C.T. Bradford came for one of his two appearances on the mound.
Despite his physical limitations, Pollorena's two-seam fastball and ability to keep his pitches low allow him to be a force in bigger ballparks like Trustmark Park, the home of the Mississippi Braves, the Double-A affiliate for the Atlanta Braves.
Pollorena currently has a 0.81 ERA in two relief appearances in Pearl over the last two seasons. Pollorena has allowed just one run in 11 innings in Peal that include just four hits allowed and 11 strikeouts compared to no walks.
"I just think it's so important to have senior leadership and I can't think one of guys that doesn't provide that and Luis is certainly one of those guys," Cohen said.
Pollorena will be counted on to be an innings eater to set up a fresh bullpen for a Southeastern Conference opening series against No. 7 Louisiana State (15-1). In the last 11 games, only one MSU starting pitcher who has only gotten out of the sixth inning in a single outing. No. 13 MSU (17-2) has averaged only 4.46 innings per start on the mound this season partially due to inefficiency by the individual pitcher and also because pitching coach Butch Thompson has wanted to conserve the amount of wear on the weekend rotation in the first month of the season.
"We need Pollo to get us deep in that ball game," Cohen said. "It's amazing that when you watch our kids condition, Luis has to win, has to win the race. You talk about some great leaders that love to compete, Luis is as competitive as they come."
MSU has won its last four matchups with the Golden Eagles and split the last four Trustmark Park meetings with USM. Southern Miss (7-8) is going to counter with sophomore left- hander Mason Robbins.
Robbins was a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American last season as a multi-positional player but that honor was given more for his ability at the plate than on the mound. He was named Conference USA's Freshman of the Year after hitting .330 with 11 doubles, five triples, three home runs and 38 RBIs.
Robbins appeared in 10 games as a pitcher, with his six final appearances coming as starting assignments in the Golden Eagles' Sunday spot. The 6-foot-2 prospect posted a 1-0 record with a 4.01 ERA but lasted at least five innings in five of his six outings.
The 2011 Mr. Baseball selection in the state of Mississippi out of George County High School was taken in the 20th round (612 overall) of the MLB Draft by the New York Mets as a pitcher.
"You see more two-way guys as (relievers) but Mason is a true ball player," USM coach Scotty Berry told The Mississippi Press. "He's one of those special kids that has the physical ability to go out there and do that for you -- to pitch once a week and still play a position and play it well when he's not pitching."