June 11, 2011 9:23:00 PM
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Luis Pollorena has had to sit in the dugout this weekend and wait for his shot at the University of Florida during the Super Regional.
He didn''t draw either of the starts in the first two games and didn''t make a relief appearance.
Today, his wait will end when the sophomore left-hander will start Game 3 for a shot to send the Mississippi State baseball team to the College World Series.
Pollorena (7-5, 3.97 ERA) gave up a grand slam to Brian Johnson that helped Florida rally for a 7-5 victory in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament. He also took the loss in a 3-1 decision against Florida in Starkville, though the two runs he conceded in 1 2/3 innings weren''t earned.
MSU coach John Cohen said Pollorena is hungry and anxious to get on the mound.
"That''s who he is, and that''s why we love him so much," Cohen said. "His last outing against Florida wasn''t what he wanted, and that''s motivating him. Our kids really rally around that guy."
Sophomore Chris Stratton, who pitched a scoreless inning of relief Friday, also was a candidate to start. Though junior Devin Jones threw 40 pitches Friday, Cohen said he was an option, too.
"It''s not necessarily a no-brainer because we feel like Stratt pitched very well," Cohen said. "Devin would be a decent matchup also. It was also a question of going right or left, but we feel like Pollorena gives us the best shot."
Pollorena''s last start was in a 3-0 win against Southern Mississippi in the Atlanta Regional. He threw six shutout innings and gave up five hits.
Cohen said he thought about bringing Pollorena into the game Saturday as a bridge for Caleb Reed.
"We needed a stop right then," Cohen said. "If (the Gators) were gonna go up three early in the fourth, it would have changed the ballgame."
---Florida''s pitching concerns
With Brian Johnson''s status still in doubt, Florida coach Kevin O''Sullivan has a tough decision about who he''ll start today.
Johnson, who suffered a concussion after being hit in the head with a throw to second base by catcher Mike Zunino, was his team''s starter on Saturdays in the regular season.
Johnson (8-3, 3.66 ERA) wasn''t cleared to play Saturday after O''Sullivan initially announced he''d be available for selection.
After using starters Hudson Randall and Karsten Whitson, O''Sullivan is expected to start midweek pitcher Alex Panteliodis (6-2, 3.76), whose most recent wins were against Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament championship game and against Miami in the Gainesville Regional.
However, if Johnson could get a shot today if he is cleared. O''Sullivan said Thursday that Johnson was impressive in bullpen sessions and looked refreshed after a two-week layoff.
"I''m going to check on the health of a few players and then after that we''ll make a decision," O''Sullivan said.
O''Sullivan didn''t second guess his decision to lift reliever Nick Maronde, who gave up a hit to Jarrod Parks in the ninth Saturday, for Steven Rodriguez, whose only pitch of the game resulted in Nick Vickerson''s walkoff home run.
Under normal circumstances, closer Austin Maddox would have been in the game with a 3-2 advantage.
"I''ve got confidence in Nick and Paco," O''Sullivan said. "It''s not those guys; you got to tip your hat to Parks and Vickerson. They put good swings on the ball."
---Gators facing adversity
For the first time in the NCAA tournament, Florida faces adversity.
The Gators steamrolled through the Gainesville Regional and opened the Super Regional round with an 11-1 win against MSU on Friday.
After a 4-3 walkoff loss Saturday, Florida''s dominant season -- it''s ranked No. 2 in the country and won the SEC tournament -- could end short of the College World Series.
Florida''s loss to MSU was only its second in which it led after eight innings.
"This team doesn''t take losing lightly," Florida''s Josh Adams said. "Everyone''s gonna go home and think about it a little bit. Sundays are normally the days we come out and play."
O''Sullivan was adamant his team didn''t make mistakes in the loss against MSU; the Gators just got outplayed.
Florida hopes to rebound today the way it did against Georgia in the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs beat the Gators 4-3, only to see Florida come back for a 3-2 victory later in the day.
"None of those runs (from Friday) carried into today," O''Sullivan said. "Just like none of their runs will carry over into tomorrow. We''re gonna keep it very matter of fact, business like. As disappointing as it is, we didn''t play poorly.
"If we want to win a national championship, it''s not gonna be easy. We have to go through this. We will not let this leak into tomorrow."