June 11, 2011 9:26:00 PM
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Caleb Reed has something you don''t know about: A changeup.
The Mississippi State closer has tinkered with the pitch throughout the season, but there hasn''t been a rush to get the pitch into his arsenal during his breakout junior year.
On Saturday, Reed surprised hitters with the pitch for the second straight week in his best performance of the season in a 4-3 win against the University of Florida in the Gainesville Super Regional.
Southern Miss hitters didn''t know he had a changeup when he pitched three scoreless innings of relief against them in the Atlanta Regional at Georgia Tech. The pitch was equally as pivotal Saturday in 5 1/3-inning effort in relief of starter Nick Routt.
For Reed, who doesn''t have a power pitch, evolving isn''t just a postseason must, it''s an every-day habit.
"If you can''t get people out with what you do, you got to change it," Reed said. "(The changeup) really helps with those left-handed hitters for me. At the beginning of the year I really struggled, but now I have two pitches that run away from them and we can really keep them off balance."
In 2010, Reed struggled with his command and finished the season 1-7 with a 6.99 ERA. He started three of 25 appearances but has since made a seamless transition to being the team''s closer.
Reed, the most consistent pitcher in MSU''s bullpen this season and an All-Southeastern Conference selection, gave up one earned run on four hits. He threw 82 pitches, the second most he has thrown all season. He threw 113 against LSU.
He entered Saturday''s game facing familiar circumstances: a deficit and no run support. That''s when Reed (1-1, 1.45 ERA) has had his best stuff and has given MSU extended innings. His performance Saturday marked the eighth time he has logged three innings or more in a game.
Reed retired 10 of 11 batters after Routt gave up two earned runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Reed starts every game in the bullpen, so he didn''t see Routt work through hitters. However, knowing Routt''s style, it was a favorable situation to follow, Reed said.
"I know Routt throws fastballs in and away from them, and he gets people on fastball timing," Reed said. "When I come in, I know they''re on fastball timing, so I know I can throw offspeed. And when they start swinging on offspeed I can sneak the fastball through. That''s a big key for me coming off (Routt)."
Reed gave up an RBI triple in the eighth inning to Tyler Thompson, which just cleared the glove of an outstretched C.T. Bradford in center field and gave the Gators a 3-2 lead.
He hoped the damage didn''t doom the Bulldogs'' comeback, which saw them tie the game at 2 in the bottom of the seventh.
In the top of the ninth, Reed retired the first two batters before giving up a double to Bryson Smith and walking Nolan Fontana.
MSU coach John Cohen was faced with a choice with SEC Player of the Year Mike Zunino at the plate: Did he let Reed pitch to Zunino or play the matchup and bring in a left-hander?
Cohen left Reed in the game, and Zunino grounded out to third.
"A lot of times, as a coach, you''re reading body language, you''re asking your catcher, you''re asking your pitcher, how do you feel?" Cohen said. "Caleb wanted the baseball. We had (Taylor) Stark available as well as Chad Girodo. We could have went right and left and left and right, but Caleb is our most proven performer out of the pen, and you want the ball in his had as long as he felt good."
1. Noxubee County beats Columbus; Starkville defeats Oxford HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Starkville Academy's ground game batters West Lowndes HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. Friday's, Thursday's Mississippi Prep Football Scores HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Defense delivers for Raiders HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Starkville overcomes adversity to beat Oxford HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS