May 17, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State freshman starting pitcher Devin Jones had a rough outing against LSU on Saturday afternoon and was pulled after two innings.
It wasn''t his final appearance of the day, however.
Despite a 15-4 loss to LSU in the final game of the season, which included a 1 hour and 57 minute rain delay, the Mississippi State Bulldogs found a way to have a good time.
After giving up six runs on seven hits, Jones probably wished he could''ve found a hole to crawl into and hide.
His teammates wouldn''t allow that, however.
Toward the end of the rain delay, Ryan Duffy, Johnny Allen and Ryan Powers decided to have a little fun with Jones.
They strapped Jones to a table with tape and sat the table on the field near the third base line for all those remaining from the announced crowd of 2,440 to see.
Jones was a good sport about it and knew the action had nothing to do with the way he pitched. He was a target because he is a freshman.
"Some freshmen have to take it," Jones said with a grin. "I usually take things pretty well. They know that I handle it well and it was just a little fun. They got me pretty good."
In the midst of a tough season, which saw Mississippi State (25-29, 9-20 Southeastern Conference) end up with its second-straight losing season, the players were intent on keeping things upbeat.
Jones placed much value on the relationships established this season.
"You bond on and off the field," Jones said. "We see each other all of the time and we''re real close."
Jones'' final outing of the season was one he''d like to forget, but he showed his potential by throwing 5 2/3 quality innings with a career-high six strikeouts at Ole Miss on May 10.
"The sky is the limit for that kid," Mississippi State senior catcher Scott DeLoach said. "He''s got good life on his fastball. Things did not work out for him (Saturday), but he''s got a good slider. If he can take a couple of miles per hour off his changeup and put a little more spin on it, he''ll be ready."
Jones (0-4, 9.26 ERA) realizes there are challenges as a freshman, but vows to come back and improve.
"I''m really looking forward to contributing a lot," Jones said. "You are going to have some up-and-down games. That''s just the way it goes. I wish I could have done better today for the seniors since it was their last game."
Jones teamed up with Nick Routt (5-3, 4.15) as freshman pitchers that made up two-thirds of the starting rotation in the final two SEC series of the season.
Routt made the initial 50-member watch list for the CBF/Mizuno Pitcher of the Year Award and led the pitching staff with 87 strikeouts.
Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson calls Routt one of the best freshmen he has ever coached and believes the staff can build around what he and Jones have done down the stretch.
"They both got a lot of experience this year," Thompson said. "Now they''ve got experience and now they''ve got to work hard and get better. There is still room for improvement for everybody and we have a large group of pitchers coming in. A look of a new staff should be exciting and everyone should look forward to getting back to work."
The season is not over for LSU (41-15, 20-10) as it won a share of the SEC Championship with Ole Miss and earned the No. 1 seed for the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
Leadoff hitter Leon Landry was a one-man wrecking crew for the Tigers with five hits in six at-bats with three home runs and sevenRBIs.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri was proud of what all of his players did in winning a conference title.
"It''s a tremendous accomplishment to be champions of the best league in the nation," Mainieri said. "Our players come to LSU for opportunities like this, and it''s a tribute to their hard work and dedication that they''ve earned the right to be called SEC champions."