March 8, 2013 3:01:12 AM
STARKVILLE -- For the first time in the 2013 season, Mississippi State University baseball coach John Cohen had to limit the weekend starting pitching rotation to three.
Cohen confirmed Wednesday night his pitching rotation this weekend will be the same as the first three games of its weekend series to start the 2013 season.
No. 3 MSU (16-0), who will have its most difficult test of the season when they host the University of Central Arkansas (12-1), will go with sophomore left-hander Jacob Lindgren (2-0, 0.98) at 6:30 p.m. today, followed by junior right-hander Evan Mitchell (0-0, 2.08) and senior right-hander Kendall Graveman (1-0, 1.80) on Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1:30 p.m.).
Lindgren is coming off a career performance were he had collegiate highs in strikeouts (13) in a one-hitter over seven innings in just 89 pitches during a 10-0 victory last weekend over St. Joseph's University.
"I think Jacob could've beaten anybody with the stuff he had tonight and the way he competed," Cohen said on March 1. "I thought he went into attack mode early and never came off of it."
Lindgren has not allowed an extra base hit in each of his last two outings totaling 12-1/3 innings against St. Joseph's and Purdue University. Less than two years ago, the St. Stanislaus High School star turned down over $100,000 in signing bonus money after being drafted in the 12th round by the Chicago Cubs.
"He's just awesome man," MSU sophomore first baseman Wes Rea said on March 1 about Lindgren. "I grew up with Lingo and whether you see it every Friday night or not, he is capable of doing what he did (against St. Joseph's) every time. It's fun to watch."
MSU is keeping junior right-hander Evan Mitchell in the Saturday spot of the rotation after dealing with some control issues in his first three starts of the 2013 season.
Mitchell leads the team in walks (10) but second among starters in strikeouts (16) and leads all starters by holding opponents to a .140 batting average.
"I thought Evan Mitchell had an interesting day today," Cohen said after a 4-1 victory over St. Joseph's on March 2 where Mitchell had five walks but nine strikeouts. "I thought he had some great sequences and then some big misses with some walks. Five walks can get you beat."
Cohen and MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson have repeatedly said Mitchell may arguably be the pitcher with the highest ceiling in terms of draft prospects if he can learn to control his pitches as his stuff includes a 95 mile-per-hour fast ball, a aggressive overhand breaking ball and a change-up in his arsenal.
The final spot in the rotation goes to Graveman.
The Alexander City, Ala., native is coming off sports hernia surgery from this summer. Graveman rebounded from a curious outing two weeks ago against Purdue to allow just one earned run over 5 -1/3 innings in a no-decision against St. Joseph's. Graveman was pulled after 86 pitches as MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson has kept an eye on the senior's pitch count in order to not overuse him before SEC play.
"When you have a Ben Bracewell, Jonathan Holder, Luis Pollorena, C.T. Bradford or anybody else coming out of our bullpen, you feel like the game is over," MSU senior catcher Mitch Slauter said. "I can tell the other team is thinking, we're in for a struggle now."
This weekend rotation leaves sophomore right-hander Will Cox (2-0, 0.60) without a current role after allowing just six hits and one total run in his last two starts.
The Amory native, who was part of the rotation thanks to four-game series' in the first three weekends of the season, will now likely either be used in long relief if one of the starters gets in trouble early this weekend or could possibly be getting the start against the University of Southern Mississippi on Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
The picture becomes clearer depending on which of the sophomore right-handers MSU chooses to use out of the bullpen this weekend between Cox and Brandon Woodruff.
Woodruff was pulled after just 12 pitches against Mississippi Valley State University and the coaching decision in the first inning had nothing to do with the elbow tenderness he's been experiencing in early fall. Cohen said after the 14-2 victory over the Delta Devils that it is "possible" Woodruff could be used this weekend if any of the starters get in trouble.
This weekend at Dudy Noble Field could be a series of pitching duels as MSU and Central Arkansas rank seventh and eighth in the nation in WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched) and the Bears have all three of their weekend rotation starters (Caleb McClanahan, Bryce Biggerstaff and Jeffrey Enloe) boasting an ERA of 2.38 or lower. Biggerstaff, a junior right-hander, threw the second no-hitter in school history to beat Jackson State University 13-0 earlier this season.