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Mitchell becomes stabilizing force in MSU bullpen


Matthew Stevens



STARKVILLE -- Ask Ross Mitchell about his immediate performance on the mound and the sophomore just shrugs his shoulders. 


The Mississippi State third-year sophomore left-handed pitcher said "anybody could do what he does" after he immediately recorded 13 consecutive outs last week to elevate the stress on the MSU bullpen in a 12-1 victory over the University of Memphis at AutoZone Park. His coaching staff loudly disagrees with his assessment.  


"First of all, what a great thing for somebody to say about their teammates," MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson said Monday. "Second of all, he's completely wrong. Not everybody can do what Ross Mitchell has done for us, trust me." 


Mitchell (8-0) finished the game against Memphis, in the home of the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds, with a six-inning effort that included allowing just one run on three hits. The single run by the Tigers stopped a 16-inning scoreless streak for Mitchell, who was pitching in his home state.  


"I just feel like there's a lot of players on this team that could do the exact same thing as me right now," Mitchell said last week after he got the win over Memphis. "I've just been getting opportunities to do it. They still have faith in me and I'm fine with it (because) I like pitching all the time." 


Mitchell is currently sixth in the NCAA in earned run average (0.93) as he just has allowed six earned runs in 58 innings of relief this season. Normally Mitchell has come out of the bullpen to follow a hard-throwing right-handed power arm to offset the look that offenses get when Thompson decides to go to the Bulldogs relievers late in a game.  


The interesting angle with Mitchell is exactly that -- the arm angle in which he throws because his velocity isn't overly impressive as he struggles to reach 80 miles per hour on a radar gun. Mitchell struck out a Memphis batter looking last week on a 61 miles-per-hour pitch and said after the game he didn't think he threw "anything but fastballs" early. Mitchell's effectiveness can be drawn to his ¾ delivery that can fool hitters by his ability to not show the baseball until the final moment it comes out of his hand.  


"When you only get to face him one time through the order, it's just really different because you don't see a guy like him too often," Cohen said. "Even when Ross gets contact, it's what we want. We sometimes want early contact to race through early innings." 


Mitchell has also been the resident class clown of this Bulldogs group with his antics including buying a admittedly ridiculous hat with a enlarged bill from the Bass Pro Shops store across the street before playing a game at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Cohen says the gag was to needle him because he constantly is reminding his team about the dangers of sun exposure. Mitchell was even seen this year on Twitter wearing the hat during pitcher's batting practice that MSU does every so often to lighten up the mood in practice during the week.  


In his 15th appearance this season, Ross Mitchell cruised through the Ole Miss lineup multiple times on April 9 to allow just two hits in a shutout performance over six innings to win the Governors Cup most outstanding player award. In the post-game interviews, out came the Bass Pro Shops hat.  


"I feel like I say this every time I talk but I feel like my defense makes all the plays for me," Mitchell, who allows just 6.98 hits per nine innings, said after the Governors Cup victory.  


Thompson, who said he has more faith in Mitchell, junior right-hander Ben Bracewell and Bulldogs closer Jonathan Holder than anybody else in the bullpen, said he believes the contrast in styles for Mitchell is his biggest weapon.  


"I've heard that if we believe so much in Ross Mitchell, then why don't we start him?," Thompson said. "My response to that is I think teams preparing for that starter and then getting a pitcher like Ross Mitchell is so dangerous. Maybe that's why he's so successful." 


MSU fans can expect to see Mitchell warming in the bullpen as soon as the MSU starting pitcher gets in trouble this weekend as the No. 22 Bulldogs (33-13, 10-11 in SEC) host the University of Alabama for a weekend series.  


"The obvious thing here is Ross Mitchell is really stepping in when we really need him the most," Cohen said "The word we use around here is economic because Ross doesn't waste too many pitches and runners getting through innings. That's what we have to have at this level because hitters are too good." 


n MSU adds additional TV date: At Starkville, Mississippi State this week picked up a 12th regular season baseball television appearance. 


Sunday's Mississippi State-Alabama baseball game at Dudy Noble Field has been picked up by CBS for a live national telecast on CBS Sports Network. First pitch is set for 1:37 p.m., with John Sadak and former South Alabama standout Marlon Anderson on the call of Sunday's series finale. 


The CBS Sports Network is available locally on Metrocast Cable (channel 165) as well as on DIRECT TV (channel 613) and DISH (channel 158). 


The 15th-ranked Bulldogs' series-opener with the Crimson Tide, set for a 6:04 p.m. start, will also be televised nationally. ESPNU will broadcast the game, with Tom Hart and former LSU pitcher Ben McDonald describing the action. There is no television for Saturday's 2 p.m. MSU-Alabama game. 


n Southern Miss game rained out: At Hattiesburg, the Southern Miss non-conference baseball game with Louisiana-Monroe scheduled for Tuesday at Pete Taylor Park was cancelled due to rain. 


Rains began to fall in the Hattiesburg area around 3 p.m., and continued until the game was called at 7:03 p.m., an hour and three minutes after its scheduled starting time.



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