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Former MSU greats offer well wishes to Bulldogs

 

Matthew Stevens

 

OMAHA, Neb. -- Every morning Mississippi State University baseball coach John Cohen gets on the exercise bike and answers text messages during his workout. 

 

That task became more difficult Tuesday after his team returned to Starkville from its sweep of No. 6 national seed University of Virginia at the NCAA Charlottesville Super Regional. 

 

"Mississippi State is a family, so that's what makes it special," Cohen, an outfielder at MSU from 1987-90, said Wednesday. "I don't think there are any gaps in the generation of players. I think everyone feels like one big family." 

 

Former MSU players from Major League Baseball standouts Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Brantley, and Jay Powell all sent Cohen texts and voicemails this week wishing him and the program well. Some of the former players also congratulated current members of the MSU roster. 

 

"So many people have reached out to our players and staff, and we're just very grateful," Cohen said. "I'm going to leave people out, which is what happens when you've got as many big leaguers come through the program as we do. You can't list all 48 or 49 off the top of my head. I do feel compelled to return messages to every single one of them." 

 

MSU (48-18) will play No. 3 national seed Oregon State University (50-11) at 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2) in the first game of the College World Series at TD Waterhouse Park in Omaha, Neb.  

 

Clark, a six-time former MLB All-Star player, spoke to the Bulldogs last month at Dudy Noble Field before a home series against the University of Alabama.  

 

"He spoke to us about building the foundation of the MSU program back to where it should be, and I think these upperclassmen have done that," MSU senior pitcher Kendall Graveman said. "Whatever he has to say, if a player the caliber of Will Clark says something, you listen." 

 

Oregon State closer questionable with back spasms  

 

OSU freshman closer Max Engelbrekt could miss the first couple of games of the College World Series with severe back spasms. 

 

Engelbrekt suffered the back spasms in a victory against Kansas State University in game two of the NCAA Corvallis Super Regional. 

 

"He had a spasm in his back somehow," Oregon State Pat Casey said after the victory. "We don't know what his condition is, obviously he was unable to pitch. It was an unfortunate situation." 

 

Engelbrekt, a freshman from Seattle, has become the closer of choice lately even though junior right-hander Scott Schultz leads the team with 10 saves. Engelbrekt pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief against the University of Texas at San Antonio to earn his fifth win in the first game of regional play. He also pitched one scoreless inning of relief against the University of California at Santa Barbara for his fifth save last week in the regional. 

 

On Monday in game three of the NCAA Corvallis Super Regional, OSU had to turn to Saturday starter Matt Boyd, who had thrown 123 pitches two days ago, for a four-out save. 

 

"We knew (closer) Max (Engelbrekt) couldn't pitch, and Matty made it very clear to me yesterday he was ready," Casey said. "We knew if it was a one-run game we'd go to Matt, keep him on a low pitch count. He wanted to pitch." 

 

OSU's top three starters (Andrew Moore, Boyd, and Ben Wetzler) have combined to go 33-5. They have pitched six innings or more in 35 of their 47 starts. Moore, a freshman right-hander, has won nine straight decisions. His 14 victories are tied for most in the nation. 

 

Umpire replays extended to determine fair or foul ball 

 

College World Series umpires use of video replay has been expanded to determine if balls hit down an outfield line are fair or foul.  

 

Last year, instant replay was approved at the CWS for the first time. It was limited to reviewing whether a batted ball cleared the fence, went foul, or whether a fan had interfered. No plays were reviewed in 2012. 

 

"In layman's terms, the games are so important you want to get the right call," NCAA Vice President of Championships Dennis Poppe said. "When there's a comfort level and capability, why not?" 

 

In cases where runners are on base and a foul call is changed to fair after a review, the umpire crew chief will consult with his partners and place the runners where he thinks they would have ended up had the call been correct initially. That means it's possible the crew chief would be required to make an educated guess at how many runners would advance home. 

 

 

 

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