March 6, 2014 12:58:44 AM
STARKVILLE -- The most important aspect Preston Brown might have showcased Wednesday night is his ability to pitch out of the stretch.
The third-year sophomore for Mississippi State found himself locating with more confidence with runners on and therefore had to go to his comfort zone of pitching from the stretch. Brown throws all of his bullpen sessions with MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson out of the stretch and was able to scatter eight different base runners in his four innings.
Brown worked four scoreless frames to start No. 12 MSU (11-4) to a 3-0 lead over South Alabama that the Bulldogs would make stand over the final five innings.
"He can sink it, get the ground ball that we want so badly and what's so neat to see now is he's got a swing-and-miss pitch with his changeup to left-handers and his slider to right-handers," Cohen said. "He can certainly be a option for us on weekends later this season."
Ross Mitchell (2-0), who was named Southeastern Conference co-pitcher of the week Monday, got his 18th career victory by working 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. The soft-tossing left-hander had two strikeouts in a 40-pitch effort against a struggling South Alabama (5-7) lineup.
Brown has only given up two earned runs over 16 innings this season and his ability to concentrate on his mechanics with runners on could prove extremely valuable out of the bullpen during critical SEC weekends.
Last season Brown only received 2/3 of a inning against SEC opponents but has developed a severely devastating out pitch in the change up that allowed him to get five ground ball outs.
"When you need to make pitches whether it's on the weekend or in the mid-week, you're going to be in the stretch so that's always how I've been since high school," Brown said. "Coach Thompson talks about our patterns being different at the start of a inning and then when the situation changes with runners on."
With a 3-0 lead late in the game, Thompson allowed junior Jacob Lindgren to receive his second career save by getting the final five outs of the contest. Lindgren's first career save came in 2012. With the finger injury still hindering MSU's All-American closer Jonathan Holder, Lindgren's development in this new relief role for 2014 has been a pleasant result. In five appearances this season, Lindgren's has gotten 16 of his 24 outs via the strikeout.
"We could've gone to Jonathan tonight but we felt like Lindgren was on a roll and with as chilly as it was, I feel like if a guy is already used to the conditions you're not going bring another guy in," Cohen said. "We haven't given Lindgren that kind of opportunity yet this season but he's earned it. Lindgren doesn't have a bigger fan in the world than Jonathan Holder."
Senior third baseman Alex Detz came into Wednesday hitting just .224 but had a on-base percentage of .361 but found his confident swing against South Alabama right-hander Matt Bell. Detz, who consistently hit in the 2-hole of the MSU lineup last year, singled in the first run of the game in the opening inning to give MSU a early 1-0 lead. The Bulldogs are now 10-0 this season when they score first in a game. In his next at-bat, Detz hit his first home run in front of the home fans at Dudy Noble Field. Detz, who isn't known for his power but more for his consistency with the bat, hit a towering shot over the right field wall that goes in the record book as just his second career home run and gave MSU its final run needed.
"You never know at the Dude if a ball will actually ever leave the ballpark but I knew I hit it good," Detz said. "I feel like I've been out of rhythm at the start but this past weekend I got it back and hopefully I can carry that on."
MSU, which came into this mid-week contest on a six-game winning streak, proceeded to have just three base runners from the third inning and didn't have a hit after Detz's home run.
"There's no question that when (Detz's home run) happens in a ballpark like this, you get energized seeing somebody hitting it that well like he did," Cohen said. "It's a confidence issue for him until you look and see his on-base percentage and how many walks he has. He's just a really valuable member of this ball club for how often he gets to first base. It's so tough to pitch to Wes Rea when he's standing on first base."
Of the eight hits South Alabama recorded Wednesday night, three came via Jaguars cleanup hitter Hayden Jones including two doubles.
MSU will take its game on the road for the first time in 2014 as they travel to play four games in a three-team tournament starting Friday at 3 p.m. against the tournament host and 2012 national champion Arizona Wildcats. MSU will also play two games against highly rated mid-major California at Santa Barbara in the weekend event.
"It's one of those things where I don't we have a lot of guys that have ever been in that area and hopefully we go over there and play pretty well," Cohen said.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.
1. Season opener at Columbus Speedway a success LOCAL SPORTS
2. Tennessee routs No. 3 Mississippi State COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Tennessee's win against MSU flips script LOCAL COLUMNS
5. Starkville Academy boys fall in state title game HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS