May 22, 2014 10:19:43 AM
HOOVER, Ala. -- Jacob Lindgren promised his coaches Wednesday he'd give them a signal if he was able to pitch.
It must have been one heck of a signal.
The junior left-hander completed another dominant relief effort, striking out six in four hitless innings to lead fifth-seeded and No. 18 Mississippi State to a 12-0 victory against fourth-seeded and No. 15 South Carolina in seven innings in the Southeastern Conference tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Lindgren didn't know if he would be able to pitch Wednesday because he threw more than 30 pitches in the bullpen Tuesday in MSU's 10-inning victory against Georgia. But he responded in a big way in relief of starting pitcher Trevor Fitts, needing only 49 pitches to get the victory and improve to 6-1.
"It's just a feeling I had, but once I get on that mound a flip switches and I'm in control," Lindgren said.
Lindgren entered the game with two runners on base in the third inning. Needing to strike out two of the Gamecocks' best hitters (Kyle Martin and Grayson Greiner) in the middle of the order, Lindgren threw 10 pitches for his 88th and 89th strikeout of the season and give many of the 7,526 fans confidence the Bulldogs' 3-0 lead was safe.
Lindgren, who had a carefree personality last season as a member of MSU's Bench Mob, showed his maturity in a dominating performance innings when he wasn't 100 percent physically.
"We allow our guys the option that if they're not feeling correct to tell us and then immediately they're not available," MSU coach John Cohen said. "However, Jacob wanted the baseball tonight and you can see why his teammates have a lot of faith in his ability to get punch outs."
After the victory Lindgren joked he thought the radar gun was a little deceiving. Lindgren, whose fastball reached the upper 90s against the Gamecocks, was especially sharp thanks to a mix of a heavy fastball and a hard-breaking slider that erased Martin and Greiner in a critical spot.
"I think I might've been as juiced up as I was to pitch tonight because I don't think I was hitting 96 mph," Lindgren said. "The key with me is being able to get movement and get people to swing at my hard breaking stuff. It's a formula that works, and I'm not changing it."
With Lindgren and preseason All-America Jonathan Holder, MSU (37-20) will play next week in a NCAA Regional with the intent of trying to shorten every game to a five- or six-inning affair. The Bulldogs won't hesitate to hand Lindgren or Holder a save opportunity with as many as nine outs remaining, just as they did last year when their bullpen depth helped them advance to the College World Series championship series.
"You take a team like South Carolina that hadn't seen me at all this season and it's a complete advantage to me that they're having to get way back into scouting reports, if they even have them on me," Lindgren said.
Lindgren has held opponents scoreless in the past 21 1/3 innings. On Wednesday, he allowed one ball to leave the infield. Eleven of his outs were by a strikeout or a weak groundout (five). Lindgren, who was moved to the bullpen this season by MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson, lowered his ERA to 0.88.
"I think if you'd have told me that's what my ERA was going to be in the middle of May, I wouldn't have believed you," Lindgren said. "Why would've believed that?"
With MSU having used both Holder and Lindgren on the first two days of the tournament, the Bulldogs will have to decide if they want to use junior left-hander Ross Mitchell tonight against Kentucky. Mitchell has averaged 7.5 innings per start in league play this season and has the team's only four complete games. A long outing by Mitchell could be what MSU needs to advance into the semifinals of the league tournament for the third-straight season.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.