June 2, 2014 11:20:08 AM
LAFAYETTE, La. -- Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen tried to protect his ace left-hander as much he could, but he said he could see an outing like the one Ross Mitchell had Sunday happening.
Following a 14-8 loss to No. 1 and top-seeded Louisiana-Lafayette, Cohen said Mitchell had been experiencing arm soreness that has contributed to him not having his best mechanics the past few weeks.
"He had some soreness, and I'm not sure he could've pitched (Saturday)," Cohen said. "He was probably working through some of that tonight, but he's competed so hard and been so good for us all season."
Mitchell's three-inning outing Sunday was his shortest start of the season. ULL (56-8) squared up many of his pitches for hard contact and had three extra-base hits, including a home run.
"His one-seamer had no sink and none of his stuff was down in the zone as much as normally is," Cohen said.
Mitchell (8-5) struggled in last start before pitching in the NCAA tournament. He allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision in a 12-inning loss to Kentucky at the Southeastern Conference tournament. On Sunday, ULL rattled Mitchell for six runs to force a winner-take-all game at 6 tonight. MSU catcher Gavin Collins tried to make short trips to the mound to gauge Mitchell's comfort level, but even a mound visit by Cohen couldn't stop the Ragin' Cajuns' onslaught.
"We knew we had to just stay back and make sure we stayed patient against their soft-tossing lefty," ULL outfielder Seth Harrison said. "We knew that if he came in the zone with anything we had the opportunity to make them pay, and we did that earlier on him."
Before the league tournament, Mitchell had allowed more than two earned runs in a start only once. Ole Miss had 13 hits and scored six runs against Mitchell in 8 2/3 innings in a 6-1 victory on April 11 at Dudy Noble Field.
Mitchell hasn't been deactivated from any of his scheduled weekend starts since he was put into the rotation at the start of the SEC play in the middle of March. However, Mitchell's starts have been shuffled to different days on the weekend to give him the maximum amount of rest.
"I don't think Ross was his normal self tonight (because) I thought he was overthrowing," Cohen said. "I really thought he was trying to invent some stuff and create more velocity than he normally does. Hopefully he gets another chance to pitch in this NCAA tournament."
ULL's victory against MSU followed an 11-1 win against Jackson State that ran its record to 16-0 this season against a left-handed starting pitcher.
MSU will try to break that streak tonight when it sends Lucas Laster (0-0, 1.97) to the mound. All-Southeastern Conference first-team selection Jacob Lindgren should be ready to pitch in relief.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.