February 23, 2010 9:14:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- John Cohen admits his Mississippi State baseball team couldn''t have had a better start to the 2010 season.
After sweeping the University of Rhode Island last weekend, the Bulldogs (3-0) will try in today''s home game (4 p.m.) against the University of Alabama at Birmingham to use youth on the mound and to get solid run support like they did against the Rams.
On Saturday, freshman Chris Stratton (1-0) earned the win after pitching six scoreless innings and striking out six.
Today, the Bulldogs will send another freshman to the mound when Alabama native Luke Bole faces the Blazers, who open their 2010 season.
Against URI, MSU used four freshman pitchers who combined to allow five hits in 10 innings.
"We have a lot of different arms that can give us flexibility," Cohen said. "We really need to get about six or seven guys out there (today), and that was not the case last year. We were just dying for a fresh arm that wasn''t tired and exhausted. Now we have guys competing for innings."
Bole, a left-hander from the Bulldogs'' heralded 2010 recruiting class, had 18 pickoffs in his senior season at Hartselle High School. As with the rest of his young pitchers, Cohen is excited about Bole''s potential.
"He''s got a lower arm slot than Chris, who does a great job controlling the running game, but that''s something Luke really excels at," Cohen said. "He has a very high ceiling. He is still finding his command, but is going to be, two years from now, a big-time pitcher at this level."
Cohen hopes to get as much work for his young pitchers, but surprisingly it was the team''s experienced pitchers who didn''t enjoy the same success against Rhode Island.
Nick Routt, Friday''s starter and last year''s ace as a freshman, lasted just three innings and gave up four earned runs on seven hits. Senior Tyler Whitney, who started Sunday, allowed four earned runs on six hits in four innings.
"Routt wasn''t sharp, but he was fine, and Whitney was a little disappointing with his command," Cohen said. "I think those guys will be fine, but this early you have to keep using opportunities for kids to progress. Kendall Graveman has to get back out there, (senior closer) Devin Jones didn''t pitch as well Sunday because we hadn''t gotten him out there yet. There''s three or four guys we haven''t used yet and you''d hate to get back to the weekend and not have those guys some innings. You have to test the outer limits."
The Bulldogs scored 30 runs and had 54 total bases in the season-opening sweep. Senior first baseman Connor Powers hit .357 and had two home runs, and junior outfielder Ryan Collins hit .417 with five RBIs.
"I think the biggest difference is, last year you had four coaches coaching 35 guys," Cohen said. "I feel like we have 14 or 15 coaches now with our guys. When you try something new with new coaches, the players don''t know what to expect and things get sped up. When kids know what to expect, you''re more relaxed and guys can do the things we need to do in practice to be successful. With Conner, Jet (Butler), Russ (Sneed), Cody (Freeman), we have a group of guys who lead and take the nerves off the younger guys."
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