May 31, 2014 7:39:41 AM
LAFAYETTE, La. -- Myles Gentry verbalized the true, big picture impact of his relief effort from Mississippi State's 5-2 win over San Diego State Friday.
"He told me don't let anybody else pitch today," Gentry said with a smile when asked what MSU bullpen coach Greg Drye said to him before he trotted to the mound.
The Bulldogs victory in the opening game of the 2014 NCAA Lafayette Regional not only set them up for the short term by getting them in the winners bracket early but also allowed to have a fresh bullpen heading into the final two or three days of the tournament. MSU (38-22) couldn't have scripted a better scenario for itself than getting a postseason victory without having to use either left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren or closer Jonathan Holder.
"To not have to use those bullpen arms is big to say the least," MSU coach John Cohen said.
Cohen has been constantly preaching throughout the week leading up to the regional hosted by Louisiana-Lafayette that "tomorrow doesn't exist" but having the ability to properly prepare for future games when the overall objective is to win the four-team tournament is a major reason Cohen is 10-7 all-time in NCAA Regional play at both Kentucky and MSU.
Since April 15, MSU is 16-7 but the Bulldogs have been forced to use either Lindgren, one of the nation's best left-handed relievers this season or Holder, the school's all-time leader in saves, in 13 of those victories.
Two of the three victories in the 46-day period where they haven't required to use Lindgren or Holder involved complete game outings by Ross Mitchell so nobody in the MSU bullpen was utilized. So it's safe to suggest that lately if MSU wanted to feel secure with a victory, the usage of Lindgren and/or Holder was nearly required.
"It's just kind of weird because every time we get a (in a jam) Lingo comes in after me and we've scored so many runs after he leaves runners on base in that type of situation," MSU junior starting pitcher Trevor Fitts said.
Fitts (5-3) survived five innings, his second longest outing this month, and was left on the mound for the first time to pitch himself out of jams early in a game even after MSU sent both Gentry and Lindgren down to the bullpen in the second inning.
"The telltale sign with Trevor is if he is missing (the strike zone) big, which he really wasn't doing today," Cohen said. "When Trevor isn't missing big, we're going to keep going with him because he's a guy that will immediately regroup and shove it right back in the strike zone. That's exactly what he did after those two runs we gave up in the second inning."
Lindgren, who leads the MSU team with a 0.88 ERA, had relieved Fitts' last seven starts this season but with San Diego State being so right-handed dominate offensively, MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson felt the right-handed Gentry would have success with his multiple arm angles.
"His last three or four outings have shown the way he is capable of spinning the baseball because his two-seamer has so much late depth to it," Cohen said. "The velocity is not as critical for him and it's all about how the hitters are engaging the pitch."
MSU comes to the ballpark Saturday with just one pitcher likely unavailable (Gentry) in a situation where the statistics bear out that team that can end the first two days 2-0 has a giant advantage over the rest of the four-team field in a regional.
In the last 80 regionals over a five-year period, 51 winners have run the table undefeated and only 8 lost have their opening game but found a way to advance into a Super Regional. By getting the win Friday against a quality opponent the way they accomplished it, MSU left M.L. 'Tigue' Moore Field thinking they were able to get one step closer to the College World Series and didn't even have to use their best arms in the process.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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