Evan Mitchell Continues To Improve

Mississippi State freshman righthanded pitcher Evan Mitchell had an up and down early and middle part of the season but of late has really come on strong and become a key component of the starting rotation.

With Mitchell the improvement has been about making adjustments. After missing much of his junior and senior years of high school baseball due to injuries, there was a lot for Mitchell to learn. And the learning process has really taken a major step forward of late. Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson feels Mitchell has been at his best his last two outings against Memphis and Florida when he threw a total of 9.1 innings, giving up 2 runs on 9 hits and 5 walks while striking out 16.

"Evan throws a fastball and I feel his curveball has gotten better," said Thompson. "I think he pitched with a fastball early in the year. Then we made some changes and put him back in the bullpen and he just kept working and starting throwing his breaking ball real hard. He's also finishing better. He's learning how to get his chest down through his front knee. When your body pops up, it's hard to thrown down, where you need to throw as a pitcher. He's done such a good job of relaxing and getting more flection in that front knee which has allowed him to get down in the zone."

And Thompson saw the positive results in Mitchell's last two outings.

"I didn't think he had his best breaking ball against Florida," said the third-year MSU pitching coach. "I thought the week before when he threw against Memphis was when his breaking ball really showed out. But when you go back and watch the game (against Florida) his fastball was so good that they had a tough time getting the barrel on it. I really thought he had true velocity against Florida because when Evan was in disadvantage counts, 1-0 and 2-0 counts, and they knew fastballs were coming they couldn't get the barrel in position to hurt him."

Mitchell credits Thompson for helping him with his fastball and his mechanics. He also credits a teammate when it comes to the improvement of his curveball.

"I feel like Coach Thompson and I were really working on getting the inside fastball working," said Mitchell, who throws a low 90s two-seam fastball that touches 93 to 94 at times and has good armside movement. "And I feel like that's almost another pitch for me because it also keeps hitters off-balance just like the curveball does. (Senior catcher) Wes Thigpen also told me to throw my curveball as hard as I could because I was struggling with it at the beginning. And after I did that one bullpen it just felt like it got a lot better. I also feel like I was getting more through my fastball. At the beginning of the year I had a hard time falling off to the first base line but now I work toward the catcher. That helped me with my location on both sides of the plate."

Although he's seen a great deal of improvement this season, he knows there is much to learn and improve.

"This summer I will probably continue to work on my changeup so I can throw it anytime I want," said Mitchell. "But I feel like my changeup has gotten worlds better and I'm ready to throw it real soon. I may even try another pitch, although I'm not really sure. But I will continue to work on all the things that Coach Thompson has taught me."

And when he comes back this fall don't be surprised to see Mitchell fighting for a spot in the SEC weekend rotation, although as far as he is concerned he will be happy helping the team in any role on the pitching staff.

"I definitely feel comfortable in the starter's role," said Mitchell. "I started early in the year and I loved it out there. I've got to do relief and love it to. I will do whatever it takes, starter or reliever."

But before the summer and the fall come there's still a few games left to be played this season. And Mitchell knows this time of the year is crunch time, do or die.

"Toward the end of the year it's bear down time," said the 6-2, 177-pounder. "And I feel like that has helped me focus even more."

Mitchell and the rest of the Mississippi State Bulldogs play Southern Miss Friday at 3 pm eastern time in the Atlanta NCAA Baseball Regional, which is being played at Georgia Tech.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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