A Q&A With MSU Baseball Coach Butch Thompson

Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson talks one-on-one with Gene's Page.

You swept Alabama this past weekend. That had to be big for this team's pitching staff.
"It was big. I thought we had a lot of momentum going into the weekend at Vanderbilt. But we didn't get a win there. So, that made what was next important. And Alabama was next. Winning two extra innings was big because extra inning games can go either way. But I want to stop and pause and give Alabama a lot of credit because their kids battled every game, every inning, every pitch. They were tough for us because they gave us a lot of problems from a pitching standpoint. They extended innings I think they had upwards of 10 runs on two outs. That is a credit to (Alabama head coach) Mitch (Gaspard) and his staff. They do a great job.

"We also had guys who battled. Coach Cohen mentioned Mitch Slauter, Brett Pirtle. We had several guys who were going through some tough things.

"And Kendall (Graveman) and Luis (Pollorena) weren't at their best. And Alabama did a heck of a job against those two. Our bullpen almost threw a complete game in the doubleheader (Saturday) by themselves. Then, what (Chad) Girodo and (Ben) Bracewell did on Sunday was huge for us."

Girodo and Bracewell did step up. Talk a little more about their performances.
"Ben had been a little sluggish. I really thought what we have seen these last two weekends was what we were going to get this season. But his start against Arkansas when he didn't get out of the first inning cause a little bit of a problem for a week or two. Then, he threw so well at Vanderbilt last week. I thought he had really grown and got a good stroke going. And I thought Ben was really ready for the opportunity when Holder had thrown in the first game of the Saturday doubleheader.

"Girodo had been our left-on-left guy. And this year he wanted to do whatever it took to get more guys out. And you are just now seeing, last week and especially this week, him get more opportunities against righthanded hitters. Alabama was a predominately righthanded hitting lineup and he wound up getting some work against them."

You mentioned Jonathan Holder. Once again he was your shutdown closer.
"He has been consistent for a long time. I'm amazed that his work ethic is at the top of the chart. Jonathan is the last one to leave every day. He prepares every day as good as anyone that I have coached in 20 years. If he sticks with that consistency I don't know why anything will change on the field. He is in a very fluid moment right now where he can throw a fastball or a breaking ball wherever he wants it. In his first year and a half until right now, I haven't seen anybody with that type consistency. It has been a special run for him."

I noticed in one of the games this past weekend, when Chad Girodo was on the mound, you and Coach Cohen were discussing about whether to take him out or leave him in. You even took a couple of steps toward the mound, then came back to the dugout. What exactly did you two say at that time?
"We had some other pitchers in the bullpen who were capable. I think I took 3 or 4 steps toward the mound but returned. I returned because of the senior concept. If Chad is going to help us down the stretch he needs to be able to handle that moment. And he did a great job getting out of that inning and giving us a chance to win. I guess that showed us that the older guys can give us more and they really stepped up."

As a coach, what did it mean to you to see that walk-off single by C.T. Bradford and the celebration by the players afterwards?
"These guys have done everything that we have asked them to do, especially from my standpoint as a pitching staff. Even if they don't have the success they want to have I'm behind them the entire way. They have done everything that we have asked them to do. If they come up short it will always be my fault because I can't ask them to do anymore than what they have done."

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

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