Bats Set Pace In Friday Situation Scrimmage

Scrimmage observers had to be confused at first. But a check of the Dudy Noble Field scoreboard showed what was going on during Friday’s intrasquad game.

Every batter who came to the plate had his ball/strike count pre-assigned. Every pitcher knew the circumstances he faced. Everything happening from there gave Mississippi State’s coaching staff a little extra insight into how the 2015 Diamond Dogs measure up mid-way of preseason work. “We do that because we want to have more situational baseball,” Coach John Cohen said of the unusual scrimmage script.

“Instead of throwing 50 pitches and getting through the order, this way you’re getting three or four times through the order,” the coach explained. “And it’s advancing the game and having more situations. We deliberated about this, we think it helps the hitters a little more than the pitchers. But we think it’s good for our team offensively and defensively.”

Cohen was correct that, judging by the final 10-4 after six-and-a-half innings played, hitters seemed to have some advantage. This was true even if not swinging the stick; since quite often batters came up with two, even three balls on the board and less than two strikes. So it would not be entirely accurate to look at the many issued walks and blame it on pitching issues.

Of course the inverse was sometimes true. The five hurlers working Friday often met a new batter with a two-strike count. Several of those were finished with just one well-located pitch for a fast strikeout.

The main beneficiary was Maroon starting pitcher RHP Preston Brown. The junior strengthened his case for a job in the starting rotation with 4.2 innings of work, striking out nine Gray batters against five walks and six hits. Brown allowed three of the Gray runs.

Brown of course had his sophomore season shortened mid-way with injury, with some rough appearance in May when he tried to come back. He did start nine times in 13 appearances but ended up with just 45 innings.

Now he says taking the summer mostly-off and doing regular fall rehab work has him back on track. “That’s been everything to me, my arm feels as good as it’s ever felt. I feel ready to get the season going.” He ought to, since Brown knows weekend jobs are within his grasp again.

“We lost a lot of our bullpen and I think we’re trying to find some guys to fill in those roles. That opens up some spots in the rotation. We have a lot of good guys competing for it so we’re good to go depth wise, it’s just a matter of whoever is going that day needs to step up.”

RHP Aaron Dominguez relieved Brown to get the last out of the fifth inning, with the bases loaded. The freshman then loaded everything himself on walks and gave up the last Gray score. He remained in to finish the scrimmage two hits.

Sophomore transfer LHP Daniel Brown, one of the new candidates for starting duty this season, opened for the Gray. He lasted three full frames but allowed the first six Maroon runs with six walks, five hits, a plunking, and five hits.

In his first, P.Brown walked OF Michael Smith, and advanced him with an errant pickoff. SS Seth Heck singled for runners on corners and a grounder off 3B Luke Reynold’s bat put them both in scoring positions. Brown struck out OF Reid Humphreys and 1B Trent Waddell to strand each.

Brown had another Gray in second-inning scoring position. With one out C Josh Lovelady’s little looper went off the glove of Maroon 2B Matt Britton. IF Ryan Gridley chopped to the left side and a short-hop got under 3B Matt Spruill’s glove for a single.

Gridley got to third but Spruill tried taking second and was out. So a punch-out of Smith ended this threat, too. Brown left Humphreys (single) stranded in the third.

Daniel was able to take advantage of favorable counts in the first inning for consecutive strikeouts and stranded a walked runner. He also gave a free base in the second and a single to Britton, before a called strikeout left both unscored.

His day fell apart in the third, beginning with a leadoff walk of C Cody walker. RF Cody Brown smacked a drive off D.Brown’s foot for two on and a quick trainer visit. With one out C Gavin Collins dropped a base hit in centerfield to score Walker with the day’s first run.

A walk of LF Brent Rooker loaded the bases for CF Jacob Robson, who punched a grounder through the box for two RBI and a 3-0 lead. 1B Wes Rea’s single re-loaded the bases and with two outs a walk of Spruill forced Rooker across. On full count D.Brown nicked Walker for another free RBI (Robson), and C.Brown walked to push over a sixth runner in the inning.

P.Brown was cruising into the fourth with an out before walking Lovelady. With the runner going Gridley bounced a single to the vacated shortstop slot for runners on corners. SS Seth Heck walked to load everything up, and Reynolds singled to center for his team’s first RBI. It would have been two except Heck ended the inning by trying to get to third base unnoticed.

The Gray trimmed off another run in their fifth after P.Brown walked a pair on to begin. Swinarski’s bases-loading single set up Gridley to draw a walk and force in Humphreys. After striking out Smith, P.Brown was replaced by Dominguez for a fly-out of Heck to keep a 6-3 cushion.

And the Maroon stretched the margin back to six runs by scoring four in their fifth. 1B Wes Rea was plunked and Britton walked to lead off; and Spruill dumped a bunt to reach and fill the paths with nobody out. RHP Levi Mintz missed the mitt to score Rea, and Walker’s grounder got down the left-line for a double and two RBI. Though, Walker limped into second base and was taken out. Collins singled in his replacement, Spruill.

Dominguez did set-up the last Gray score with three walks of four-faced. With full count Gridley singled in Reynolds, before Smith bounced into a double-play.

The bottom of the sixth was pitched by Gray first baseman Waddell, with a walk and strikeout.

The Maroon defensive lineup had LF Brent Rooker, CF Jacob Robson, RF Cody Brown, 1B Wes Rea, 2B Matt Britton, SS John Holland, 3B Matt Spruill, and C Gavin Collins. The White lineup was LF Reid Humphreys, CF Mike Smith, RF Joey Swinarski, 1B Trent Waddell, 2B Gridley, SS Seth Heck, 3B Luke Reynolds, and C Josh Lovelady. Veteran OF Jake Vickerson was excused for personal business Friday.

A bit warmer weather is expected for Saturday’s scrimmage, which has moved back two hours to 3:00 for convenience of fans attending the Bulldog basketball game with Louisiana State. The starters will both be lefties, Ross Mitchell and Lucas Laster. Rain is forecast for Sunday’s scheduled 3:00 scrimmage, when righthanders Austin Sexton and Jesse McCord are booked to start.

Missing a scrimmage is no small matter now, as when the Diamond Dogs walked off Dudy Noble Field today it was exactly two weeks to their Opening Day and 6:00 start time on February 13. Before then, Fan Day will be held February 7 at 10:00am in the Palmeiro Center with free admission. There is an autograph session with this year’s team and free schedule posters, and a 1:00 scrimmage game following.

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