Dogs Adapting Pitching Plans For Weekend

Their debut four-game weekend went as well as a Diamond Dog could hope. So Mississippi State will try to repeat the success a second time, against a different pair of visitors.

Mississippi State (4-0) hosts Marshall (2-1) and Alabama A&M (1-3) in a round-robin weekend at Dudy Noble Field. Due to cold and potentially wet conditions the weekend schedule has been advanced.

The adjusted game times are: Friday noon Alabama A&M vs. Marshall; 4:00 Marshall vs. Mississippi State. Saturday noon Alabama A&M vs Mississippi State; 35 minutes after conclusion Marshall vs. Mississippi State. Sunday 11:00am Marshall vs Alabama A&M; 3:00 Alabama A&M vs Mississippi State.

Thursday afternoon, Coach John Cohen said pitching plans for the second weekend should be similar to the first. But, not identical.

“We’re probably going to do a lot like we did last week. We’ll start with Preston (Brown) on Friday night and make a decision Saturday morning. We probably feel with the left/right matchups Lucas Laster will pitch the game against Marshall. If I had to guess right now it would probably be Austin Sexton (against Alabama A&M), but we’re not sure right now.”

Freshman Jesse McCord was the fourth starter, in the third game for opening weekend and struggled. He was replaced early by veteran Ross Mitchell who, Cohen said today, remains a rotation option. “But we’d like to tail-end him like last weekend.” Though Cohen did say if Mitchell doesn’t have to throw long relief in either of the first games he still might get a chance to start.

Cohen does plan on getting McCord back on the mound this weekend, along with Sunday reliever Paxton Stover who also took a debut beating. “They both had freshmen moments,” Cohen said. “We have so much confidence in those two kids, we want them to have opportunities as soon as possible.”

Whoever pitches, they won’t be throwing to All-SEC catcher Gavin Collins. His return from a pre-season hand (catching) will take a little longer. Fortunately juco transfer Josh Lovelady and veteran Cody Walker took care of the position without a hitch all four wins.

The uncertainties are in two opening-game starters, most notably senior first baseman Wes Rea. He took a pitch off the left knee in game-three, one of two plunkings in the win for Rea, and needed overnight attention for the swelling. Cohen was optimistic last Sunday that Rea would be back for the next weekend. Today he scaled it back just a bit.

“I think it’s possible Wes could play this weekend, I’d say probably not. (Dr.) Rusty Linton needs to take a look at him sometime before this weekend. I think it’s pretty favorable and at some point soon we’ll get him back.”

Opening-day centerfielder Mike Smith is iffy as well. He batted for a RBI-double in his first college at-bat, only to come up lame later with an unspecified leg issue that sound like a pull of some sort. “The thing about his injury is it just doesn’t mix well with cold weather. Of course nothing in baseball mixes with cold weather! I think Michael is getting better every day and he’s somebody we need, he gives us a ton of flexibility and brings a level of athleticism to our ball club.”

Also on the injury front, Cohen reported that after missing much of preseason and the opening weekend righthander Myles Gentry might be available this weekend, too. 2014 transfer and redshirt righthander Paul Young is on schedule to pitch by SEC season in March. But, Cohen said, closer candidate Jacob Billingsley is not going to pitch at all in 2015 after a series of injury setbacks.

Due to conflicts with basketball, the radio broadcast schedule for this weekend has only Friday’s game on the full Bulldog baseball network. The other games are local-only, on 106.1fm. Also, only the Friday and Sunday games will be streamed on-line by the SEC Network+.

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