Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

One-on-one with true freshman pitcher Keegan James

Mississippi State freshman pitcher Keegan James talks about the upcoming NCAA Regional at Dudy Noble Field, how he has improved since the fall and his plans for this summer.

Your dad played football at Mississippi State. You grew up an MSU fan. As a fan, what did it mean to you win an SEC Championship?
"It was huge. I had everybody texting me, my dad, my family, telling me it hadn't happened in so many years, that kind of stuff. The Bulldog family, the Bulldog Nation are really happy about this, as were we. So, it was really neat being a part of it when you grew up in a family of Bulldogs."

Have you attended a regional as a fan?
"I have. I think it was three or four years ago. I can't remember the teams that were playing in it. But, yeah, I have been to a couple here and the atmosphere is amazing."

What are your thoughts about actually playing in one?
"I am super pumped about it. But like Coach Cohen always says you are playing a faceless opponent. This weekend is going to be like any other weekend. We are preparing like it is just another team out there. Of course the stakes are a little higher but we will be ready."

When I saw you pitch at the SEC Tournament the scoreboard gun showed your fastball velo at 95 to 97. I don't know it it was a little high or not but when I saw you in the fall you were throwing in the low 90s. Has your velo increased that much throughout the season?
"My velocity has increase. I'm not sure if that was accurate in Hoover. I hope it is because that is awesome. But all the credit goes to Coach Johnson and the rest of the pitching staff. We are always trying to compete against each other, trying to make each other better. Coach Johnson coming in and implementing all of the weighted ball workouts has helped tremendously. Most of it is the mindset that if you want to throw hard, then throw hard. The main thing for us is to work hard, put a ton of time into it and good things will happen."

How have you improved from the fall to now? Not just your velocity but your overall pitching?
"I have developed a cutter, which is going to be huge for me down the road. Right now I am fairly new to it but I have started throwing it in games. My breaking ball has gotten a tighter spin on it. My changeup has gotten more depth on it. I have learned the game and all of the things that you need to do to get better. Once you figure that out it is all about perfecting your game. And I feel that Coach Johnson and the rest of the staff have helped me a ton to do that."

What pitch are you the most comfortable with?
"My two-seam fastball. Other than that my changeup."

When you were throwing 95 to 97 in Hoover that was your two-seam?
"Yeah, it was. My two-seam is my go-to pitch. It runs down and in. And it was running a lot more over at Hoover than it had been in the past."

Where are you going to play this summer?
"I am going to play at Strasburg, Virginia."

What are you going to key on when you play there this summer?
"I am going to try to keep perfecting my game, keep improving and learning. I am going to try to take as much as I have learned this spring into the summer with me, then build on all of that."

Do they want you to work as a starter this summer?
"Yes sir. We haven't sat down and talked about it but my Strasburg coach has mentioned a couple of times in his emails and interviews that I will be one of the starters. I know that Coach Cohen told me at the beginning of the year that I am more of a starter. I am looking forward to it but we will see."

Will you be a reliever during this season's post-season?
"They haven't mentioned that but I will say yes because that has been what it has been most of the year since the starts against Georgia and Memphis. And I love it."

That leads me to another question. When you are a starter you have to pace yourself. You don't have to do that as a reliever. Could that be part of the reason your velocity was so high in Hoover?
"I think so. But my arm has gotten a lot stronger since I have been here. But when we come out of the pen we don't know how many pitches we are going to throw. I threw three pitches at Alabama one time and he said I did my job. So, you just go out there and pound the zone and throw as hard as you can. So, yeah, you don't have to pace yourself."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network.

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