Sophomore Righthander Finds Role Finishing out Bulldog Games

So. Is Spencer Price officially the ‘closer’ for Mississippi State these days? “That’s what they tell me,” the man himself shrugs. “I just go out there and pitch when I’m called.”

Well, sure. It’s not like Price is going to call his own number or anything. But, as the innings wind down and the scores tighten up…this Diamond Dog reliever knows when it is time to loosen up the right arm.

“I love it,” said Price. “There’s just nothing like throwing the ninth inning.”

Not that Price (2-1, 1.93) only tosses inning number-nine. He’s had a few slightly-longer stints in his dozen appearances so far. But the theme holds true.

This is Mississippi State’s designated closer, and he loves his job.

“The adrenalin is pumping, the blood gets flowing. It’s quick, short outings, throw multiple times a week maybe. It’s just more fun. I like it.”

The Diamond Dogs find it fun when Price successfully seals off a win, as he’s done six times already. This is what Mississippi State recruited the Olive Branch product for in fact. “I did it my senior year, and last year in junior college.” Price was 3-1 as a senior at DeSoto Central but also had ten saves in 39 innings.

Then at Meridian C.C. he was more of a regular with an 8-1 record and 1.54 ERA. Still his forecast was to take care of late-innings at Mississippi State. “It’s just a role I fit in pretty good and I’d like to keep doing it as long as I can.”

Price is good at it because he likes it. And, because he treats every opportunity—every single one of them—as a save situation.

“I always tell myself it’s a one-run lead.” Which quite often this season, it really is, such as last Friday’s 5-4 final against Tennessee. On Sunday it was a 7-4 difference but still a save opportunity, which Price took care of with just a couple of hiccups.

“I try to keep the same either way, if we’re up ten runs or one or its tied I try to go out there with the same mentality. I can’t let them score.” If the attitude is simple, so is the approach.

“Just attacking,” Price said. “Getting ahead is huge. And you just have to throw strikes. Fastball, slider, you have to have both to get it going.”

Don’t get the idea Price takes his task as routine, though. This Dog prepares as much as any starter, watching the scouting video before a game or series to pick up tendencies and tips. Remember, he can find himself going to the mound at any point in an opposing batting order.

The scouting continues during games of course while starters and middle-relievers take their innings.

“I love to watch the other team. Knowing who likes what, what pitches to throw in certain situations. Coach (Gary) Henderson is great in what he does calling pitches and locations. I trust him and go with what he says.”

While Price has the closer label to himself, fact is finishing State games is something of a tag-team approach. Often as not Price is following Riley Self. The fellow righty is no late-inning slouch himself. Between them they have 44 strikeouts against just 13 walks.

Both throw from the same side but they aren’t the same pitchers, Price said.

“Oh, yeah, it’s a different look. He likes to call it the 1-2 punch. But he does what he does, his ball cuts a lot and he throws hard, a big old boy! And I try to finesse it a little bit more.”

There isn’t a lot of finesse ahead for the Diamond Dogs this week though. Tonight finds Mississippi State (15-10) visiting Memphis for a 6:30 first pitch, by Graham Ashcraft, at AutoZone Park.

The Bulldogs stay on the road too, bussing down to Oxford tomorrow to set up for the annual rivalry series with Ole Miss. This edition is earlier than usual in the SEC schedule, and just plain early with a Thursday start. Four games in five days, all of them rivalry matchups to varying degrees, is a busy stretch.

Price isn’t bothered, any more than he is by end-game pressure. Same for the squad, he said.

“We’re going to be ready.”

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