MSU Baseball Co-Captains Speak Out About the Team

Senior Saunders Ramsey and junior Brad Corley share their thoughts on this year's Mississippi State baseball team.

Considering Mississippi State barely got into a NCAA regional last season after being left out of the SEC Tournament for the first time in decades, what kind of incentive does that give them for this year's team?

"Last year we were given a spot in the regional and a lot of people said we didn't deserve it," said Ramsey. "We went out and won a couple of games, but I think we need to prove we are a powerhouse and not just a bubble team that got in by a fluke."

What are the strengths of this year's team?

"We are really deep with our pitching staff, our outfielders and infielders," said Corley. "We are a lot older this year and you can't replace experience. We also have a lot of hard workers on this team. Plus, the new weight room coach really stressed dedication and doing everything as a team. You are only as good as your weakest link. Instead of just getting the nine starters better, we are trying to get all 44 players better."

Ramsey, who faced MSU's hitters all fall and early spring, also thinks hitting will be a strength.

"As far as the hitters go, I knew coming into the spring that we would be a great hitting team," said Ramsey. "There is not an easy out in the lineup. I tell people all the time that we have 6, 7, 8 guys who can easily hit over .300 this year."

Do either of the captains see any possible weaknesses on the team?

"I think a weakness could be health," said Ramsey. "If we can get everybody healthy that will be a positive, but right now we have some guys in rehab. But as far as team chemistry, athletic ability and coaching goes, I don't think we have a weakness."

With the reality that the left side of the infield will be manned by either two redshirt freshmen or a redshirt freshman and a true freshman, do they see that as being a possible weakness?

"(Redshirt freshman) Bunky (Kateon) has looked awesome (at shortstop) and made every play over there," said Corley. "He is so smooth over there. I don't think we are going to lose a beat at shortstop. Third base is open right now, but (Thomas) Berkery, (Edward) Easley and (Michael) Rutledge have done a great job and all three can swing the bat well. I think the left side will be just as good as it has ever been."

Corley mentioned MSU baseball's new strength coach. What has Coach McCallister brought to the team?

"This year has been more core exercises from the neck to the legs instead of just arms and legs," said Corley. "We did a lot of cleans, a lot of explosive exercises, which has really helped our agility and our strength. Coach McCallister has really concentrated on a baseball workout. Everything we do is either throwing the ball or swinging the bat. It has really helped us tremendously. I have probably gained 10 pounds since the offseason and have a lot more hand strength and speed in my hands. For example, when I hit the handle, it seems like I'm hitting it just as hard as when I hit it off the barrel. Since I came in (as a freshman), I've gone from about 250 pounds to well over 300 (max on the bench press), but I don't really try to do that as a pitcher because it puts strain on my shoulder."

Over the fall and winter, it was mentioned to me that Corley would probably pitch more this season. Does he feel that is a strong possibilty?

"With Brett Cleveland being out (due to an injury), Coach McNickle told me that I am probably the number 1 or 2 reliever right now, closer-wise," said Corley. "And he said I'm going to throw a lot whether it is to one batter or three innings."

Considering location has been his downfall in the past, has he done anything to improve that part of his pitching?

"I've really worked hard on my mechanics this offseason," said Corley. "Coach McNickle has changed a few things. I'm not trying to throw as hard anymore, I'm just trying to locate and hit spots."

Coach Russ McNickle replaced last year's pitching coach, Coach Rock. What has he brought to the staff?

"When I got back, Coach McNickle was so fired up," said Ramsey. "He has really brought a fire to this staff."

Ramsey went into even more detail as to Coach McNickles' style of pitching.

"I think that Coach McNickle does a good job of having us come in, pitch out, throw soft, throw hard," said Ramsey. "I'm throwing two different changups and two different curveballs. That is something that we have worked on. As an example, I showed Thomas Berkery a hard fastball away, then I came with a hard curveball and came back with a fastball in and a soft curveball that he took because he doesn't see a curveball that slow."

Corley also likes the way Coach McNickle has his pitchers challenge hitters from the first pitch to the last.

"Coach Rock, when he got a guy 0-2, he would want to waste a pitch, try to get a guy to chase the pitch. Coach McNickle is coming right at guys. He will challenge you from the get-go. I like that."

How do they see this staff this year?

"I feel really good about this staff," said Ramsey. "We have solid starters and solid relievers. I think how we go is how the team goes."

One pitcher that I have been impressed with is true freshman John Lolar. He throws an 88 to 89 miles per hour fastball with late movment. Are they as impressed as I am with John?

"I worked out with John Lolar all fall," said Ramsey. "We get paired up with another pitcher to throw our bullpens and he was my partner. He has an overpowering fastball with a lot of movement and he is really big. He also has an offspeed pitch."

However, Ramsey also mentioned an aspect of John that is not surprising considering he is still a true freshman just out of high school.

"He has not earned a spot," said Ramsey. "When you are part of the team, you have to earn the respect of everybody on the team. I think people know he can do it, but he hasn't been out there enough to prove to the team that he can go to war with us. I think he has the stuff to be a great SEC pitcher, but he needs to work on his mindset. That's nothing that he doesn't already know. We sat down and talked about that. He's still young and immature, but he is going to get there and be a good pitcher before he leaves here."

Speaking of earning a spot, Ramsey, who is a longtime Starkville resident grew up a Bulldog fan and had to earn his spot by walking on. Going from a walk-on to being an ace reliever is about as good as it gets. Now that he is a senior and has had a chance to reflect on his career, would he change anything?

"If I could draw it out and plan it, I don't think I would change a single thing," said Ramsey. "Being selected team captain this year was an honor. Bobby Thigpen, who was a childhood hero of mine, will speak at our First Pitch Banquet. He is a great friend of my family. I was even in his wedding as a child. And just being able to play for Coach Polk has been a dream come true, really."

Both players know Coach Polk's feeling about the NCAA and how they continue to dilute college baseball. What are their feelings about that subject?

"Part of being a student-athlete is going to class," said Ramsey. "I understand what they are trying to do trying to shorten the season. While Brad (Corley) is about to make a lot of money playing baseball, I'm not. I just went through an interview process and have to find a job. One of the things they looked at was that I play baseball. We do play 56 games and miss a lot of classes, but we still get it done and make the grades. Part of being a student-athlete is planning our days and being organized. If you take that away from us, that takes part of the student out of student-athlete. Then, you are just making us an athlete."

If he was a college coach, would he stand up for the sport as Coach Polk has done and continues to do?

"I think, if I was in the national spotlight as he is and felt as strongly as he does about it, I might be just as vocal," said Ramsey.

The latest beef Coach Polk has with the NCAA is the possibility that they may reduce the number of regular season games significally. Considering Brad Corley was a highly recruited player out of high school who had the opportunity to go pro, would it have affected his decision to sign with State if he knew he wasn't going to be able to play 56 games?

"Not really," said Corley. "The whole thing about pro ball is basically about money. You want to get more money than what an education is worth. And I wouldn't have replaced this experience for any amount of money. I am so proud that I came to college, on and off the field. Coach Polk's program is so awesome, so unbelievable. It wouldn't have mattered how many games I played. Just being a part of this family has been awesome."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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