MSU Baseball Defeats Memphis Twice

Mississippi State head baseball coach Ron Polk and players Josh Johnson and Joseph Hunter talked about their team's 11-8 and 4-2 wins over Memphis. Memphis head coach, Daron Schoenrock, a former pitching coach under Coach Polk at Georgia and MSU, also talked about the games.

Pitcher Josh Johnson

It was pretty cold and windy today but you still pitched really well.
"It was a cold day today. Everybody had to deal with it, hitters and pitchers. I just came out and did the best I could."

What did you have going for you today?
"Everything was going good today. It hadn't been lately. I had been struggling lately throwing strikes. That's the reason I pitched today. I pitched against Eastern Illinois my first game and kind of struggled a little bit my first few innings. I came back against Kansas last weekend and did a little bit better job. Then, I went out to Arizona and faced a lot better hitting ballclub. I don't know if I put more pressure on myself because we had lost the first two games, but I came out and threw a lot of balls and walked four guys in the first inning and then it got out of hand. Because of that, they wanted me to work today and get my confidence back up and get the team's confidence back up in me."

This appears to have been your best outing this season.
"It was my best outing. I came out and concentrated better. I came out and pitched like I know I can pitch."

Since you pitched 7 innings during this game, do you think the coaches will pitch you this Sunday?
"I don't know. They intended for me to throw 3 or 4 innings today and get me out of the game. But it ended up with me throwing more innings because we were tied one and one for a while. I'll be ready to throw on Sunday, but they may throw Jon Crosby on Sunday. They said something to him earlier about throwing Sunday."

If they decide not to pitch you Sunday, has there been any talk about using you in relief this weekend?
"They haven't said anything about it. I've always been a starter, but they haven't said anything to me about it."

Centerfielder Joseph Hunter

You are really hitting the ball well. In fact, your batting average is up to .450.
"I'm seeing it well and not trying to do too much. The biggest thing for me is I'm just trying to stay consistent this year."

With your first SEC series coming up this weekend, do you feel this team is ready for that challenge?
"Oh yeah, I think we are going to hit the ball. And our pitchers are coming around and throwing strikes. That's a key for them."

Do you know much about Vanderbilt, this weekend's opponent?
"I know they will be tough. They have good pitching. I know they lost a lot of key hitters, but their coach, Coach Corbin, gets the best out of them."

How much did playing Arizona help your team get ready for the SEC?
"I definitely think Arizona is one of the best teams in the nation. They play hard, run the bases well, hit well, have good pitching. When it's all said and done, they should be one of the best teams in the nation and we hung with them. We just made a couple of key errors that really hurt us."

While playing in Arizona, did you and the rest of your teammates have to make any adjustments due to the air?
"They have a huge field. It's 360 down the lines and 400 in dead center. And the ball hangs up in the air a lot. As an outfielder, we were playing a little deeper. That is the reason they were running on us, but there's not much you can do."


Coach Ron Polk

What did you think about Memphis' team?
"Memphis is a nice hitting club. They got 17 hits one day, but only 3 hits the next day. A lot of that was due to us throwing a little harder. Brooks Dunn didn't throw very hard for some reason. I think velocity bothers the Memphis hitters."

Starting pitcher Josh Johnson did a good job for you today.
"Josh threw well. That's a great confidence-builder for him."

With Josh throwing so many pitches today, will he be able to start Sunday's game?
"He can go Sunday, but can probably only go 4 or 5 innings. We wanted to win today and there is a question mark as to whether he would be a Sunday rotation guy because he has struggled a little bit. This should give him some confidence."

What does your weekend rotation will be this weekend?
"Right now, we will probably go with AJ (Alan Johnson) on Friday, (Todd) Doolittle on Saturday and TBA on Sunday. For Sunday, we'll make a decision after seeing how Josh's rehab goes the next couple of days."

If Josh isn't able to go, who will be your next option?
"I don't really know. We may mix and match. We have Cleveland. We have (Mike) Valentine. (Jon) Crosby is a possibility. Crosby would probably be the next guy."

You lost 2 of 3 to Arizona. Your next opponent, Vanderbilt, also had a tough weekend against Baylor this past weekend.
"Yeah, at home. Baylor is really good. They lost a lot of one-run games last year, but they have everybody back. So, I wasn't surprised that they did well in Nashville."

Does it worry you that Vanderbilt lost three games last weekend?
"I like to play a team that has lost three straight more than playing one who has won three straight. They are down a little bit and are about to go on the road. They start to have a little self-doubt. But, they are probably the best defensive team in the league. They also have the best (pitching staff) in the league with the possible exception of Georgia. I don't know what (Ryan) Mullins' situation is. I've heard he has a disciplinary problem, so I don't know when he will be back."

(According to an official release from Vanderbilt, junior left-hander Ryan Mullins, who is 2-0 on the season and considered the ace of Vanderbilt's pitching staff coming into the season, was suspended indefinitely prior to last weekend's Baylor series due to violation of team rules.-Gene)


Memphis head coach Daron Schoenrock

It wasn't exactly the best homecoming for you as far as on the field of play.
"Now, but it was great to see all those guys. I helped recruit 99% of their roster. I felt like we had a good plan for them, but they are a nice team. They are a little bit more talented than we are right now, but I think our guys played hard and stayed with them. Really, a play or two either way and we could have taken one of these games. But a sign of a good club is they can still win games when they don't play their best. I think that's what they (Mississippi State) can do this year."

The weather was also a factor.
"We've played in a lot of tough weather conditions, so that wasn't really a factor. Josh (Johnson) pitched outstanding today. He did a great job of getting ahead of our guys and we couldn't pull the trigger on some good two-strike fastballs. That's what velocity does for you. That's why we all try to recruit (pitchers with) velocity. When you can get ahead and keep guys off-balance, that's big for you. And he did a great job of that."

Defense hurt you quite a bit in the first game and also in the second game.
"We are a little bit suspect defensively. We still have some injuries. We lost a tremendous rightfielder in Jordan Hart in yesterday's game. He is done for the season. We still hope that we can get a couple of infielders back that are hurt."


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


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