Ron Polk's Teleconference

During his Thursday morning teleconference, Coach Polk talked about many things, including upcoming opponent LSU, why his team has struggled to make the SEC Tournament the last two years, the potential of his team's young pitchers, how many teams he feels deserve to make it to the NCAA Regionals, and his team's chances of making it to the NCAA Regionals if they don't make it to the SEC Tournament.

Coach Polk's team is in a battle to make it to the SEC Tournament. Only LSU, his team's opponent this weekend, stands in the way. However, while you might think the pressure is all on the Bulldogs, Coach Polk doesn't see it that way.

"Both teams have a lot to play for, LSU for the SEC title and SEC West," said Polk. "Of course, we are playing for the SEC Tournament and also continue our push for NCAA Regional consideration."

While you would think LSU playing MSU on the road would be a factor in MSU's favor, that might not be the case this year.

"LSU at home in the SEC is 7-8 and 9-3 on the road, which is kind of strange," said Polk. "I've had teams somewhat like that, where they played better on the road in the SEC than they did at home, especially if the crowd is grumbling a little bit. They relax a little bit more on the road. I wish it was different and LSU was 9-3 at home and 7-8 on the road, but that's not the case. They've struggled, as most SEC teams have during the season. LSU had that struggling time about three and a half to four weeks ago. But since that time, they've played very well."

One thing that is in MSU's favor, however, is how LSU has done against righthanded pitchers. All three of MSU's SEC starting pitchers are righthanded.

"It's amazing, LSU's batting average against lefthanded pitching is much higher than against righthanded pitchers," said Polk. "That feeds into our advantage a little bit because we have righthanded starters."

Ok, we now know the advantages and disadvantages each team has over the other. However, let's say the worst scenario happens and MSU doesn't do what they need to do to get into the SEC Tournament. Does he think his team has a legitimate shot of making the NCAA Regionals after not making the SEC Tournament, as was the case last year?

"I think 11 deserve it, but a lot depends on how Georgia does against Tennessee this weekend," said Polk. "There's no question that 10 should be in, but I feel comfortable in saying 9. We got 9 in the last two years. And they thought that was a stretch. The whole key is political correctness. While the baseball committee is made up of baseball people, they get in the room and ask how can we take 10 from one league? People could say the league is that good. You can't hurt a team because they are in a tough league. They want the 64 best teams, that is what the goal is. Then the RPI is supposed to be the magic number. Looking at the RPIs, everybody (in the SEC) but Kentucky are in the top 30."

Will not having 40 wins hurt his team's chances of making the NCAA Regionals if they don't make it to the SEC Tournament?

"Looking at the overall records of all the schools in the SEC, I don't think anyone will achieve 40 (wins) this year," said Polk. "That is probably going to be a fact in the future years due to the parity in our league. And also because the NCAA may change the number of games played from 56 to 48."

Earlier, Polk mentioned fans grumbling. There has been some of that this year. Has he had many fans call him complaining about the play of his team? Or, at the very least, offer helpful advice?

"I haven't had a call, and only one or two letters about such things as why don't you start this guy," said Polk. "I've had a couple of nice, positive letters. A couple of professors have told me that they have some of my players in their classes and they are just gentlemen. We get a lot of compliments, but I don't get letters and phone calls and nasty things left on my voice mail. If I did, I would erase it anyway."

Polk explained his feelings about those fans that complain most often.

"Anytime you struggle a little, you are always saying I wish this guy was healthy or I wish we had recruited this other kid who went to this other school," said Polk. "There is always second guessing. I don't worry about that. At my age, I don't worry about those things that I can't control."

Although he's not worried about the MSU baseball program, there are some fans that are due to the last two years of struggling in the SEC. Is there anything that he could tell those fans that would help them better understand why his team has struggled?

"I knew last year was going to be a battle because of injuries and also because of youth," said Polk. "We had 31 freshmen and sophomores. And this year the league is so tough. (But) overall, our record is right there with everybody else. (In the SEC) we just happened to lose three 2-1 ball games. But losing those ball games doesn't mean we are not a good ballclub. There's a lot of luck with who is coming up (to bat) and who is injured, etc. (Plus) last year, with the three injuries we sustained early, I think we almost over achieved. This year, we lost Mungle again, Rea has not been able to go full speed and Hunter has been in and out a considerable amount of time.

"When I look around the SEC, I tell the coaches in our meetings that it seems like no one gets hurt on the other ballclubs. It seems like everybody is always healthy."

Has not having a true Friday night ace pitcher like a Paul Maholm also been a factor in his team's struggle?

"Yes, a little bit," said Polk. "You don't get many Paul Maholms. You probably get a Paul Maholm every five or six years. It's always nice to have that Friday night guy so that you don't have to score 8 or 9 runs. But, we don't have that. Our three starting pitchers, for the most part, have been great. Most of the time, they get us into the mid-part of the game."

Does he feel like he has any potential Paul Maholms on the current staff or among his pitching signees, maybe somebody like a Matt Lea or an Aaron Weatherford?

"Lea and Weatherford are good," said Polk. "(Sophomore) Michael Valentine is good. Generally, the guys who get to start Friday night are the power righthanders or the crafty lefthanders who have a little giddy up. (Sophomore) Josh Johnson has enough (velocity) to become a very effective pitcher. He's still a young buck on our pitching staff. Will Lea, Weatherford, (or other signees) Hollinghead, Bowen or Koon be a Friday night (guy)? Yeah, we hope all of them could be that good. But who knows how much a kid will develop."

What about a youngster like current weekday starter John Lalor, a guy who Major League Baseball scouts project to be a hard thrower before he leaves MSU?

"John hasn't reached his potential yet," said Polk. "He's a strike-thrower and has a great changeup. But I have to believe, as his body matures, he is going to pick up 2 to 4 miles per hour on his fastball. If he does that and continues throwing strikes and keeps his changeup, he could be a guy that could develop into a Friday night guy."

Any final thoughts? Maybe something that he does worry about.

"I just worry about college baseball," said Polk. "I really do. If they would just give college baseball what we deserve. Give us what women's crew receives, 20 scholarship. Then, we don't have to worry. But we are in a war with a very, very, very uncaring organization (NCAA) that just doesn't care about our sport or our kids. We are trying to education them, but you can't educate those that don't care."

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

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