McNickle Talks About His Pitchers of Summer

Several of the Mississippi State pitchers had excellent summer seasons pitching for various summer leagues. MSU pitching coach Russ McNickle talked with Gene's Page about their performances and the things he wanted them to work on during the summer.

Several of your young pitchers had outstanding summer seasons. One, sophomore LHP Mitch Moreland, pitched extremely well in relief. Were you surprised how well he did after not pitching this past spring?
"Statistically, there is no question that I was very surprised. Before Mitch went out to play this summer, we changed his delivery. It wasn't a major change, but just something to create a little more rhythm. I told him I wanted him to work on the mechanical part of his delivery. Plus, we've had him start to throw the cutter, a pitch that I really like. The cutter is actually like a slider, but doesn't have the depth. It's more of a lateral pitch instead of a sinker. (Former MSU pitchers) Todd Doolittle and Alan Johnson had one. (Senior MSU pitcher) Brett Cleveland has one.

"He was their closer and really pitched well, especially at the end. He was very impressive, throwing 18 innings with 31 punch outs (strikeouts) and only 12 walks and 12 hits (1-2, 7 S, 2.41 ERA). I'm anxious to see him throw this fall. When he first got here, he was a country hardball thrower who didn't understand location and didn't know how to pitch."

Three guys that pitched tremendously well this past summer were (sophomore) John Lalor, (junior) Josh Johnson and (redshirt freshman) Chad Crosswhite.
"With Lalor, I wanted him to go out and learn about stamina and to get stronger. I also wanted him to continue to improve his breaking ball. What he can already do is pitch with his fastball and changeup. His numbers (this summer) were unbelievable: 46 innings, 33 hits, 35 strikeouts (5-2, 1.16 ERA). The biggest concern I have with John is for him to get stronger so that he can maintain his velocity. The key for him this fall will be for (MSU strength coach) John McCallister to continue to get John stronger.

"Josh is still a mystery for me. This is the second summer in a row where he's gone out and dominated (4-1, 1.83 ERA, 44 IP, 34 H, 32 SO, 12 BB). Josh just needs to get a feel for his breaking ball and his changeup. Last season, we tried to force feed the changeup and he struggled with it. But he also changed his breaking ball about four times during the season. There's no doubt that Josh has the arm to pitch in this league as well as professional baseball.

"The thing we wanted Josh to do this summer was to improve his breaking ball and to continue getting his change better. Mike Roberts, who was his coach this summer and who used to coach at North Carolina, said that his changeup was really, really good this summer.

"The biggest adjustment that Crosswhite (5-0, 2.05 ERA, 39.1 IP, 44 SO) made during the (spring) redshirt practices was learning angles and how to pitch with his fastball. His summer was phenomenal. I was disappointed in the start he had because he had some quality outings and then they didn't pitch him for a while. I actually called to see if he was hurt. He indicated to me that they were using some other guys, but that they were going to give him some more shots. When they did, they just continued using him.

"I really wanted him to go up there and work on his changeup and also to learn how to use his fastball in different zones. Looking at his numbers, 44 punch outs in 39 innings was about where I wanted him to be.

"I think the Mississippi State fans will like watching Chad and the demeanor he has and the way he goes about his business. I like him because he fits into my style, which is an aggressive, attacking type guy."

Jesse Carver pitched a lot of innings, but his stats weren't that good. What did you have in mind for him this summer?
"I wanted him to go out and get some innings. I just needed for him to throw. He's really not a starter, but that's what they were trying to use him as. I was glad that they used him as a starter because he needed to get the innings in. Early on, he had good outings, then had some bad outings where he would walk 10 guys. He threw 50 innings, but he walked a lot of guys (36). That's probably why he lost some games. But that's just a maturation process for him."

Jeremiah Boling was 3-2 with a 2.06 ERA.
"He was the guy who surprised me the most. We had to shut him down at the end due to his innings. He didn't strikeout a lot of guys, which concerns me because he has a quick arm. In a wood bat league and throwing 56 innings, I figured he would have more strikeouts than he actually had (26).

"Our goal for him this summer was for him to get some innings in and to improve his breaking ball. Based on his strikeouts and innings pitched, that means his breaking ball is not going to be where I would like to have it during the fall. He can pitch off of his fastball right now, but his breaking ball is not SEC-caliber. He has the potential to throw an SEC breaking ball, but for some reason he does not want to let it go. To throw a lot here, he knows he's got to start throwing it."

Justin Pigott did ok this summer playing for Athletes in Action.
"Playing for Athletes in Action is a different deal. They aren't a great team, but they have a different mission, which is to share the Gospel while playing against good competition. Knowing the perfectionist Justin is, I'm sure he's disappointed in his performance baseball-wise. But I guarantee you that he will be a different person once he talks about his experiences about sharing the Word."

Mike Valentine only pitched 12+ innings this summer. Was there a reason he threw so few innings?
"Mike Valentine went out on his own this summer. I really wanted him to shut it down because he was tired after pitching a lot for us, but I left it up to him. He played for a little while, then shut it down. I was happy with that decision."

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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