Oregon St. will open the NCAA College World Series Saturday afternoon, and the Beavers' opponent will be Mississippi St. from the SEC. It will be the first meeting ever between the teams.
The Bulldogs got to Omaha by sweeping host Virginia in the Charlottesville Super Regional.
We got together with Josh from forwhomthecowbelltolls.com, SB Nation's Mississippi St. blog to exchange some questions and answers, and Josh had the answers that will remove some of the mystery about how the Bulldogs, who went 48-18, and 16-14 in the SEC, are doing.
Getting into detail about MSU:
Mississippi St. went away from their normal rotation against Virginia, throwing sometimes starter Trevor Fitts first. What was the reason for that? Do you expect the Bulldogs to revert to Luis Pollorena or Kendall Graveman?
The starting rotation has really evolved this year for MSU. Jacob Lindgren was the #1 guy for the first month of the season but he went down with an injury for the Arkansas series and Luis Pollorena stepped into the Friday night role, but Graveman has been considered the ace since that Arkansas series when he began a string of three consecutive complete games including one shutout.
Lindgren moved into the Sunday role but he hasn't seen any action since Regionals started and Fitts has taken his place, but don't expect to see Fitts in Game 1. Graveman will undoubtedly start as was with the first game of Regionals and Super Regionals - he is really our only starter who we plan on getting at least 5 innings out of.
What should Oregon St. fans expect to see in terms of the Bulldog bullpen?
OSU has starters - MSU has relievers. We are basically backwards because the starters (outside of Graveman) will probably only go 2-3 innings (4 if we're really lucky) while we have some dominating long relief guys who are very capable of pitching up to six innings.
There are 4 key guys to watch out for from the bullpen: Ross Mitchell (12-0, 1.35 in 86.2 IP) who is a crafty lefty that tops out his fastball around 82-83 but he is very very effective as you can see from his stats; Chad Girodo (8-1, 1.38 in 45.2 IP) is another lefty who has a devastating slider - during the regular season he was mostly used in matchup situations vs. left-handed batters but he has emerged as a long reliever in the postseason going 6.2 to close out Cental Arkansas in the Regional and 4.2 in the finale with Virginia (those 2 ER are there due to some home-cooking by the scorekeeper); Ben Bracewell (1-1, 148 in 30.1 IP) is a RHP with good stuff and some life on his fastball - we may be saving him for a start later on though; Johnathon Holder (2-0, 1.31 in 48 IP) is a righty, our best pitcher and closer - he is averaging over a strikeout and a half per inning with his big 12 to 6 curveball which he throws as much as his 93-94 mph fastball.
I would doubt you'd see anyone outside of those 4 in a Game 1 scenario unless we get pretty far behind - in which case you may see Myles Gentry or Will Cox, but neither one of them are up to the level of the above guys yet.
Mississippi St. appears to play for the big inning, with more multiple run scoring innings than single run ones of late. Is that a persistent and consistent approach preferred by Coach John Cohen, who is highly regarded as a hitting instructor, or more a product of circumstances?
John Cohen has really molded this team after its strengths which is a credit to him - he is more of a play for one run per inning type of guy and that is what we did last year with an endless amount of bunts. MSU doesn't possess much power outside of Hunter Renfroe and Wes Rea, but there are singles hitters all the way through the order that are pretty consistent.
Lately State has been able to string a bunch of hits together and take advantage of defensive miscues to put a lot of runs of the board. To answer your question, I think it just depends on the situation. Early in the game don't look for Cohen to try to steal or bunt as he will try to put a crooked number up, but if it gets into the later innings he will bunt and steal to try to scratch a run across if need be.
Hunter Renfroe is hitting .360, and has 15 home runs. Are teams pitching around him often? If not, who keeps opposition pitcher honest?
Hunter was actually hitting over .400 for most of the year but went into a pretty significant funk in May...so even though his stats drawf everyone else's, we were dreading his next AB (also since everyone but him was hitting). Fortunately he has snapped out of it the last 3 games going 8 for 13 and looking like the Renfroe of March and April (I think a lot had to do with stress from the MLB Draft where he was selected 13th overall). But opposing teams have not really been pitching around him.
Brett Pirtle is your prototypical 2nd baseman but hits behind Renfroe in the cleanup spot and has been one of our most consistent hitters, reaching base 39 straight games now. He has done well and Wes Rea hits 5th - he's a guy with power and a solid hitter as well.
Mississippi St. was losing a lot of competitive series (Central Arkansas, LSU, Kentucky, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss), admittedly against quality opponents, but then things seemed to come together here of late. Did something change (Player back from injury? Lineup change?), or was it more a matter of ever increasing experience?
I think it has been getting everyone hot at the same time. Early in the year Renfroe and Alex Detz were red hot and carried the team while Wes Rea was out, then Rea came back and Adam Frazier (second best hitter) went into a funk. For the last four weeks the offense has been clicking with even more guys like Demarcus Henderson stepping up which has matched the continued dominance of the bullpen to produce a 12-3 record over the last 15.
We noticed the official team website is hailstate.com. Does it hail a lot there in Starkville? Will you bringing a storm with you to Omaha, just in case?
Well, it's a different type of 'hail'. Our fight song is "Hail Dear ole State", so our rallying cry is, "Hail State". It's like Auburn's "War Eagle" or Texas A&M's "Gig 'em". We do have a well-respected meteorology department, however, so they may want to come out to the great plains with us for some storm chasing.
Thanks, Josh! Great insights.
Looking forward to an interesting opening game!