MSU's Pilkington looks to get back on track against Florida

Mississippi State pitcher Konnor Pilkington
Staff Writer

As the ace of the Mississippi State pitching staff, the Bulldogs rely heavily on Konnor Pilkington. More often than not over his Bulldog career, the junior left-hander has delivered, however that hasn’t been the case the last two weeks.

As MSU prepares to begin a three-game series against top-ranked Florida Thursday night, State desperately needs Pilkington to return to form. Pilkington has now gone back-to-back starts in which he has gone just 4.2 innings and allowed seven runs in each.

“The pitch total is up,” MSU interim head coach Gary Henderson said of Pilkington’s struggles. “I think the command, which was elite command for the first four or five starts this year, has not been there the last two or three starts.”

Pilkington has indeed battled control issues the last few times out. After only walking one batter over his first four starts this season and just nine over his first nine outings and 56 innings pitched, Pilkington has walked 11 guys over his last four starts (21.1 innings pitched).

“You start walking guys, then you have guys on base,” Henderson said. “That equates to runs. The issue is a pretty simple one. The solution isn’t quite as simple as knowing what’s going on. We worked on it (Tuesday) in the bullpen. (Pilkington) was really good. We need him to relax and go out there and perform at the level that he can and the level that he has performed at before.”

Pilkington’s hard times of late have shown in his record. Pilkington hasn’t been credited with a win since he defeated Ole Miss back on April 7 – a span of nearly six weeks. Though a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t always indicative of his success or lack thereof, Pilkington’s has now dropped to 2-6 for the season.

Henderson is hopeful Thursday night’s the night it all starts to turn back around for Pilkington.

“We need him to be more efficient,” Henderson said. “We’ve got to get more than 4.2 innings out of Konnor. That’s for sure.”

Self back in action

After spending nearly a month on the shelf battling injury, Riley Self returned to action last week with two strong appearances. After not pitching since April 11, Self threw 4.1 shutout innings in games against Troy and Kentucky.

Against Troy on May 9, Self gave up just one hit and struck out one over 1.2 innings. He followed that up last Friday with 2.2 innings against Kentucky in which he surrendered just a hit and a walk while striking out a pair.

“I was really pleased,” Henderson said of Self. “He pitched twice last week. I was really pleased to get him back. He brings a competitiveness and an ability to come in and get some outs in the middle or late in a game. We certainly need that.”

Vansau honored

Mississippi State junior outfielder Hunter Vansau was picked to the Southeastern Conference Community Service Team on Wednesday. Each of the SEC’s 14 baseball teams has one representative.

Vansau recorded community service hours across 13 different events during the 2017-18 academic year. He has spent time as a classroom assistant at MSU’s T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability. He is also an active Student-Athlete Advisory Committee member along with being involved in the Mississippi State M-Club.

Vansau is a recent graduate of MSU with a degree in finance. He was also Mississippi State’s 2018 Newsom Award recipient for baseball – an honor for academic excellence, personal development, community service and athletic success.