Self finding success at Mississippi State

Riley Self
By: 
ROBBIE FAULK
Staff Writer

When Riley Self committed to play baseball at Mississippi State before even becoming a full-time high schooler at Magnolia Heights, he couldn’t imagine how things would actually transpire in his first season in maroon and white.
Self concluded a fantastic high school career in private school baseball where he and MSU teammate Dustin Skelton won multiple state championships and accolades were plenty. Still, the Southeastern Conference is a different environment and he wasn’t sure how he would translate. He’s living out his dream in Starkville nonetheless.
“It’s a little more than I expected," Self said of playing at MSU. "It’s definitely exciting and gets your blood going a little more than I thought. It’s always where I wanted to come and it’s amazing.”
Self has the ability to compete in a multitude of roles for MSU’s pitching staff. His talent was evident right away in the fall as he quickly jumped up the board as a guy to watch for head coach Andy Cannizaro and pitching coach Gary Henderson.
As injuries riddled the staff, the bullpen is where Self was called and needed the most. He’s answered by throwing the second most games this season with 24 appearances and he’s competed as a long reliever, middle reliever, setup man and a closer.
With some stout numbers with a 5-0 record and a 2.29 earned run average with 51 strikeouts in 39.1 innings, Self has more than made his impact as a spot on the All-Freshman team is likely on the way. For now, he’s comfortable in his current role but wouldn’t mind if he was starting games in the future.
“It’s been a good year for me so far," Self said of his freshman year. "I’m just trying to do what’s best for the team to win games. Going forward, I’d like to be a starter, but I’m going to have to work on my secondary pitches and developing those.”
Cannizaro feels the same way about his incredibly talented pitcher. In a season where MSU is among the worst in the SEC with a 4.62 ERA, Self has been one of just a few pitchers that he can rely on heavily.
“He’s been tremendous for us this year out of the bullpen," Cannizaro said. "He really has been a lock down guy for us. The role he has right now is the perfect spot for him at this time. I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that he could become a starting pitching for us next year. It really doesn’t matter where he pitches for us, he’s so versatile and so competitive.”
Along with Self in the back of the bullpen has been sophomore Spencer Price, another newcomer that came out of the junior college ranks. Self and Price have known each other for many years playing travel baseball together and they’ve created a dynamic duo that has combined for 18 saves an 8-1 record with 87 strikeouts in 66 innings.
Price’s work this year has given the freshman much more confidence when he comes into the game because he knows what’s waiting behind him. The same could be said vice-versa.
“As long as I get to the last three outs, I know that I’ve got a good guy behind me,” Self said. “Just growing up with him and playing with him in travel ball and now coming here, it’s pretty special. To have him behind me, it definitely eases my mind on the mound.”
Both of MSU’s talented back-end pitchers are set for a battle this weekend as the LSU Tigers come to Starkville for a three-game series. On the line is an Southeastern Conference Western Division title if MSU can win two games and Arkansas doesn’t sweep Texas A&M.
Self may be a freshman, but he knows the importance of the series and expects an epic battle to take place.
“The blood is definitely going to be flowing and there will be some tension in the air,” Self said of the LSU series. “We’re going to have to go out there and perform like we always perform and not let the moment get too big.”

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