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Mississippi State: PLAY BALL!: Highly-anticipated 123rd season starts for ranked Bulldogs

February 15, 2013

Baseball season is usually a highly-anticipated one for Mississippi State fans.

The wait comes to an end this afternoon as the No. 13 (Collegiate Baseball) Bulldogs open the 2013 season this weekend with a four-game series against West Coast Conference foe the Portland Pilots.

Today's game is set for 4 p.m. at Dudy Noble Field. Saturday features a single game at 2 p.m. and Sunday will feature a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.

"We're excited about this group this year," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "We have some experience. We feel like we have some depth, and as we've mentioned in the past, we feel like it all starts on the mound and defensively for us."

The Bulldogs send sophomore left-handed pitcher Jacob Lindgren to the mound to open the season. Lindgren was 2-2 last season with a 3.18 earned run average. He only started two games a year ago.

"Jacob Lindgren is somebody who has just pitched very, very well early in the spring and has a power breaking ball, power fastball and again has been able to control the strike zone for the most part," Cohen said.

Junior right-hander Evan Mitchell gets the start in game two and co-captain senior righty Kendall Graveman starts game three. The starter for game four will be determined later.

"(Mitchell) has really pitched well in the fall and the spring," Cohen said. "You kind of hope he makes the same jump that certainly Chris Stratton made. Evan's probably a little bit better athlete than Chris. He's one of the fastest guys on our team as well. He's run some balls up there 94-96, and he's got a great breaking ball, and his ability to control the running game has really matured."

Mitchell was 2-1 and started four games last season for the Bulldogs. He finished with a 3.52 ERA and 43 strikeouts.

Graveman was 4-4 in his 14 starts last year. He ended the season with a 2.81 ERA and recorded 59 strikeouts.

MSU struggled at the plate last season. As a team, the Bulldogs hit .251 and managed only three hits in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship game. Despite the poor offensive effort, they won the tournament.

"I feel like we're going to have a much more capable offensive club than we have in the past," Cohen said.
Junior shortstop Adam Frazier led MSU with a .371 batting average last season. 

The Bulldogs also get back junior outfielder C.T. Bradford. Bradford missed a good portion of last season after injuring his shoulder. 

"He's swing right now versus a year ago is night and day," Cohen said. "He has a chance to be a hitting machine. The big thing he has worked so hard on is, trying to get hits instead of trying to hit balls hard. I think little guys can have that tendency to try and swing too hard at times. Certainly he has been able to make that adjustment. Versus the right pitching and the right matchup, he and Adam at the top of the order, those are two pretty difficult guys to pitch to. That's the kind of combination you are looking for to try and create problems for a pitching staff."

Sophomore first baseman and junior outfielder Hunter Renfore will anchor the middle of the lineup.

"Hunter is such a talented young man and he's tired and sick of me saying stuff like that," Cohen said. "His deal is he has to get hits instead of trying to hit balls hard. If he just puts the barrel in the right spot, instead of trying to really reach back for something extra and doing too much, he'll hit a lot of baseballs a long way."

The Pilots return top hitter in junior outfielder Turner Gill. Gill hit .314 with 30 RBI last season.
Portland finished last season 27-25 and were 8-15 on the road.

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