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Mississippi State head coach John Cohen is considering tinkering with the starting pitching rotation once again in order to match up with its regular season's final opponent.
The Bulldogs third-year head coach is publicly saying right now that the Saturday spot for Saturday game against LSU at 2 p.m. is being listed as 'TBA' mainly due to the fact Louisiana State (33-19, 11-16 in SEC play) is so right-handed dominated at the plate.
Cohen said he could see a situation where the projected third day starting pitcher sophomore Chris Stratton would be needed out of the bullpen, which would be the first relief appearance of his MSU career, in the first two nights of the series.
"If (Chris) wasn't used in either of the first two days, it's more than likely he'd make that start on the final day," Cohen said. "That's an incredibly fair statement to make."
Cohen had mentioned Stratton (5-6, 5.17 ERA) had "some soreness" during his series finale start Saturday at Ole Miss when the Tupelo native gave up six runs in only 2/3 of an inning.
It would mark the first time Stratton left a game without managing to get through the opening frame. The right-hander saw his earned run average in league games soar to 7.36 in nine starts.
When directly asked Cohen about the health of his sophomore right-handed pitcher, the MSU head coach clarified his remarks saying Stratton "for whatever reason didn't feel comfortable Saturday" but doesn't have concerns over a potential injury situation with him.
"It was just one of those days he wasnâ€™t feeling right," Cohen said. "I don't have any concerns that whenever Chris Stratton pitches this weekend that he'll be healthy."
Cohen is leaving the Saturday spot open also in preparation for a must-win situation in which nearly every pitcher on the Mississippi State squad might be asked to be available if they are physically able to participate in the game including bringing back Thursday night's starting pitcher Luis Pollorena out of the bullpen for a late-game matchup situation that he was dominant in before being put in the rotation.
"Obviously the safety of our kids' arms are priority number one but if the guys are physically able to perform - yeah, we may need everybody and anybody if it comes down to that," Cohen said. "We will not put our kids in a position that's not physically safe but if we have to have that last game, it's something we're thinking about."
There's still numerous combinations of scenarios that exist but the only starting point to Mississippi State (32-19, 13-14 in SEC) being knocked out of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament is if they are swept by LSU this weekend. However, the Bulldogs can still win a share of the Western Division for the first time since 1989 â€“ when Cohen was an outfielder at Mississippi State playing for former head coach Ron Polk.
"I told the team today this weekend is all about us," Cohen said. "We have a chance to win a share of the Western Division in the best league in America for the first time since 1989. It's been a long time since our fans have had a chance to even say that."
for Ferriss Trophy
Mississippi State senior third baseman Jarrod Parks has been named one of three finalists for the 2011 Cellular South Ferriss Trophy.
The trophy, named in honor of former Mississippi State and Boston Red Sox pitching great Dave â€śBooâ€ť Ferriss, will be presented during an 11:30 a.m. luncheon May 23 near Park's hometown of Madison at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson.
Heading into the final weekend of league competition, Parks leads the Southeastern Conference in both batting average (.396) and on-base percentage (.538).
The other two finalists are both from Southern Mississippi in preseason All-American selection junior shortstop V.A. Vollmuth and senior outfielder Tyler Koelling. The finalists were selected by a panel of 25 voters that includes collegiate coaches, Major League scouts and a media member.
â€śWe are really proud of Jarrod for his accomplishments this year, especially when you consider how he has worked so hard to rebound from a painful season-ending injury last year,â€ť said Cohen. â€śWhen you consider his batting average, his on-base percentage and his defensive play this season, we believe he is a worthy candidate for the Cellular South Ferriss Trophy.â€ť
After returning to the team in 2010 from season-ending back surgery has hit safely in 43 of his 50 games, leading MSU in hits (67), runs scored (43), slugging percentage (.538), walks (36) and HBPs (17).
The Bulldog third baseman is the fifth Mississippi State player to be named a finalist for the Cellular South Ferriss Trophy, joining Brad Corley (2004), Thomas Berkery (2006), Ed Easley (2007) and Connor Powers (2010). Both Berkery and Easley won the award.
start at Memphis
Mississippi State plans to send sophomore right-hander Kendall Graveman to the hill for his ninth start of the campaign when they travel to the Triple-A affiliate ballpark of Memphis Redbirds tonight.
Graveman (5-0, 3.51 ERA) has four wins in his last five starts. State has won eight of its last nine games after registering its second straight SEC road series win last weekend, a 2-1 series win at Ole Miss. This start will likely make the sophomore from Alexander City, Ala., unavailable to pitch in the opener of the Southeastern Conference series with LSU starting Thursday at 6 p.m.
Memphis counters with freshman southpaw Erik Schoenrock (2-3, 5.61 ERA), the son of seventh-year UM head coach and former MSU assistant coach Daron Schoenrock.
The Bulldogs have won 12 of their last 13 games against the Tigers and hold a 50-21 all-time series lead. State is 3-2 against Memphis in games played at AutoZone Park, the home of the St. Louis Cardinalsâ€™ Pacific Coast League AAA affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds. The Redbirds, coached by former Mississippi State first baseman Chris Maloney, face Fresno Grizzlies at 1:05 p.m. in the first half of a pro/college baseball doubleheader at AutoZone Park.