MSU pitcher Caleb Reed throws during a game last season. (Photo by Michael Wardlaw, SDN)
Caleb Reed has become a pitcher the Mississippi State Bulldogs have come to depend on to shut down opponents in the late innings of baseball games.
That trust didn't just come overnight.
Reed has cut his earned run average down each year at MSU and has pointed to learning from past experiences as the reason.
Even though he doesn't have the typical closer body or a particular zip on his fastball, Reed said his ability to think is what makes him effective.
"My mind has gotten me further advanced than some (closers)," Reed said. "It's what I've gone through to get to this point. I've taken those bad opportunities and learned from them. I think learning from the past and not dwelling on it has been a big thing for me. That makes me where I am today."
Reed's ERA has gone from 9.17 in 17.2 innings pitched as a freshmen for the Bulldogs in 2009 to 6.99 in 67 innings worked as a sophomore and 1.55 in 64 innings thrown as a junior last season.
MSU coach John Cohen said Reed is smart and uses that to his advantage.
"He's such a great competitor and always trying to figure out a better way to do something," Cohen said. "What he did from his sophomore to junior year was incredible. He changed his body and reinvented himself.
Dropping down and having a lower arm action really helped him as well."
Reed had 12 saves last season, but one of the wins he failed to nail down for the Bulldogs came in the Gainesville Super Regional when Florida's Preston Tucker hit a home run off him and the Gators won an 8-6 decision.
It's just another lesson that Reed believes will help him this season.
"I could dwell on that pitch I made to Preston Tucker over and over again, but it was where I wanted it and he hit the pitch that I was going to throw," Reed said. "I learned from it and moved past it. We may be in the same situation down in Gainesville when we go down there this year so you move on, take what you get and learn from the past."
As a senior captain on this year's MSU team, Reed knows there are younger players looking up to him.
The message Reed has been trying to give them is don't give up even when things aren't going well early.
"You are going to get beat up eventually," Reed said. "Even the best get beat up. Nick Routt is one of the best pitchers we have but he's had outings where he's been beat up a little. He learned from it and didn't sit there and let that bother him the whole year. I think in my first outing at Dudy Noble, I gave up five runs against Northern Illinois. You've just got to move on and move past it."
Reed has come a long way and it has led to numerous preseason honors.
He was chosen preseason first-team All-Southeastern Conference by College Sports Madness, Louisville Slugger TPX Preseason All-American third-team by Collegiate Baseball, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-American first-team, and 2012 Perfect Games College Baseball All-American team.
Along with all of that recognition, Reed has made the initial watch list for the eighth annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award.
Reed appreciates all of the preseason honors, but believes it's more important to get those at the end of the season.
"What I want is postseason awards," Reed said. "If I can get postseason awards, that means our team is winning and that's the most important. It may mean our team is moving forward and maybe going to Omaha."
Cohen said Reed is so focused on what he has to do that the preseason awards haven't seemed to have distracted him any.
"He is such a grounded individual," Cohen said. "As busy as our kids are with school and baseball and how hard they are pushing each other, I don't think there's time for him to think about that kind of stuff because it's all about what's next."
The Bulldogs begin the 2012 season on Feb. 17 with the first of a three-game series against Washington State.
Despite winning the Atlanta Regional and reaching the championship game of the Gainesville Regional in 2011, MSU is nowhere to be found in the preseason rankings.
Reed knows how good the Bulldogs are and anticipates them to be a surprise squad once again.
"We still have that chip on our shoulder," Reed said. "As good as we did last year, nobody has us picked to go anywhere hardly. We finished strong last year and we're going to start off strong this year. We're going to go out and prove ourselves again."
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