By MATTHEW STEVENS
After checking his cell phone after practice yesterday afternoon, Jaron Shepherd knew there had to be some good news with his name all over it.
The Mississippi State senior outfielder was selected Wednesday by the Colorado Rockies in the 33rd round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft.
Shepherd told the Starkville Daily News Wednesday afternoon, before he and his team got on the bus to leave for Gainesville for the Super Regional matchup vs. No. 2 Florida this weekend, that he was informed he was drafted an hour after the fact via a voicemail message from Rockies area scout Damon Iannelli because he was completing an afternoon practice at Dudy Noble Field.
“It was really exciting to get the opportunity to continue playing more baseball as a career,” Shepherd said. “My family were the first people I called and they were excited for me.”
Ianelli, who used to coach at Southern Mississippi, is a person the Mississippi State coaching staff is very familiar with and says scouts regular season games in Starkville on a consistent basis.
"Jaron has skills to be a good pro and I told him we'll talk after their season is done about what we envision for him in the future," Ianelli said. "I want to him and the rest of the guys there to concentrate on getting to Omaha because that's been a great turnaround they've made this season. Jaron's production is a major part of that."
Ianelli has been an area scout for the Colorado organization since 1999 and signed MSU recruit Corey Dickerson last year to a $125,000 bonus after taking the Meridian Community College product out of the eighth round.
“I don’t think I had any face-to-face contact with him yet but he told me he’d seen me play and had respect for game so that was cool to hear,” Shepherd said.
After being drafted four years ago in the 17th-round selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Kilgore (Texas) High School, Shepherd was taken again after a single season at Navarro (Texas) Community College was a 44th-round selection by the Cincinnati Reds. Last season, Shepherd went undrafted and now after completing the 2011 season where the 6-foot-2 left-handed bat is hitting .295 and playing every day in right field at Mississippi State.
"He really showed me that he's advanced his game and using all the athleticism and tools he has on a much more consistent basis," Ianelli said. "Stuff like executing a hit-and-run at the plate by putting the ball right in the hole the shortstop was, going first to third on a single and playing great defense are things I saw a lot this year."
Routt or Mitchell will start Game 1 vs. Florida
Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said he’ll decide the order of his starting rotation on the mound on the bus ride to Florida.
The choice is between junior left-hander Nick Routt (3-3, 3.78 ERA) or freshman right-hander Evan Mitchell (6-1, 3.47) in the first two games of the best-of-three series set to start at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.
The righty-lefty duo won the final two games of the Atlanta Regional that MSU swept last weekend to get them in a series rematch with the Gators in their own ballpark with a trip to the College World Series in Omaha at stake.
Routt dominated Georgia Tech in the 7-3 victory Sunday with a 91-93 mile-per-hour fastball and a slider without having to rely on consistently going to the breaking ball late in counts to a powerful Yellow Jackets lineup.
“I always loved to pitch with my fastball because it makes things so much easier and I don’t feel like I’m a crafty left as they say,” Routt said. “I like to come after guys and make our defense work.”
Routt went undrafted in the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft guaranteeing he will be back in a Mississippi State for his fourth year on campus. However, after sitting out a majority of last year that eventually resulted in surgery on his pitching arm, Cohen told the Starkville Daily News his staff “is extremely confident” the left-hander will get clearance for a medical redshirt year giving him leverage in next year’s selection process.
The southpaw from Silver Springs, Md., threw his first nine-inning complete game since 2009 allowing just six hits in a 114-pitch effort.
“Obviously we’re just so proud of what Routt did and if he pitches like he did last weekend he can beat anybody in the country,” Cohen said. “You really feel good about the way Evan pitched as well especially to left-handed hitting.”
Bradford named to national All-Freshman Team
Mississippi State freshman outfielder C.T. Bradford has been named to Collegiate Baseball magazine’s 2011 Freshman All-America Team. The honor unit was announced by the Arizona-based national publication Wednesday.
Bradford, second on the club with 72 hits, sports a .309 batting average with 34 RBI, third-most on the team. An SEC All-Freshman Team selection, Bradford led MSU at the plate in last weekend’s NCAA Atlanta Regional, going 7-for-13 (.538) with five RBI. He joined six MSU teammates on the regional’s all-tournament team and was selected as the most outstanding player.
“It’s difficult enough to contribute as a freshman, but it’s especially difficult to contribute at such a high level in the Southeastern Conference,” said Cohen. “C.T. has been an integral part of our ball club from the moment he stepped on the campus. He is a deserving recipient of this honor.”
The Pace, Fla., product is the only Bulldog player this season to play in all 60 games and enters this weekend’s NCAA Gainesville Super Regional riding an 11-game hitting streak.
Bradford becomes the 30th Mississippi State player to earn freshman all-America honors and the first since the 2007 campaign.