The Notebook: MSU prepares for A&M, pitchers shining

Technically it’s Thursday, but it’s also the start of the weekend for Mississippi State baseball as it hosts Texas A&M on ESPNU tonight to start the series, so it’s on the diamond where The Notebook begins.

John Cohen had his weekly session with the media yesterday, in which he said the pitching rotation of Trevor Fitts, Ross Mitchell and TBA gets moved up a day, with Fitts taking the mound tonight.

YQMPLOUQEPBVIGZ.20140321003702Of particular note, Cohen shared that Preston Brown (3-1, 1.95 ERA) could possibly (though not definitely) get back on the mound this weekend, which would be very big news for a team trying to find a third starter. Guys like Ben Bracewell and Brandon Woodruff can certainly start and have done so often before, but they’ve done so well out of the bullpen this year that you hate to mess with what’s working.

Injuries have hampered the pitching staff a bit and getting back an inning-eater in Brown would go a long way.

“He threw really, really well earlier in the week,” Cohen said on Brown’s bullpen sessions. “He’s progressing nicely. The way that guy pitched earlier in our conference season, we’re a better club for having him.”

How he feels the next few days will determine if he throws this weekend, so nothing is sure either way.

Elsewhere in the pitching staff, Cohen had praise for junior Lucas Laster after his start against Ole Miss Tuesday, as well as pitching coach Butch Thompson and his faith in the pitcher. As impressive as his strong outing, Cohen said, is the fact that he was making his first start on the road against a rival in front of 8,500 people.

It was a big difference from the fall when Laster arrived and Cohen said he had significant struggles, having difficulties getting outs in scrimmages.

“I give all the credit to Butch,” Cohen said. “He has believed in Lucas and kept saying he was getting better and better. He was excited about throwing him out there.”

One last note on the pitching staff comes in a congratulations for junior Jacob Lindgren, who has been named to the mid-season watch list for the National Stopper of the Year Award.

In 15 appearances, Lindgren has a team-best 1.50 ERA, including three wins out of the pen. He’s also got a team-high 57 strikeouts (Fitts is closest to him with 43) in only 30 innings of action.

Switching to action at the plate, Cohen was also pleased with the recent offensive performances of his first and third basemen Wes Rea and Matthew Britton, two of the best defenders on the team.

RYLGTTJUHOQGYEO.20120225203412After sitting for a couple games, Cohen said Rea was able to get a mental and physical break, as well as a new perspective. The result came in two big hits, including the two-RBI go-ahead single in the sixth inning against Ole Miss Tuesday night by Rea.

“I think it was important,” Cohen said when asked about the performance. “Things can get in your head a little bit when things aren’t going your way. For him to take a couple deep breaths and do some drill work on his own, I think that really helped him. He will be a factor for our ball club, no doubt.”

Britton, meanwhile, is 8-for-24 with six runs scored and three stolen bases in his last seven games.

“Matthew Britton is a spectacular defender and he’s worked so hard on his swing,” Cohen said. “He’s getting the barrel in place. It’s exciting for him.”

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On the diamond next door, I’ll have more on softball tomorrow, but they play their last home series of the season this weekend against Arkansas. They’ve taken down back-to-back top five teams and ought to have a decent crowd.

One thing I think is pretty cool: they’re offering free charcoal and lighter fluid to anyone who brings their grill to the outfield deck around the field this weekend (matches and meat not supplied). The game starts at 5 tomorrow.

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Only two other teams are in action this weekend as men’s golf has traveled to Georgian islands (the state, not country) for the SEC Tournament, and the track and field teams are split between meets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

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