April 17, 2009
STARKVILLE -- John Cohen has had what he calls "weird" experiences in coaching.
The first came when he was an assistant at Florida under Pat McMahon and coached against former Mississippi State coach Ron Polk, who he played for from 1988-90.
When Cohen left Florida to become coach at Kentucky, it was strange for him to compete against Florida and the players he recruited.
Cohen, now coach at Mississippi State, will face another one of those experiences this weekend when the Bulldogs play host to the Wildcats in a three-game Southeastern Conference series beginning at 6:30 tonight. The series continues at 1 p.m. Saturday and will conclude at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
In his five-year tenure at Kentucky (2004-08), Cohen developed fond memories and an appreciation for his coaches.
One of his assistants, Gary Henderson, was promoted to head coach at Kentucky.
"I think Gary Henderson has one of the great minds in college baseball, so it will be great to be with them again," Cohen said. "It will be a little difficult until that first pitch is thrown, then we''ll just all go into compete mode. It will be another challenge in the Southeastern Conference."
The set is important as both clubs try to get back into contention in their divisions.
MSU (19-18, 5-10 SEC) will try to get out of the cellar in the West, while Kentucky (19-16, 4-11) is fifth in the East in front of last-place Tennessee.
"Even though we''ve had two rough weekends, I feel like the program is in great shape," Henderson said. "We''ve got a great group of young kids. John did a great job while he was here, and we''ve got to get it figured out."
James Paxton (4-2, 6.07 ERA), Chris Rusin (4-3, 4.53), and Alex Meyer (1-2, 4.69) will start for Kentucky.
Henderson said the games could turn into a chess match between the coaches.
"John is going to know some things about me and I''ll know some things about John that most coaching staffs don''t necessarily know, but I don''t think it''s going to impact the game a whole lot," Henderson said. "I''m thinking it''s going to be competitive. We''ve played a lot of close games, and I don''t see why this one wouldn''t be the same."
Cohen plans to send Tyler Whitney (2-3, 4.25) to the mound tonight, while freshman left-hander Nick Routt (4-2, 3.07) will start Saturday. Sunday''s starter has yet to be determined.
Despite what has been a struggle at times this season, Cohen remains pleased with his team''s work ethic.
"We''re getting a lot out of these kids and they have really bought into what we''re trying to do," Cohen said. "We''re not where we want to be yet, but I am very confident we will get there."