April 24, 2009
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State baseball team is in danger of missing the postseason for the second year in a row.
After making the NCAA College World Series in 2007, Mississippi State didn''t reach the Southeastern Conference or NCAA tournaments last year.
Mississippi State (21-21, 6-12) will travel to Nashville, Tenn., for its next three-game SEC series against Vanderbilt at 6 p.m. today, 1 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday.
With only four series left (Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU at home), the Bulldogs know time is short if they want to make a run.
"We''ve had about enough," MSU junior third baseman Russ Sneed said. "It''s time to really dig in and compete. We need for more people to step up."
Coach John Cohen has his eye on matching last season''s win total. Although Cohen ultimately wants to get the program back to the College World Series, he will take any sign of progress.
"I want to be a better baseball team than we were a year ago," Cohen said. "We''ve still got a lot to go, but I think we''re a lot better than we were a year ago, and I think that''s a credit to these players."
The Bulldogs lost first baseman Tyler Moore, infielder Brandon Turner and pitchers Justin Pigott and Aaron Weatherford from last season''s team.
Cohen called Moore "arguably the best offensive player on the team," Turner "a talented player despite his injuries," and Pigott "a warrior on the mound." He said it was tough to lose that kind of leadership.
"We want to have a better offensive club, we want to pitch it better, and want to defend it better," Cohen said. "Next year we want to be dramatically better than we are right now. As long as we are getting better, and I think we are, we''re headed where I want to be."
MSU''s weekend pitching rotation has been consistent throughout the season with junior left-hander Tyler Whitney on Fridays and freshman left-hander Nick Routt on Saturdays, but a change is in the air for the Commodores (24-17, 7-10).
Cohen plans to start sophomore left-hander Forrest Moore (2-0, 4.28 ERA) today, which will push Routt (4-2, 3.06) to Saturday and will shift Whitney (2-3, 4.29) to Sunday.
"We just felt it was best to schedule it this way," Cohen said. "We just have not performed Sundays on the mound the way we need to be."
Even though MSU is hitting only .298 as a team and has a 5.97 ERA, Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin expects a tough series, and believes the Bulldogs are capable of playing well offensively and defensively.
"They possess power and speed," Corbin said. "We know John Cohen and what he has done in the past. We know what Mississippi State has. Everyone struggles at times, but I don''t see any struggles with their team. They are a good club."