One of the great features of SB Nation is that nearly every single school within the NCAA has a dedicated SB Nation sports blog. Most of them are manned by dedicated professionals who ignore their work, families, and social lives to bring you inside information that they got while watching the same game that you were watching! Fortunately for us, Mississippi State has a blog much like we do. I got a chance to sit down with (and by sit down with, I mean we emailed back and forth) For Whom the Cowbell Tolls to and exchange some questions about their baseball team so we might have some knowledge that we couldn't glean from their season stats.
1. Ya'll only have 75 stolen base attempts on the season, do you guys not have as much "essseeeceeeee" speed that we've all heard so much about? I was told everyone can run 4.2 40s and are the biggest monsters on the planet! Also, where can I get some of that?
Well, we have a bunch of white guys who play baseball so that might explain it. We do have a few guys who can swipe a base - Hunter Renfroe (our best power hitter) is actually tied with Brett Pirtle for the team lead with 9 stolen bases. I really wouldn't expect us to run much though - maybe one or two attempts in a game - and if we are it would be Frazier, Renfroe, Pirtle, Bradford, Frost or Henderson. Look our for Derrick Armstrong - he has the essssseeeeceeee speed you're looking for, and may enter the game as a pinch runner to swipe a bag, or speed around the bases.
2. Hunter Renfroe has obviously been amazing for you guys, but I hear he has struggled as of late, any idea what's going on? Who has stepped up in his absence to lead last week and in the SEC Tournament?
It is true, after being red hot right up until the first of May he has cooled tremendously. He was up over .400 the entire year but has sunk to .352 now. To be honest I think it's the MLB Draft where he is expected to be a 1st round pick (I am writing this on Thursday morning so by the time this is read he may already be that first round pick). We are all hoping once that pressure is lifted right before this Super Regional he will be able to relax and do his thing again. He has, however, hit the ball hard at times in the SEC Tournament and Starkville Regional - so while he hasn't been the Hunter of the first 2/3 of the year he hasn't been completely awful.
As far as who has stepped up in his stead - it's really been everyone. Renfroe pretty much carried the offense for a good portion of the season and now that he's hit a rough patch the rest of the guys are doing really well. In particular, Wes Rea and Demarcus Henderson have stood out to me as clutch hitters with runners in scoring position. Adam Frazier has continued to hit and Brett Pirtle has been very consistent since SEC play started. Our hottest hitter is Alex Detz, who was the MVP of the Starkville Regional.
3. Other than Renfroe, you guys don't hit HRs every other pitch (which I respect) like everyone swears everyone in the SEC does. Does that have more to do with philosophy or player ability?
From the answers you gave on my questions, it sounds like Virginia has a similar ballpark to Dudy Noble Field in Starkville - it is very big. In fact, we moved the fences in during last offseason but it still wasn't enough. We had the only Regional in which no home runs were hit, and there were probably only two balls that were even hit to the warning track.
So I guess with the big ballpark our hitters just focus more on trying to get base hits rather than tattoo one, but we don't really have a lot of power. Renfroe does, as well as Wes Rea. You'll see that Rea is a mammoth ball player who is capable of going yard at any time, but he is very selective when trying to hit one - he is really more of a average hitter than a power hitter as far as his approach, but if he gets a pitch to his liking he will attack. Outside of those two, I would be surprised if any of our hitters went deep.
4. Explain the cowbell thing?
In an unknown year in the early 1900s a cow walked onto the football field when we were playing Ole Miss and we ended up winning the game. So after that a cow was brought to the home games for good luck. Eventually bringing a cow to the game became a hassle so we just starting bringing cowbells and the tradition grew, so now we just weld a handle onto the cowbell and clang away.
5. You guys have three starters, but it seems like your pen does a significant amount of work. Is it standard for the starter to only go 4 or 5 and turn it over to the pen?
Without a doubt, our bullpen is the strength of the team. Kendall Graveman has been our most consistent starter and he actually pitched 3 consecutive complete games in the middle of the season. He has the potential to go deep into a game but even he is shaky to get past the 5th only because Cohen has so much faith in the pen that if a starter even gets into any trouble he gets the hook by the 3rd or 4th inning.
6. Off that last question, your pen is great, and this could be the "Battle of the Pens" this weekend, who should we keep our eye on?
There are four main guys that are really good: Ben Bracewell (RHP), Ross Mitchell (LHP), Chad Girodo (LHP) and Johnathan Holder (RHP). Holder is the closer and is very tough to even make contact against. Girodo and Bracewell have great sliders, and rubber arm Ross will throw a max 83 mph fastball but no one can seem to get runs across on him.
7. Will Clark, Jonathan Papelbon, and Rafael Palmeiro won't be playing this weekend, correct?
Ha, unfortunately no. MSU baseball is a pretty big deal as we have had some great teams in the past and have an iconic stadium. The 1985 team with Clark, Palmeiro, Bobby Thigpen and Jeff Brantley is still revered to this day and it is a travesty they weren't able to win the national title with all that talent. John Cohen has brought MSU baseball back from it's darkest days from 2008-2010 so we're really excited to be playing in this Super Regional. I would say this is the most excited our fanbase has been since the late 1990s (we made the College World Series in 2007 and a Super Regional in 2011 but they were sort of a fluke).