October 9, 2012

Fall pitching preview

Mississippi State's pitching staff sported the second lowest earned run average in the NCAA last spring.

But three of the Diamond Dogs main contributors on the mound are gone leaving several roles needing to be filled this fall.

MSU had a 2.58 staff ERA last season with 536 strikeouts and 181 walks in their SEC Tournament Championship and NCAA Regional run.

Following the season, Chris Stratton and Nick Routt were both selected in the MLB Draft with Stratton going into the first round to San Francisco. Stratton had one of the best years in school history going 11-2 with a 2.38 ERA, 127 strikeouts and 25 walks while Routt was 3-5 with a 3.80 ERA, 39 strikeouts and 15 walks in 18 appearances.

Also gone is the Bulldogs rubber armed reliever Caleb Reed. Reed finished up his final campaign with a 1-5 record, nine saves, a 2.47 ERA, 52 strikeouts and 22 walks in 31 games.

Head coach John Cohen understands replacing that production will not be easy.

"Chris Stratton threw over 100 innings for us and that's significant in college baseball," Cohen said. "That doesn't happen a lot. Chris had not only one of the best years in pitching at Mississippi State but arguably in the Southeastern Conference. It was just a great, great year. Caleb Reed's leadership and the sheer amount of appearances that he had and nine saves for our club will be a big loss for us. Nick Routt at the end of last year was throwing the baseball better than he had in his entire career in terms of velocity and command of his fastball and breaking ball."

The good news is that State did not lose right-handed starter Kendall Graveman. Graveman decided to return for his senior season despite being drafted by Miami in the 36th round. He went 4-4 with a 2.81 ERA, 59 strikeouts and 21 walks in 16 starts last spring.

This summer Graveman helped the Wareham Gatemen claim the Cape Cod championship going 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA, 26 strikeouts and only four walks.

"Kendall is just an all-star," Cohen said. "He's a leader for us. He's a guy that's taken the reins and said 'I'm a senior pitcher on this staff and I want us to do better than we did last year'. He's getting a ring for winning the Cape Cod championship but he said he wants the biggest ring you can win in college baseball and he means it."

Cohen hopes to have junior Ben Bracewell back healthy for the first time in two seasons. The right-hander has struggled with a labrum injury the past two years missing all of 2011 and making only nine appearances last spring and three starts.

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