January 25th was the opening day that college baseball programs around the country could officially start practice. Head baseball coach John Cohen had just landed from a trip to New Jersey when we got to speak with him.
“Our kids are excited about playing. We had a two week stand where our kids couldn’t get out on the field because of the weather, and face live pitching. Hopefully we’ll have some good weather so we can get out and get things done over the next week,” said Cohen.
Friday afternoon’s scrimmage was delayed about thirty minutes because of rain. Coach Cohen added that this weekend’s scrimmages will mainly be six inning games.
“It really depends on how quick those starters can zip through; we might be able to get it to seven innings. Just getting our kids use to playing three days in a row is important, and it’s hard with one pitching staff to create enough pitching for two sides in three straight days. We’re very fortunate that we have some guys in some roles that can do some short relief and match-up guys.”
On the injury front, Cohen said that the team is almost at full strength.
“Kendall Graveman had offseason surgery coming off a sports hernia, Woody (Brandon Woodruff) had some soreness in his elbow that he is trying to work out, but I feel like we are pretty healthy, hopefully it’ll stay that way.”
Coach Cohen added that Trey Porter is healthy and that he is in the best shape that he has ever seen him.
The Bulldogs enter this year with a number five ranking, according to Baseball America. Coach Cohen thinks the excitement level around the community is due to a veteran ball club.
“I think there is an excitement level because we have more experience guys, they know what to expect, and they certainly have set pretty high goals for themselves. The practicing part isn’t exciting, but they know how close the season is. I think this group generally likes being around each other, that provides a level of excitement also.”
When Cohen was asked about the polls, he sees it as an opinion.
“I don’t see it as pressure, it’s an opinion. Hopefully we can live up to that opinion. I think we will play arguably the toughest in conference schedule. The only thing I know for sure is that somebody who is not ranked right now will have an unbelievable year in our league, and somebody that is ranked won’t, maybe even a couple. So you have to keep focused on what is important, which is the year now, and the ability to get better today.”
Junior center fielder C.T. Bradford is back to full strength and is ready for this season.
“The weather is not so good right now, but we’re excited. We’ve been doing a lot of team speeches, we had a good one today by Luis (Pollorena) and he got us ready for it.”
Bradford said he looked at the polls as an opportunity. “We do have four more spots to go up, and that’s our goal.”
Bradford pointed out that this is the healthiest team he has been a part of since he’s been at MSU. “We have a whole group of guys that are ready to get after it and have fun.”
With the depth that this year’s Diamond Dawg team has, Cohen will have some decisions to make about playing time.
“We’re two deep everywhere, it’s good, it’s a good problem to have,” said Bradford.
The Bulldogs will be back on the field Saturday at 1 p.m., followed by a 2 p.m. scrimmage on Sunday. All scrimmages this weekend are open to the public.