MSU Defeats Florida Atlantic, 13-2; Now face Miami

MSU Defeats Florida Atlantic, 13-2; Now face Miami

Mississippi State used a five home run performance, including two by Brad Corley, and a complete game performance by Alan Johnson to defeat Florida Atlantic in the opening game if the Miami Regional. MSU and Miami, the winner of their game against Virginia Commonwealth, now face off in a winner's bracket game at 7 p.m. (ET), Saturday.

Quotes:

Florida Atlantic coach Kevin Cooney

What do you think about the hitting of Brad Corley today?
"Corley, with two home runs and six RBI, will be the MVP of this tournament if he continues doing that."

Did Chris Salberg not have his good stuff today?
"I thought Chris (Salberg) had good stuff. He just didn't have good location. When you have to come down the middle all the time, it is always going to hurt you. The first home run to Corley was after two walks, so we had to throw a fastball. He turned on it and got it up in the wind. And there was no question about it. On the next home run, we tried a changeup down the middle and that didn't work."

Were you surprised by the number of home runs that Mississippi State hit?
"The wind was blowing pretty hard, although I don't know if that much of an effect."

How much do you think it helped Mississippi State's confidence by winning the SEC Tournament in 4 straight?
"They got hot at the right time. That is the best conference in the country. When you can go through that tournament unscathed, your confidence level soars. It would be hard to forget that you are SEC champions and it only happened last Sunday."

Florida Atlantic Starting Pitcher Chris Salberg

What did you know about Brad Corley prior to this game? And what did you throw him when he hit his two home runs?
"I didn't even know who he was. In the first at-bat, I got behind so I had to throw a fastball. I put it right down the middle and he hit it out. The second at-bat I started him off with a changeup and he hit that out as well."

Florida Atlantic LF Jonathon Shapland

What are your thoughts about MSU starting pitcher Alan Johnson?
"I don't think he was very overpowering, but he was mixing his pitches up pretty well. And he kept getting ahead of all of the hitters and we were taking weak swings."


MSU coach Ron Polk

Opening comments.
"We beat a nice ballclub. I don't think our hitters want to leave here, because the ball really jumps out of this ballpark. Our beat writers always ask why we don't hit any more home runs than we do. We play in the biggest ballpark, maybe, in America as far as hitting the ball out. We hit 5 home runs. Some of them were chink home runs. Alan Johnson pitched well. For AJ to go 105 pitches is a testament to his conditioning. The umpire was fair, but he had a tight strikezone. Corley's two home runs were the key to the game. This was probably the 9th or 10th game that we have got double digit in hits."

Talk about the two home runs that Brad hit.
"The ball probably looks really big to Brad right now. They made some mistakes to him and he took advantage of them. The first home run he hit I thought was legit. The second one he hit off the end of the bat and it went into the trees. At our place, you would have had the leftfielder coming forward on it. But here, the ball just seems to get out really quick."

Do you think your team carried the momentum from the SEC Tournament into this game?
"Momentum is a basketball and football term, but I'll accept it for baseball, too. Baseball is really an individual game. It's pitcher against hitter. It's more mental than physical."

Do you think your guys are prepared to face Miami's best if they are the team that you wind up facing Saturday?
"Yeah, I think we are prepared. I don't know how good he is, but his numbers are, certainly, good. I'm sure he's a tough hombre, but we have faced a lot of good pitchers in the Southeastern Conference. I think our conference might have better pitching than the ACC top to bottom."

MSU Starting Pitcher Alan Johnson

How tired were you near the end of the game?
"I might look pretty tired, but if they had needed me to go out and pitch the 10th inning, I could have. Physically, I feel like I am in the best shape that I have been in since I have been here, so I'm not too tired."

What was working for you today?
"I didn't throw too many changeups or curveballs. That left the fastball. I probably threw it 85% to 90%, if not more. I was locating it and they were rolling it over, hitting popups. I also got a few strikeouts."

Why did you throw it so much?
"They didn't really look like they could handle my fastball. As long as I could locate it and get them out, I didn't really need a curveball."

Did you think, after you got fairly deep into the game, that you could complete the game?
"Yeah, when I looked up at the scoreboard and they only had 1 hit either in the 4th or 5th, I felt I could throw a complete game. In a lot of games, I face teams that are patient and cause me to get my pitch count up. Today, they were swinging at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd pitch, so I was pumping the zone and getting outs."

MSU RF Brad Corley

Walk us through your two home runs.
"My first at-bat, the guy had been struggling and had two men on. I think he had walked both of the hitters. When I looked down at Coach Polk, he told me to hit it if it was there. If not, I'm sure I would have been taking the pitch. He threw a first pitch fastball down the middle. Basically, I tried to square it up. Then, when I got it up in the wind, that was huge. I think the second one was on a first pitch changeup. He got it up a little bit. I hit it off the end of the ball, but it got up in the wind and it carried pretty good."

How do you feel hitting-wise right now?
"I've felt pretty good all year, but I haven't been getting a lot of good stuff to hit this year. Actually, the entire team is hitting the ball well. When you have pitchers throwing like Alan, Todd (Doolittle), Jon (Crosby) and Brooks (Dunn) are right now, it's easy to go out there and have confidence at the plate and put up some runs. You don't press at the plate."

Was there any point during the year where you may have found yourself pressing at the plate?
"Definitely. People have talked to me all year about what is going on with me. Some have said it was due to the (upcoming) draft, but it wasn't that. I think it was more me trying to match what I did last year. Now, with the (regular) season over with, you can have fun and relax."

The pitcher hit you your third time at-bat. Do you think that was kind of a payback for the two home runs you had hit?
"No, they were just trying to pitch me in. My third and fourth at bat they came in a few times. I think their scouting report was to throw me inside."

Did hitting the two home runs today feel more like how you felt last year when you hit 19 home runs?
"Definitely. I told myself this felt awesome. It felt like a sigh of relief."

Last year, you tweaked your swing and that helped you. Have you tried doing that this year?
"All year, all year. I have been in the cage all year. I have a blister and, literally, half of my pinkie (finger) is missing. I have been working my butt off all year. You might not be able to tell that. That's why it was so frustrating for the fans to get on me. It was like I wasn't trying and wasn't doing anything about it. But, I have been working so hard. Everybody has, all of the guys."

Do you regret what you did now that you have had time to think about it?
"Yeah, I regret it. But, it was in the heat of the moment and I was frustrated. But I shouldn't have done it. It was stupid. It didn't help anything and it made me look stupid."

MSU CF Joseph Hunter

What do you think has caused your team to play so well the last 18 games, a period where you have won 13 of 18?
"I think we have the right approach now. Nobody is trying to do too much, and we all are trying to stay within ourselves. Our pitching is doing a great job. They are throwing strikes. Everybody is hitting well now. And our defense is playing really well. Really, it's all coming together at the right time."

What do you think caused you guys to hit 5 home runs today?
"The ball really carries well here. And the wind was blowing out. You get under here and get it in the wind, it's going to go out."

Do you think you guys might start trying to hit home runs and mess up your swings?
"I don't think so. We are a mature enough hitting team that we'll keep our good approach by continuing to stay on top of the ball."

MSU PH Mitch Moreland

What did it feel like to come in here, as a true freshman, and hit a home run in your first regional?
"It was a good experience and I was happy to do it. But, there were a lot of others that did it, as well."

This team has won 13 of its last 18. What do you think has caused the turnaround?
"We have been really close all season long. But it seemed like we would get the pitching going and the hitting wasn't going. Then, when we got the hitting going, the pitching wasn't there. Now, it seems it's all coming together at the same time. So, we are playing good ball. If we continued doing that, I think we can go a long way."

So, you feel this team is peaking at the right time?
"I think so. Everybody knows that this team has great talent."

MSU 1B Brad Jones

What was the hitters approach against their pitcher?
"The umpire had a pretty tight strikezone, so we were just trying to be very patient at the plate. We got the pitches we were looking for, and they turned into home runs."

What pitch did you hit your home run off of?
"It was a fastball. I wasn't really expecting a fastball. I saw it and hit it."

Did you notice in batting practice that they ball carried well in this ballpark?
"Oh yeah. When we hit here yesterday (Thursday), we could tell the ball was jumping off the bat. Even during the pre-game meal, the coaches said to not try and yank everything, keep our approach and hit to the opposite field."

MSU Assistant Coach Tommy Raffo

What do you think has caused the team to hit so well right now?
"The guys have been working hard all year. Obviously, they got some confidence from (winning) the SEC Tournament. Then, when Brad (Corley) hit the two-out, three-run home run, that allowed everybody to relax a little bit and freeze up their swings."

It appeared the team starting turning it around during the week they had off between the Ole Miss and Alabama series. Did they do anything special during the week off that may have helped them?
"Coach (Polk) told them to get away from the ball field for a couple of days, while they were studying for their exams. Then, we ended up playing pretty good against Alabama. And that gave us a little confidence. It just seems to have been going pretty well ever since. Even in the LSU series, it could have gone either way. And the guys came out of it very, very positive."

MSU Assistant Coach Russ McNickle

Did you have any idea that you would throw Alan Johnson for the entire game?
"No, I had no idea. Going into the game, I thought that we might get 15 to 18 outs. If he could get me that, then we could bullpen it out. We scored some runs for him early. And he had command of his fastball. He just settled in and was very proficient."

Did it concern you when you saw all the home runs your team was hitting out, maybe to the point where you thought the lead might not be safe, even a big lead?
"Very much so. I have been down here 6 times and I was 0 for six coming into this game. Anything can happen in this ballpark. It is sort of like Alabama and LSU in the fact that the ball really jumps out. So, I know that every run is valuable here. You can't afford to walk guys. That's what they did and we hit home runs with some of those walks on base."

Since Johnson pitched a complete game, you didn't get to pitch any of your relievers. Is that a concern?
"No. I did send Mike (Valentine) down to the bullpen just to get some work in. But, they are prepared from start to start and are on a plan that gets them ready for the next day."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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