Mississippi State coach Andy Cannizaro broke into laughter Sunday night when asked if he thought he had enough pitching depth to get past Southern Miss on Monday.
MSU (38-25) will have to beat undefeated USM (50-14) twice on Monday in the title round to win the Hattiesburg Regional after battling back through the losers’ bracket following an opening 6-3 loss to South Alabama. Monday’s game is set for 1 p.m. If MSU wins the first contest, the two teams will meet again at 6 p.m.
To win two games, MSU will have to rely on a small group of pitchers.
“Guys, I don’t know if we have the necessary arms to get through 60-plus games,” Cannizaro said. “The guys have been incredible. Every single game, those guys answer the ball. They’re available every day, they want the ball. They’re total team guys.
“We’re not very deep on the mound. It’s the same six or seven guys we pitched the entire SEC season. When we started getting deeper into tournaments like the SEC tournament, we ran out of arms. The effort from Denver (McQuary) and (Peyton) Plumlee tonight allows us to get into Monday.”
McQuary took some pressure off the MSU bullpen with a quality start in Sunday night’s contest. He gave up two runs on two hits in 5 innings pitched, striking out three and walking five.
Plumlee replaced McQuary and allowed one run on two hits in 4 innings to close out the victory. He struck out five and walked one.
Cannizaro acknowledged that he was leaning toward starting junior right-hander Jacob Billingsley against the Golden Eagles.
“It’ll probably be Billingsley,” he said. “We’ll check in with him and make sure he’s doing OK before we announce anything. We have one or two guys we’re thinking about, but Billingsley is at the top of the list.”
The junior has had control issues this season with 47 strikeouts and 33 walks in 43 2/3 innings. He is 1-3 with a 5.15 ERA in 14 appearances, including 11 starts.
Billingsley last pitched on May 26 against Arkansas in the SEC Tournament. He gave up three runs, walked five and struck out five in 5 innings.
Cannizaro said he was open to possibly putting Jake Mangum, who hasn’t pitched since April 9, on the mound Monday. He is 2-1 with a 6.46 ERA in six games, including five starts.
“Jake and I had a conversation today about staying ready,” Cannizaro said. “I told him, ‘I’m not planning on you pitching, but if the situation dictates it I may send you to the bullpen. Don’t check out as far as pitching. Over the next two days, I won’t hesitate to put you on the mound.’”
Southern Miss coach Scott Berry hasn’t committed to a starting pitcher, but junior right-hander Colt Smith (6-1, 3.08) seems the most likely option. Sophomore right-hander J.C. Keys (3-3, 5.15) is another candidate to see time on the mound Monday.