MSU's game against Indiana Sunday was not only a key Big Ten matchup, it was the start of a rotational shift for Spartan baseball.
Junior pitcher Joe Mockbee had appeared in 18 games for the Spartans as a reliever before this weekend. He often served as a closer, garnering five saves.
Sunday, Mockbee was the Spartans' starting pitcher for the first time this season. It was the third start of his MSU career. The usual Sunday starter, Walter Borkovich, was the first reliever out of the bullpen.
Head coach Jake Boss Jr. had planned to start Mockbee on Sunday all week, and Mockbee said he was happy to have the opportunity to start.
"I was excited all week," Mockbee said. "I tried to have the best week of practice I could to get ready so I could do the best I could today."
Mockbee said he didn't change anything about his preparation for Sunday's outing, though he had much more time to warm up than usual.
"People say there’s always a different mindset or a different way to go about it," Mockbee said. "But at the end of the day, you’ve got to get out. Honestly, I approach it the same way. Try to be locked in on every single pitch. That’s about it."
Mockbee threw a total of 4.2 innings, striking out two and allowing five hits, one walk and two earned runs.
Mockbee was lights-out for most of the day, as he went three up three down in the first, second and fourth innings. However, he ran into some trouble in the third and fifth innings. In the third, Isaiah Pasteur's standup triple drove in Brian Wilhite, who had walked earlier in the inning, for Mockbee's first earned run of the day.
In the fifth, Mockbee allowed three two-out singles to Tony Butler, Pasteur and Craig Dedelow. Dedelow's hit drove in a run. Mockbee said the fifth inning rally he allowed was not because of his fatigue, but because of pitches getting away from him.
"I didn’t get tired at all," Mockbee said. "That last pitch to Dedelow, I just left a little bit up and outside. If I got it down, he would have swung out and hit it to shortstop or second baseman instead of up the middle."
Mockbee averaged roughly one and one half innings per game before today's contest, and this was one of the longest outings of his college career. As the game wore on, he said he put the thought of stamina out of his mind.
"I’m just going out there, throwing and trying to give 100 percent for every pitch," Mockbee said. "If my arm gets tired, I’ll let Coach know. When I’m out there, I’m just trying to go 100 percent no matter how good I feel or what my stamina is or whatnot."
Boss chose to replace Mockbee with Borkovich after Dedelow's RBI single. Borkovich was able to escape the two on, two out situation. Boss said he was prepared to go to his bullpen early Sunday because it was Mockbee's first start of the season.
"It’s not really realistic to expect him to get us seven or eight innings, but we were hoping for five," Boss said. "The bullpen was fresh, we went to Walter maybe a little bit sooner than we would have hoped to, but Walter got us out of there in the fifth inning jam."
Boss said he plans to start Mockbee again next Sunday, when the Spartans face University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
"(Mockbee)’s got a good arm, there’s no doubt about it," Boss said. "He’s certainly capable of doing some really good things. I think it makes our bullpen better with Walter coming out of the pen. I think Walter is more suited for that."
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