If any of you baseball freaks like me were wondering desperately how the UP Pilots baseball team was starting the season out against No. 5 nationally-ranked Mississippi State, you probably didn’t get the news that you wanted.
The Pilots were absolutely hammered in their first game of the season 16-1 in Starksville, Miss. Now after you did a double-take when seeing that score, take a deep breath and realize that not all is lost on the season after a 0-4 start to the year.
First with the plain and obvious truth. Mississippi State is a damn good team. They earned that No. 5 ranking for a reason and have numerous hitters and pitchers who you will probably see in the MLB one day, not to mention the team will be competing for the College World Series this year just as they were last season. While you might be calling BS on the Pilots talent level from my last article, don’t pin me to the wall yet. The Pilots do have talent, just not as much as Mississippi State.
Now, despite the horrible first lost, the Pilots actually kept themselves in the other three games against Mississippi State if it didn’t come down to one bad inning. Most of this was because of UP’s great pitching, as I mentioned in the past article, pitching will be the reason why the Pilots have a chance in the WCC. Last year’s Freshman of the Year and Preseason All-WCC Team award winner, sophomore left-hander Travis Radke showed that he is looking to improve even more despite his grand breakout on the college baseball scene last season. Radke went six innings while piling up nine strike-outs against the talented Mississippi State team while only surrendering one run in this lone start. Fellow sophomore right-hander Kurt Yinger went seven strong innings while only allowing one run in his start, giving the Pilots a chance to win the game in the late innings.
While the hitting definitely needs work with this team, keep in mind many of UP’s top hitters are underclassmen and I would imagine it would be hard to get into a batting rhythm far away from the comfort of the Northwest and surrounded by over 7,000 crazy Mississippi State fans. It was a good experience for this team’s younger players to see what a “Big-Time” college baseball program is like, but it also is not the end of the world for this team.
The team will have a chance to get back on track and use what they learned from the loss on Feb. 19 against Seattle University before finally coming home to The Bluff where they face Utah Valley. The Pilots will need to get into a rhythm by facing those teams, before heading south to Eugene and facing the No. 8 Oregon Ducks.