When you don't have a true ace of your pitching staff, you could ask the same question each weekend - what will the rotation look like? Well, here's what I would do...and feel free to drop your opinions in the comments.
The NCAA allows 27 players on your roster for the postseason, so I'm assuming we'll carry 12 pitchers and 15 position players since the following are almost certainly going: Ammo, Slauter, Rea, Pirtle, Frazier, Detz, Frost, Henderson, Robson, Bradford, Renfroe, Armstrong, Britton, Porter and Hann. So the 12 pitchers are: Graveman, Pollo, Lindgren, Fitts, Cox, Gentry, Bracewell, Holder, R. Mitchell, E. Mitchell, Girodo and Norris (who could be both a pitcher or a hitter).
It sounds like Graveman will probably start Game 1, although Cohen wouldn't commit to that. But really it doesn't matter who starts Game 1 or Game 2. You have to win 2 out of 3 and all the games are against the same team. So whoever doesn't start between Graveman and Pollo is the only player I'd make unavailable for Game 1.
I say this because of the uncertainty surrounding who a 3rd starter would be. In a perfect world we just sweep UVA and we never have to face a Game 3 scenario, but with the #6 overall seed in the tournament, and the series at their place, that is a tall task. Even so, I'd play Game 1 like I'm going to sweep it - be aggressive and don't hold anyone back.
Potential starters for a Game 3 would be: Lindgren, Fitts, Bracewell or Cox. At least those are guys who have started games this year. For that matter I guess you could throw Evan Mitchell in there too, but I don't see us using Evan unless something insane happens - like we are down 10-2 in a game that won't eliminate us.
After Game 1 is played, you'll know who has been used. At that point - win or lose - I'd pick out my starter for Game 3, and that guy is the one I wouldn't use in Game 2. If it were up to me, it would probably be Lindgren or Cox because I don't want to limit the use of a guy like Fitts or Bracewell just because we want to save them for a start. I think Lingo and Cox can get us at least 2-3 good innings if they were called upon to start a Game 3.
My bottom line point is this: I don't want to save Bracewell to start Game 3. He is one of our best relievers and our bullpen is our biggest asset. I'd much rather have Fitts, Lindgren or even Cox start on Monday than have them come in during Game 1 or 2 in a critical situation that would have been perfect for a guy like B.B.
Perhaps the better question sometimes with MSU isn't who is starting but who is coming in from the bullpen? I thought Cohen did an excellent job of managing his relievers during the Starkville Regional, and hopefully that will continue in Charlottesville.
To me, Ross Mitchell, Ben Bracewell, Girodo and Holder are all on the same level as far as bringing them into a game and shutting things down. If I need a strikeout I'm probably not going with Ross, but if I want 3-5 solid innings I am. It doesn't matter who comes out of the pen first, or even if all four of them pitch in one game so long as we do what it takes to win. Game 1 is huge and even if they all pitch 3 innings like against Missouri in the SEC Tournament I still feel good because there are guys like Gentry, Cox and maybe even Norris who could give us some quality in a Game 2.
It's amazing how this team has evolved from a starting pitching standpoint. In our season previews we said the starting rotation would be the biggest reason for MSU's success in 2013, but it has been a roller coaster ride all year and it's amazing how well the team has performed in spite of it. Brandon Woodruff was hurt and eventually went down for the season, Evan Mitchell never did well, Lindgren showed signs of reaching his potential but never really got off the ground - and those are three guys that will all be high draft picks by Major League Baseball. Instead, we've used patch tape, grit and gall with Graveman, Pollo, and now Fitts has entered the equation. (Will Cox actually had 4 starts early and did really well but hasn't gotten the first pitch in 3 months so I don't know what's up there).
It should be interesting to see how the pitching is handled this weekend. Looking forward to it. Hail State!