After Mississippi State completed the sweep of Kentucky May 19th, I kept thinking to myself, "I can't believe we did that". Now, two days after winning the SEC Tournament in Hoover am saying it even more..."I can't believe we did that!".
After all the injuries this year, starting out of the SEC gates like a turtle, less than mediocre hitting and several players mired in long slumps, the only thing seemingly keeping us together was Chris Stratton...with an assist from Kendall Graveman. But come Super Bulldog Weekend the Dawgs amped it up a notch...and when Kentucky came to town they brought it up another notch - 18-6 in the last 24 games including 15-5 in the SEC.
My eyes were glued to the TV all week from two different states as I watched every pitch in the Bulldog's magical run. I came away amazed at the scrappiness this team exhibited...and of course, the great pitching.
What can't you say about Tournament MVP Adam Frazier? He was automatic. 12 for 23 (.521). He also walked three times giving him an on-base % of .577...pretty remarkable against the best teams in the country.
Everyone else in the lineup seemed to chime in as well. From Hunter Renfroe all the way down to Matthew Britton, it was really a great team effort. The Dawgs only managed 13 runs in the final 5 games (2.6 per) but still managed to win four of them. All of those wins except the 3-0 victory over Vandy were one run games, as State scratched out just enough to get it done. The Championship game was the epitome of this as MSU scored on a wild pitch, walk with the bases loaded and a sac fly.
Mitch Slauter's performance was incredible. He stayed behind the plate for every single pitch through six days of Alabama mid-day heat. Not only did he display tremendous endurance, but he called excellent games via a plethora of pitchers. Slauter also threw out a couple of baserunners (which kept Vandy's guys from running all over the place) during the week and had some key hits (5 for 22, .227) - including a double that led to him scoring the winning run vs. LSU on Friday....the amazing thing is that he had 4 hits in his last 7 at bats - getting stronger when he should have been wearing down.
How in the world did Ross Mitchell not make the all-tournament team? 0 runs in 9 2/3 innings over four games including 5 innings pitched in the finale. Great performance from him - he now has a 1.02 ERA.
Johnathon Holder did make the all-tournament team with his 3 saves and a win....extending his streak of scoreless innings to 27 1/3, maintaining a 0.00 ERA. Chris Stratton was great again, earning a win and a save. Many people have been down on Caleb Reed after a couple of bad outings but he came through with 6 2/3 innings giving up only one run.
It doesn't end there....Nick Routt pitched great after a somewhat disappointing year with 4.0 scoreless including a clutch 3 1/3 innings vs. Kentucky on Saturday where he picked up a win. Luis Pollorena gave us 4.0 good innings and a huge sac fly on the offensive end vs. LSU. Freshman Brandon Woodruff was excellent with 8.0 shutout innings as he book-ended the tournament with his starts (making him a candidate for a Regional start). Another freshman in Jacob Lindgren got his first career start vs. the #2 team in the country and gutted it out for 4 2/3. And then Ben Bracewell proved he was back with 4 2/3 strong innings of relief in two games.
For the year, State's pitching staff includes NINE guys with an ERA under 3.0...and there are 14 under 4.0. The only guys over that are Will Cox, C.T. Bradford and Chad Girodo - and that's a Wednesday starter, center fielder and seldom used reliever.
On the other hand, the hitters only include ONE hitter over .300; and we know who that is: Adam Fraizer (.376). But we can probably live with that because, like I said, this team finds a way to scrap across a few runs to get it done. If Frazier can continue to get on base and we can take advantage of the other team's mistakes - this team could go far. You don't win more SEC games (21) than anyone and not be force to be reckoned with.