Sunday, as the game began to lean the way of becoming being another "one that got away" for Mississippi State, DH Daryl Norris ripped a double to the right center field wall that scored catcher Mitch Slauter from 1st, and the dogs had defeated Vanderbilt 8-7.
Someone on the outside might look at the victory for State and not think much of it. Vanderbilt, a perennial powerhouse under Tim Corbin, had dropped to 13-19 (4-8) on the year, so State should have taken the series from them. But so far this year in SEC play, the victories have not come easy for the dogs, and Vanderbilt was no different. With star 3B Daryl Norris returning to the lineup this weekend for State, they were able to put together 3 pretty good games, winning 2 of them. Norris' return, coupled with this series win, could be the turning point in the dogs season, and here's why.So far in SEC play, State has struggled badly on Saturday and Sunday. Whatever the reason has been, outside of LSU, State had yet to win a Saturday or Sunday ballgame up until Norris drilled his double to deep right yesterday afternoon. Sure State had been close, but in the SEC, without a doubt the nation's toughest baseball league, close doesn't keep you from falling further down the standings. And it doesn't help you keep up with the Jones', either. After 3 close series, State had still yet to win an SEC series, and the frustration had begun to build up in the fanbase and I'm sure the clubhouse as well.
Last week during a midweek press conference, Coach Cohen told the media and fans that Daryl wouldn't be back for another couple of weeks, probably for the Super Bulldog Weekend series with Tennessee. Then to everyone's surprise, Norris showed up on the scorecard Friday night, and didn't disappoint either, going 2-3 with an RBI in his first game since the Penn State series. Overall on the weekend, Norris went 6-10, amassing 4 RBI's but more importantly, giving this lineup the potency it had lacked since his injury over a month ago.
The series win and Norris' return couldn't' have come at a better time for the dogs either, as the two-time defending national champion South Carolina Gamecocks await this upcoming weekend. Even though the Gamecocks have had their own share of struggles this year, they are still ranked in the Top 10 and Columbia has always been a difficult place to play. The dogs will finally have their full complement of players though, and that could make all the different going into the weekend. And if the dogs could steal a series win from South Carolina, they would return home for back to back series against Tennessee and Ole Miss, which they would have a chance to win both.
The dogs still have plenty that needs improving if they plan to take a series victory back home from Columbia this weekend, however. The base-running has been abysmal at times lately, and Saturday ace Nick Routt still continues to struggle. If the dogs can get the pitching staff settled (outside of Stratton) and can continue to improve with Norris back in the lineup, then things may be looking up for them going forward. In baseball, as is the case in many things in life, it's all about momentum, and the dogs hope that they can build off of the momentum they started with a series win over Vandy this past weekend