Mississippi State was able to keep an unblemished record for 2015 after four victories over Arizona and Samford. Wins of 4-2 and 6-2 over the Wildcats, and 8-2 and 6-2 over the Bulldogs improved the other Bulldogs of the Maroon and White variety to 13-0. Here were our impact performances.
Hitter of the weekend: Jake Vickerson
He led the team with five hits on the weekend and would have notched a couple more had it not been for some spectacular defensive play from Arizona. No one player lit it up at the plate like the last couple of weekends, but several players were consistent. Vickerson looks a lot more comfortable up there this year, and it will be hard to keep him out of the lineup. The only problem is Cody Brown is also hitting the ball well. The outfield is crowded, but it's a good problem to have.
Pitcher of the weekend: Vance Tatum
After Austin Sexton's performance on Saturday, I thought he was a lock to win this one. But Vance Tatum was close to throwing a complete game, and he looked like every bit of an ace pitcher in doing so yesterday. He went 8 innnings against Samford, only gave up two runs off two hits, and struck out 12 batters. Tatum has made a statement in every appearance this season, and he may have the highest ceiling of any pitcher on the team.
Honorable mention: Austin Sexton
We'd be crazy if we didn't recognize what Austin Sexton did this weekend as well. He shut down a good offensive team in Arizona, utilizing his change up well and locating his fastball. Sexton went 5.2 innings, gave up two runs, struck out 10 batters, and didn't issue a single walk. He limited two of Arizona's better hitters, Scott Kingery and Kevin Newman, to just one hit combined. At this point, Sexton, Tatum, and Brown have all locked up starting spots for the SEC season.
Stat that made the difference: 6-9
The bottom of the Bulldogs' order really showed out at the plate. 19 hits and 11 of the team's 18 RBI's can be credited to the likes of players such as Luke Reynolds, Jake Vickerson, Josh Lovelady, and Cody Brown among others. When these guys are hot at the plate combined with the usual sluggers like Heck and Robson, this team is hard to slow down. Let's not forget what Cody Walker did in the second game on Saturday either, leading the team with three RBI's. The bottom of the lineup wasn't fooling around this week.
Best individual play: Justin Behnke's catch in center field
Ok yeah, I was going to only pick these categories for the Mississippi State side of things all year, but who cares. Arizona's center fielder has to get some love for the unbelievable catch he made in robbing Wes Rea of an extra base hit. Rea smashed that ball, and I don't think anybody in the whole stadium or watching on tv thought that Behnke had a remote shot at getting there. I didn't see the Sportscenter top 10, but it's a real shame if that play didn't make it on there.
MVP of the weekend: Vance Tatum
This one was a pretty easy choice. Vance Tatum has really surprised a lot of people this year. Coming into the season he was supposedly going to be a set-up guy for Trevor Fitts out of the bullpen, but that is out the window now. Tatum is too good not to start, and if he keeps it up it may be hard for John Cohen to keep him out of the Friday night role.
It was good to see Wes Rea back in the lineup this weekend. He swung the bat really well and looked to have the right approach. When he is taking everything to the opposite field, that's when you know he is on. They are going to need his bat in the lineup heading into SEC games.
Trevor Fitts doesn't have dominant "stuff" but he will be one of the more reliable closers on any team out there. Fitts is a veteran and has been there and done that. He has done an excellent job at pitching out of trouble when the game has depended on it. He really reminds you of Jonathan Holder when it comes to that aspect. They will make you hold your breath, but they always seem to get the job done. Fitts already has four saves on the young season.
Gavin Collins will have some pressure to perform when he gets back into the lineup. You never want to see a player lose his job due to injury, and I don't think his production will drop off far enough from last year to do so. But Josh Lovelady and Cody Walker are both producing. Lovelady has especially been impressive. Not only does he lead the SEC by far in runners gunned down behind the plate, but his bat is coming alive. His average is up to .321, and he looks better with every at bat.
I really like the move with Ryan Gridley to third base. Gridley and John Holland are both too good to keep off the field, and I don't think Britton or Spruill is the answer at third base. Gridley did make an error on a fly ball, and it may not be the last error you see. Once he gets more reps over there, he will get more comfortable. What he brings with his bat will more than make up for it until then. How many freshmen do you see hitting over .400 13 games in?
Next week will be another good test. San Diego struggled early in the year, but they went on the road and beat Texas two games to none this weekend. They will bring a couple of very good pitchers to Dudy Noble next week, which will be a good test before SEC play starts.
13-0. There's not much more you could ask for. The Bulldogs have shown they can hit it and pitch it with the best of them up to this point. I really thought Arizona may come in here and win a game or two, but the Dogs rolled right through them. This was an impressive weekend, and you may see your team in the top 10 come tomorrow morning.