It's safe to say that there was more than a little concern about the MSU baseball team after they went 2-3 last week with losses to Memphis and Holy Cross. State seemed to be stranding runners all over the place, and really the problems seemed to spread to all facets of the game - pitching, fielding, hitting, everything. While those concerns haven't all been quelled necessarily by two games, State fans most likely do feel a bit better this morning after MSU finished off a convincing two game mid-week sweep of visiting Mount Saint Mary's.
In game one on Tuesday, MSU used another solid outing from Ben Bracewell (2-0) and a seven-run fourth inning to coast to a 13-1 win. It was nice to see the Bulldogs put together 13 hits and 13 runs after they struggled in big at bats to drive in runs over the weekend. Offensively, the pace was again set by Wes Rea and Daniel Garner, who combined to drive in five of the 13 runs. Rea's two RBIs in the game gave him 17 total on the season through nine games, which is a torrid pace at about two per game so far. That streak will likely cool at some point, but Wes' continuing to drive in runs at this sort of level will be key to MSU's success this year with Hunter Renfroe moved on. Speaking of Renfroe, it seems like Daniel Garner - Renfroe's anticipated power replacement in the lineup - has done a fairly good job so far at filling in. Daniel hasn't registered a home run yet, and his RBIs are few for now, but he seems to be seeing the ball well and getting on base, and that's really all State needs from him right now.
In game two on Wednesday, State would again ride strong pitching and a big inning to power towards a 10-1 win. Preston Brown grabbed his first start on the mound for the maroon and white and he did not waste it as the righty registered six innings of one run, two hit ball while striking out seven Mountaineers along the way. Will Cox would come in after Brown to finish things off, working the final scoreless frames to earn his second save of the year. Offensively, State was powered by the law firm of Henderson, Rea and Pirtle, as the duo each contributed two RBIs a piece in the 10 run effort.
Overall, it was nice to see MSU get back on a winning track with two wins before they head into this weekend's Diamond Classic against Eastern Illinois and Michigan State. Things have been a bit bumpy so far, but it's still a young season, and two games like this where MSU was able to put up tons of runs could really help in the long run. Baseball is a streaky game, so it will be interesting to see if MSU can continue the hot streak of hitting this weekend in four combined games against the two opponents.
As for pitching, well it seems like Ben Bracewell has certainly earned himself a starting spot in the weekend rotation. Bracewell has always had outstanding stuff, so it's nice to see him working towards that weekend role after he's had to overcome injury at times in his career. Brown's strong game also makes me feel good about our midweek staff, and the overall depth of the starting pitching versus where it was last season. If Holder and Mitchell settle down and get back into their respective grooves, and Jacob Lindgren can continue to contribute strongly out of the bullpen ala Chad Girodo in 2013, State could be a few steps closer to becoming the team we thought they could be in the preseason. This weekend could tell us more as to whether or not they are getting there.
Game 1 Highlights
Game 2 Highlights