Friday night may have been the lowest point of the young 2014 season.
After three losses in four tries last weekend in Arizona, the Bulldogs traveled to Georgia with a lot to prove in the opening weekend of conference play. A 7-1 Friday night loss was not the best way to start proving themselves, and things looked fairly dim from a fan's perspective heading into a rain-induced doubleheader on Saturday.
Thankfully the players don't ride the emotional rollercoaster that we as fans sometimes do, and the Bulldogs were able to put Friday night behind them and respond strongly on Saturday with convincing 6-1 and 4-1 wins to take the SEC-opening series.
After taking game one on Saturday, the maroon and white Bulldogs went into the final game of the weekend with a chance to take the series, and turn a potentially devastating weekend into a series win and strong start to conference play. State was able to do just that thanks to yet another strong pitching performance on the day, this time from Trevor Fitts. Fitts worked a strong 4 2/3 innings, surrendering just one run and four hits while striking out six. Sensing the series win within their grasp, State would go to the bullpen in the fifth to bring in setup-man Jacob Lindgren. Lindgren, who has been so good this season, continued to work his magic, as he worked three strong innings of relief, striking out four while giving up just one hit. That effort was enough to earn him the win, and closer Jonathan Holder would come in and slam the door for the save within 1 1/3 innings of work.
The offensive attack for State was a combined effort between Alex Detz, Wes Rea, and C.T. Bradford, who all registered RBIs in the game. The big inning for MSU came in the fourth, when the pinch-hitting Bradford drove in two with a one-out double to left field. Detz added the final insurance run in the ninth with a two out RBI single.
On the surface, this weekend's series may seem like a given for a team like MSU. However, after last weekend and then Friday night's start to the series, Saturday's two wins were very important for this team going forward. Last year's national runner-up squad didn't even win an SEC series until the fourth weekend of conference play, so the series win against Georgia means State is already ahead of that schedule. This year's team will have a bit more to make up for as far as some non-conference losses, but with all of the good teams in the SEC this year, State still has chances to impress this season.
They won't have to wait long either to get the first chance to impress, as Vanderbilt comes to town next weekend for a big, BIG weekend series. The Commodores are coming off an impressive series win at home over LSU, winning two games on Saturday after the Tigers got to their ace, Tyler Beede, on Friday night. Speaking of Beede - he will be quite a challenge for State next Friday night. It will be interesting to see how Cohen and pitching coach Butch Thompson choose to match up pitchers against Beede and the rest of the Vandy staff, who could be considered the best pitching staff in the nation.
Now that MSU has some confidence and momentum to go with the talent, they will hopefully be ready for next weekend's big test. With no mid-week game this week, the Bulldogs will have all week to practice and get ready for the home matchup with top-5 Vandy next weekend. Should be a fun series. I can't wait.