What’s a perfect evening for a Mississippi State fan? How about beating Ole Miss and winning a trophy given to you by Miss Mississippi? Ross Mitchell had that happen to him tonight as he won the MVP in MSU’s 5-1 victory giving MSU a 4-3 lead in the series since it was moved to Pearl’s Trustmark Park.
One time I heard Hall of Fame pitcher and former New York Met and Cincinnati Red pitcher Tom Seaver talk about winning in baseball games, and he said something that really stuck with me. He said that in each game, there are one or two key moments that determine the outcome of most game and whether the game is won or lost. I think this is applicable to the Governor’s Cup this year because there were two really key moments that both went Mississippi State’s way and ultimately won the game for the Bulldogs, one happened in the bottom of the fifth and the other occurred in the top of the sixth inning. In the fifth inning, MiSU had tied the game, and Ole Miss had runners at the corners and one out with two of their best hitters up- Austin Anderson and then Stuart Turner who is hitting over .400 and had two hits already in the game. Ross throws his frisbees and strikes out Anderson swinging and then after a mound meeting, he gets Turner to ground out to keep the game tied. The very next half inning, MSU gets two runners on to start the inning and then Mitch Slauter bunted them over. Ole Miss then strikes out Sam Frost and then Nick Ammirati walks and up steps Adam Frazier. Frazier works the count to 2-2 and then he hits two balls that were very close to being fair. In fact, after the first one, he had gotten all the way to second before having to go back and hit again. Well, the third time was the charm and he did a BEAUTIFUL job of taking the ball to the opposite field to score two runs which Ross and closer Jonathan Holder made stand up and win the game for MSU.
The only disappointing thing to me was Brandon Woodruff’s start where he lasted a little over one inning. Brandon is a work in progress- in my opinion him not being able to pitch in the fall has really hurt him this year because watching him, I felt like I was watching a pitcher learning how to pitch to contact that just isn’t quite there yet. He is trying so hard to throw strikes that when he was getting hit a little bit, it was starting to hurt his confidence because he doesn’t have that secondary pitch that is developed to get him outs against SEC hitters that he can throw for strikes. So watching his expression it was almost like- “OK, what do I do?” He gave up three hits- two were solid hits through the infield that were ground balls and then he gave up one where the hitter took him to the opposite field. And once that secondary pitch is developed, I think his confidence and velocity will get there and he will be fine in the long term. In the short term- I personally think we should just let him maybe start the midweek games and learn. Let’s be thankful that Luis Pollorena can start and do a great job for us. But with Brandon right now, it’s probably best to let him learn right now. I did see some positives- he did throw strikes and he didn’t walk anyone. And that’s encouraging.
Ross Mitchell deserved the MVP and he did a great job shutting down Ole Miss. He only throws in the low 80’s, but he changes speeds and he throws strikes. Ole Miss really only hit one ball hard off of him. And we got all we could out of him- I started to see his tongue hang out a little bit around the seventh, but he kept pitching and getting outs. Holder came in and slammed the door and what I love about him is how he attacks hitters. I love closers that throw gas and then he has that really hard curveball- just a joy to watch. I like how we brought him in during the 8th inning again, too- I think we can maximize his talent a little better by doing that and I think it also helps the bullpen out as well.
Offensively, I felt like if we were patient we would get a lot of walks and then get their starter, Josh Laxer in trouble and get some runs. And we did get a few walks, but the problem was we kept swinging at pitches out of the zone and we kept hitting weak balls and getting ourselves out. Heck- we were getting no hit for four innings because we weren’t being patient. Finally, we managed to tie it up and once they brought in some pitchers with better control we actually hit a lot better and started to put together some quality at bats and eventually we got some runs and won the game comfortably. In fact, we walked to seven strike outs and that’s a pretty good ratio. As I said, Frazier’s at bat was the key at bat, but Hunter Renfroe smoked a double and Brett Pirtle got him home with a solid single after he failed to get a bunt down, which may have been a blessing because I could tell he really wanted to hit, and after Pirtle got to third after an error and a bunt, CT Bradford got him home with a single. We did a really good job in the small ball department- we took some bases on some wild pitches, stole a base and did a good job of bunting and then we capitalized on our opportunities and cashed in.
Defensively, we had yet another game without an error and we made some really nice defensive plays. Hunter Renfroe made a couple of diving plays in the outfield and we were able to shut down their running game. I thought Alex Detz had a really nice game at third base and Frazier made some plays tonight that I don’t think he would have made last year.
It’s always great to beat Ole Miss, and tonight was no exception. But now, we have to move forward and hopefully this will keep our confidence as a team up. Now we have to go to Texas A&M for another big SEC series on the road. As a note to our readers- I will be on vacation this weekend so I probably won’t have my review of that series in before Monday or so, but I will get it done as soon as possible. As an aside- this is my first vacation in two years and I will be going to New Orleans and then I will drive my St. Louis Cardinal Red Mustang down the beach to Biloxi in case you are wondering where I am going. And thanks to the MSU Bulldogs, it will be an even happier vacation!
That final again- YOUR Mississippi State Bulldogs 5, Ole Miss 1
It won’t get old for a little while.