What We’ve Learned Through Non-Conference Play


Jun 25, 2013; Omaha, NE, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs left fielder Demarcus Henderson (2) attempts to dive for a ball hit for a double by UCLA Bruins designated hitter Kevin Williams (not pictured) during the fifth inning in game 2 of the College World Series finals at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

Non-conference play is now pretty much over. MSU does still play Southern Illinois on Tuesday night, and there are five more non-conference games (including the Governor’s Cup) scattered throughout the remainder of the season, but the meat of the schedule begins this coming weekend. As we head into SEC play, let’s take a look at this ballclub…

Record: 12-7. That’s not where we expected to be for sure. I was hoping for something more in the range of 15-4 at this point, but we are here. I don’t think it’s time to hit the panic button. There are still 36 more games (37 if we schedule a make up game for the opening series). While a national seed is out of reach unless we get 20+ SEC wins that doesn’t mean the season is shot.

Perhaps the biggest thing is for everyone to put 2013 to bed. Sure we wanted to keep right on trucking and blast our way to a national seed beating our chests as a top 5 team. But that has to be earned, and from what we’ve seen so far we’ll need to take one thing at a time. The next thing up is SEC play and that’s the focus. That will determine whether we have a disaster of a season, we’re in a Regional, hosting a Regional or we’re an elite team.

There is still time to form our true identity and become the team so many had predicted in the preseason. Coach Cohen will continue to mold and shape this group until they are at their best.


This is the best part of the team. We have five legit guys who can play in the SEC: C.T. Bradford, Demarcus Henderson, Jake Vickerson, Derrick Armstrong and Cody Brown. All five of them are hitting over .300 and have a combined 23 stolen bases. This group is almost completely void of power but they make up for it with plenty of speed which helps on offense and defense. MSU is fine here. The 6th outfielder, Jacob Robson, is another speed guy with 4 SB – although he is hitting .071 in 14 AB….he may or may not be on the SEC roster.

Really good stat: Jake Vikerson is hitting .471 with RISP

Really bad stat: Henderson and Armstrong are a combined 4 for 27 with RISP (.148)


At 1st base Wes Rea has delivered with 3 HR, 19 RBI and 16 walks contributing to a .460 OB%. Brett Pirtle has been a solid hitter although his OB% has taken a fall this year to only .342 – he had some early troubles in the field but has been solid. Seth Heck has really solidified the infield starting the last 11 games (MSU is 8-3) after Matthew Britton and Kyle Hann struggled offensively and defensively. Heck has been good with the glove and is the 2nd leading hitter on the team (.324). Alex Detz has struggled offensively at 3rd – he’s only hitting .203 with a .305 OB%…for a guy who was an on-base machine last year that hurts in the 2-hole.

Really good stat: Seth Heck is only striking out once every 16 plate appearances

Really bad stat: Alex Detz is hitting .203


The talk going into the year was about the four catchers, but it’s pretty clear Daniel Garner is not going to play there. It’s between Zach Randolph, Cody Walker and Gavin Collins. Walker and Collins have excelled defensively but haven’t hit much while Randolph has had some issues behind the plate and is hitting .313.  Collins looks like the guy with the best chance to get two starts every weekend despite only hitting .192 thus far.

Really good stat: Zach Randolph is hitting .400 with RISP

Really bad stat: Zach Randolph has 3 passed balls


Things look pretty set with Vickerson, Detz, Rea and Pirtle hitting 1-4. Should Detz continue to hit 2nd? C.T. Bradford leads the team in hitting and has a .375 OB%, Seth Heck is 2nd and has a .447 OB%. Maybe Cody Brown or Demarcus Henderson should be in the 2-hole? Cohen will certainly give Detz the benefit of the doubt but within a couple of weeks he will likely be removed if he doesn’t shape up.

DH is a hotly debated topic. Daniel Garner’s only appearances this year have been in this role and he’s excelled hitting .323 on the year and 12 RBI. Reid Humphreys has also looked good hitting .300 – but mysteriously Garner was missing in Arizona and Vickerson was the DH in the final two games. These two are freshman but it seems like one or the other needs to be the DH.

C.T. Bradford has had some injury concerns over the last week but he looked to be in fine form legging out triple after triple in Arizona. With his defense and hot bat he’s a guy that needs to be in the lineup. Getting all the OF guys in there is hard, but you’d have to assume at least a little edge has to go to Demarcus Henderson since he’s been on campus for four years. The good news is they all have speed – so if they aren’t starting their value to come off the bench as a pinch runner is great.

Really good stat: 7-0 with either Seth Heck or Derrick Armstrong hitting 8th

Really bad stat: 1-4 with C.T. Bradford hitting 6th

Starting Pitching 

Issue 1.0 – Friday night starter. Brandon Woodruff has looked like Evan Mitchell in at least three of his four starts. Another case of a guy with great potential who is having trouble finding the strikezone and being effective. He’s not as full on wild as Evan was, but 14 walks in just 13.1 IP is bad. He’ll likely get a shot to fix things against UGA but it may not go much further than that if he can’t.

Trevor Fitts has looked good as the Saturday guy. He had a rough outing in Arizona but on the whole he has looked solid. He should be able to rack up a number of quality starts in SEC play and give MSU a chance to win every weekend. Fitts does have 6 wild pitches this year – that number needs to come down.

Dakota Hudson has been the Sunday starter, but I’d figure to Cohen to reach for his 5th year senior Ben Bracewell who has been pitching really well this year. Ben is 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA (1.99 FIP), good 1.16 WHIP. Hudson is the future, but when you’re throwing 96 mph gas and only striking out roughly 1 out of every 7 hitters in non-conference play I think he’ll get hit hard at times in SEC play.

If everything works out as planned Woodruff, Fitts and Bracewell are your weekend guys and that’s a good rotation. Woodruff has the stuff to match up against other aces, but the question will be can he do it? If not, I see Bracewell moving to Friday night like Pollorena did last year and just do whatever it takes to stay in the game and see if we can win at the end vs. a top SEC pitcher. Woodruff could potentially move to Sunday, but Preston Brown is a candidate as well. He’s looked solid as a starter – he leads the team with a 1.12 ERA (although FIP is 3.08) and has been very effective at pitching around trouble (1.44 WHIP).

Really good stat: Ben Bracewell has two quality starts out of three (his 3rd start he went 5.1 giving up 3ER)

Really bad stat: Brandon Woodruff has walked 14 men in 13.1 innings


Right now the headliner is Jacob Lindgren – and that’s in a ‘pen with Ross Mitchell and Johnathan Holder. Outside of a few bad outing the bullpen has been solid.

Lindren has a crazy-good FIP at 0.20 and he’s at 0.94 WHIP. He also has two saves.

Ross Mitchell has logged the most innings (27) of any pitcher by a good bit. His ERA is 1.67, FIP is 2.94 and WHIP is 1.04. He has been himself – all he does is be really effective virtually every time out there and gives State a chance to win the ballgame. Johnathan Holder looks like he has his finger issues behind him after a career long outing to salvage Game 4 in AZ.

Will Cox and Myles Gentry have had a couple of bumps but they should be okay.

John Marc Shelly has been lost for the year and Paul Young will never pitch in 2014. Dakota Hudson could be a guy who could make a significant impact throwing gas out of the ‘pen in SEC play. Austin Sexton could figure in there as well.

Really good stat: Jacob Lindgren has struck out 22 of the 41 men he’s faced – that’s over 50%!

Really bad stat: Opponent are hitting .281 vs. Will Cox and .450 on balls in play.