SEC Opening Weekend Perspective


Jun 25, 2013; Omaha, NE, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs pitcher Ross Mitchell (48) delivers a pitch during the second inning in game 2 of the College World Series finals against the UCLA Bruins at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The roller coaster season continued this past week for the Diamond Dawgs. After a very shaky performance in the Hi Corbett Classic in Arizona, the Bulldogs went 3-1 this past week. What makes this week more significant is the fact that SEC play started this past weekend. After a relatively ho hum victory over the Southern Illinois Salukis on Tuesday, Mississippi State traveled to Athens to take on the other Bulldogs in the SEC. There was some trepidation after the series opening loss, but the team responded as well as we could have asked for. They won the two games on Saturday by a combined score of 10-2.

Things I Liked

John Cohen Took Charge: The five years prior to this season, Cohen has demonstrated a patience and willingness to wait throughout the nonconference season that can drive some fans crazy. The purpose is to let the players he believes that have the best opportunity to help them team work out any kinks and to get comfortable. That patience typically goes out the window in the conference games, and that was demonstrated again this weekend. We have been waiting all year for Brandon Woodruff to get out of this funk that he has been in, and it doesn’t appear that it will happen. I thought Cohen might give him one start in conference play, but he didn’t do that. He went straight to Bracewell. We didn’t get the performance from Bracewell or the bullpen after he left the game that anyone wanted, but it was refreshing to see Cohen basically tell Woodruff he has had enough time to fix his issues. The games mean too much for us to start a pitcher that isn’t going to give us a decent chance to win.

Ross Mitchell: There have been a lot of fans that have been begging for Mitchell to get a start, and the frustration of Friday night’s loss combined with the fact that the team had to play a double header on Saturday fulfilled their wishes. It’s hard to imagine how his start could have gone any better. He pitched his first ever complete game in only his second ever career start. If you want to nitpick him, the four walks is high, but if you didn’t get to watch the game, you didn’t see how tight of a strike zone the home plate umpire had in that game. If you factor that in, it makes Michell’s start that much more impressive.

Lindgren and Holder: Trevor Fitts ran into trouble during the fifth inning, and Lindgren was called upon to do what he has done all year long. He locked Georgia up completely for the next four innings before giving way to Jonathan Holder with two outs in the eighth. Holder finished the job and picked up his second save.

Things I Didn’t Like

Still No Dominant Ace: Based off of his performance on Saturday, I can’t help but wonder if Mitchell is going to be the new Friday night starter. I think Bracewell certainly needs to be involved in the weekend rotation as most of his starts have been rock solid. This may have been a minor hiccup. Regardless of who it is, we need someone to step in and compete against the other team’s best starter. We can’t afford to simply hand the other team a victory on Friday night. This league is too deep and our offense doesn’t have the fire power to count on victories on Saturday and Sunday. We are going to have to win some Friday night games to have a chance to compete in the SEC.

Top of the Lineup: The first four hitters have been struggling as of late. Detz and Pirtle seemed to snap out of it some, but Vickerson and Rea are still scuffling along. Seth Heck was initially inserted for his defense, but he has had one of the hottest bats in the lineup recently. Cohen has moved him up in the order to fifth, but we may see him placed higher in the lineup still. Seeing us go down 1-2-3 in the first is getting frustrating.

How it Went Overall

All things considered it was a solid week. If I were giving it a grade, I’d give it a B+. A lot of people (myself included) thought we were capable of sweeping the Georgia version of the Bulldogs. While it may have been possible, we shouldn’t have thought of it as likely. We haven’t won a series in Athens since 1997, so to expect a sweep was probably asking a bit much. The panic that ensued probably doesn’t happen if we win Friday night and lose game 2 of the double header.

Coupled with Texas A&M, LSU, Ole Miss, and Arkansas all losing 2 games this weekend, we came out pretty well. I don’t think Auburn and Alabama will be much in terms of contenders this year, so getting a head start on our main competition is a good way to start the year.

Looking Forward

No midweek games this week, which is good considering we have one of the most important series we will have this weekend against Vanderbilt. It would be great to get a sweep, but if that happens I would be shocked. We really need to find a way to win two games, but the one thing that simply can’t happen is get swept. Vanderbilt is loaded, just like they were last year when we lost all four games we played against them. Being at home at the Dude helps, and it should make for a really fun weekend.