ATHENS, G.A. — Coming into this weekend’s matchup against Georgia, the Mississippi State Bulldogs had much to be proud of at the plate and on the mound. Clutch hitting has been key for the Bulldogs, as they have plated 24 runs with two outs in the inning over their last nine wins, while a total of 12 players to make a plate appearance this season have recorded multi-RBI games (13 such players have recorded multi-hit games, as well).
On the mound, the Bulldogs have found consistency after a 2013 season defined by an inevitable reliance on the bullpen. This season, starting pitching has held opponents to less than two earned runs in 17 of 20 starts heading into this weekend, while turning in seven quality starts, something that took the Bulldogs until March 30 to complete just one season ago.
Behind the pitching staff is a defense that has resurged as of late, leading the SEC with a .984 fielding percentage (good enough for ninth overall in the country). The Bulldogs committed 10 errors through their first 10 games, but have only made two miscues in 10 games since (over the weekend, they committed just one, an errant throw by Demarcus Henderson on Friday).
After dropping three of four at the Hi Corbett Classic to both UC Santa Barbara and Arizona, the Bulldogs built momentum with a 3-0 victory over Southern Illinois on Tuesday and charged into Athens, winning two of three for the series victory.
Game 1: Friday, March 14 – Georgia 7, Mississippi 1
After starting the season with a rather paltry 2-6 record, the Georgia Bulldogs have surged to grab 11 straight, included it that run a 7-1 victory over the Bulldogs from Mississippi State on Friday. Georgia’s Ryan Lawlor was impressive on the mound, working a career-high 7.2 innings of one-run ball (unearned), fanning seven batters and surrendering not a single free pass. He commanded his heater very well and worked in a breaking ball that knew nothing but the strike zone on Friday.
The Georgia defense was key in holding Mississippi State at bay until the eighth when Wes Rea plated Zack Randolph on a single to left to put the visiting Bulldogs on the board. That was all the offense they could muster up as the damage had been done with the host Bulldogs having already scored seven through the fifth, highlighted by Daniel Nichols’ two-run shot to right in the bottom of the third.
Game 2: Saturday, March 15 – Mississippi State 6, Georgia 1
Mississippi State returned the favor in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, as Ross Mitchell went the distance in leading his Bulldogs to a 6-1 victory. It was the first complete-game for a Mississippi State pitcher since Kendall Graveman’s against Texas A&M last April, as Mitchell was locked in, surrendering just a single run on four hits and fanning five in the process.
At the plate, Mississippi State turned in a pair of three-run innings in the third and seventh innings. Starting things off in the third, Matthew Britton launched a two-base gapper to plate Randolph from first. Following a base hit from Jake Vickerson, Alex Detz responded with a two-run double, cementing the early 3-0 lead. A leadoff walk got things going again in the seventh, as Cody Brown took the free pass, to be followed by Randolph who reached on an error. Britton struck again with a two-run single, while Brett Pirtle sent Britton home on an infield hit.
Game 3: Saturday, March 15 – Mississippi State 4, Georgia 1 (Moved from 3/16)
After a more aggressive showing at the plate in the afternoon, Mississippi State continued on into the second game of the day with much of the same – displaying a stout pitching performance from Trevor Fitts, Jacob Lindgren, and Jonathan Holder. Mississippi State got off to a quick start in the first on an RBI single from Detz, adding two more on a two-run double from C.T. Bradford in the fourth.
Fitts surrendered just one run on four hits, while fanning six and walking one over 4.2 innings of work, but was pulled in the fifth after surrendering a run on a wild pitch and loading the bases. Lindgren came in and quelled the threat, going 3.0 innings and fanning four, before handing the ball over to Holder in the eighth, who would close out the game, punching out three of the four batters he faced.
With the doubleheader triumph, Mississippi State grabbed its first series victory at Georgia since 1997 and improved to a 15-8 record on the season. Next up for Mississippi State is a weekend series against Vanderbilt at home, one of the stronger teams in the SEC with a balanced threat at the plate and on the mound.