The Mississippi State Bulldogs celebrate winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship on Sunday. (Photo by Michael Wardlaw, SDN)
HOOVER, Ala. â The season began with Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen praising his pitching staff, then the Southeastern Conference season ended with everyone understanding why.
The Bulldogs shut out the Vanderbilt Commodores 3-0 to take home their seventh Southeastern Conference Tournament title.
No. 21 MSU completed a stretch of six games in six days under the hot southern sun, but the Bulldogs would not be denied as they continued to follow the recipe Cohen had laid before them, quality pitching, solid defense, and being aggressive at the plate.
Freshman Brandon Woodruff earned the start after dominating Arkansas on Tuesday and was sharp for MSU. The Wheeler native allowed just a single hit in three innings of work where he walked a pair and struck out a pair.
While Woodruff was solid, the day belonged to freshman Ross Mitchell. The Commodores hand no answer for anything the youngster served up. He threw five scoreless innings in relief work for the Bulldogs and forced the coaching staff to completely scrap their plan for the game.
âWe were just hoping to get a couple of innings out of him and then bring in Caleb (Reed),â said MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson. âThey just didnât have good swings on him. It seemed like they had one good swing per inning and that was with two outs.
âWe kept asking ourselves, âcan we get one more out of him?â And we did.â
Mitchell took the ball in the fourth inning and didnât give way until the ninth when the first two batters reached for Vanderbilt.
"I felt fine," Mitchell said. "I wanted to pitch and I wanted to be out there. I also knew I had two All-Americans behind me in Caleb Reed and Chris Stratton that could get it done also. Caleb came in and had that amazing double play. Strat did what he does. He is the best pitcher in the nation. I was going to compete."
Reed entered the game and promptly squelched the Vandy threat with a ground ball resulting in the double play.
With a runner on third base, Mississippi State turned to ace Stratton, who threw five pitches giving fans a reason to celebrate with the final out being recorded.
Offensively it was another typical Bulldog outing with walks, hit by pitches, sacrifice bunts, and a timely hits.
State got on the board in the third inning when Adam Frazier singled to left and advanced to second on a Brent Brownlee groundout to short. Trey Porter drew a walk followed by a Hunter Renfroe single that loaded the bases.Â Frazer walked across home plate due to a Tyler Beede wild pitch.
The Bulldogs added a pair of runs in the fourth with a Mitch Slauter leadoff single followed by a walk to Sam Frost and hit by pitch to Daryl Norris and an RBI walk to Frazier.
After State had established its 2-0 lead, it added a run on a Brownlee fly out scoring Frost from third to cap the scoring.
For the day, the Bulldogs turned in seven hits while holding Vanderbilt to just six.
MSU shortstop and SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player Adam Frazier went 12-for-23 for the week with four runs scored and three RBI.Â Demarcus Henderson also made the All-Tournament team after going 5-for-23 with three walks, an RBI and a stolen base. Jonathan Holder rounded out the tournament team after appearing four times with a win and three saves and 4.2 innings of no-hit baseball.
The Bulldogs clinched an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and now await their destination which will be announced today at 11 a.m. on ESPNU.
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