No. 5 Mississippi State (5-0) is facing a big weekend of games in the Diamond Classic. It starts today at approximately 6 p.m., when the Bulldogs play Purdue, which earned a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed last year and hosted a regional. Then there is two games for MSU tomorrow: 3 p.m. vs. Samford, followed by another game against Purdue (approx. 6 p.m.). On Sunday, State plays Samford again (approx. 2:30 p.m.).
You can read my advance right here.
I caught up with MSU catcher Mitch Slauter on Thursday to talk about the weekend, his hitting, and some other things. Here’s the full Q&A for you.
Big weekend, quality teams, another crack at Samford:
“We’re really looking forward to it. Obviously the season didn’t end the way we wanted to last year, to end it with them, so that’s obviously a big chip on the shoulder itself. Not to take away from Portland, but it’ll be nice to play two real quality ball clubs preparing for SEC play.”
How important is this weekend to build off 5-0 start, get ready for SEC:
“The big thing is we’re going to see some quality arms all weekend, and we’re going to see some bigger bats. It’ll help the pitching staff to see some bats that pose a real threat. It’s going to require focus all nine innings from everybody – everybody on the field and even everybody on the bench. It’s going to require a lot of focus to get a good team win.”
You’ve been hitting well, what’s been the difference since last year?
“The biggest thing is having a year under our belts. It’s not just me doing that, it’s everybody having that kind of success right now. The biggest thing is last year we didn’t have that, where everybody’s played. This year we’re returning pretty much all nine guys that started last year. That’s a big deal when have that year of experience under your belt and you’ve seen Division I-level pitching.”
Handling so many good, veteran pitchers:
“It’s a really good experience getting to handle guys day in, day out, like a Kendall Graveman, a Jacob Lindgren, and those are just a few of the great guys that we have on our staff. It’s really special when it doesn’t matter who you run out there, they’re bound to have success.”
Do you welcome the break you can get with Nick Ammirati taking some innings?
“Absolutely. I’m not saying this from a personal standpoint, I’m saying it makes the team better when we’ve got two guys that can play at the SEC level. It’ll keep both of us healthy and keep us both well-rested. That way it’ll help the team play at a higher level, and I think it’ll help this team out in the long run.”
What have you seen from Brandon Woodruff as he gets past elbow soreness?
“Obviously he’s battled through it all fall. Coming from the spring, and I caught him in our last instrasquad right before the season started, he’s just really shown a tremendous amount of progression. He’s kind of starting to look like the Brandon Woodruff he was before he got hurt. That’s a big deal for this team. He’s a special talent, and he can help us out down the stretch.”