By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Mississippi State doesn’t have an explosive offense, but it’s an offense that has become a relentless machine during a crucial time of the season.
Over its last nine games, No. 16 MSU is hitting .313, and it’s recorded at least 10 hits in each of those games. That’s the longest such streak this season for the Bulldogs (43-16).
They hope to keep it going today in the SEC Tournament semifinals against Vanderbilt.
State was swept in the regular season by Vandy.
The Bulldogs are hitting .284 in Hoover this week, led by junior shortstop Adam Frazier’s 9-for-18 effort.
“It’s kind of like the Muhammad Ali thing way back when,” MSU coach John Cohen said. “It’s like a little peck, jab, jab, jab, jab. It’s not a knockout punch, but you keep jabbing, and you keep putting yourself in a position to score some runs.
“Our kids are having better at-bats.”
During this nine-game stretch, Frazier is batting .468 (22 of 47). That’s raised his season average 27 points, to .349. The Bulldogs’ leadoff hitter had four hits in Thursday’s 6-4 win over Texas A&M.
Also hitting well of late is second baseman Brett Pirtle, who’s 10 of 23 (.435) his last give games. He’s reached base safely in 32 consecutive games.
Outfielder Demarcus Henderson has also warmed up lately, hitting at a .409 clip (9 of 22) with five RBIs over his last six games.
“We try to take advantage of (pitchers’) mistakes, and the more hits we get, it puts us in a better chance to win,” Frazier said. “Some guys have been swinging it pretty well, and as long as we keep that up, it puts us in a good spot to win.”
The win over Texas A&M was one of MSU’s more efficient offensive performances. While the Bulldogs were aided by three Aggie errors, they had 10 hits and on three occasions executed the hit-and-run to score runs.
In the fourth inning, Pirtle took off from first base, causing the shortstop to cover second. Henderson promptly delivered a ground ball right to the spot the shortstop had just vacated, and Pirtle took third base, eventually scoring on a sac fly.
The next inning, Alex Detz pulled a single through the right side to allow Frazier go from first to third. Pirtle then drove in Frazier.
Later that frame, Wes Rea grounded out to third base, but the hit-and-run allowed the runners to advance to second and third and took away the double play.
Then a two-out error let two runs come in for a 5-2 MSU lead.
“That’s the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve taken advantage of the hit-and-runs and executed them like that,” Frazier said. “If we can do that a lot, I guess that puts pressure on the defense and gives us a better chance of winning.”
Cohen said he used the hit-and-run a lot Thursday because he saw an opportunity for it against A&M’s right-handed hurlers, whose pitches had some sinking action. And the way his players have been swinging the bat gave him added confidence it could work.
“You can put those plays on all you want,” Cohen said, “but if you don’t execute them, they don’t work, and our kids really executed.”