By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
OMAHA, Neb. – Mississippi State has done some of its best offensive work with no strikes or outs to spare.
The No. 14-ranked Bulldogs (48-18) have become adept at getting hits with two strikes or two outs, and sometimes with both. Continuing with that sort of clutch production should serve them well at TD Ameritrade Park.
MSU opens College World Series play at 2 p.m. today versus No. 4 Oregon State (50-11), on ESPN2.
The Bulldogs’ postseason run has been defined by a hitting approach that thrives in pressure situations. In the Charlottesville Super Regional versus Virginia, MSU hit .407 (11 of 27) with two outs, and .343 (12 of 35) with two strikes.
“Coach always talks about when you have two strikes on you, you just find a way to put in play, make them make a play,” third baseman/DH Alex Detz said. “Once we get two strikes on us, our team does a really good job of just making the team make a play and making something happen out of it.”
A perfect example is Hunter Renfroe’s big hit in Monday’s win over Virginia.
The junior outfielder was in an 0-2 count in the seventh inning when rain and lightning suspended the game Sunday night, so he had to step in the box Monday in the hole. After taking a ball, the right-handed hitting Renfroe slapped a double past first base.
Later that inning, he scored a crucial insurance run in that 6-5 victory.
That was the kind of hit Renfroe probably would not have gotten his first two years at MSU.
“Hunter his first two years, every pitch that was thrown was an opportunity for him to hit it over the lights; that’s how he saw it,” coach John Cohen said. “And when you have as much power as he does, you can view it that way. But he has matured and said, hey, there’s another way to do this.”
Renfroe said a more well-rounded offensive game is something he’s worked hard on, and it’s been reflected in the season he’s had. Not only does he hit for power, with 15 home runs, but he’s got a team-high .360 batting average.
His approach, especially with two strikes and two outs, is really no different than the one taken by guys like Adam Frazier or C.T. Bradford.
“It’s really evolved a lot from last year and freshman year,” Renfroe said.
“That’s patience at the plate and being fun and being relaxed and just throwing your hands at the ball.”
beavers pitching stellar
MSU faces an Oregon State pitching staff that’s one of the best in the country. The Beavers’ 2.27 ERA ranks second in the country, and their WHIP of 1.07 ranks third.
The Bulldogs aren’t likely to be intimidated, and so long as they keep the same approach, they should have a shot against Oregon State. First baseman Wes Rea – who smashed a two-out, two-run homer against Virginia – expects the two-strike, two-out hitting to carry over to the CWS.
“You kind of get in a groove with everything, and you kind of start seeing the same things over and over again, and you learn from your past mistakes and just grow on it,” Rea said. “A lot of these guys have had the opportunities to do that.”