At the midway point of football season and with basketball beginning soon, the Mississippi State baseball team has been quite literally sandwiched in between the two at Dudy Noble Field preparing for the spring.
Baseball SID Kyle Niblett has, in his usual good graces, compiled those numbers for us here at HailState.com.
The numbers are fairly straightforward on the plate, particularly on those with a bigger sample size, though as any coach would warn, taking too much from the fall is dangerous.
Pitching coach Butch Thompson used the term “Fall Americans” to describe it, and perfect examples are closer Jonathan Holder and first baseman Wes Rea, two of MSU’s best players despite their less-than-stellar numbers so far in scrimmages.
Few, if any, are worried about them, so a corresponding grain of salt ought to be taken with the numbers at the top of the stat sheet, too. Though it doesn’t mean we should ignore those doing well, either.
Just a glance at the numbers and what stands out to me is MSU’s top two hitters (of those who’ve played double-digit games): junior infielder Matthew Britton (.458) and freshman Reid Humphreys (.435). Certainly, those are high numbers, and you have to get to the 12th person down the list to even find someone below .300 for the fall, but it’s noteworthy to see those two at the top.
Freshman Gavin Collins actually leads all hitters with a .600 average on 10 at-bats in four games.
MSU will be a veteran team in 2014, but it has openings for young guys to step in, and Humphreys is a leading candidate to do so. Britton struggled at the plate a bit last year, but John Cohen has said repeatedly he’s one of the best defenders on the team. If he has the hitting to match it, he may be a player to watch in his third season.
Though, even outside of Britton, MSU is as good as just about anyone in the field, something Thompson pointed out when talking about his pitchers.
“I want us to trust that defense,” he said. “You get to the point where you feel so good about yourself and you trust guys defensively. We’re blessed with it, we’ve built it, those guys can make great plays and we’ve gotta trust them.”
In 10 minutes of talking after Saturday’s scrimmage, Thompson highlighted one non-pitcher: outfielder Derrick Armstrong, who drew a walk, stole bases and “challenged” freshman pitcher Dakota Hudson, who we’ll get to soon.
“Derrick Armstrong, I just tip my hat,” Thompson said.
One more notable offensive performance: senior Alex Detz who’s got a team-high 10 RBI, is hitting .367, has scored nine runs and has drawn seven walks.
On the mound, there’s a lot to be happy about if you’re an MSU fan, though Thompson says there’s still a lot of work to be done.
The name we should probably familiarize ourselves with is the one mentioned above, freshman pitcher Dakota Hudson. He’s got nine strikeouts (tied for team-high) in nine innings pitched and has been one of the most impressive youngsters in the fall.
“Dakota has a tremendous arm,” Cohen said. “So much upside and so much talent. The one thing he needs to do is attack the strike zone a little more.”
On Saturday, the freshman hit his first bit of adversity, something Thompson was excited to see, getting himself out of a bases-loaded jam and mostly doing well as he faced some tougher situations than he had previously seen.
The most encouraging part of it, Thompson said, was that Hudson’s pitching improved when he hit those situations. Against that adversity, his stuff got better, something Thompson thinks says a lot.
The key, he said, is for Hudson to continue that improvement and keep showing his talent as the players see more and more of him.
“I think our hitters are starting to know who he is, which is gonna put the emphasis on him for execution,” Thompson said.
Senior Ben Bracewell has eased his way back onto the mound, as well, and may be the reliable veteran MSU needs this season.
He’s only totaled five innings in four appearances, but he’s sitting steady with a perfect 0.00 ERA and five strikeouts.
Junior Jacob Lindgren has been maybe the most impressive to this point, reportedly hitting the mid-90s regularly while tying for the team-high with nine strikeouts.
The other member of that three-way tie for strikeouts is junior Trevor Fitts, who stepped up big in the second half of MSU’s 2013 season.
He may be the most improved player on the team, to hear the coaches talk about him.
“Everything about Trevor has gotten better,” Cohen said. “He’s improved so much.”
We’ll have more from the Diamond Dawgs as fall ball finishes in the cooling temperatures.