Former Mississippi State ace Dakota Hudson is scheduled for his first career postseason appearance today for St. Louis, starting Game 4 of the National League Division Series against Atlanta, a must-win situation for the Cardinals. Hudson, 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA this season, does have some experience in pressurized situations, having started three postseason games for State in 2016. He went 0-2, losing to LSU in the SEC Tournament, taking a no-decision against Southeast Missouri State in the Starkville Regional and losing to Arizona in Game 1 of the Super Regional at Dudy Noble Field. He got knocked around by LSU, yielding nine hits and four runs (two earned) in five innings of a 6-2 loss at Hoover, Ala. (Jared Poche got the win for the Tigers.) Hudson wasn’t sharp against SEMO in the regional, lasting just 3 1/3 innings and allowing four runs, but the Bulldogs rallied to win. His best performance came against Arizona, a start that came the day after the 6-foot-5 right-hander was drafted 34th overall by the Cardinals. He worked 6 1/3, allowed seven hits, one walk and one run – but the Bulldogs lost 1-0 to the Wildcats’ Bobby Dalbec. Arizona took the Super Regional the next day. Hudson signed with St. Louis and two years later made his big league debut. Today, he makes his biggest appearance at Busch Stadium. MSU has paid for several billboards that have gone up in St. Louis wishing Hudson good luck. P.S. Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High star, stole third base as a pinch runner and scored the tying run during the Braves’ ninth-inning rally in Game 3 on Sunday. Hamilton, in his first postseason, has scored two runs in his two appearances. … In the other NLDS, Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier started and went 0-for-2 for Washington in its loss to Los Angeles, which can take the series in Game 4 today at Nationals Park. Dozier, in his third postseason, is batting .174. He homered in his very first at-bat for Minnesota in 2017 but has only three hits in 22 ABs since.
Mississippi State’s Bulldogs are in Nashville this weekend, and the burning question is: How did this Bulldogs team get here? Not here, as in Nashville, but here, as in this Super Regional, as the last Mississippi team still playing in 2018? You look at their numbers, they aren’t too good. Middle of the pack in the SEC in batting average and runs, dead last in on-base percentage. Tied for 12th in homers and tied for 13th in steals. Only two SEC clubs made more errors. Bulldogs pitchers had just the 11th-best ERA in the league; they were third in strikeouts but also third in walks allowed. Yet here they are, playing league rival Vanderbilt in a best-of-3 for a berth in the College World Series. It was a long strange trip. They started 0-3 and saw their coach fired. They also started 0-3 in the SEC – swept by Vandy – and were 10-10 overall on March 18. They were 19-19, 5-10 SEC on April 20 when they pulled off a three-game sweep of No. 3 Arkansas. Where’d that come from? Alas, after losing two of three to Kentucky in mid-May, the record was 27-24 and 11-15 and an NCAA bid looked doubtful. Then, out of nowhere, the Dogs swept No. 1 Florida. And yet, even that momentum was quelled when they lost their SEC Tournament opener to LSU. Then they were routed by Oklahoma by a football score in the Tallahassee Regional. That’s gotta be it, right? Well, no. Out of the loser’s bracket, seemingly against all odds, they won four straight to take the region title. And now the NCAA has sent the Dogs to Nashville, a somewhat controversial decision, to play a Vandy team that has also had a tumultuous year. Can this long strange trip possibly reach Omaha? For State, it’s like the Grateful Dead once sang, “Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on.”
We compile batting average, on-base percentage, earned run average, strikeouts per nine innings, fielding percentage and all those other stats, and they tell us something, if not quite everything, about a team. There is no stat for energy level, and that might be the most telling factor in the outcome of the Super Regional in Starkville that starts Friday. Mississippi State, which fairly cruised through its regional at Dudy Noble Field, should be fully charged. Visiting Arizona, on the other hand, who knows? The Wildcats have traveled some 12,000 miles since May 19, according to a story on the school’s web site. In their regional tournament, at Lafayette, La., they fell into the loser’s bracket and had to win three games in roughly a 27-hour span to advance. Their ace, Nathan Bannister, threw a reported 198 pitches over four days to help keep the ‘Cats alive. One has to wonder if there is enough juice left for Arizona to get past Dakota Hudson, Jake Mangum, Jack Kruger, Austin Sexton and friends in a three-game series in front of the rowdy Dudy Noble throng. The Wildcats (42-21 in a “rebuilding” year) do have some arms: Bannister (11-2, 2.63), lefty J.C. Cloney (6-4, 2.86), Bobby Dalbec (9-4, 3.28, seven saves). Ryan Aguilar provides some power (seven homers, 21 doubles), and Zack Gibbons is a .380 hitter. But the Bulldogs (44-16-1) appear to have more pitching and more hitting. And even if they don’t, surely they’ve got more energy.
2 — Number of home runs this season for Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton, who hit his latest on Sunday in Cincinnati’s 4-1 win over Philadelphia. Hamilton is batting .253 with 23 stolen bases.
3 — Months former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland is expected to miss after having ankle surgery. “It’s to the point where I’m hurting the team …,” the Texas Rangers first baseman told ESPNDallas.com about his decision to go under the knife. Moreland is batting .246 with two homers; he hit 23 bombs in 2013.
12 — Hits, in nine MLB games, for Tommy La Stella, the former Mississippi Braves standout now starting at second base for Atlanta. La Stella, a .340 hitter in Pearl last season, is batting .400.
14 — Runs scored by the M-Braves in their victory over Chattanooga at Trustmark Park on Sunday. The M-Braves are 1½ games out of first in the Southern League South with six to play.
16 — Hits this season for Ole Miss freshman Colby Bortles, who delivered his latest on Sunday, a two-run, eighth-inning single that helped the Rebels beat Louisiana-Lafayette 5-2 in their NCAA Super Regional. Game 3, with a College World Series trip on the line, is tonight at 6.
35 — Number of Mississippi-connected players picked in the MLB draft, from West Lauderdale High catcher Blake Anderson at No. 36 overall to Gulfport High third baseman Daniel Keating at No. 1181.
38 — Points lost off his batting average since May 21 by Ole Miss product Seth Smith. Smith, batting .301 with six homers and 21 RBIs for San Diego, is 7-for-34 (.206) over his last 10 games with just one RBI.