Super Diamond Dawgs pitch, defend their way to victory

Ethan Small looks to the plate atop the mound. Small had 15 strikeouts in the game against Alabama.

A roar erupted from the fans as the final out was recorded, completing the series sweep for Mississippi State University as they defeated the University of Alabama 13-3.

The third win was routine, just like the pitching and defending this series. MSU only gave up four runs as a pitching staff all weekend, including a shutout in the first game of the series. MSU Head Coach Chris Lemonis said both pitching and defense did a great job limiting Alabama’s batters this weekend.

"I thought we pitched great all the way around, and I also thought we played good defense," Lemonis said. "I think that is a side that oftentimes gets overlooked. We made some really good plays defensively. Our Starters and relievers did a good job pounding the (strike) zone."

The defense playing well is something that has changed since the series against Lousiana State University, where MSU committed seven errors in three games. Since then, they have only committed four errors in six conference games.

Lemonis made some changes to the lineup defensively, as he moved Justin Foscue from third base to second base and Gunner Halter from second base to third base. He said the change and the effect it has had on the team defensively was a bit of a shock.

"I am surprised. Justin Foscue has surprised me because he has played a really good second base over the last couple of weeks, and even Marshall Gilbert made some nice plays today," Lemonis said.

In the midst of weather altered scheduling and Super Bulldog Weekend, the bullpen and starters found ways to not only stay focused in order to win the two games, but really strangled the Alabama Crimson Tide offense.

In the first game, Ethan Small, a junior pitcher from Lexington, Tennessee, took command on the mound and found a way to not only send Alabama batters back to the pine benches of the dugout, but also blow three strikes by 15 of the 18 batters he retired in six innings of work. Small said he knew how important the weekend was, but just how big his performance was had yet to sink in on Friday night.

"(It is) pretty surreal. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that that’s what happened," Small said. "Really special though. This weekend has meant a lot to us for a long time and we appreciate the support for sure."

Small has an arsenal that includes the ability to alter his timing on pitches. From the stretch to the release of the ball, Small's pitches mess up the hitter's timing and render hitters unable to make contact with the ball, as he struck out seven straight batters at one point.

Another part of Small’s game that gives him an advantage on the mound is his high fastball. Lemonis said it is the high fastball that has given Small an edge all season, and its movement is what makes it so hard to make contact.

"Well, it’s deceptive. So, hitters think it’s a little lower in the zone," Lemonis said. "I’m sure when you go into a weekend, everybody says, 'Don’t swing here,' and there’s just a deceptive piece to Ethan, and he really knows how to pitch off of it. He’ll go down [in the strike zone] and then come up."

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