Mississippi State University (19-16, 4-8 SEC) is coming off of its first SEC series win over in-state rivals the University of Mississippi. Head coach Gary Henderson said the team needs to make a quick and focused turnaround going into the weekend at Auburn University.
“Maybe momentarily, once you get back out there, what you did last weekend is great, but that does not stay long with you for very long in the next contest,” Henderson said. “I think it is good for our team to know we can beat a good team, but then you have to go back out there and prove it again.”
Henderson said depth is really important on a baseball team, and the need to stay healthy can help with this. The team has had depth notably at the catcher and third baseman positions this season.
“My philosophy is a couple things. One, I think it would be good if you did have defined roles,” Henderson said. “It helps if you have a little bit more depth left handed than what we have too, really define them. I think if you start at the season really healthy and you have an idea about what those guys can do and where they might fit."
Jake Mangum, a junior center fielder from Pearl, went five for five on Sunday and filled in the leadoff spot because of his dependability. The lineup may vary from week to week based upon who is feeling hot, and with this, the team has found something they can rely on.
“At the same time, you kind of go with who is hot,” Henderson said. “When guys are getting guys out, it is kind of the same thing you do with hitting. When guys are doing well, you just kind of go. As a whole group of kids, those guys are doing a really good job and are performing at a really high level."
MSU will go up against a strong pitching staff when they play No. 21 Auburn this weekend. Auburn has a combined staff ERA of 3.98, while their opponents have a combined total of 6.30 ERA.
“You are going to see a bunch of good arms, I have not looked at their statistics or anything like that,” Henderson said. “I certainly have a good idea of their personnel, but we are going to get through the Wednesday game first.”
Henderson said he is looking forward to seeing a strong pitching staff, something he said the SEC is full of.
“Certainly their starting staff is really good, we are looking at one more weekend of really competitive pitching in the SEC,” Henderson said. “Every weekend you are seeing top-flight guys, and we have certainly seen some really good starting rotations to this point this year."
As far as the effect the series win over Ole Miss had, Hunter Stovall, a junior infielder from Pelham, Alabama, said it has given the team more belief in themselves.
“I think that is what we needed as a club, I think it put a lot of confidence in us,” Stovall said. “It lets us know that we are a team that can make another run with all these teams. I believe we could have the whole time, but I think it made the team believe.”
The team prior to the Ole Miss series had dropped rubber matches to Missouri and LSU, and were a few pitches or hits away from a completely different record and feeling, but Stovall said those small margins are what make the sport so interesting.
“That is just baseball, it is a game of failure,” Stovall said. “I truly believe we have done a really great job of handling it and staying in the game, but like I said, this series this past weekend has really made us come to realize we can be who we want to be.”
Stovall said he has faith in the team and they will continue to keep this new momentum up going into the weekend series with Auburn. He also hopes it is the beginning of some consistency in the lineup.
“I think we are going to make a stretch,” Stovall said. “Our lineup is going to get much more consistent, and we have been working like crazy to make that happen. I think coming forward throughout these next few series, we are going to be a little bit more consistent as an offense.”
MSU started off the road trip with a victory over Alabama State University (17-15), winning 15-4, and will play Auburn on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The SEC Network will broadcast the games.