Brownlee Hitting The Ball Well

Mississippi State junior outfielder Brent Brownlee is one of the veterans on the MSU baseball team. He, along with several of the seniors, have taken it upon themselves to help their team make it to postseason, a feat he feels is definitely within their reach.

"I think we are trying to step up and lead the team because we know it is a crucial time of the season," said the right-handed hitting outfielder. "We are still in the running for the West (Division title) and are trying to reach out and grab it."

Hitting stats confirm his opinion, with six veterans, including Brownlee, hitting between .318 and .555 during the last five games. The hitting by those six - Nick Vickerson, Jaron Shepherd, Brownlee, Jarrod Parks, Cody Freeman and Ryan Collins - helped MSU win their last two games against Alabama and South Alabama.

"That (South Alabama) game was huge for us," said Brownlee, who had five RBI in the game, including four in the seventh inning when MSU scored 10 runs to go head 15-9. "(South Alabama) went up, then we went up and they went back up. I felt like the attitude in the dugout was positive. I feel like that is what helped us get the win in the end. We knew we would come out and hit them. It was just a matter of whether our pitching could hold them, which they did toward the end."

And the victory gives the team momentum going into a crucial three-game road SEC series against the University of Tennessee this weekend.

"(The Tennessee series) is huge," said Brownlee. "The West is still in our reach and we are trying to get to the SEC Tournament. And this series is crucial in helping us make the tournament. Tennessee has been down this year. I think if we go in and do our thing I think we will be able to take a few games from them."

Brownlee knows it won't be easy to take two or three games on the road, especially in an always tough Southeastern Conference road series. He realizes one play can be the difference in a game, whether it be a hit, error, walk or even being hit by a pitch.

"It's just the one play that seems to hurt us or help us," said Brownlee. "For example, the pop fly against Alabama seemed to break us, just that one play. We make that one play and we probably win the game. Against South Alabama an error here or there (by South Alabama) and the game seem to bust wide open (for us).

"I also think the bunt plays a big role in the inning as does the walk. And Coach Cohen stresses the HBP (hit by pitch). Those are some of the things that we have been looking for to get that big inning. I think Coach Cohen told us that there is an 80% chance that a big inning happens when an HBP, error or walk happens in an inning. So we are always looking to hold our ground and make the defense make plays. One thing he stresses is not hitting fly balls because you don't want to allow the other team to get you out on a routine out. We haven't had the big inning like we wanted in SEC games. I think the Auburn series was the last time we had a really big inning, and that was our second series."

And that was the one SEC series MSU won this season.

Now almost completely healthy after having to sit out 10 games, including the Auburn series and two other SEC series, due to a foot injury, Brownlee is hoping he will help his team, especially on the offensive end of the spectrum.

"During the Arkansas series (my foot) got pretty sore, but ever since then it has felt great," said Brownlee, who has hit .333 (9-for-27, 8 RBI) since coming back from his injury. "I'm sure being healthy helps (my hitting) but I think it's due more to continuing to do what I have always done. And we've changed up a few things in BP (batting practice), and that is starting to work. My timing has been a fraction of a hair off and I've been getting jammed a little bit. So I'm trying to get through the ball more, like more to the pull side and not try to take it the other way as much."

While postseason is still the goal for this season, Brownlee sees good things ahead for the Mississippi State baseball program due to what he is seeing from all the young talent on the current squad.

"As for the freshmen, I like how all of them compete their hearts out, Adam (Frazier, C.T. (Bradford), Daryl (Norris), Taylor Stark, and the rest of them," said Brownlee. "They all want to win and that is huge. But being in the SEC, they all know it's a challenge. All of them pitch other than Frazier, so it's not like high school where you can throw all fastballs and get everybody out. They realize you have to pitch and have to hit."

Summer ball should help them become even better players going into next season. It will give them the chance to get some at-bats while working on individual aspects of their game.

"I went up to the Valley League (at the end of) my freshman year," said Brownlee. "During the summer you are trying to get at-bats, get experience on a collegiate level. And you want to have fun doing it, and summer ball is always fun. You still want to win and do good but it's not the end of the world if you don't."

While the freshmen and many of the veterans will be participating in summer ball, Brownlee won't be one of them, but he has a very good reason not to.

"I'm not playing summer ball this year," said Brownlee. "I'm going to try to get my body healthy."

But he will be working on improving his game as much as possible based on what he hears during his exit meeting with John Cohen.

"At the end-of-the-season-meeting with Coach Cohen he will recommends some things that he wants you to work on," said Brownlee. "It may be working on more pitches with each at-bat. Maybe you see a first-pitch fastball and not swing at it. That will allow you to see more pitches in the at-bat. Or, he may have you try to draw more walks. He may have you work on not swinging at a slider in the dirt, something that I have had a big struggle with."

Based on how well he has hit in his last seven games, Brownlee hasn't struggled as much with the slider in the dirt. And if he continues that hot hitting, maybe he and his teammates will win a couple of games this weekend and be even closer to making the SEC Tournament.


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


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