Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Junior Righthander Establishing His Place as Bulldog Ace

He did not get the decision. But lots of folks made their decision about Dakota Hudson’s performance on opening night of SEC season.

Mississippi State’s junior righthander has earned SEC Pitcher of the Week after throwing nine complete innings against and at Vanderbilt. Hudson’s stint resulted in just one un-earned run on four hits and a couple of walks, with eight Commodores put down on strikeouts.

Put in another perspective, a Vanderbilt order that had hit .320 in their pre-conference play were held to 4-of-31 (.129), and that doesn’t count his total-faced of 35. If that isn’t the definition of an ‘ace’ then Hudson certainly is proving himself State’s high card to begin SEC weekends.

“Dakota battled his tail off, he showed the type of competitor he is,” Coach John Cohen said on post-game radio. “He was outstanding, it was a Friday night in the SEC and he pitched the way you have to.”

For Hudson, this is just how he intended to pitch as a third-year Diamond Dog. And it is also worth reminding that Hudson did not start a single game in 2015. He was a bullpen guy with 17 short stints.

Try telling the Commodores that now. Or Oregon’s Ducks. Or a Bruin bunch who did manage to take a 2-1 three weeks ago at UCLA. It must boggle their minds that only now has Hudson emerged as a lead Dog in a rotation.

Hudson has called his turning point a 12th-inning call last spring against #1-ranked LSU, where he left the bases loaded and ended up with a winning decision.

“I was able to build off of that and know that I always had a moment in my back pocket to mentally prepare for the next one,” Hudson said in February. “I think I just needed to get some experience.”

He also took that success into a strong summer where Hudson led the Cape Cod League in strikeouts per-inning and posted a 1.69 ERA against amateur baseball’s elite. It speaks much for the development on and off the field that Hudson is a co-captain of this ’16 squad. Though “I want all my attention to reflect back on the team, that’s how I focus on day-to-day stuff.”

A lot of that daily grind has been building himself up physically along the way. Oh, and adjusting to a new pitching coach. Changing mentors at this point might have seemed risky yet Hudson has meshed immediately with Wes Johnson.

OK, that should not be a surprise. Johnson is noted for developing velocity. Hudson has the arm to bring it. What’s not to like here?

“He has such a physical program, that’s helping me sustain what I can do and for a long time,” Hudson said. It showed Friday as after 126 pitches Hudson wasn’t noticeably slowing. If not for a fourth-inning misplay in the field Hudson would have tossed a clean shutout and perhaps won the game in nine frames.

As it was, he handed a tied game to his relief crew and they kept Vanderbilt at bay long enough for the offense to score in the top of the 13th and open Mississippi State’s league season with a 2-1 win. It set the Bulldogs up to take the series with Saturday’s equally-tense 5-4 win in a more routine nine innings.

It was more for long-term protection Johnson made the change. Well, that and the fact that this is a short week. Hudson will open the Georgia series on Thursday evening so yeah, it was time to rest the right arm.

This also reminds that Mississippi State is, after all, only one series into SEC season. Despite his insisting “We have five or six guys that can throw on Friday night,” it’s clear the Bulldogs gain confidence having Hudson open these three-game sets. Five Fridays into the schedule Hudson is the only SEC moundsman currently in the top-six in conference ERA, batting average, innings pitched and strikeouts.

“When you’re as good as he is he gives you a chance to win every time he goes to the mound,” OF Brent Rooker said.

Oh, and the best part? Hudson (2-1, 1.38) doesn’t see himself as a finished college product. He wants to last longer and throw stronger as the season continues and weather warms up.

“I just have to be more efficient with the walks and give the team more out of my outings.”

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