No, really, it did seem worth asking the Diamond Dog outfielder to compare his two Big Moments from the weekend in Gainesville. Which does Brown believe was bigger: his Saturday grand slam that blew open one win over Florida, or his Sunday heave home to shoot down a Gator and keep it scoreless?
“I’d probably say the throw from right field,” Brown answers, barely needing to consider. “Just looking back on it, that run meant a lot in that game. I feel I could have changed the outcome of that game.” And besides, “That felt really good.”
Brown’s one-hop strike to C Elih Marrero did feel awfully good to the Bulldogs (and awful to Florida) at the time. More so after the 2-1 final Sunday score to seal a Mississippi State series success. Brown’s grab-and-gun epitomized a contest won by defense and pitching.
Of course, Brown’s four-run blast the day before did much to make sure there would be a rubber game for State to win. It was the junior’s fifth career homer and the first SEC-game grand slam, which naturally has attracted plenty of comment and compliment since.
“Just a lot of congratulatory texts, and messages from Mom and family and friends. Just a lot of encouragement.”
Brown and the Bulldogs have lots to be encouraged about these days. Four weekends into SEC season they lead the Western Division and are second overall in the conference. Second is also where they stand in a pair of national polls at 23-9-1.
And while April projections mean no more than polls, State players and fans alike are all the more encouraged to see the team rated #1 by most analysts. As in, a #1 seed for the NCAA Tournament and thus a Regional host.
Their coach will preach caution. The club will take such talk lightly. At the same time…the most un-surprised group about this mid-season status are the Diamond Dogs themselves. They were certainly not shocked about going to then-#1 Florida and taking two.
“Absolutely,” said Brown. “Every day we take the field I feel we’re going to win. We have plenty of guys to do what we need to do and I think we’ve proved that. And we’re going to keep proving that.”
State has four fresh chances to prove it this week, and all on the home field. Wednesday brings a non-conference matchup with Memphis, re-scheduled from February 23 by weather. Though, the forecast for this re-match is a bit iffy as of now.
Weather oughtn’t be an issue for the weekend. Texas A&M, will be. The Aggies are nipping at Bulldog heels in the West, and have their own renewed confidence after whipping Georgia last weekend. That balanced a previous week sweeping at Florida which, ironically, knocked A&M out of #1 in polls.
Though the Bulldogs had won their first three SEC weekends and were top-five or -ten ranked already, Sunday’s rubber game might be remembered as something of a turning point. Having lost Friday, with ace Dakota Hudson on the hill, State shook it off to take the next two. “I think it speaks volumes about this team,” Brown said.
“The way we rallied the second two games really speaks a lot for this team. We’ve got great starting pitching, great relief pitching. And of course our offense is top-notch, too.”
Brown knows what he’s speaking of. Maybe his .279 average is ninth on the stat sheet this week. But no opposing pitcher takes the left-side swinger lightly since Brown just has a knack for the clutch contact.
Besides, when a batter like Brown is available to start in matchup-orders, to sub-in when pitchers change, or as a pinch-role, it speaks volumes for the entire offense. And, for just how versatile this outfield crew is.
“I think the strength of our team is we have depth everywhere,” Brown said. “We’ve got tons of depth in the outfield, especially. You can plug any guy in there and thye’re going to get the job done. That puts your mind at ease for the rest of the way.”
The team’s mind, Brown means. The tension comes from so many hungry Dogs wanting their starts and at-bats and all. Yeah, Brown agrees—this breeds pure in-club competition every day.
“It makes every guy play their best every game. It’s definitely not a ‘he’s playing more’ or ‘I’m playing more’ kind of thing. We all love each other, and whoever we put out there we know we’re going to win.”
Now, going out and winning another series; against another quality opponent; making a case for #1 ranking? Oh, and doing it on Super Bulldog Weekend?
That would be a real grand slam.