Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Bulldog Wins SEC Player of Week After Beating Up Missouri Pitching

Adjustments aren’t always applying something new. Going back to an old trick can work, too. Ask Nathaniel Lowe.

Or rather watch Nate Lowe. Watch the toe, the foot, the whole Dog-goned leg for that matter. Then watch Mississippi State’s hottest hitter put a ball in play…better, where it can’t be played.

That, the Diamond Dog is doing at a .351 rate for the season. Lowe’s SEC rate is even better at .381. And this past weekend? Well, the swinging spiked for sure as Lowe went 9-of-13 against Missouri pitching. It earned Lowe SEC Player of the Week honors, something media was already forecasting when he battered the Tigers with a 5-of-5 Thursday outing.

This is what Coach John Cohen expected when recruiting the first baseman from St. Johns River College in Florida. “He’s relaxed, he’s found his way, and he’s comfortable in the middle of our lineup.”

Comfortable? The coach may think so. A 1-of-7 Saturday twinbill at Alabama left Lowe fidgeting over his stance, his swing…and most of all the transition between. He found a clue, get this, on the TV screen the very next evening.

“Sunday night I watching the Yankees and Red Sox,” Lowe explained. He noticed many if not most batters were using a lift-the-leg routine before taking their cut…or holding fire.

Irony time: Lowe had been working this way for much of the season already. I’d done the leg lift a little at the beginning of the year. And it wasn’t comfortable. I did it a lot last year.”

So Lowe changed his mechanics to a toe-tap, as part of his progression on every pitch. Results were, pun intended, hit or miss and at Alabama there were more misses than he cared for. Watching the pros at play that evening cued Lowe to give the older way another try.

“I was comfortable enough in my legs that a lot of those guys were doing stuff like that. And I figured I could make that adjustment again.” The results? Check his Missouri statistics.

“I went back to the leg-lift tonight and got some balls on the barrel and was happy with the result,” Lowe said. Especially so with a Thursday night homer that arrived behind rightfield very, very quickly. Yes, he was looking for the changeup and got it but Lowe added he had to hit the ball off the very end of the bat.

“I knew I’d tagged it pretty good, I was glad it got out.”

Lowe’s sheer strength shows in more than drives over fences. There was the clutch at-bat last Friday where State trailed 2-0 and was trying to beat Missouri ace Tanner Houck. With two outs and OF Jake Mangum on second Lowe didn’t really find a hole.

He made one, muscling a low and hard ground ball by the shortstop’s glove to get State on the board and back on track to sealing that series. And, towards a much-needed SEC sweep which has the Diamond Dogs #4 overall in the league standings as well as second in the Western Division.

So for now Lowe will stick with this tactic. Just, not full-time. “I still do the toe tap with two strikes,” he said. And Lowe hit safely twice that way. “But I think early in a count I get more into a ball and lift my leg up, and it just feels good.”

It definitely feels fine hitting and running and scoring on a team which hits the closing stretch of their regular season in contention for Division, even conference titles; as well as on track to hosting Regional play. The Bulldogs also go back on the road this week for four games, including the series at Auburn. Where away play is worrisome for many squads, it has been Mississippi State’s forte. The Bulldogs have won all four SEC road series so far, and will be favored here in the fifth.

Home, away, neutral, Lowe has found a plate approach he favors. “For now!” he grinned.

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