Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Bulldog Ace Dakota Hudson has become one of the top pitchers in the Southeastern Conference.

Mississippi State right hander Dakota Hudson has worked hard to become a weekend starter in the SEC. As a sophomore, Hudson threw just over 16 innings with his longest outing of just over three innings coming in a loss to LSU. Hudson's lone win on the season came the following day against those same Tigers in a one inning relief stint. Now a junior, Hudson leads the Diamond Dawgs in most statistical categories.

It all sort of came together for Hudson after a strong summer, which led into fall ball. While most Bulldog fans had their eyes on the exploits of Dak Prescott and the Mississippi State football team, Hudson was making his move towards being baseball's Mr. Friday night.

"For me personally, I just feel it was really about me getting the experience that I needed," Hudson said. "I feel like coming out of the bullpen last year really helped me with my attitude and my mental game. Going out this summer, I was able to get out there and really see what I could do against some of the best players in the nation and not just in SEC play.

"I feel like all of that gave me the confidence I needed to really turn things around." 

Hudson has thrown to every active catcher on the Bulldog roster this season. As a veteran pitcher, Hudson has not been thrown off of his game in any respect no matter which battery mate is throwing down the signals.

"In high school, you're not used to seeing the kind of talent that we have," Hudson said. "I feel like we are extremely deep at the catcher position. I feel like we have guys who can just step in. I haven't had any problems getting comfortable with anybody we have had back there.

"My hat is off to all of those guys who have put in the work to really help our pitching staff."

Having confidence in his catchers as well as his pitches, Hudson has a real presence on the mound. Being able to trust that a breaking ball in the dirt will be blocked up, has given Hudson the green light to really explore the full expanses of his abilities. 

"I feel like that helps me, because people can't just gear up for the hard stuff," Hudson explained. "It just changes the mentality of the hitter a little bit. I think it helps me throttle a little bit better and keep them off of my plus stuff. It gives me a chance to change up the routine a little bit."

Through just over 80 innings pitched, Hudson has 85 strikeouts. That impressive ratio of a strikeout per inning has allowed the Chattanooga, Tennessee native to be down right dominant at times. Hudson reports that as the mastery of his pitches has improved, opposing hitters have had to adjust or simply be caught guessing.

"I feel like we have been developing it pretty well," Hudson said. "As we have gotten deeper into the season, I have really been able to really find my stuff. I've just been able to be more consistent with everything. I have confidence in everything I throw. It just depends on each situation now and what it needs."

Riding the strength of a solid weekend rotation and a dangerous batting order, Mississippi State has gone from missing out on the post season to competing for the overall SEC title in one season. While may Bulldog fans were crossing their fingers that the Bulldogs would find a spot in Hoover and eventually the NCAA tournament field, Hudson had much higher aspirations.

"I feel like we're about where around I thought we would be," Hudson said. "Going into the last two weeks of the season, we still have that chip on our shoulders. We want to finish out our league and the just sort of build going into post-season play. It's huge for us and I feel like we  are right where we need to be."

Hudson will toe the rubber Friday night and face off against his former college mentor, Coach Butch Thompson. Personal relationships withstanding, Hudson says that the trip to Auburn is strictly business. 

"He's seen me pitch enough already," Hudson said with a grin. "We are just going to go out there and do what he knows that we can do. We want to go over there and take a few wins from him. He spent two years here with me and we have all developed a lot. He is one of the reasons I am where I am as a pitcher. I am looking forward to the series."

When Thompson left Starkville for the Plains of Auburn after fall ball, Coach John Cohen hired Wes Johnson to replace him. Hudson considers himself the beneficiary of two quality coaches with two solid philosophies on how to get hitters out.

"I feel like it's more of a demeanor things with Coach Johnson," Hudson said. "With Coach T, it was a huge mental game and just trying to think through situations. It's about having confidence and going out there physically and with our preparation. 

"Coach Johnson has done a lot for our program and certainly a lot for me. I can't even begin to name all of the things that he has done, but it's all been big."

When Hudson takes the mound next weekend at Dudy Noble, the sounds of Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade" will serenade the Bulldog faithful for one of the final times in honor of #25. The unmistakable work from Tom Morello's wah wah pedal has announced the arrival of Hudson throughout the season.

"You know going into it, I feel like a lot of the guys just see me as a different guy on the mound than I am off of the field," Hudson explained. "I told some of the guys that I didn't have a walk out song. Brent Rooker and Jacob Robson came up with the idea for me to use it. I really like the song and it really gets my fired up when I am going out there."

While the 90s rock classic serves as a soundtrack to Hudson's warm-up tosses, it also serves as a mental signal for the future first rounder that it is time to flip the switch from mild mannered to wildly competitive.

"The competitive side of me just turns me into a different guy," Hudson explained. "I am pretty mild mannered off of the field. It's just how I was raised. When I am competing, it's just another story. It's just something different that I bring to the field."

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