(Austin Sexton) Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Mississippi State junior set a then career high with ten strikeouts in last year's win over Arizona

Last season, Mississippi State pitcher Austin Sexton aided in a Bulldog victory over Arizona with the first double digit strikeout game of his college career. Allowing just four hits and two runs over the course of a 90 pitch outing, Sexton gave way to Ross Mitchell who earned the win in relief. A year later, the Wildcats are back at Dudy Noble field with much more on the line.

Under the direction of first year head coach, Jay Johnson, the Wildcats are back in contention for a spot in Omaha. With Sexton and most of the returning 'Cats having faced off before, it is difficult to determine who would hold any advantage given the experience a season ago.

"I think it could go both ways," Sexton explained. "With them already hitting off of me and me throwing against them. I can go back and look at the adjustments that they made against me and they can look at the adjustments (I made) against them when they were hitting. I think it could go both ways."

While Sexton pitched well enough to win against the Wildcats, his most vivid memory involves a pitch he wished he had back.

"I remember the home run that I made a mistake on," Sexton smiled. "I also remember not walking anyone, so hopefully I cannot walk any one and not give up a home run and just let my defense play behind me. If I get ten strikeouts, if I get six strikeouts or two strikeouts, as long as I keep my team in a position to win, that is all that matters to me."

Sexton is not looking to rest on any 2015 laurels. The talented junior understands that both Arizona as well as his own Bulldogs are different teams than they were last spring.

"I haven't really had the chance to go through their line-up and look at their team," Sexton said earlier this week. "I know I was successful last year against them, but they didn't have as good a year last year obviously. They're in a Super Regional against us this year.

"They're doing some things right. We'll go back and look at film. Hopefully, they still have some guys back from last year's team. I'm sure they do."

With so much at stake in the post season, Sexton reports that the amount of fight for the Bulldogs as well as every team they face will be at a much higher level as the remaining teams in the NCAA field attempt to take another step towards a National Championship.

"Post season is just a different season," Sexton explained. "There is a different level of intensity. People are more prepared. I think it just takes a whole nother level of focus. I am not taking anything away from the regular season or the other 56 games, but for whatever reason, post season is another animal. People step up in the post-season when they need to."

While the moments only get bigger from here, Sexton reports that the Diamond Dawgs have done their best to treat this week just as they have the ones leading up to the Super Regional. With so much to play for, the Bulldogs are doing their best to keep a level head.

"I think we have kind of taken it the same way we did last weekend," Sexton said. "I was telling some of the guys on the team that when we won that regional championship game, I thought it was a very chill atmosphere. 

"We had bases loaded and no outs and Ryan Rigby was able to get out of that. That was a pretty high, intense situation. Other than that, I thought we remained calm. We were cool and we just stayed collected. Hopefully, we have the same attitude in the field this weekend. Just take care of business and not look too far ahead."

Sexton believes that one of the reasons his squad has been able to maintain their composure in those high voltage situations is because of the bonds they have forged on and off of the field.

"This is the goofiest and most fun I have had playing baseball with such serious stakes on the line," Sexton said. "I think that's what has made us so successful. I am sure once (the draft) is over there may be a little more looseness with the guys.

The Major League baseball draft will continue to take place over the weekend, while the Bulldogs are preparing to play and even while they are on the field of play. Sexton reports that he is doing his part to keep the focus on the task at hand.

"I am just looking forward to Arizona this weekend more than anything," Sexton said. "I'm sure a lot of guys will say that they're just ready for it to be over with as far as the draft. I am not looking forward to that as much as I am the Super Regional in front of hopefully 15,000 people at Dudy Noble field."

Pro baseball will be there for many, but the chance to advance to the College World Series promised land in middle America is only available to the players on the rosters of the sixteen teams still playing baseball this weekend. The gravity of what lies ahead is not lost on the talented right hander.

"We're two wins away from Omaha," Sexton said. "That would be the 10th time in this program's history and that's a big deal. If we win the first game or we lose the first game, we can't look too far ahead. We can't get too down and we just have to take it one day at a time. We just need to keep playing Mississippi State baseball and let things happen."

First pitch is set for 5 P.M.. A limited number of general admission tickets remain available at press time, but administrators have elected to cap ticket sales at 14,000. With a heat index expected to top 100 degrees, fans are encouraged to wear white and properly hydrate before the contest.

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