Although they lost two of three games on the road against the 10th ranked Kentucky Wildcats, it looks like the Diamond Dogs are finally starting to play up to their potential thanks in large part to the return of several injured players, including junior closer Aaron Weatherford, Friday night starting pitcher Chad Crosswhite, a junior, and last year's leading hitter sophomore Brandon Turner.
As expected, the Dogs defeated Austin Peay in two mid-week games 13-4 and 10-2. The second victory saw the return of Weatherford, who had been out for about a month. And he didn't disappoint, striking out the side in the top of the 9th in front of 20+ Major League Baseball scouts. His fastball was its old self, coming in at 92 to 94 miles per hour.
During the two-game set, freshman outfielder Ryan Collins continued to impress - going 5-for-7 with 3 RBI. Sophomore shortstop Russ Sneed was 5-for-8 with 3 RBI. Sophomore third baseman Connor Powers was 6-for-10 with 4 RBI. Grant Hogue rounded the hitting out with a 3-for-7 series.
Pitching-wise, Crosswhite and Weatherford had hit-less outings. And senior Andy Wilson threw 4 innings, allowing no runs or walks on two hits.
During the three-game SEC series against Kentucky, the Bulldogs won the first game 6-5 with Weatherford closing out the game with a no-run, no-hit, one-walk, two-strikeout two inning outing. But Kentucky came back and won the series with 13-4 and 9-8 victories. State allowed five unearned runs to give Kentucky the series-clinching victory. True freshman right-hander Michael Busby got the loss, giving up three unearned runs on 2 hits, 2 walks with 2 strikeouts in his 2.1 innings of work.
Several Bulldog hitters had outstanding weekends, including Connor Powers who was 8-for-13 with 2 doubles, 3 home runs and 7 RBI. Junior first baseman Tyler Moore also performed well, going 7-for-11 with a home run and 3 RBI.
Brandon Turner, returning from a hamstring pull that has kept him out for most of the season, played in two games and went 1-for-6.
Two of MSU's hitters had outstanding weeks - Powers was 14-for-23 with 11 RBI and a phenomenal .609 batting average and Moore was 9-for-17 with 5 RBI and a .529 batting average in the five games. Moore drove in every baserunner that was on base during his at-bats and Powers left just one on base.
And Weatherford, with his two hit-less outings, is only allowing teams a batting average of .040 this season (2nd lowest in the SEC), and has struck out 17 in 8.1 innings of work.
During the week, State's hitters batted .341, including .305 against Kentucky's pitching, which has the top ERA in the SEC.
State, which is now 14-17 on the season and 3-9 in SEC play, takes on Memphis Tuesday night in Memphis and comes back home to play Vanderbilt in a three-game SEC series this coming weekend.
Softball (2 wins, 3 losses)
The 23rd ranked MSU softball team went 2-3 in SEC home action last week, defeating Kentucky twice, then losing to No. 3 Florida three straight.
Three Lady Bulldogs had good weeks, including Chelsea Bramlett who was 10-of-16 (.625 BA) 1 RBI, Ali Bainbridge 6-of-12 (.500) and Hayle Guess who was 5-of-14 (.357). Guess extended her hitting streak to 13 games.
Bramlett improved her batting average to .448 for the season, which places her second in the SEC.
With the 2-3 week, the Lady Bulldogs are now 32-14 overall and 6-10 in SEC action.
Their next action is Tuesday night when they take on Ole Miss in Ridgeland, Miss., at Freedom Ridge Park. The game is set to begin at 6:30 p.m.
Men's Tennis (2 losses)
State's men's tennis team lost two home matches against No. 16 LSU and No. 47 Arkansas 5-2 and 4-3. The Bulldogs fell to 8-10 overall and 2-8 in SEC play.
No. 26th ranked Ivan Bjelica won both of his matches to go 11-5 overall and 7-2 in SEC action. He now has a three-match winning streak in SEC play.
State's next action is against Ole Miss next Saturday in Oxford, MS.
Women's Tennis (1 loss)
After rain suspended a Friday match at Baton Rouge between No. 33 LSU and No. 68 MSU with LSU leading 3-0, the Lady Bulldogs traveled to Arkansas to take on the 14th ranked Lady Razorbacks.
Arkansas earned a 5-2 victory. The two match wins by State were by Elna de Villiers and Radka Ferancova. Villiers overall record this season is 10-5 and 4-3 in SEC play, while moves to 9-6 and 2-5 in SEC action. In a match against Georgia earlier in the season, de Villiers was leading but the match was stopped when Georgia earned their fourth victory to win the match. Villiers was also leading in the rain suspended match against LSU that will be resumed April 9th.
The Lady Bulldogs' next action will be Wednesday, April 9, in Baton Rouge to complete a match with LSU that was postponed April 4th due to rain.
Track and Field
At the Texas Relays, State did well in several events.
Pad Judd finished 1st in the 3000-meter steeplechase. Marrissa Harris finished 6th in the 100-meter hurdles. The men's 4x1500-meter relay team finished in 2nd place, while the men's 4x800-meter relay team finished 3rd. The men's 4x100-meter and 4x400 relay teams completed their events in 5th place. The women's 4x200-meter relay team wound up 6th in their event.
In the men's distance medley competition, State's team ended up 4th. Simone Dominque ran the 5000-meter run and ended up 6th in the event.
Both squads return to action Saturday, April 12, at the Ole Miss Invitational.
Women's Golf (5th place)
The women's golf team finished 5th out of 15 teams at the John Kirk/Lady Panther Intercollegiate tournament. Individually sophomore Suzanne Stanley claimed the individual championship by two strokes, her first collegiate title.
The Lady Bulldogs will return to action April 7-8, as they travel to Miami, Fla., to compete in the Canes and Cardinal Classic.