MC Baseball Begins to Turn Season Around/By Elliot Reeder
The Mississippi College baseball team has begun to turn around their season after a rough start. The team sat at 3-11 overall and 0-9 in GSC play after losing the first two games in their series against Alabama-Huntsville, but since then MC has won five of their last seven games and have won four in a row (all in GSC play). The Choctaws now sit at 8-13 overall and 5-11 in GSC play.
MC got their turnaround started with an 11-2 win in the final game of their series against UAH on March 13. The offense has been a key piece in the turnaround. In those five wins, MC has scored double-digit runs in each one. In fact, the offense has scored an average of 10.9 points per game in this seven-game stretch, as opposed to just 5.1 runs per game in the first 14 games of the year.
After the rough start, MC began falling into a pattern. In both the series against the aforementioned UAH, plus the series against Shorter (March 19-20), MC dropped the first two games of the series before exploding and winning game three in blowout fashion. Head coach Jeremy Haworth said, “If I can get this out of these guys at the start of the weekend, I think we’re going to be pretty good. They’re relentless. In this last game [game 3 against Shorter], they competed, they put hits together, and then obviously having a really good start from Jackson Bridges right there, that makes a world of difference.”
The Choctaws’ next series was against Union, and they did start to play better throughout the series. MC picked up the sweep by scores of 11-9, 18-5, and 20-8 respectively. In game one, MC trailed 7-1 after the sixth inning, but they stormed back to force extra innings and pick up the win. In games two and three, it was monster innings (a 10-run seventh inning in game two and a 13-run second inning in game three) that blew the game open for the Choctaws.
As Haworth mentioned, the pitching of Jackson Bridges has been a large part of the turnaround. He started in both of the game-three wins against UAH and Shorter, and also pitched in a win against Union. Over the course of his last three starts, Bridges has thrown a combined 21 innings, and has given up exactly just two earned runs in each start (an ERA of 2.57 in those starts).
Bridges points back to the beginning of his start against UAH as to where things turned around for him. He gave up two runs in the first inning, but he said, “I was feeling a little rough, but then our offense answered back and got four in the first inning. Our shortstop, Dylan Duplechain, came up to me, and said, ‘Hey man, get us back here [to the plate] as quick as possible,’ and ever since that first inning last week that’s been my main goal is to just get up there and get our offense back in the dugout as quick as possible and keep the momentum on our side.”
A big part of the turnaround has also been the play of leadoff hitter Dakota Kennedy. Over the past seven games he is 16 for 31 (.516 batting average), with 12 runs scored, and 11 RBI. Kennedy has not been in the leadoff spot for the entire season for the Choctaws, but he (and the lineup) has taken off since he’s been inserted there. Haworth said, “Ever since I put him in the leadoff spot, he’s been that spark plug that we need. Whenever he gets a hit, it helps our offense go…Dakota’s a good special guy and I think he’s going to have a special future for us.”
On hitting in the leadoff spot, Kennedy said, “I just try to put the team on my back, try to hit early in the count, try to have good at-bats and not strike out.”
In the series against Union, MC got production up and down the lineup. Dylan Duplechain went 7 for 12 in the series with 3 home runs, 8 runs scored, and 11 RBI. Caleb Reese also hit 7 for 15 on the weekend. The Choctaws also got three homers from Logan McGrew.
Both the hitters and the pitchers feel that the other unit’s success has made it easier on them to succeed. On his offense’s success, Bridges said, “It’s huge. To go out there, and the pressure’s relieved. There’s no ‘I’ve gotta throw the perfect pitch or allow any runs’ when you know your offense is good enough to put up runs and get behind you like that.”
On Bridges’s run of strong starts, Kennedy said, “That really makes it easier on the batters. It’s easier to hit when we get in rhythm, and he’s a big reason for that.”
MC is now in the home stretch of their season. They have five series left: against West Georgia (April 2-3), Christian Brothers (April 10-11), AUM (April 16-17), Lee (April 23-24) and then the regular season finale against rival Delta State (April 30-May 1). The GSC tournament is May 7-11, but only the top eight teams qualify, and MC currently sits in 12th, so the Choctaws will have to make up ground in their final 15 games to qualify.