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WARDLAW COLUMN: MSU's offense output, defense need improving

April 29, 2012

Wardlaw

Banged up, battered and bruised the Mississippi State Bulldogs have fought to find themselves in the mix for the Southeastern Conference Tournament with 10 games remaining in the regular season.

However, if those hopes and dreams are to stay alive a couple of things must improve, offensive production and defense.

The past two weekends the Bulldogs haven’t cracked the .200 mark at the plate, batting .191 against the Volunteers and .164 against the Rebels. State has seen their team batting average steadily drop and now rests at .257, good for 10th in the SEC.

State has just two batters on the roster with a batting average above .300 with Adam Frazier leading the team at .349 followed by Daryl Norris with a .314 average.

The team stands 10th in the SEC in runs scored with 204, ahead of only Alabama and Tennessee.

Bottom line, if you can’t score runs it becomes increasingly hard to win at the highest level of college baseball.

The Bulldogs simply can’t continue to rely on Chris Stratton and Kendall Graveman to bail the offense out with spectacular outings. The back-to-back nine inning effort against Tennessee is the exception not the rule.

Saturday Graveman was solid, not outstanding, but solid. He allowed four runs on six hits over 6.1 innings of work. Most days that's good enough to possibly pick up the win, but not this time around. The offense was 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and defense kicked it around a bit, which brings us to the defense.

At times this season, the Bulldogs have been sparkling in the field. They are second in the nation with 52 double plays this season and have a highlight reel full of ESPN worthy catches.

However, the Diamond Dawgs are also prone to the miscue. State has the ninth fielding percentage in the league at .969 and it has committed 54 errors this season, third in the SEC.

Beating Tennessee is one thing, competing with the nation’s elite is a different matter.

Right now the margin for error for the Bulldogs is razor thin. A staff ERA of 2.89 is carrying the team, but it will take more than quality pitching to have success in the postseason.

All that being said, if the tournament field was set today, the Bulldogs would be making their way to Hoover and likely the NCAA tournament.

Here’s to hoping the offense finds its stroke and the run production increase.

Michael Wardlaw is the Mississippi State beat writer and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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