March 2, 2014 7:36:37 PM
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Mississippi State senior OF Derrick Armstrong (2 for 5 with 2 RBIs and a run scored)
STARKVILLE -- A day after tying a 33-year-old single-game stolen bases record, Derrick Armstrong just kept running Sunday.
The Mississippi State senior outfielder Derrick Armstrong has found his role on this 2014 club as the player opponents will just hate to play against. The 5-foot-10 and 170-pound athlete personifies the high intelligence and gritty baseball player that MSU coach John Cohen has loved to recruit in his six years with the Bulldogs.
"What you get from Armstrong is a quality at-bat each and every time. It seems like he's having a 6-7 pitch at-bat each and every time," MSU coach John Cohen said. "The infielders can't position themselves in a normal way because by the time the ball gets to them, he could be safe at first."
Armstrong finished Sunday with a 2-for-5 outing at the plate after he stole four bases Saturday night in a 7-1 victory over Michigan State. In the seven-run, seventh inning for Mississippi State (10-4) Sunday, Armstrong had a two-run single in a frame that guaranteed a perfect weekend for the Bulldogs.
"I'm just trying to stay with my line drive or ground ball approach at the plate that's been working," Armstrong said. "When I get on base, I can use my speed on the bases because that's my role on this team."
The senior from Tennessee was in the lineup at center field due to a nagging leg injury suffered by C.T. Bradford. MSU trainers and coaches are giving Bradford, who is hitting .342 in 10 games this season, a couple days off to allow the undisclosed injury to heal properly.
"I don't feel any different at the plate but now I know that my role could come at any moment in a game and so the key is to be ready at all times."
While standing on first base, Armstrong even had a heads-up play on the base paths after Demarcus Henderson was walked. Armstrong saw EIU had thrown the ball down to second base and proceeded to act like he was in a rundown allowing Jacob Robson to steal home for the sixth run of the game.
"We did not have a play on there but it did turn into one," Cohen said.
MSU completed the four-game sweep with a 9-0 win over Eastern Illinois Sunday. The victory marked the Bulldogs first shutout since April 20, 2013 against Auburn.
"We needed this weekend to get back some confidence and just see some hits drop like they did for us," Cohen said.
After a very frustrating 4-4 start to the season, Mississippi State has run off six straight wins and have a lot more confidence heading into a weekend tournament at the University of Arizona that will include NCAA Tournament hopeful California at Santa Barbara.
The Bulldogs ran its mark to 9-0 this season when they score first and out-hit their opponent but more importantly, played errorless baseball for 36 innings of a four-game weekend set.
"We really defended the field well with double plays and had some running plays in the outfield too," Cohen said. "In order to scatter 10 hits in a game you have to be fundamentally sound defensively."
In the seventh inning Sunday that saw 13 MSU batters come to the plate, the Bulldogs batted around for the seventh time in the 2014 season and had seven hits in the frame.
Freshman right-hander Dakota Hudson (1-1) earned his first college victory by tossing a career-high 5 2/3 innings and striking out a career high five batters. Hudson showed extremely high maturity in working out of jams in each of the first three innings to allow for the MSU offense to come to life against Eastern Illinois' bullpen.
"I thought (MSU catcher) Cody Walker was huge for me today by going out to the mound and calming me down when I got in trouble early," Hudson said. "he just kept telling me to trust my stuff and made sure my rhythm was consistent."
Before heading to Arizona, MSU will host 2013 NCAA Starkville Regional opponent South Alabama Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., where Cohen said sophomore Preston Brown will get the start on the mound.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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