March 26, 2014 12:39:50 AM
STARKVILLE -- Demarcus Henderson, the student-athlete at Mississippi State University, had an athletic and educational reason to come through in his ninth inning at-bat.
The Bulldogs senior outfielder admitted to the media, after his game-winning single to give MSU a walk-off 3-2 victory Tuesday night over Southeast Missouri, that he had to get a term paper turned in by a midnight deadline for one of his classes. At around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Henderson single to right field was bobbled and left no potential throw to the plate for MSU's game-winning run and left him about an hour to finish the introduction section to his term paper.
"It's a introduction to Gerontology class where we study of how people age," Henderson said. "I'm pretty much done with it but I was okay."
While Henderson has normally been in a platoon situation where he's been unable to face right-handed pitchers, MSU coach John Cohen allowed the veteran the opportunity to face SEMO reliever Greg Mosel (1-2) Tuesday night based on how he's been producing quality at-bats recently.
"I just really felt like Demarcus was seeing the ball good tonight and going to stay on that pitch," Cohen said. "Don't feel good about him not having his paper done yet though. That's not good to hear."
Henderson ended the night 2-for-3 with a walk and increasing his season batting average to .352 and allowed the No. 16 Bulldogs (18-9) to turn over the batting order in the ninth spot of the lineup.
"I hit a curveball in that final at-bat and he'd been throwing it to everybody else and I just had to remind myself that the scouting report said this guy relied on his breaking stuff," Henderson said. "I wasn't going to get out the same way as everybody else. I was going to learn off their at-bats."
Henderson, who has proven to be a clutch option for MSU in the final two months of the season, will be fighting for playing time with Derrick Armstrong, Jake Vickerson and Cody Brown for two corner outfield spots once C.T. Bradford returns from the hip injury that has kept him out of the last five games.
"It's still different to (platoon) because you're not in a rhythm like you would obviously like to be but that's when being a veteran and going to the Palmeiro Center to work on your craft is critical," Henderson said. "I think a couple years ago, I would feel and approach the situation very differently and probably wrong."
MSU got work out of several pitching options including confidence-building scoreless outings out of Austin Sexton and Brandon Woodruff. Sexton went 2 2/3 innings where he scattered three hits and a walk but was taken out to prepare left-hander Vance Tatum for another left-on-left specialist role in the third inning.
"Certainly we wanted Vance to pitch, get Sexton some experience and wanted to get Woody back out there," Cohen said. "I think it was a team effort on the mound. Everyone one of those guys pitched well without maybe throwing as many strikes as I know they would've liked."
Woodruff had his first quality outing since being pulled from the rotation after the road trip to Arizona as the junior had a hitless two innings that included just two walks in a 38-pitch performance. Woodruff showed life on his fastball and command on his slider and curveball by getting through eight batters and lowering his ERA to 6.06.
Jonathan Holder (2-1) shut the down on the Redhawks offensive attack by allowing just one hit in the final two innings to earn the victory.
MSU scored first in the second inning when Brett Pirtle led off with a double down the left field line. After a Seth Heck sacrifice bunt, Pirtle crossed home on a groundout to second by Armstrong. The Redhawks (14-10) answered in the fifth inning thanks to a two-out, two-RBI single by Derek Gibson which gave SEMO a 2-1 lead.
The Bulldogs return to action on Friday against SEC West rival Arkansas. The series is set for game times of 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
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.
3. Columbus tree lighting to have new look, locale ENTERTAINMENT