March 30, 2014 6:46:01 PM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State relied on its pitching depth Sunday for a third straight series win to start conference play.
After a doubleheader Saturday in which they only used three pitchers, MSU had its new secret weapon out of the bullpen - Jacob Lindgren. The junior left-hander, who had been used as a starter his first two seasons, has developed into a strikeout threat as a reliever in the 2014 season.
Lindgren (3-0) struck out six straight batters in the sixth and seventh innings and ended the afternoon with eight punch outs total in the 5-1 victory Sunday.
"I really had my stuff today," Lindgren said. "I felt like I was kind of driving a car on cruise control today. You're not even thinking about your speed anymore because your foot isn't on the gas all the time."
Wes Rea, who grew up with Lindgren in the Gulfport area, has seen the left-hander get in a similar groove on the mound when playing summer travel baseball together. The 270-pound first baseman called it "a pleasure" Sunday to watch Lindgren dominate a confused Arkansas lineup. The Razorbacks (17-10, 4-5 in Southeastern Conference) didn't have a baserunner for 11 straight plate appearances once Lindgren trotted in from the bullpen.
"I've seen it for a very long time from him and then you get to college and things start getting faster but this year he's slowed the game down to do what he's done his whole life," Rea said. "He's unbelievable when he's on like that."
In three appearances in conference play this season Lindgren has racked up 15 strikeouts and allowed just six total base runners (4 hits and 2 walks) in 8 2/3 innings.
MSU pitching held Arkansas to a .206 batting average in the three-game series and the three relievers that were used over the last two days (Lindgren, Ben Bracewell and Jonathan Holder) didn't allow a run. Holder earned his fourth save of the season by shutting the door as he came in the contest with Arkansas bringing the tying run to the plate.
"We get pretty worn out from the ground balls on Friday and Saturday so it's kind of nice as a fielder to just watch them mow hitters down on Sunday," Rea said.
No. 16 MSU (20-10, 6-3) got all the runs it would need with the first two batters of the game as a leadoff single by Jake Vickerson was followed by a two-run home run sent over the right field wall. Detz's second home run of the season was the Bulldogs first round trip shot since March 9. Detz's three RBIs tied a career high for the junior college transfer from San Luis Obispo, Calif.
"I certainly did not know off the bat if the ball was gone but I certainly think finally the wind helped me at Dudy Noble Field as I pulled it just over the right field fence," Detz said. "It was a 3-1 fastball that he tried to bury inside and got my hands out in front of it."
Detz, who came into the weekend hitting just .230, has lifted his game in league play with three extra-base hits and seven RBIs in 32 at-bats.
"I'm seeing the ball so much better and what needs to happen is that rhythm needs to happen because we're in the stretch run here of the season," Detz said.
Derrick Armstrong earned another RBI to make it 5-1 in the eighth inning after using his speed on a bunt single earlier in the game. Armstrong, who is replacing the injured C.T. Bradford in center field, was 7 of 11 (.636) in the weekend with 2 RBIs, a run scored and a stolen base.
The victory marked the first time MSU has won its first three conference series since 2003 and are in a four-way tie for the league lead going into a road series at Alex Box Stadium against No. 3 LSU. The Tigers (20-8-1, 3-5-1) were swept this weekend at Florida and currently sit last in the Western Division.
"I don't think it is like a football or basketball thing where you don't want to play angry because there's a sense of urgency for them," MSU coach John Cohen said. "The deal is this - LSU is going to play well at home because that's who they are. They are one of the premier programs in the country, just like we are."
The Bulldogs had never won a series against Arkansas under Cohen and will try to accomplish the same feat at LSU this next weekend. The last time MSU won a series at LSU was 2006.
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.