April 23, 2014 11:53:50 AM
PEARL -- Wes Rea was going through a 4 for 39 slump since the calendar flipped to April. The 270-pounder had 12 strikeouts during that period. He knew he was in a slump. He knew you knew he was in a slump. MSU's coaching staff even tried to sit him down the final two games of the sweep at Missouri.
It might have taken just one swing to bust Rea out of the worst slump of his career while healthy. In the 8-3 win over Ole Miss in the Governors Cup game at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Rea took a fastball from Ole Miss reliever Matt Denny and easily powered it down the left field line for the the game-winning hit. It was only the second extra-base hit for Rea in the last month and both run-scoring doubles have come against the Rebels.
"You can say yeah, you're going through a slump but you're also doing some things mechanically," Rea said. "I wasn't getting the barrel there. I tried to really make a emphasis to hit line drives to left field instead of fly balls to straightaway center."
Rea has seen his average tumble from .309 in early March to .241 when he arrived at the ballpark in Pearl Tuesday night. He didn't start for the first time this season in the final two games of the weekend sweep at Missouri leaving his status for the stretch run immediately in doubt. No more doubt exists after his first two-hit day against a Southeastern Conference opponent since March 30 vs. Arkansas.
"After the Ole Miss series, we kind of put our foot down and said we're not playing our brand of baseball," Rea said. "What are your goals? What do you want to do? We stated them again and we're going back to our brand of baseball."
Rea was the starting first baseman in 63 of 64 games as a freshman despite not being able to feel the bat in his right hand on certain days because of a cyst that developed in his shoulder that had nearly crippled him. Rea hit just .249 with a team-leading 41 RBIs in 2012 but collected 54 hits, sharing the team lead with 16 doubles and five home runs. He was named to the 2012 NCAA Tallahassee Regional All-Tournament Team after hitting .308 (4-for-13) with a double in each of three games in the regional hosted by Florida State. Translation: this might be Wes Rea's time to shine.
Rea hit a .325 clip (13-for-40) in 11 starts in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, driving in eight and scoring three times. He was a member of the 2013 College World Series All-Tournament Team as a result of going 6-for-19 (.316) with a trio of doubles and RBIs. He went 4-for-7 (.571) at No. 6 Virginia in the NCAA Charlottesville Super Regional and was selected to the NCAA Starkville Regional All-Tournament Team.
"There's going to have to be games where we score runs because our pitchers are doing so well right now," Rea said. "Offensively gets your game going defensively too and some older guys have decided to get that going and make it happen."
The good news is MSU fans can expect the 270-pound co-captain in the lineup and maybe a pure swing like Rea's in the sixth is just what he needed to produce what has become his traditional stretch run in 2014.
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.