March 31, 2014 10:23:05 AM
STARKVILLE -- The No. 16 Mississippi State baseball team relied on its pitching depth Sunday for a third-straight Southeastern Conference series victory.
After a doubleheader Saturday in which it used three pitchers, MSU turned to its new secret weapon out of the bullpen: Jacob Lindgren. The junior left-hander, who was used as a starter in his first two seasons, improved to 3-0 by striking out eight in MSU's 5-1 victory against Arkansas before a crowd of 7,766 at Dudy Noble Field.
"I really had my stuff today," said Lindgren, who struck out six straight in the sixth and seventh innings. "I felt like I was kind of driving a car on cruise control. 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 similar grooves when they played summer travel baseball. The first baseman called it "a pleasure" to watch Lindgren dominate. The Razorbacks (17-10, 4-5 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 SEC play, Lindgren has 15 strikeouts and has allowed six baserunners (four hits and two walks) in 8 2/3 innings.
MSU held Arkansas to a .206 batting average in the three-game series. Relievers Lindgren, Ben Bracewell, and Jonathan Holder didn't allow a run. Holder earned his fourth save after coming in with the tying run at 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.
MSU (20-10, 6-3) scored all the runs it needed in the first inning on a leadoff single by Jake Vickerson and a two-run home run to right field by Alex Detz. The home run was Detz's second of the season, and the Bulldogs' since March 9. Detz's three RBIs tied a career high.
"I did not know off the bat if the ball was gone, but I 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 he tried to bury inside, and (I) got my hands out in front of it."
Detz, who came into the weekend hitting .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. He also used his speed to reach on a bunt single earlier in the game. Armstrong, who is filling in in center field for the injured C.T. Bradford, was 7-for-11 (.636) with two RBIs, a run scored, and a stolen base in the series.
The victory marked the first time MSU has won its first three conference series since 2003. It is in a four-way tie for the SEC lead as it prepares for a series at No. 3 LSU. Florida swept LSU (20-8-1, 3-5-1) at Florida. The Tigers are last in the SEC 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. "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."
MSU had never won a series against Arkansas under Cohen. It will try to accomplish the same feat at LSU. The Bulldogs last won a series at LSU in 2006.
NOTE: Cohen will make his season debut on "DawgTalk With John Cohen" at 7-8 tonight live from Buffalo Wild Wings in Starkville. The show will air weekly until May 19.
Veteran MSU broadcaster Jim Ellis, in his 36th season as the "Voice of the Bulldogs," will serve as the show's host. Fans who don't come to the restaurant can listen on WKBB-FM (100.9), WFCA-FM (107.9), WWZQ-AM (1240), and WAMY-AM (1580) and participate in the show by calling 866-998-4893, or tweeting questions to @BWWofStarkville. The program is also via free live audio streaming at HailStateTV.com.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.