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Pre-game at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium: SEC Tournament Semifinals: No. 16 Mississippi State vs. No. 1 Vanderbilt - Bulldogs try to reach SEC final in back to back years



Matt Stevens


HOOVER, Ala. - After a much needed day off, Welcome to a fourth day of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium as The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog will bring you a comprehensive pre-game blog before the first pitch of every game the Bulldogs play in this event.  




Also feel free to follow me for live game updates on Twitter through @matthewcstevens 




WHAT HAPPENED THURSDAY: The 16th-ranked Bulldogs (43-16) advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament with a 6-4 victory over Texas A&M University by using all the elements that Cohen and the MSU staff have coveted in recruiting for the last three seasons. MSU made it a habit to pressure the Aggies defense into two errors and executed a pair of hit-and-run scenarios that led to runs. 


"All the elements were there for us to do a little more hit and run," MSU coach John Cohen said. "Our kids responded and you know what, you can put all those plays in but your kids have to execute them." 


MSU shortstop Adam Frazier, who was the 2012 SEC tournament most valuable player, completed his first four-hit game of the season while scoring a pair of runs from the leadoff spot in the order. The junior led an effective attack on A&M starting pitcher Rafael Pineda (5-5) for the second time this season after the Bulldogs knocked him out in the second inning of a 9-3 win on April 13 in College Station, Texas. 








PITCHER: Jacob Lindgren - LHP - Sophomore - (5-5, 2.99 ERA, 15th start in 2013 season) - Lindgren has just been the most enigmatic starting weekend pitcher of the 2013 season for MSU. The proper perspective analogy here is Dr. Lindgren has been one of the more dominant SEC starting pitchers after outings against Auburn and the first two months of non-conference play. Mr. Jacob has had serious struggles just getting the first three outs of a ball game. It's simply been a command issue for Lindgren and while that doesn't show up in his K/BB ratio, it does show up in his counts to hitters before he allows base runners and his pitch counts in the few few innings of starts. 




PROJECTED STARTERS (2013 statistics): 




C - Nick Ammirati, Sr., RH - .277, 23 RBI; Has a hit in five of the last seven games while holding down the catching position for injured teammate Mitch Slauter. Ammirati has seen his batting average grow 12 points over the last two weeks. Cohen expresses constantly he is MSU's best defensive catcher in terms of blocking and throwing.  




1B - Wes Rea, RS-Soph., RH - .283, 6 home runs, 32 RBI, .989 fielding percentage; Third on the team in home runs and slugging percentage (.454) and has started 38 games at first base after fighting through a quad injury earlier in the season. 




2B - Brett Pirtle, Jr., SH - .315, 2 home runs, 26 RBI, .980 fielding percentage; One of the more unique cleanup hitters in the country at 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds. Pirtle has gotten on base in 32 consecutive games and five RBIs in the last four games. 




SS - Adam Frazier, Jr., LH - .349, 16 doubles, 7 stolen bases. A preseason All-America team honoree that will likely be drafted in the first 10 rounds of the 2013 MLB Draft next month. Frazier is second on the team in average and was the 2012 SEC tournament most valuable player.  




DH - Alex Detx, Jr.., LH - .306, 29 RBI, .449 on-base % - Has 15 multi-hit games and will likely either be the designated hitter but has also had 20 starts at the hot corner. Detz and Frazier have combined as one of the more dynamic 1-2 combinations at the top of the lineup. 




RF - Demarcus Henderson, Jr., RH - .273, 17 runs scored, 15 RBIs. Named to the 2012 SEC All-Tournament Team and has started to heat up in the final month of the season. Had two three-hit days last weekend against the University of South Carolina. 




CF - Hunter Renfroe, Jr., RH - .355, 15 home runs, 52 RBI, .665 slugging %. A preseason All-America selection who won the C Spire Ferris Trophy Monday. Renfroe is also a semi-finalist for both USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award and the NCBWA's Dick Howser Trophy, given to the nation's top collegiate player. This month Renfroe was ranked No. 13 in Baseball America's Top 100 list of draft eligible players. 




LF - Jacob Robson, Fr.., LH - .200, 42 runs scored, 11 walks, 15 RBI, .298 on-base % - With C.T. Bradford still nursing a leg injury, Robson will take left field again today as the Windsor, Ontario native will be relied on more for his defense and speed on the bases than much of a threat with the bat.  




3B - Sam Frost, Sr., LH - .319, 7 RBIs, 6 stolen bases - The Hoover, Ala., native is hitting a career best .319 in limited duty this season, 18 starts and 42 games played. He'll be the possibly the fifth left-handed bat in the MSU lineup today against Pecoraro.  






VANDERBILT STARTING PITCHER: TJ Pecoraro - RHP - Junior - (3-1, 5.02 ERA, 7th start in 2013 season) A right hander that has recovered from Tommy John surgery to contribute as both a starter and reliever for the Commodores this season.  


"T.J. was a great story for us (in 2012)," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "After rebounding from Tommy John surgery, he jumped immediately into the weekend rotation and propelled our team forward mid-way through the year. He is very skilled on the mound and has added strength to his body in the last year. I am proud of how he has progressed mentally and academically in our program." 


Pecoraro has pitched just four times since Feb. 17 due to inflammation in his knees but allowed just one run on five hits in 4.2 innings. Though he didn't pitch the minimum five innings to get the win, the junior set the table for Vanderbilt to pick up its 10th straight series victory. 




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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