October 22, 2015 10:35:18 AM
STARKVILLE -- Dakota Hudson has spent the past five months transitioning back to a familiar role.
After primarily being used a relief pitcher last season, the Mississippi State junior right-hander is moving back to being a starting pitcher. It's a role he had in high school and as a freshman with the Bulldogs in 2014.
Hudson wrapped up his fall in style Saturday, pitching 3 2/3 innings and striking out a fall-high six in the Maroon team's 8-2 victory against the Gray team that secured a sweep of the best-of-five Bulldog World Series at Dudy Noble Field.
Hudson allowed only two hits and walked none without allowing a run. His performance was one of the best in the five-game World Series that concluded Wednesday night.
"I just think that means throwing a lot, getting out there and throwing all my stuff for a bunch of strikes, really filling it up, and trying to eat through a lot more innings," Hudson said. "I just feel like me and coach (John Cohen) have come to where I feel like I could do either one, but it just comes down to I have a little more endurance so I feel like I can go longer. I feel like that's where I could help the team the most."
MSU, which finished 24-30 (8-22 Southeastern Conference) last season, earned 13 wins from its three weekend starters. Preston Brown led the way with five, while Lucas Laster and Austin Sexton had four apiece. Laster graduated and Brown decided not to return to the team.
With Sexton penciled into the weekend rotation for 2016, Hudson figures to be considered to fill one of the other two spots.
"I really believe he kind of has a starter mentality," Cohen said. "We started giving him the opportunity to earn a spot this fall. I'll be surprised if that's not his role during the course of the spring."
Hudson's endurance has increased in the offseason, so Cohen expects Hudson to hold his velocity longer, which could improve his chances.
Hudson was a starting pitcher at Sequtchie County High School in Dunlap, Tennessee. As a senior, he owned a 1.09 ERA and had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 124-14 in 64 innings.
As a freshman at MSU, he made six appearances (five starts) and went 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA before moving to the bullpen for the 2015 season.
Hudson doesn't care whether he is a starter or a reliever.
"Nothing beats the adrenaline of coming into a tied ballgame in the bottom of the ninth," Hudson said. "There's also the feeling of being able to have your own game and run your own game from start to finish."
Last season, Hudson was 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA in 16 2/3 innings. He struck out 26, walked 11, and held hitters to a .254 batting average. He lowered his opponent batting average to .233 in 12 innings in SEC play. He earned his only win against LSU after entering a tied game with two runners on base in the 12th inning and getting three outs to end the threat. MSU earned the walk-off win in the bottom half of the inning.
Hudson found something late last season and he carried that over into the summer. Playing for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks in the prestigious Cape Code Baseball League, he was named to the 2015 CCBL Year-End All-League team. Hudson went 4-3 with a 1.43 ERA in 13 appearances (seven starts). He struck out 54 and walked 14 in 56 2/3 innings.
"He's really matured," Cohen said. "He's somebody who really has learned to run his own show. I'm really proud of how far he's come and really excited about what he's been doing this fall."
In 11 1/3 innings in the fall, Hudson allowed two earned runs and nine hits. He struck out 12 and walked five.
Hudson learned as a freshman he couldn't rely only on his fastball. He always had a curveball in high school, but he has developed a cutter and a changeup at MSU. He's happy with how the last two years have shaped him as a player.
"I feel like it's prepared me in every way, shape, and form," Hudson said. "There's just been so much I've had to learn. I've been through some tough times, so it's put me in a position to where I feel like I'm prepared for anything that comes my way."
n Sophomore transfer Jacob Barfield's three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday lifted the Gray team to a 9-6 victory against the Maroon team in Game 5 of the Bulldog World Series. The seven-inning exhibition marked MSU's 20th and final scrimmage of the fall.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.
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