Fans enjoy baseball at the New Dude + insiders look

Baseball at Dudy Noble is important to people—it resonates with them in a way that brings people together and keeps college baseball attendance strong.

In a land below the Mason Dixon line, football season is the time of year people of all ages look forward to. College football is the main attraction for fans covering the southeastern portion of the U.S.; however, there is a spot on the southern map where college baseball is coveted and the fan base does not fall short.

The usual football fans ringing cowbells and tailgating at Mississippi State University find themselves heading to “The Dude” for spring baseball games under the warm southern sun.

Last weekend’s series against Louisiana State University made it very clear how the long-lasting tradition of heading to Dudy Noble for a weekend ballgame lives on. Happy fans were seen everywhere, even though LSU lead MSU for the majority of Friday and Saturday.

Owen Turcotte, from Philadelphia, Mississippi, wore his purple and gold LSU colors at Saturday’s game. He said he was enjoying seeing the LSU Tigers lead the MSU Bulldogs, and checking out the new Dude.

“I’m an LSU Fan, but I will say the atmosphere at State is pretty awesome,” Turcott said. “They’ve got one of the best college baseball stadiums in America—it’s really neat.”

Turcotte said he would follow the Tigers anywhere, but the stadium and feeling at Dudy Noble is one of the best college baseball atmospheres he has seen.

Baseball at Dudy Noble is important to people—it resonates with them in a way that brings people together and keeps college baseball attendance strong.

Hayley Henderson, from Jackson, said MSU baseball is something that appeals to younger and older crowds.

“I feel like with the new stadium, it gives people a chance to bring their kids and know that it’s a safe environment where they’re going to have fun and it’s a family event,” Henderson said.

She explained the tickets are affordable and the facility is welcoming to students and families. This can be seen near the front entrance where inflatables and games are set up for kids.

Collin Wilkins, from Mandeville, Louisiana, was at the series this past weekend and said he was impressed by the new stadium. He said he thought the barbecuing was his favorite part.

“It kind of brings like a major-league vibe to it,” Wilkins said. “The atmosphere and the exposure that the players get—it opens up for the fans as well. It’s been a pretty awesome time.”

At the game, LSU and MSU fans alike were barbecuing together and having a great time.

Keith Ferguson, from Carrollton, said he has been a lifelong fan.

“Mississippi State baseball is the best. Look at the facilities, what else can you ask for?” Ferguson said. “Where else can you have barbecue in the outfield and all of the fan support? You can’t ask for anything better.”

While walking through the crowd, many people said how important MSU baseball is to them and how it is a Bulldog family tradition to come support the Dawgs. The new stadium is a huge perk for fans, but the fans have been around before the $55 million dollar stadium reconstruction. People sat on the old seats, at the humble stadium in the hot southern summers and the freezing early spring rain.

Senior Claire Kullman, from Jackson, said with each baseball season brings fun memories for students, families and alumni. She said this new stadium adds onto the memories.

“I’m very excited, it’s been very fun so far. The new stadium has definitely lived up to it’s hype,” Kullman said. “I think we’ve been playing really great, which has also been super fun, so I’m excited to see what the rest of the season holds.”

Published on reflector-online

For this story I wanted to do something different, so I left the press box and headed down into the endless crowd of fans. I created two short videos during this series to add to this article and to show what college baseball looks like at Mississippi State University.

Hatcher snaps back into hitting ways

“I’m in a good spot right now,” Hatcher said. “I’ve been waiting to get my turn, I just want to give my team the best chance to win.”

For baseball fans, when a player struggles or has a bad game after consistently crushing the competition it is a telling moment. On the flip side, other players who start off rocky, can break through with their talent shining for all to see.

Head coach Chris Lemonis said he has seen improvement in Josh Hatcher, a sophomore from Albany, Georgia, who had five hits in the University of Florida series this past week and two hits against the University of Little Rock Arkansas. Lemonis said he focuses on the players’ improvement and the work they put into this team, not just the obvious talent of the players.

“We talked about it in our dug out—we need someone out here to get hot,” Lemonis said. “I gave him (Hatcher) a lot of credit because you know he had a bad spring training and he wasn’t in the mix for the first couple of weeks. Kept his head up, worked extremely hard, started to see an MVP, and now you’re getting to see him between the lines.”

Hatcher said he has put himself in a better position following the series against Florida and the midweek game against ULAR. 

“I’m in a good spot right now,” Hatcher said. “I’ve been waiting to get my turn, I just want to give my team the best chance to win.”

Hatcher knows balancing life as a student athlete takes a lot of work and dedication. He said this balance is important, paired with focus.

“You have to stay focused; you have to do all of the little things right, you’ve got to eat right, make sure you’re sleeping, you’ve got to get to class to get that work in,” Hatcher said. “And then just stay focused on and off the field.”

Lemonis said Hatcher is really talented, but it comes down to how hard players work and the attitude players have.

“It’s been nice because the game rewards someone who kept a good attitude,” Lemonis said.

Hatcher said the biggest thing they can do as a team is stay focused on the task at hand, and that includes midweek games against ULAR and Samford. 

“We had a big weekend in Florida, but that’s behind us,” Hatcher said. “We want to ride that momentum, preparing for a big week so today we just want to go out there, do what we do best.”

Lemonis said he values the attitude Rowdy Jordan brings to the team, and he is confident Jordan will show improvement through this season.

“He (Jordan) works hard and shows up,” Lemonis said. “Great teammate, great attitude.”

Lemonis said he expects to see him get back into the zone, playing his best.

All in all, the MSU Bulldogs have seen adversity. The players, coaching staff and fans expect big things from this team. The Diamond Dawgs are putting in the hours and the commitment to bring home more wins.

Published on reflector-online

Baseball swings through opponent in opening weekend

“If there’s anything I know about our offense is that it’s going to come around eventually,” Small said. “And as a starting pitcher, there was never a moment where I doubted them.”

A gloomy afternoon with clouds blanketing the Mississippi sky was not enough to keep the Mississippi State University and the Youngstown State University fans from supporting their teams in the MSU home opener. MSU swept the opening weekend.

Ethan Small, a junior left-handed pitcher from Lexington, Tennessee, had one walk in game one. Small kept throwing strikes, showing fans from the first game that he is ready to help take the Bulldogs to a Championship this season. Following game one, Small said there is more of an emphasis on throwing strikes  this season—something he struggled with in previous seasons.

“Its like attack the zone, if they hit it they hit it,” Small said. “Throw fastballs for strikes aggressively in the bottom of the zone, and let the rest take care of itself.”

Small said his confidence in his team has grown and he did not doubt them once. He said he expected them to pull through for a win, despite MSU trailing at one point 3-0.

“If there’s anything I know about our offense is that it’s going to come around eventually,” Small said. “And as a starting pitcher, there was never a moment where I doubted them.”

New head coach Chris Lemonis said he was pleased with Small’s performance in the first game, even though he could tell Small had some extra energy starting off.

“I thought he (Small) was really good, especially early,” Lemonis said. “I think he was excited early, so he kind of ran out of gas a little bit, but really command the fast ball.”

Lemonis also said opening day was awesome, but he is ready to focus in on baseball and his coaching.

“Just getting the stadium going, opening day, my first game, the kids first day—a lot of mental things,” Lemonis said. “The kids did a great job getting through that. I want to get out there and play the game and coach.”

MSU got a leg up on YSU early on in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader and the second of the series. JT Ginn, a freshman right-handed pitcher from Brandon, stayed on the mound until the sixth inning, with a total of 68 pitches as he lead the team to a 14-2 victory in his first career start.

“It was everything I imagined it would be and more,” Gunn said. “It was good to get out there and get my first start and it was fun.”

Tanner Allen also lead the team in hitting as he drove in nine runs and did not strike out in nine plate appearances in the game.

“I was just taking advantage with what they gave me,” Allen said.

Jordan Westburg, a sophomore infielder from New Braunfels, Texas, said is was truly special to open the finished stadium with success.

“It’s exactly what you dream about opening day at the new Dude–the atmosphere was awesome, even though it wasn’t the best weather out, the fans showed up, we really appreciate that,” Westburg said.

The ball sprung off the bat as Hayden Jones, a freshman from Huntertown, Indiana, sent his first hit over the right field fence in the final game of Mississippi State University’s opening series against Youngstown State University as MSU won 8-0.

“I don’t even remember the pitch coming in, I just remember swinging and making contact,” Jones said. “The ball went up and it was an unbelievable moment with the guys. The fans went crazy, it was just an experience to live through—it was unbelievable.”

Home runs are special because they are so hard to come by, and they are even more rare as a first hit of someone’s career. Jones defied those odds as he sent it into the stands in right field.

“Just having Jake (Mangum) talking to me before,” Jones said. “He was like, ‘Hey, you are going to get your first hit.’ It was one of those positive things with all of those guys there for you.”

Jones said he was not as nervous playing in front of a big crowd as he thought he was going to be. As Jones rounded the bases, he was greeted by a special light display MSU uses to celebrate home runs.

“I was halfway to second and I was like, ‘Okay lights are about to go,’” Jones said. “You hit second base and it is ‘wow.’ I remember smiling a cheese right when I turned third. It was an experience for sure.”

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Softball swinging for the fences as season begins

Softball season is starting up – with high motivation and a prospective season.

Out with the old, and in with the new as the Mississippi State University softball team is ready for a fresh chance to level up after a previous season full of success. Slides, steals and endless reps are what can be seen on the practice field, with dirt clouds lingering and players’ excitement growing. All eyes are on MSU and the rising underclassman stars.

Emily Heimberger, a senior utility player from Pawleys Island, South Carolina, said she and the team are excited. Heimberger explained she is looking forward to making this season even better than the last, which means working hard and never giving up.

“We have a saying, ‘We don’t go away.’ It’s one of our core covenants, and our definition of competitive,” Heimberger said. “Basically, we have our foot on the gas from start to finish—whether it’s start to finish of the game or start to finish of the season. We’re never going to let up.”

Softball fans’ eyes are on the team, and locked on star player Mia Davidson. Davidson’s freshman year proved to be exemplary, and her team believes she will continue to succeed.

“I think the sky’s the limit for Mia and it was incredible to be a part of all the amazing things she did, and we are all ecstatic to be able to take the field with her,” Heimberger said. “I have no doubt she’s going to do things even better than last year because she’s one of those players that works her butt off every single day and really tries to push herself to the best of her ability.”

Mia Davidson, a sophomore infielder from Hillsborough, North Carolina, said this team is amazing and the girls have a strong bond with good chemistry. This season’s team is important to Davidson and her teammates, especially approaching their home opener.

“Words can’t describe it because I think this team is special,” Davidson said.

Davidson continued by sharing more on her team and their connection. The team has put in countless hours during the off season to prepare for the season. Davidson thinks the team will go far if they trust the process.

“As long as we do what’s best for the team and trust each other, I think it’ll be fine and everything will be put into its place,” Davidson said.

Mississippi State University is ranked No. 7 for the 2019 college recruiting class by FloSoftball. Even with this ranking, the team is not complacent with their previous progress. They are planning on working hard and giving this season their all.

The MSU home opener will be against Middle Tennessee Friday at 3 p.m.  

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Bulldogs fall in overtime thriller to Bayou Bengals

MSU v LSU men’s basketball

A rocky start with fouls on fouls on fouls had Mississippi State University fans leaving just before half-time. With three minutes left before the half, MSU had a shift of mindset, and the points for MSU on the scoreboard started skyrocketing and the Bulldogs lead Louisiana State University. However it was not enough, as MSU lost 92-88 in overtime.

Blaring buzzards and a roaring fan base just before halftime set MSU up for an exciting second half. Quinndary Weatherspoon, a senior guard from Canton, lead the MSU offense until the final ticks on the clock. He said if two plays were different, it could have changed the game’s outcome.

“I think down the stretch, the one I tried to hit Reggie and it hit off his feet, and then the last one the ball bounced off Williams’ leg and came back onto me,” Weatherspoon said. “If I could just get back those two plays, there’d be a different outcome.”

Reggie Perry, a freshman forward from Thomasville, Georgia, struggled to make his free throws during the game, getting just over 50 percent. In the game against LSU, the small details piled up, which ultimately lead to MSU’s last-minute demise.

“I feel like we’ve got to defend a little bit better on the stretch,” Perry said. “Making our free throws and we’ll be fine.”

A second half full of fouls, and a race to the final seconds in overtime resulted in LSU leaving MSU in the dust after keeping possession of the ball and running down the clock in the final 30 seconds. MSU head coach Ben Howland saw opportunity to learn from the game.

“We took some shots I thought at times, especially when we had an eight, nine-point lead, where we maybe want to manage it a little better and not be in such a rush,” Howland said.

Weatherspoon said he was not thinking ahead to what LSU player Waters would do as a follow up to his moves. He explained he just played the game and followed the calls Howland called for the team.

“Playing within the system, calling, playing what coach Howland’s calling, running it, and I was just able to get some overshots,” Weatherspoon said.

In a game where time ticked by as slow as ever, a sudden shift–just as this game displayed–can speed up the flow of the game. In the blink of an eye, MSU fell too far behind and could not pull back ahead when it mattered most.

“Credit to all those kids, you know Reid is a heck of a player, he had the big play,” Howland said. “We had a lead then when we lost the ball… They had all that time, they called a quick little hitter that got Reid open on a little back screen that was a huge play right there, a quick turn around.”

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