Mississippi St. isn't the power of the SEC conference but in a national context they have a ton of tradition. It has been to the tournament in ten of the last thirteen years but hasn't been much further than that, only making once in that time. Still they are a far more seasoned and experienced program and will have that experience to use against the still newly adjusting Hoosiers. Despite the difference of experience, Indiana is going to once again provide to be a tough out with a great chance to survive and advance.
The Bulldogs come into this game with 18 losses against very high quality competition. However, they were able to knock off the national seeded Virginia in their bracket and then topple Oregon State in a tight 5-4 game on Saturday. The Bulldogs have shown to be deadly but inconsistent in a majority of their play. Baseball America ranked all of the teams on the traditional 20-80 scale (50 is considered average). In their rankings the Hoosiers topped the Bulldogs on all rankings but Defense, Bullpen and Intangibles. Talking to Josh from For Whom the Cowbell Tolls he seems to reinforce that in our Q&A.
MSU has a solid fielding teams and a solid offense, but the strength without a doubt is the bullpen. Our top 4 relievers: Ross Mitchell, Chad Girodo, Ben Bracewell and Johnathon Holder are lights out, and they can all work multiple innings - especially the lefties Mitchell and Girodo. Starting pitching is the weakness as we rarely make it to the 5th inning - but when you face us you want to get your runs in before the call to the bullpen, we are backwards that way.
Mississippi State's bullpen is phenomenal and Indiana needs to rough up the starters. Luckily, IU has scored in the first inning in 50% of their games and has a good track record of getting to pitchers right away. Indiana has got to get at MSU's pitchers quickly. The team has to do a little better than on Saturday managing the base runners and not leaving so many runs on the bases. I feel pretty confident that our hitters can do that.
On the pitching side Aaron Slegers needs to find more consistency than he did in the Super Regional against Florida St. The MSU offense is good but not great and Slegers needs to capitalize on that. If he can stretch his start into 7 innings then the very fresh IU bullpen should have no problem shutting the door. MSU's offense scored runs in droves on Saturday and have been doing so in most of their recent games. The Hoosiers staff has to make sure they can lock it down in a pinch and not allow one hit to become several.
Overall, you have to feel good about Indiana's chances to move further in the winners bracket. Mississippi State's strength are in intangibles and a bullpen that could already be too late to the party by the time they have a chance to flex their muscles. Indiana just has to make sure it is too late.