It's no secret that pitching wins championships, and no one proved that better than Mississippi State's baseball team this weekend.
The Bulldogs rolled over Vanderbilt for a 3-0 win on Sunday to win the SEC championship—their first since 2005—behind a stellar pitching performance by Ross Mitchell. The situation couldn't be any better for Mississippi State, which enters the NCAA tournament on the heels of eight wins in their last nine games.
You can imagine how deep and skilled a pitching staff must be in order to win six games in six days, and no one quite illustrated that point like Mitchell, who made his fourth appearance in the tournament. This time, he threw five scoreless innings in relief of Brandon Woodruff to get the win, striking out five and allowing five hits.
But the stellar pitching didn't stop with him. He got the hook after plunking a batter and then allowing a single to start the ninth inning, but Caleb Reed quickly took care of business, getting out of the jam with a double play. Chris Stratton finished off the job by inducing a groundout.
After the game, Mitchell told the Clarion Ledger's Brandon Marcello that he would've preferred to stay in the game, but given the talent waiting in the bullpen, he didn't have to. And he's lucky there's no need for him to shoulder the entire load. He told Marcello, "I wanted to pitch. I wanted to be out there, but also knew I had two All-Americans behind me."
It's doubtless a luxury the rest of the NCAA would love to have right about now.
In six games during the SEC tournament, the Bulldogs' pitching staff allowed just 12 runs, five of which came in one loss to Kentucky. It's too much to expect every game to be perfect, but averaging just over one earned run in the other five games of the tournament isn't too shabby.
As the NCAA tournament looms, there's nothing more dangerous than a team with a deep pitching staff that's clicking on all cylinders. You can be the hottest-hitting team in the world, but when you run into a pitcher who's in the zone, you're done.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, can afford to put out meager run totals. They know they have one of the most reliable pitching staffs in the SEC ready to hold strong for the win.
That staff will be the toughest possible adversary to take on at tournament time.