Goodson finding niche with Bulldogs

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 31, 2002

[05/18/02]Mississippi State coach Ron Polk knew very little about Robby Goodson when he retook the reigns of the Bulldogs’ program this season.

After all, Polk wasn’t the one who lured him away from a potential pro baseball contract in 2000 current Florida and former MSU coach Pat McMahon did.

However, Polk does know this about Goodson: He is becoming a huge factor, at the plate and on the mound, for the Bulldogs in just his second season with the team.

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“He is doing very well,” said Polk, who coached MSU for 22 seasons before taking over the Georgia program for two years and then returning to MSU. “His numbers are very good offensively and he’s been very effective on the mound.

“That’s probably why Mississippi State recruited him in the first place.”

Goodson, a sophomore who had minimal playing time at the beginning of the season, has shown flashes of his all-star days at Vicksburg High. In five weeks, he’s boosted his batting average to a team-best .361, and has also hit five doubles and two home runs while driving in 20 runs this season.

“I’m getting to play more now, that’s what it boils down to,” Goodson said.

Polk said the reason why Goodson didn’t play as much earlier in the year is because he couldn’t play defense with his size. The bulky 6-foot-2, 239-pounder makes him a prototypical power hitter, but limits his flexibility in the field.

Polk found a role for him as a designated hitter, and the sophomore has thrived.

The Bulldogs (30-22-1, 11-15 SEC) open their three-game series against rival Ole Miss today in Starkville in a double-header. The Bulldogs can get into the SEC Tournament be sweeping Ole Miss or getting some help from Arkansas. The Razorbacks carry an 11-13 league record into a three-game series against Auburn. MSU has to be one game better than Arkansas after the weekend for the final SEC West spot.

“We need to try to sweep Ole Miss this weekend,” Goodson said. “Because if we don’t play good this weekend, it’s no postseason for us.”

Goodson’s roll began 10 days ago against Mississippi Valley State. In that game, he drove in a career-high six runs to lead the Bulldogs to a 18-5 win.

A week later against Alabama-Birmingham, he went 3-for-4 with two RBIs in a 6-1 win.

The most recent showing came Wednesday against Samford, when he went 2-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs in a 13-7 win.

“I’ve finally got my timing down,” he said. “Plus, I’m getting to swing the bat more.”

He’s also gotten a chance to prevent opposing teams from swinging theirs.

When Goodson entered the college ranks, he was unsure whether he would get the chance to pitch. This year, Polk and his staff gave Goodson an opportunity to take the mound and he shined.

In 12 innings of relief, he has 14 strikeouts and has allowed only five hits. His ERA of 2.13 is second-best on the team.

In his first appearance, against Arkansas on April 14, the hard-throwing right-hander struck out two of the seven batters he faced, walked one and didn’t allow a hit.

He finished the game and got the save in the first SEC action of his career, and earned himself more time on the mound in the future.

“Next year, he will be a factor on the mound, plus he is a big hitter,” Polk said.

Goodson would like to pitch more in whatever’s left of this season, but was holding Polk to his word.

“I was hoping to pitch more this year,” Goodson said. “But I can wait till next year.”

As a freshman, Goodson saw action in 25 games, starting four games as the designated hitter. He started in MSU’s 1-0 SEC Tournament win over South Carolina.

Goodson knew coming into the season that he would have to prove himself worthy to a new staff of coaches this fall.

“I started everything all over again,” he said. “I had to impress these guys to get some playing time.”