By JOEL COLEMAN
In the storied history of Mississippi State baseball, a wide cast of characters made their mark wearing the maroon and white and along the way, been forever linked to teammates based on performance or personality.
Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro will always be Thunder and Lightning. Ross Mitchell, Evan Mitchell and Jacob Lindgren formed the Bench Mobb, complete with two letter ‘Bs’.
Then came Dakota Hudson and Austin Sexton, whose faction never got completely off the ground.
“Our freshman year, we came in and said we were going to be ‘The Duo’ or whatever that was,” Hudson joked.
Hudson and Sexton, the current anchors of MSU’s starting rotation, might never receive any royalties for their failed attempt at a catchy nickname, but three years after the now-junior right-handers arrived in Starkville, the two have finally cemented their place in Bulldog lore.
Hudson has always had the tools to be an ace in the Southeastern Conference. This season, he’s put the pieces together and will likely be a first-round draft pick in this summer’s Major League Baseball Draft.
Sexton might not have the raw talent that Hudson possesses, but he’s every bit the competitor, using his grit to overcome what he lacks in other departments.
Things weren’t always this way. It was only a couple of years ago when, as a true freshman, Hudson went from a weekend rotation spot, to being barely used as the season wore on. Sexton also scuffled in his debut campaign as he was plagued by control issues and finished with an earned run average of 5.16.
While there wasn’t much glory on the field though, a friendship was developing off of it.
“We’ve been close ever since our freshman year,” Sexton said.
In their first season as Bulldogs, Hudson and Sexton were roommates for Mississippi State road trips. By their sophomore year, the two lived together full-time. In those couple of years, a friendly rivalry blossomed.
“Freshman year, we played a few games here and there,” Hudson said. “Then last year, we were actual roommates and played some video games and were pretty competitive back and forth. This year, we’re actually able to do it out on the field. Keeping that going is pretty fun.”
Hudson and Sexton no longer share a roof, but their bond is just as strong. While Hudson has put together a season that earned him All-SEC First-Team honors, Sexton has been one of his biggest supporters.
“I’m just super proud of how he’s doing out there,” Sexton said. “I wish I could say I watch how hitters react to him, but I can’t because he throws 95 and his cutter is harder than my fastball. I like to watch the way he goes after guys. He attacks them with his hardest stuff and he can make guys look stupid. That’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Hudson has watched Sexton shine this year as well. Sexton has posted seven quality starts this season with the Bulldogs going 7-0 in those outings. As the two have excelled, Hudson says all the success has served to make both young men better.
“Obviously, we haven’t been out there at the same time, but this year, we’ve kind of had an inner competition between outings,” Hudson said. “Some days, he’ll walk off the field and be like, “I got you today.’ Some days, I walk off and say, ‘Beat that.’”
It has depended on the week which hurler has had the upper hand.
“For awhile there, Dakota went out there and threw real well,” Sexton said. “Then there was a couple of games where I might have gotten a little ahead of him and he’d always give me some crap for that, but we keep it real friendly and just push ourselves and want to be as good as we can.”
When it’s all said and done, Mississippi State has been the big winner is this friendly battle. The growth of Hudson and Sexton led the school to its first SEC regular season championship since 1989 and has the Bulldogs primed to make a run towards the College World Series.
From there, Hudson and Sexton will likely go their separate ways as professional baseball comes calling for one or possibly both.
As memorable as their time together has been, it’s doubtful that ESPN will plan on making a future documentary on ‘The Duo’, but the contributions of Hudson and Sexton to the 2016 Bulldogs won’t soon be forgotten in Starkville.
“They both had struggles early in their careers and now they’re both having success,” MSU head coach John Cohen said of his pitchers. “They’ve both been great leaders.
“They’ve been through a lot together.”