MSU Baseball Drops SEC Opener at Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A pair of trio Vanderbilt pitchers backed the Commodores' No. 2 ranking Friday night as Mississippi State dropped a 10-0 decision in a Southeastern Conference baseball game played Friday night at Hawkins Field.

VU All-American paced Sonny Gray pitched 7.1 innings. Corey Williams and T.J. Pecoraro followed in relief, as the Bulldogs were shut out for the first time in 107 games. It was the only second shutout under Coach John Cohen, as the Bulldogs were last blanked 4-0 at Georgia 21 games in to the 2009 season.

"We practiced for four hours yesterday," Cohen said. "It was the best practice we've had since I've been here. Our kids were so prepared to play. Sometimes, you just can't explain it."

MSU starting pitcher Devin Jones had his shortest start of the season. Jones lasted only 3.1 innings, allowing eight hits and eight runs (six earned), with no walks or strikeouts. In relief, Tim Statz logged his best innings as a Bulldog. Statz worked a career-best 4.1 innings, allowing two hits and two runs (neither earned), with five strikeouts. Victor Diaz faced one batter, getting the last out of the eighth inning.

"Devin just wasn't there tonight," Cohen said. "He couldn't get his two-seamer to move at all. It's disappointing because feel like he's better than that and next week we expect him to be better than that."

Vanderbilt won its 11th straight game to improve to 18-1 overall and 1-0 in league play. Meanwhile, the Maroon and White fell to 14-5 and 0-1. The Bulldogs had won six of their past 10 conference openers. Vanderbilt ran its series win streak to an amazing 11 straight wins.

On Friday night, the Commodores gave Gray all the offense he needed with a four-run second inning. In that at-bat, Jason Esposito reached as a hit batsman. Mike Yastrezemski followed with a single. Curt Casali then ripped a two-run double. A sacrifice-fly by Connor Harrell scored the inning's third run, while an RBI-single by Riley Reynolds plated another.

The Bulldogs extended Gray early. The junior right-hander threw 112 pitches and worked around early control difficulty. The Bulldogs had four hits, four walks, an error and two hits batsmen to work with. However, the Bulldogs stranded nine base runners and hit into three double plays.

The lead was extended by a single score in the third inning and three more runs in the fourth inning. Back-to-back singles by Conrad Gregor and Connor Harrell started the VU fourth inning. A sacrifice-bunt advanced the runners into scoring position.

Tony Kemp followed with an RBI-single. Anthony Gomez hit a fielder's choice, which resulted in an error and no out being recorded. That play scored another run and ended Jones' time on the mound. A wild pitch scored the final run of the VU fourth inning.

A wild pitch scored another Commodores' run in the seventh inning. An RBI-double by Aaron Westlake closed the scoring in the VU eighth inning.

Besides allowing Vanderbilt 10 hits, the MSU pitching staff hit two and walked three, while throwing six wild pitches. A season-high five errors defensively did not help the MSU cause either.

Gregor and Kemp each had multiple hits for the Commodores. No Bulldog player had more than one hit. Sam Frost did have a double, which was his first extra-base hit of the 2011 campaign.

"Our recipe is good, our practice habits are good, our plan is good, just don't run away from that," Cohen said. "We just ran into one of those nights. You're disappointed about that, but we've got 29 more games to go in SEC play."

The series resumes at 2 p.m. Saturday. MSU is scheduled to start sophomore right-hander Chris Stratton (3-0, 1.65 ERA), while Vanderbilt is scheduled to start junior left-hander Grayson Garvin (2-1, 3.55). The final game of the weekend is set for a 1 p.m. start on Sunday.

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