State Burns Devils 13-5 With Big Innings

John Cohen understandably wanted to use a Saturday afternoon game with perennial program punching bag Mississippi Valley State to get several Bulldogs some early-season action. But with the Delta Devils leading 3-1 and Mississippi State struggling offensively, the coach called on regulars to change the game. They did.

RF Brent Brownlee and C Mitch Slauter returned to the lineup, and more importantly the batting order, in time to deliver big hits sparking Mississippi State to a 13-5 win at Dudy Noble Field. The two starters-turned-subs accounted for three RBI and each scored as the Bulldogs scored five times in the fourth inning to regain control. They also both crossed the plate again in the fifth when State put up another seven runs for an easier margin of victory.

State (4-1) won its second game in a round-robin weekend after their 1-0 Friday victory over Kansas. Those two clubs were to re-match at 4:00. Mississippi Valley (0-5) dropped its second game of the three-team series, and also remained winless all-time against Bulldog teams with a 0-24 record there.

The big outbursts of those two middle innings saved a rough start for State's Kendall Graveman, who gave up the first three Delta Devil runs during his 4.0 inning stint. Defensive miscues were a factor as one of those runs was unearned and another ought to have been. Graveman had five hits and two walks with no strikeouts.

Though the starter was on-record when State took their lead, the decision went to true freshman Trevor Fitts with an equal 4.0 innings of relief work. Righthander Fitts hung three zeroes on the line before giving up two runs in the eighth inning, with a total of five hits and four strikeouts in his first college appearance.

Valley starter Trey Lacy (0-2) took most of the damage, absorbing eleven runs on eight hits with four walks and three strikeouts in just 4.1 eventful innings. But for his first three turns righty Lacy was getting good defensive support and frustrating Bulldog bats.

Valley got to Graveman quickly with a leadoff walk and single putting Devils on corners. Michael Lowe's tough grounder to third base scored the lead runner. A couple of pop-outs ended it, but consecutive fly balls to right in the second meant more trouble. RF Demarcus Henderson couldn't quite get to a sinking single, then had plenty of time to camp out under a high one into the noon sun.

It went off his glove for two on bases, with Graveman's pickoff move drawing a balk call to advance them both. Clay Perry pushed Edmund Cheatham across for a 2-1 Devil lead. An inning later it was 3-1 as Michael Lowe reached on a grounder, stole both second and third, and scored on a Seth Miliorn base hit.

It took a lot longer for the Bulldogs to get the bats warmed up, though they did scratch out a first-inning run. SS Adam Frazier singled and got to second as CF C.T. Bradford was hit. A fly ball advanced both, with Bradford catching the Devils careless on the throw-in. Only the lead man mattered though with DH Trey Porter grounding Frazier across.

But that was as much as MSU's offense could muster for the first third of the afternoon. Lacy got the second-inning side, and a one-out double aided by the sun off Frazier's stick came to nought in the third. Second baseman Cheatham made a sparkling grab going behind the bag to rob Bradford of a base hit and RBI and 3B Daryl Norris lined out to shortstop.

For the fourth Cohen restored most of the regular lineup and order and at just the right time for RBI opportunities. Lacy set the stage for them too, plunking Porter and giving up a double to leftfield for Rea for two in scoring spots. A walk of Renfroe loaded all bases for new rightfielder Brownlee to deliver the run-scoring single to leftfield. Just one run as everyone had to hold up, but the sacks were still stuffed so a fly ball to center by 2B Sam Frost let Rea race, so to speak, home for the tying run.

New catcher Slauter had the bigger knock with a double plating Renfroe and Brownlee so State could finally have a lead. Slauter advanced on a wild pitch and made the scoreboard 6-3 on a Bradford roller to first base.

Lacy survived that onslaught but a couple more runs in the 5th finished the starter. Porter singled, Rea doubled, and the lead runner came home on a tough running catch by the Valley shortstop in the outfield off Renfroe's bat. Brownlee walked for loaded bases, and Frost got another RBI with a chip-single behind third base.

Another walk reloaded the paths and brought Cody Parker out of the bullpen. But he pushed Brownlee over with a walk, and Bradford singled in another two runs. The inning lasted long enough for Rea to swing again and he made it count with a single through shortstop for two RBI and a 13-3 lead.

Which was more than enough margin to hand freshman Fitts. He did his part nicely for a couple of hitless innings, but the eighth fell apart in several aspects. A wind-blown fly to left fell in center off new LF Taylor Stark's glove for a hit; and a grounder hopped past sub-3B Brayden Jones in his college debut. Fitts wild-pitched both runners along and they scored on singles by Allen Cheek and Nikolas Fangonilo.

A called strikeout of the number-nine batter ended that inning, so State could let freshman Jacob Lindgren strike one out in the last Valley turn before Tanner Gaines grounded two more to second for the finish.

Cohen was able to work in a variety of other lineups once everything was under control, such as playing lefthanded relief pitcher Luis Pollorena in centerfield and freshman pitcher Brandon Woodruff in rightfield--before he ever tossed a college pitch in fact. Renfroe moved behind the plate for his first catching work of 2012 in the ninth inning.

Rea was 3-of-5 batting with two runs and two RBI, while Bradford had three RBI on two hits and scored once. Frazier was 2-of-4 with two runs and a RBI. Porter was 1-of-3 but kept his season hitting streak going in the process.

Three Devils had two hits each out of their ten total safeties.

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