Dogs Make Right Moves In 3-1 Win Over Kansas

It might not be in many coaching textbooks. And Evan Mitchell admitted to no idea he'd be summoned mid-way of a clutch situation count. But, "Coach just always says be ready when you're called." The Bulldog reliever proved he was, slamming the door on Kansas long enough for Mississippi State to rally for a 3-1 victory over Kansas.

"You love matchups," said Coach John Cohen. "When they work!"

This one did, in what the Mississippi State skipper called the key juncture of the evening game at Dudy Noble Field. Visiting Kansas led 1-0 on the strength of a fourth-inning score and were threatening to expand that margin in their fifth frame with Jayhawks in scoring positions and one out. State starter Nick Routt was ahead of #2-slot batter Kevin Kuntz 1-2, when Cohen came to the mound.

"We felt the whole game was set with the two-hole guy, with runners in scoring position and less than two outs," Cohen explained. "We've got a guy in the pen who can get a swing-and-miss, and that's exactly what we did."

"I got in with two strikes and threw a curveball," Mitchell said. "I bounced it and luckily he was thinking fastball, so it worked out." Kuntz struck out, and Mitchell rolled a ground-out to first base that left everyone unscored and State behind only 1-0 at half-way point.

"I thought that was the most pivotal portion of the game," Cohen said. "Because if that ball gets put in play and they score I think that really changes things." An odd side-note was Kuntz is a switch-hitter and could have gone to the left side of the dish to face righty Mitchell. "He certainly could have," agreed Cohen. "But what we're getting is one of the best breaking balls on our staff so even if he goes left-handed there with two strikes against a guy he's never seen before, I like those odds."

Mitchell would go on to get the win based on both his 2.2 innings of scoreless relief (with two hits, two walks, and two strikeouts) as well as timing. He was on-record when Bulldog bats finally cracked Kansas' armor scoring twice in the seventh inning and an insurance run in the eighth.

"I felt I had a Baseball Fairy with me because they're hitting line drives I'm getting double-plays and a hard ball to Daryl (Norris)," Mitchell said. "It kind of worked out for me tonight." Caleb Reed closed it out by retiring six-straight, four of them on strikeouts, to earn his first save of the season.

KU's Thomas didn't factor in the decision, having gone the first 5.1 innings with four scoreless hits, a walk and five strikeouts. Defeat fell to reliever Jordan Luvisi (0-1) as he allowed those seventh-inning scores on a hit and two walks. But for a long time it didn't seem Mississippi State could scratch off any Jayhawk moundsman.

Thomas retired his first eight, aided by a double-play to erase a second-inning walk, and with two Dogs on in the third via base hits he struck out RF Brent Brownlee to stand both. He also foul-flied 2B Adam Frazier out in the fifth with another pair of runners on.

"Coach got on us about chasing pitches and helping him out," Frazier said. "But I give credit to him, too. He was doing what it takes, changing speeds, locating up-and-down. He did a good job to give them a quality start like that and keep it close."

State starter Nick Routt wasn't so shabby himself, with three scoreless innings to begin. His trouble came in the fourth with a leadoff single, and a wild pickoff move advancing Conner McKay. It was Kuntz laying down the perfect bunt to advance his runner and reach base safely too. That mattered because 1B Wes Rea had to cover the bag and leave a hole that Tucker Tharp lined the RBI-single through.

Routt left the bases full that inning, before opening the fifth with the two hits and bunt which set State's scheming in motion. But the coach was otherwise satisfied with the starter's work. "We were really pleased the way Nick threw the baseball today. He really commanded well, he was 90, 92, 93 at times, and threw some nice changeups."

Nor, Cohen added, did Routt want to give up the ball on the 1-2 count. Not until he saw how well everything worked out defensively.

Still the offense wasn't accomplishing anything until the seventh, until pinch-batter LF Taylor Stark worked a leadoff walk from Luvisi. 3B Daryl Norris bunted him along so the Jayhawks were probably not too concerned about walking SS Matthew Britton as well.

They would regret it though as Frazier got into a plus-count on Luvisi. "It was a 3-1 count and run-and-hit. If it was close, swing." It was close and with Stark in motion Frazier swung, flaring a single into short leftfield. Starting Stark early was the difference as he got home for a tied game and pitching change. Robert Kahana took over to strike out Brownlee, then coax a high and short fly ball from CT C.T. Bradford.

But third baseman Zac Elgie misplayed it into an error and Britton never stopped, reaching home for the 2-1 lead. "Those kind of things happen, especially in foreign ballparks," Cohen said. "And the spin of the ball is taking it back into the field."

Which was Reed's cue to sit the side in Kansas' eighth with a pair of strikeouts. He returned for the ninth with another run's worth of margin. DH Trey Porter was hit for the second time in the game, fourth of the day. C Mitch Slauter dropped the bunt for a sacrifice move, and with pinch runner Sam Frost leading off second base 3B Daryl Norris came through with a two-out single to the leftfielder. His throw was in time but catcher Stanfield lost it off the mitt.

Kansas came out ahead in total hits, eight to six, with a pair of safeties apiece from McKay and Ka'iana Eldredge. None were extra base hits, just like State. Frazier and Norris had two singles and a RBI each, as the run off Bradford's bat was via error.

The Jayhawks (4-2) lost another close one to the host team, having fallen 1-0 Friday on a walk-off double by Rea. They will have another game at Dudy Noble Field, taking on Mississippi Valley State (0-5) Sunday at noon. The Bulldogs (5-1) shook off a sluggish start to their early Saturday game to beat the Delta Devils 13-5, and have a rematch with the in-state foe at 4:00 Sunday.

Mitchell said the Dogs can't relax just because it is Valley in the other dugout Sunday, not if they want to go 4-0 for the weekend. "As you saw earlier today they hung with us. Luckily we got our bats going. So we want to get out there and get some runs early."

"As a team we played very good, the first game it took a while to get rolling," Frazier said. "And the second game we started kind of slow. But as a team I think we played really solid."

Cohen said either Will Cox or Brandon Woodruff will start tomorrow, but both will throw as almost certainly also will Jacob Lindgren after getting one out in the game-one ninth inning.

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