Good? A 16-1 rout of visiting Portland was a great way for Mississippi State to start this 2013 season. The offense gave a starting plate display, with 21 total base hits by a dozen Dogs to post the biggest margin of Opening Day victory since the 2000 season.
Five Bulldogs had multiple hits, including CF C.T. Bradford with a pair of safeties. "We were excited to get out there," Bradford said after. "We've been playing each other for six months, so it was good to get out and play another team."
Bradford had extra reason for excitement. Not only did he go 2-of-3 with two runs scored and three RBI, his third turn produced a two-run homer. Of course before the junior outfielder ever got to the plate this opener meant something extra exciting.
"C.T. came up to me during BP today and said coach, I haven't played in ten months," Coach John Cohen related. "I said wow, thanks for reminding me! But he really swung the bat well." As did two other starters who either missed most of the 2012 season or played hurt. 3B Daryl Norris went 3-of-3 with a run scored in his own return from injury. And Rea, free for the first time as a collegian from shoulder problems, got the season-scoring going with a two-run homer in the first inning. He was 1-of-2 with the two RBI and three runs scored after getting plunked twice.
SS Adam Frazier got off to a brilliant start in defending his team batting title, going 3-of-4 with three runs and a RBI. But it was C Mitch Slauter leading the hit parade with a 4-of-6 outing, driving in two and scoring once himself.
"It's definitely something we wanted to do," Bradford said of the first-day barrage. "As hitters we want to come out and show we're going to stick with our pitchers and score runs for them."
Lefthander Jacob Lindgren benefitted most from those runs. The sophomore was handed Opening Day opportunity and responded with 6.0 complete innings to get the victory. Lindgren was touched for five hits with the run, walked three and struck out the same.
"We have a really good staff, a lot of pitchers could have pitched opening day. But it was an honor," said Lindgren. "It's always good to get a W my first outing. But I couldn't do it without my hitters. They really showed up tonight."
Luckless Pilot Matt McCallister got showed-up by contrast. Moved up to the first of four games so the Pilot ace can throw Saturday, the righthander absorbed nine runs on seven hits with a walk and strikeout in just 1.1 innings. Not that his relief was much of such either as the Bulldogs kept battering away even after wholesale substituting.
Frazier and Rea got it going immediately. The shortstop singled and stole to lead off and with one down Rea came up looking to swing. Soon. "That's luck, he hung a curveball. I'm kind of a first-pitch guy and he hung one." It cleared right-centerfield, an opposite-field sort of shot for Rea.
The Pilots did have their chance to catch up in the second as Turner Gill dropped a double inside the left-line, though he had to hustle into the bag ahead of LF Demarcus Henderson. Second baseman Caleb Whalen followed with a high drive that RF Hunter Renfroe couldn't get at the wall for another double, though Gill was held at third base. A fly ball to centerfield scored him anyway, but then Lindgren left the tying runner on third base with a called strikeout and grounder.
"Jacob really wasn't as sharp as he has been for us, but he kind of got a little more sharp in the course of the game," said Cohen. In this case sharp meant rolling ground balls with runners on bases. He'd erased a first-inning single with one double-play; in the third and fourth innings more bouncers either outed or stranded four who'd reached base.
"I was trying to attack their hitters and let my fielders do work," Lindgren said. "They produced, so I was excited." With the three twin-killings the Dog defense got off to a fast start in repeating their 2012 NCAA lead in double-plays.
The one run was also easily offset by a seven-spot in State's own second. 2B Brett Pirtle was welcomed to senior college baseball by getting plunked, and Norris hit his way on. Henderson showed bunt before slashing, and while it was fielded for an out both runners advanced safely. So Frazier's second single of the day plated Pirtle, and Bradford got his own RBI with a bouncer down the third base line.
Then things really fell apart for Mccallister as he hit Rea and nicked DH Trey Porter too. The umpire ruled Porter ought to have dodged and made him return to the box. In response Porter pounded a hot grounder that ate up shortstop Michael Lucarelli. It was scored an infield single and scored two teammates. A RBI-single by RF Hunter Renfroe made it 7-1 and finished Mccallister with righthander Chad Kjemhus inheriting two on and one out.
Mitch Slauter greeted him with a base hit that was fielded in center but thrown wildly back-in allowing Porter to score. Pirtle's fly ball was to short rightfield but there was no chance of throwing-out Renfroe coming from third base for the 9-1 margin after two innings. After three frames it was 11-1. Frazier hit safely a third time and again scored via the longball, though this time it was Bradford pulling the shot over rightfield.
"It was a fastball, down. I reacted, that's all it was."
Portland did keep the home team from any fourth-inning scoring. But the fifth saw Rea get hit again, and score from second base on Slauter's single to center. In the sixth inning new SS Matt Britton singled through the right side, and CF Jacob Robson walked. Redshirt 3B Nick Flair, in his first college at-bat, smashed the first pitch to and off the helpless shortstop for a double. Britton scored easily while Robson rocketed first-to-home for the 15th run.
In the seventh it was Britton's turn to drive in a teammate, Slauter as it turned out, with a bases-loaded grounder. Kjemhus lasted 3.2 innings with three runs on eight hits, while Aaron Moore allowed four runs on as many hits with three strikeouts.
With the comfortable lead Cohen gave three relievers an inning each, two of them first-timers. Preston Brown and Myles Gentry each tossed hitless frames with two strikeouts each; and veteran lefty Chad Girodo wrapped it up with a two-strikeout ninth. There were nine first-time participants in all.
"It was good, we got everyone in and everyone played well," Bradford said.
"A lot of guys had success today," said Cohen. "But tomorrow is another day and we're going to face the Freshman of the Year in the West Coast Conference." That will be lefthander Travis Radke, who posted a 7-4 record and 2.09 ERA as a rookie. "He's really good, this kid is a SEC-caliber arm and we're going to have to deal with him tomorrow. And I think it will be a great test for our ball club."
Mississippi State sends righthander Evan Mitchell (2-1,3.52) to the mound for Saturday's 2:00 contest. The weekend schedule has been revised due to expected cold weather and colder winds tomorrow. Sunday is now a doubleheader beginning at 1:00.