Graveman Puts Pilots In Holding Pattern

Naturally Kendall Graveman was eager to get on the hill for the first senior-season start. But the extra day-delay due to the rearranged weekend schedule was worth the wait. "It ended up being a positive," Graveman said after a six-plus shutout innings in Mississippi State's 7-1 victory over Portland.

The win was in the first half of a Sunday doubleheader at Dudy Noble Field, with the second contest starting around 4:30. The Bulldogs are 3-0 while Portland is 0-3.

Graveman had expected to get on the home-mound Saturday, until Mississippi State adjusted the four-game series to a Sunday twinbill because of cold conditions. A younger pup might have been annoyed or anxious; not this old Dog. In fact, "It was helpful with the injury, giving me a little more time," said Graveman, who is still working up to full-strength after a fall sports hernia procedure.

"I've been in intrasquad pitching on short rest, so it prepared me well. We did a little extra in the weightroom which I wouldn't have done if I'd pitched on Saturday, which was good to get the body moving."

If the righthander still isn't 100%, one couldn't convince the Pilots. Graveman not only two-hit Portland in his 6.1 innings, but it wasn't until his very last batter-faced any of his offerings were knocked beyond the infield. He gave up a bunt single in the second inning, and that other, better base knock to rightfield in the seventh. Beyond that, Graveman kept the Pilots in his own holding pattern with four strikeouts and four walks.

"The second or third inning I kind of struggled a little bit getting the ball down, I was a little inconsistent," Graveman said. "But I found it again for three-and-a-third, so it went well. The sink was there and I felt good getting down the mound. It's something that after the surgery I've been having little problems with, but today I felt good."

Coach John Cohen obviously felt good about Graveman's ability to control the Pilots, using a revamped defensive lineup featuring three first-time starters. That included two on the infield in juco 1B Alex Detz and freshman 2B Kyle Hann, as well as frosh Jacob Robson in leftfield.

"They knew I was probably going to do a good job of helping those guys along, which is my role on this team," Graveman said. "Hann did a good job, Detz did a good job at first. And Robson did a great job in the outfield. Both those guys came up big for us at the plate. And I can't say enough about (Mitch) Slauter behind the plate, he did a great job calling pitches."

Not only that but hitting them. The senior catcher slugged a solo home run in the fifth inning and drove in another score in the sixth; and scored three times as well.

For three-plus frames it looked as if State would need Graveman to labor long. The offense got guys on bases each frame without producing runs. A second-inning walk of Slauter and plunking of RF Hunter Renfroe came to nought as Portland righthander Zach Torson outed rookies Robson and Hann in their first college at-bats. In the third CF C.T. Bradford's one-out single went unused, though DH Trey Porter stung the ball hard. A knockdown by the Portland first baseman saved a run-scoring double.

An inning later Robson was back up in another RBI opportunity. Slauter had again worked a walk, and advanced as Detz took got a base-on-balls. Robson went 2-2 before slapping it the opposite way into leftfield. Slauter made the turn and got home with some help by a bad throw-in and late relay.

Hann grounded to shortstop but his speed meant no double-play with only a force at the middle bag of Robson. So SS Adam Frazier got to swing and made it count with a hot shot down the first base side and into the corner. Both Detz and Hann scored on his triple. A plunking of Bradford finished Torson, though reliever Kody Watts nailed 3B Daryl Norris with his first pitch too. He had to get a fly-out to leave the bases loaded and a 3-0 deficit.

Watts thus was lucky that Slauter was leading off the fifth with nobody on. Because the catcher hammered a drive over left-center for a career fourth homer. Watts plunked Renfroe in response, the umpire escorting an annoyed Bulldog to first base. Another HBP, of Hann, finished him for rightander Colin Feldtman.

His sixth-inning luck was no better though. Bradford scratched a leadoff single and with two outs Slauter singled him home. Renfroe kept the inning going with a single poked through shortstop. So Detz came after Feldtman with a first-pitch swing and double to rightfield scoring the pair.

Righthander Trevor Fitts took the ball from Graveman after Jeff Melby's single, and stranded him. He left another strandee in the eighth after walking him on. But a single, walk, and another single loaded the ninth-inning paths. Ryan Barr broke up the shutout with a grounder to shortstop, and after plunking a Pilot to reload all posts Fitts yielded to Luis Pollorena.

The senior southpaw did the job with a strikeout and line-out to rightfield.

Torson took the loss on 3.2 innings with three runs on four hits, three walks and four strikeouts. The Bulldogs had 12 total hits with two-each for Frazier, Bradford, Slauter, and Robson. State also received six hit-by-pitch reaches.

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