Bulldogs Complete Series Sweep With 6-0 Win

He'd wrapped-up the opening game efficiently, throwing just eleven pitches in the process. So Coach John Cohen expected Luis Pollorena would be right and ready for longer work in the nightcap. "Luis came in and closed out the first one; then he throws 60-something pitches in the next one. He really wanted to pitch."

Giving Pollorena the ball was the right call. Taking over in the fourth inning of Sunday's second contest with Portland, the southpaw knocked out a fast 4.1 frames and earned the winning decision in Mississippi State's 6-0 shutout. Coming after a 7-1 preceding triumph, the Bulldogs finished their opening weekend with a four-game sweep of the Pilots.

Pollorena (1-0) was the right man in the middle innings. He entered with a 1-0 lead and left with a 2-0 margin that would have sufficed thanks to more solid relief work. Though the way Pollorena pitched Portland he could conceivably have completed the evening, scattering three hits and two walks with six strikeouts.

"I was trying to throw strikes," he said. "We have a good back-end with Bracewell and Holder and I was trying to do whatever I could to get to those guys."

Part of his projection came true; Ben Bracewell did take the ball off Pollorena's left hand in the eighth inning with a pair of Pilots on bases. Bracewell left them there with a strikeout and pop-out. But when the Bulldog offense threw four insurance scores on the board in the bottom of the frame, closer Holder's services were no longer needed.

"I think he's probably the most upset person in the ballpark," joked Cohen. "He could just smell it when we had the two-run lead and he went into his process in the bullpen." Instead it was freshman righty John Marc Shelly getting a debut opportunity, throwing the ninth with a hit and nothing else for his ten tosses.

Bulldog ighthander Will Cox got to open, and worked three scoreless innings with three hits, a couple of walks and one plunking on his line. "Will got off to a good start, he was getting to the bottom of the strike zone and had a lot of small misses," Cohen said.

For the visitors, Kurt Yinger made a strong starting showing by going seven complete innings with just two runs against him on five hits, a walk and three strikeouts. But he was still on the hook for the loss…and didn't have nearly the bullpen backing him up.

Yinger walked CF C.T. Bradford in the first and stranded him, but wasn't so fortunate in the second turn. RF Hunter Renfroe led off by lining a double off the leftfield fence. 2B Brett Pirtle dribbled a grounder to the right side that first baseman Brian Frattali dove and stopped; but his from-the-seat flip to the bag was wild. Renfroe came home unchallenged and Pirtle reached second on the scratch single and error. Yinger held it at 1-0 the rest of that inning and the next couple as well.

Meanwhile Cox was dodging difficulty right from the start. He had two Pilots on bases in each of the first three innings, and was spared real harm thanks to sharp defensive stops. SS Adam Frazier was particularly clutch, with a running-away circus catch in the first inning; and a double-play in the third.

So Pollorena was given the 1-0 lead for the fourth frame, and held it. He fanned a pair in that inning, and ended the fifth with a self-protection stab of a screamer headed his direction. Two more strikeouts came in the sixth, and Pollorena stranded a pair in the seventh with a called strikeout of Colby Whalen.

"Ammo (catcher Nick Ammirati) called a great game and the defense made plays behind me, so it allowed me to keep throwing strikes." The lead doubled in State's fifth too, with Ammirati figuring in. After two outs the catcher made base on a scratch single, and Frazier followed suit with an infield hit putting runners on corners.

Bradford didn't have to swing because the first pitch his way went wild, Ammirati reaching the plate along with a throw Yinger couldn't handle.

Pollorena's appearance ended with one out and two on in the eighth, having been hit for a Ben Grubb double and walking the tying run on base. Bracewell was the right call with a series of righties due up and he outed the first two.

Down by two runs, Portland made their pitching move at last by bringing in lefthander Brandon Snyder. It didn't work well. Frazier rapped his eighth base hit of the weekend to lead off the MSU eighth and was bunted over by Bradford. Intentionally walking 1B Wes Rea was a percentage play that also didn't go as planned. DH Trey Porter had hit the ball hard all day with little to show for it.

This time he made modest contact yet poked the ball through the left side for a single and RBI which opened the floodgates. Pilot Jeremy Burright inherited two runners and nearly got an out on a foul-fly by Renfroe that wasn't caught. It cost because the Bulldog rightfielder roped a double to the left-gap scoring Rea. LF Demarcus Henderson went the other way with a liner over second base for two RBI and the back-breaker.

Shelly was hit for a leadoff-single by his first college opponent. A fly ball got his first out, then order-topper Kramer Scott grounded to Rea. He fielded, snapped to the middle bag, and Frazier fired back for the twin-killing and sweep-sealer.

"A long day of baseball," said Cohen. "I'm really pleased the way our kids hung in there and played I thought excellent defense. That play to end the game was a highlight reel type of play." State ended the game with no fielding errors, and just one all weekend.

The batting advantage was not as pronounced as in the first Sunday game, with the Bulldogs notching nine safeties to Portland's seven. Frazier, Renfroe, and Henderson all had a pair of hits. For the weekend Frazier got off to a sizzling junior-year start with 8-of-16 batting and four runs scored. #1 catcher Slauter was even better on average, 6-of-9 with four RBI, and the team averaged .355 with a .478 on-base rate.

More impressive, if not entirely unexpected, was the dominant pitching. The State staff posted a 0.75 ERA with 36 strikeouts and three runs allowed. The bullpen was charged with just one of those scores.

"The starters did a great job setting them up," Slauter said. "And when you've got as many arms in the bullpen as we do and can run them out inning after inning it's hard for an opponent to get in a rhythm."

The Bulldogs have a down-day before hosting Grambling State at 4:00 Tuesday, in a first-ever meeting of the programs. Soph righthander Brandon Woodruff will get the starting assignment.


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