Gentry Wins In Unexpected Opportunity

Just like the rest of the Diamond Dog dugout, Myles Gentry was focused on Jacob Lindgren as the starting pitcher was helped off the field. Meanwhile Coach John Cohen and pitching Coach Butch Thompson were talking. "I heard them say my name. It was like, ‘Gentry, you're in.' Alright!"

Complete Game Stats

Not that the Mississippi State freshman was cheering, understand. Just acknowledging that only two batters and one out into Friday night he was being asked to enter in relief. Very, very long relief. A line-shot had drilled Lindgren's left knee, sending him to the training room. With absolutely no warning and just a hurried warming, Gentry took the hill against Central Arkansas.

Better than that…he took control.

"That was unexpected," the rookie righthander said after the 4-2 Bulldog victory. "But I had to get in there, throw strikes, help get the defense in and let the offense score some runs."

Unexpected was putting the situation mildly. What was supposed to be a Friday matchup of early-season aces turned into an opportunity for Mississippi State to show its true strength: the bullpen. This was a more extreme sort of relief situation, to be sure, but Gentry fit it just fine. He worked 4.1 hitless and scoreless innings against the hard-swinging Bears, striking out three and walking none, to earn his first college decision.

"He's phenomenal," said RF Hunter Renfroe. "Just one of hose guys that gets innings for you. I thought he did a really good job tonight. A really good job."

If the situation was unique, Cohen said this freshman was uniquely qualified for it. "Butch and I both are thinking they're a seven-man, righthanded lineup, and Gentry can live off his fastball. So we're hoping Myles can get some early action and ground balls on our infield. He really had a lot more punchouts than I thought he'd have; and went deeper into counts than we thought he would. But it's just a great job."

MSU's emergency came after Lindgren, unbeaten in his three Friday starts, had the leadoff Bear on base with Blake Marchal up. He scorched the liner into the outside of the left knee, and while the carom was crazily fielded by 3B Sam Frost for an out at first base Lindgren was in bad pain, needing two teammates to help him through the dugout. He did emerge later with a wrap on the knee but using crutches.

"That was a frightening moment, you're hoping it wasn't right in the kneecap," Cohen said. "It was on the side so we feel he's going to be OK."

Meanwhile Gentry, used to a longer heads-up, grabbed the glove and hit the hill. "I really didn't get much time to think about it, I had to get out there and get warm. That was it. And they gave me enough time, I wasn't going to rush myself."

Even getting called for a balk on his first-faced didn't faze the freshman. LF Demarcus Henderson really saved the first-inning as he robbed Jonathan Davis on a sinking drive to left-center. Marchal had been so sure the ball was falling he was already at third on the catch, and easily doubled-off at second.

From there Gentry retired the next nine-straight with only one fly ball. "I was throwing the fastball down, the breaking balls were good. They were taking good swings, it was keeping it down and the defense made good plays tonight." Some better-than-good as Frost had two sparkling stops in the early going.

Bear righthander Caleb McClanahan was even sharper though, sitting the first nine Dogs faced. He got big help from the gloves too, as rightfielder Forrest Allday robbed 1B Alex Detz of a home run in the opening inning. "He had a fastball and a big loopy curveball he was going to get over for a strike," Renfroe said. "And he had a little slider in the dirt. I thought we did a good job laying off the pitches and finding strikes to hit. We hit the ball hard, we just didn't find a hole."

Not until the second-time through the order anyway. SS Adam Frazier got the first Bulldog base hit on a short-hopper that ate up the helpless UCA second sacker. With one out Detz lined a single over the shortstop, though Frazier had to wait for it to clear and only made third. That was close enough to score on a Renfroe fly ball.

"First time through they robbed a home run, made a diving play," Frost said. "But we all had pretty good at-bats, it was just a matter of timing when we all put it together."

Gentry plunked the leadoff Bear in the fifth, but got a fly ball and a grounder to force one runner. With two outs and a lefthander up LHP Chad Girodo was called in to strike out Scott Zimmerle, and did for his brief appearance while Will Cox finished warming.

He would take over with a larger lead, too as the Dogs put up a pair in their half. C Mitch Slauter whipped a grounder down the left-line for a double, and took third on a long fly ball by DH Trey Porter. Central Arkansas finally decided McClanahan was giving too much contact and replaced him with lefthander Blake Clayton. The Bears also figured State would try the squeeze game and pulled in the defense.

But on 1-2 count Henderson dropped a base hit in rightfield. Slauter scored as the throw-home went to the backstop allowing Henderson to make third base too. 3B Sam Frost made it a 3-0 scoreboard with his single to right.

Cox took care of the sixth and seventh with a lone hit, while the offense padded that lead a little more in the bottom of the sixth. Detz' grounder was booted at second and Clayton lifted for righthander John Kordsmeier. Renfroe greeted him with a base hit, and while 2B Brett Pirtle didn't get his bunts down a 2-2 count had UCA going to the pen again; this time for lefty Zach Barr. Pirtle changed sides of the plate and as a righthander got nailed to load the bases.

This meant even though Slauter rolled a double-play Detz scored for the 4-0 margin through six innings. It was still there in the eighth when Bear Garret Brown doubled. Cox went full-count to Zimmerle and was replaced by CF C.T. Bradford to throw one pitch. It certainly looked down the pipe but was called ball-four. With two on RHP Ben Bracewell took over to roll consecutive ground-outs, the second by Nick Rogeau to score one.

With the top of the order up Bradford returned to the mound. On 2-2 Forrest Allday hit it very hard, only to see Frazier make an amazing—for anyone else but him—diving stop and throw just in time to keep it 4-1.

Central Arkansas did get a big swing in their ninth off closer Jonathan Holder. With two outs catcher Michael Marietta turned on a fastball and put it over leftfield for the game's only homer and his first of the season. A strikeout stopped things right there as Holder earned his sixth save of the season and 12th career, tying him for 6th already on MSU's all-time list.

Renfroe had two of State's seven hits, while Allday had a pair for the Bears. McClanahan (3-1) took the loss as UCA used five more arms after his 4.1 innings. Seven Bulldogs got to throw (Bradford counting just once), not exactly the plan but still an excellent example of bullpen prowess.

Cohen saw something else though, after the early interruption and three frustrating offensive innings. "You have to be careful in those situations because your guys start thinking this isn't our day. But our kids are an older group that just keep competing and expect some positive things are going to happen."

The victory extended State's perfect start to the season, and at 17-0 the Bulldogs are a win away from tying the 2006 record of 18-straight victories. It is up to RHP Evan Mitchell (0-0, 2.08) to defend the unblemished record Saturday against Bear lefthander Jeffery Enloe (3-0, 2.38). Game time is 2:05.

Lindgren will also have an examination of the knee when swelling subsides, and his condition updated.


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