Bulldog Super Regional Notebook 2.0

A four-hit day at any point is something to celebrate. Five hits makes for headline material. But swinging for six safeties in one game? That is history, something Adam Frazier achieved in Mississippi State's super regional victory over Virginia.

The Bulldog shortstop put his name in the record book with a 6-for-6 afternoon, tying for the best ever single showing at Mississippi State. The six hits matched a mark established in 1956 by Terry Murphy, then tied in-turn by Don Bell in 1966, Tracy Echols in 1989, and finally by Burke Masters in his legendary game against Florida State in the Starkville Regional. That day is best recalled for Masters' grand slam that became the winning margin, but he'd already gone 5-for-5 before the ninth inning blast.

Now 23 years later Frazier joins the club. And like Masters, it was under NCAA Tournament pressure. "A couple of them were pretty lucky, but I got a couple of pitches to hit and found some holes." There was a little luck involved in one hit; his sixth-inning smack that drilled right into the first base bag, caromed over the first baseman, and rolled far enough for a double. And, two RBI to boot.

Luck had little to do with the other five hits though. Frazier singled on the game's second pitch to right, bounced a second inning grounder along the right line for another double, and drove a shot that carried to the centerfield track for a triple in the fourth. He drove in a run with a fifth-inning single, and finally in the eighth dropped a trademark other-way hit in leftfield to complete the perfect day.

This was completely new territory too. He'd had four-hit games before, this year against Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament most notably. But that was his personal high, lifetime. Six hits? "Nah, not that I remember. I think I had a five hit game in high school, but never six."

"He sets the tone of the game every time he's up there with the bat," said RF Hunter Renfroe, who had a pretty darned great day of his own going 4-of-5. Two of his hits plated Frazier of course. "He's a firestarter to our lineup."

To Frazier, though, teammates could have had his sort of day and some even should have he thought. "C.T. (Bradford) squared the ball up all day, and wasn't so fortunate," the shortstop said. Bradford did sting several shots and all found a glove, though he did drive in Renfroe with a grounder. "But its baseball, I found some holes and got a couple to fall."

Not a couple: six. And with one huge afternoon, suddenly Frazier could be in range of some greater history. He began the super regional with 94 hits, tied for the ninth-best State year ever. Now he is only the fourth Bulldog to notch 100 safeties in a season, tied with Richard Lee (1997) in third place. That's just two behind Tommy Raffo's 102 hits in 1989; and three back of record-holder Brian Wiese's 103 in 1998.

But he claims to have not known about the record chase. ""Nah, I didn't know that. but hopefully I can get a couple more." Or four, or five, or…

HEATING BACK UP: As noted, Renfroe came up big for the Bulldogs too. It was his second four-hit game of the junior season, the other at Arkansas. This also extended what has been a hot post-season stretch for Renfroe.

In nine tournament games, SEC or NCAA, he has batted 16-of-44 and driven in ten runs. For a comparison, in the last 17 regular-season games he was 14-of-62 with 9 RBI. "I'm seeing the ball great right now, laying off bad pitches and not striking out a whole lot." That's a fact; he has only fanned three times against post-season pitching.

Which means that leading up to Thursday's first draft round, or after he was taken 13th overall by San Diego, Renfroe's plate approach hasn't been impacted either way. He's taking balls, swinging at strikes, and seeing both very well again as he did when he led the SEC in batting at over .400 in April.

"And once you get barrel to it good things will happen, and I think we did a good job of that." We being a Bulldog order that rattled Virginia for 20 base hits, on their own field.

Speaking of which…Renfroe had a notion he'd like hitting at Davenport Field because it has a talk, dark-blue and curved centerfield wall. Saturday proved it. Asked by local media what made him or his team so effective in a new venue, "That big huge wall," Renfroe grinned. "If we had that in Starkville I think we'd hit a little bit better!"

At which Coach John Cohen interjected "So would the other team!" Undeterred, Renfroe continued. "You can see real well in this park. And the wind was blowing out a little bit, it carried more than usual." Which hurt Renfroe once, as a fly ball to his rightfield went farther than he expected and fell for a first-inning double.

Later though Renfroe used that same aid to drop a triple in centerfield, as had Frazier before him. It was State's first two-triples game of the season. "It plays pretty quick in the outfield," Cohen said. "And the ball carries better than our place. I still think it plays pretty big, and that big hitters-eye is something we don't have. And our hitters make me aware of that every day!"

Rain had kept the Bulldogs from a real practice on the field Friday, so their first real experience had positive responses as Renfroe praised the setting and surface. "It's fun."

Then again, when the hits are falling anywhere is fun.

FEELING DRAFTY PART III: An obvious post-win question was, did having the draft deal done help anyone with their hitting? Personally Renfroe downplayed it, though "It's one less thing to worry about." Sixth-round Friday selection Frazier was more agreeable. "Any time you get some stuff off your mind and pressure off, it's always going to be more relaxing."

Three more Bulldogs could relax, then, after Saturday's rounds. RHP Evan Mitchell went 13th round to Cincinnati, 3B/RHP Daryl Norris to Detroit in the 22nd round; and LHP Luis Pollorena in the 23rd to Texas. That made seven total players picked off this team, including four in the first ten rounds, and was one shy of the 2003 record of eight. On Friday, joining sixth-round Pittsburg pick Frazier was RHP Kendall Graveman in the eighth and LHP Chad Girodo in the ninth, both to Toronto.

Having been through this drill himself, as a 1990 senior who found out in the Omaha dugout he'd just been drafted, Cohen agreed any coach still playing this weekend had to watch his squad closely for draft after-effects. "You wouldn't be human," he said of players being entirely unaffected at that age. Yet, "The only day it matters a lot, is that day. You never forget it, but it's something good to put in the rear-view mirror." As Frazier apparently did very well indeed. "He just played like a guy that was totally relaxed today."

Though one State signee, Reid Humphreys, was drafted Saturday, the rest of the signing class seems to be safe. Even better for 2014 is eligible prospects like 1B Wes Rea and CF C.T. Bradford, or now that he's gotten hot 3B Alex Detz, were not picked and should be back to rebuild the order around.

HANGING TOUGH: As Graveman said, it was not the sort of start he'd hoped for after giving up three runs—including a second-pitch solo homer—in his opening inning. But the senior survived the first frame with a couple of clutch strikeouts down the order, and just kept coming back for more. Thanks, he said, to such strong offensive support.

"It's definitely easier. To get a lead after not having a good start, for our guys to come back and get ahead was big for me." All the more because this wasn't an order to mess around with. At times Graveman talked as if he'd been pitching to his own offense, in fact.

"They did a great job at the plate, they're disciplined. When they got two strikes it was really hard to put those guys away. To keep pitching and to make pitches I really had to go to my breaking ball today, and that's something if you know me I don't use very much."

That's a fact; Graveman relies on a nice, located fastball or a hard sinker. In the first inning he was hard but not sinking enough. Even later in the game at times the senior would get up to 91, 92; a risky rate for him as those fastballs rarely drop much if at all. Fortunately Graveman got away with most of them, yet he still had to have an out-pitch.

So, here came the breaker. "That's one thing I could locate and was commanding. So to make an in-game adjustment and go to that was big for me." He still had the fastball though to try for the situational grounder, such as the double-play to erase a leadoff third inning single.

"For sure, when I get in a jam and there's a situation I can get a double play, I go to my fastball. That's what I get a majority of them on. For me to get sink and create that ground ball is big for our club, and been big for the past two years."

DOUBLE THE FUN: State's defense matched a season high with four double-plays, three rolled by LHP Ross Mitchell. The biggie was in the sixth inning after Virginia had cut the lead to 10-6 and Mitchell had walked the top of the order to force in the latest run.

He came back to bounce a grounder that Frazier turned into a fine twin-killing to end that rally, and effectively clinch the game as Virginia didn't threaten too much more afterwards. Their one other chance, after two singles off Mitchell in the seventh, was also negated with a double-dip started by Detz at third base.

Mitchell super-sharp either. Walking that first batter with bases loaded was close, Cohen said. "And I think he lost his composure a little bit, which is not like him. He normally jumps right back in the zone. He had a lot of small misses, not big misses, but we're in a position we have to ram it in the strike zone."

Mitchell did settle down to throw more strikes of course. Yet as early as the first inning he'd reported to the open bullpen. By the time he was called on, Mitchell had practically tossed a normal relief stint just staying loose. Cohen admitted, that had something to do with how he threw for-real.

"No question about that." The problem was, for Mitchell anyway, that Graveman kept surviving real trouble and the offense kept adding more margin. So instead of bringing Mitchell in for the fifth inning, when the Virginia order started over a third time, he was held out a little longer.

"When we stretched the lead a little we tried to get a little bit greedy how far to keep Kendall in the ball game. So (Ross) kept getting up and having to get down, then up and down. We didn't anticipate we were going to stretch the lead like we did."

Of course it was a great problem to have. And Mitchell was able to pick up his second save of the season by working three-plus innings with a lead. He remains 12-0 in decisions, all in relief appearances. And that finishing touch allowed State to save Girodo, who also warmed-up a few times; as well as RHP Ben Bracewell and closer RHP Jonathan Holder for Sunday use.

GOING SHORT: Virginia hit the day's only home run. But while the Bulldogs did tag a couple of triples and two doubles, both by Frazier, they also showed the short game. LF Demarcus Henderson caught the Cavaliers looking in the eighth inning when he pushed a bunt down and outran the throw to first base for a single. "I think he ran a 3.55 to first base, which is special," Cohen said. Virginia, not without reason, wanted to know if Henderson had been out of the box on contact, a la what softball players do in bunting for hits. It was ruled a fair play though.

"And (DH Derrick) Armstrong had one 3.60," Cohen said. "But it was back to the pitcher and they made that play." Even big Rea got in on the sacrifice-fun as he bumped Renfroe and 2B Brett Pirtle into scoring positions in State's third inning, so they could score the tying and go-ahead runs on non-base hits.

"That's part of our identity. We don't want to step outside of our identity, we want to do what we do," Cohen said.

STAYING IN THE MOMENT: Virginia's last real rally, in the sixth, was boosted when Pirtle didn't come up with a routine grounder that could have and should have been turned into two outs. The Cavaliers were able to load the bases and score on consecutive at-bats, including Mitchell's walk.

But when it came time to close the contest out, the ball twice shot Pirtle's way. And he responded, first with a simply excellent diving stop and throw to first base for the opening out. What came next was even better; he chased down Jared King's hopper headed for the hole, snagged it at full stretch with the glove in his left hand and without breaking stride leaped, spun, and heaved.

The throw beat the runner for a truly brilliant piece of infield defense worth replaying and remembering.

"I was so proud of Pirtle, he kicks a ground ball that is going to keep runs off the board," Cohen said. "And he comes back and makes two big-league lays in the ninth. I think that shows a ton of maturity on his part."

Pirtle also had a hit Saturday, extending his streak of games-reached to 38.

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