Rea Homers Power Dogs Over Holy Cross

He'd been swinging and missing a little too much for comfort on the early season. Saturday, Wes Rea wasn't missing. Not on a couple of impressive swings which produced a pair of two-run homers to power Mississippi State past Holy Cross 8-4. The win came in round-one of a twinbill with game-two starting at 2:30.

Fourth-year first baseman Rea enjoyed the first two-home run day of his college career, with shots over leftfield in the second and eighth innings. It was the first multiple-homer afternoon by a Bulldog since March of 2012, by Rea's former roommate Hunter Renfroe in fact. Those were also the first longballs off Mississippi State bats on the '14 season.

Rea's big knocks and nine other base hits by Bulldogs were most appreciated by a pair of pitchers. RHP Trevor Fitts made his second Saturday start of the young season another success, working 5.2 innings to up the record to 2-0. If not quite as crisp in movement and location as last week against Western Carolina, the junior was able to withstand seven Crusader hits and three runs. He struck out five and walked just one in a 90-pitch stint.

RHP Will Cox took care of the other 3.1 turns to pick up his first save as a Diamond Dog. Cox did get touched for a run on three hits, with two walks and five strikeouts of his own.

Fitts had some first-inning challenges as with two outs a fly ball found the crack between three fielders for a double. A grounder to the left side stayed fair long enough for a single as 3B Alex Detz couldn't cleanly back-hand it. Facing the only lefthander in Holy Cross' order, Fitts on 2-2 dropped a 75mph breaker into the zone for the called strikeout.

Holy Cross starter Phil Reese set up his own first-innining issues with no contact, on walks of LF Jake Vickerson and Detz and a nicking of 1B Wes Rea loaded everything up. 2B Brett Pirtle did swing on 3-1 look and lined it hard…right to the shortstop. Nick Lovullo stepped on second for another out and only Rea's recognition and get-back prevented the triple-play.

Which kept the inning going for CF Jacob Robson to dribble the ball to the right side. First baseman Shane Sandoval just didn't get down enough as it bounced between his feet for an error, with Vickerson coming across. State did leave the bases full on a fly ball.

Fortunately two teams could strand as in the second Fitts had three Crusaders reach after two were out. None scored as #2 batter Andrew Barry bounced to second base.

In State's second inning, Reese issued a leadoff walk to C Gavin Collins and with the runner going SS Matt Britton dropped a base hit in leftfield. Order-topper Vickerson was ordered to bunt them over and did so successfully. It put Collins in position to score on a Detz fly ball.

This time the home team didn't stop at just a run. On 2-0 count Reese was up but a strike called on Rea anyway. That only meant Rea was now free to swing away and on 3-1 he unloaded. This high fly carried just beyond the leftfield wall for State's first home run of the season and a 4-0 lead through two innings.

Rea's shot seemed even bigger when Holy Cross matched it in their third turn. A leadoff single was followed by Brandon Cipolla's high fly that got over the leftfield corner for a 4-2 scoreboard. When the Bulldogs left the bases loaded again, this time with nobody scoring, it encouraged Holy Cross further.

They were able to tighten the tally in their sixth with a leadoff reach by Perry on Rea's fielding error. After wild-pitching Perry to third base Fitts coaxed a comebacker for the second out. But Anthony Critelli's grounder stayed fair at the third base bag for a double and 4-3 score. With the tying runner on second Cox took over and needed a single pitch for the bounce-backer and out.

It was still a one-run difference in the seventh after Cox escaped more trouble, stranding the tying and go-ahead Crusaders with another comebacker. He was also able to return with more margin to protect. Garner got his fourth safety of the game, a bouncer down the third base line for a single. RF Demarcus Henderson hit it to the same side and in his case for a double with two Dogs in scoring spots. That narrow gap between bag and baseman was working so well Collins used it too. His double into the left corner scored Garner and Henderson.

Rea was a little more dramatic providing a two-RBI hit in the eighth. With Detz on first base via walking, he no-doubted the shot to leftfield off Sean Gustin.

Cox struck out his eighth-inning side, and should have been through the ninth with two outs and one on. But a couple of Crusader contacts and Detz' overthrow of first base scored a fourth run, before a bouncer ended things.

Garner was 4-of-4 swinging in the six-slot with one run scored, and the last-four in State's order had seven of the eleven total this. Detz extended his games-reached streak to 29, and Pirtle hit safely for the sixth game this season. Rea's big day gave him a six-game stretch with at least one RBI, too.

Reese (0-1) took the loss as Holy Cross used just four pitchers this game, instead of nine as on Friday in their season-opener. Rightfielder Evan Ocello was 4-of-5 with a run scored and Cipolla 3-of-5 with the two RBI and a run.

Game two began at 2:33 with Bulldog freshman Austin Sexton on the mound. Crusader righthander Collin Manning was to pitch. In the second contest State was starting first-time catcher Cody Walker, and senior centerfielder C.T. Bradford was back in the lineup after skipping the first one. He took a Friday night pitch off a shoulder.

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