Diamond Dogs Open Fall with 2-2 Tie

Fall temperatures greeted Coach John Cohen and the Mississippi State baseball team as the first game of fall ball took place at Dudy Noble field. A scheduled 4:30 start was pushed back to 6:00 PM as Cohen put the Bulldogs through some extended practice paces before first pitch.

"I think we got a lot done in practice," said head coach John Cohen. "The game looked like we haven't really played in a while.

"I thought we swung the bats pretty well and I thought we defended pretty well.

"We have to clean some things up behind the plate, but I was pleased with the communication level of our team.

"I was really pleased with some young guys who stepped forward. We thrust a lot on those guys and I thought they responded pretty well today."

A pair of freshman hurlers saw their first action in a Bulldog uniform as Chino, California product Aaron Dominguez faced off against fellow frosh Cole Gordon of Tampa, Florida.

Dominquez gave up a pair of first inning singles to center before retiring the side on back to back strikeouts of Reid Humphreys and his counter part Cole Gordon who also served as the designated hitter for the white squad.

Gordon had his share of opening inning issues as transfer Jon Holland singled in Jacob Robson from second to give the Maroon squad the lead, 1-0.

While neither pitcher had an extended outing, as scripted by the staff, both showed some real promise once the nerves settled.

"That was his first start at Mississippi State," said catcher Gavin Collins of battery mate Dominguez. "I thought he did a great job of filling it up and challenging the hitters.

"I felt like once he got those first three outs it was like come off and tell yourself, Okay the freshness part is over and it's time to get on and get outs and get my team off of the field."

While the Bulldog skipper saw some positive things from each newcomer on the mound, it was pretty evident that each had to battle a few butterflies as well as some Bulldog hitters.

"I thought they were pretty nervous and didn't throw as many strikes," explained Cohen. "One of them threw 18 pitches in the first inning and one threw 27 in the first inning."

The Bulldog boss expects his pitchers to pitch to contact and simply let the defense work behind them.

"You know when you watch us take BP and you watch our defenders on the infield and the outfield, you wonder why anybody would throw a ball ever," said Cohen. "Our guys can go get the ball and really defend.

"There is no reason for anybody on our pitching staff to go deep into counts or have these five, six or seven pitch at bats with hitters.

"We need to go right at hitters and just let our defense work, because our defense is pretty good."

Some Bulldog veteran arms did some solid work and received some positive affirmation from their coach in the post game.

"Jacob Billingsley came in and had a clean inning and pitched really well," said Cohen. "I thought Vance Tatum came in and pitched really well.

"We have been experimenting with Trevor Fitts being a one inning closer, relief type guy. He did a great job.

"We had some good moments today and we will keep experimenting and see what guys fit what roles for us."

The Maroon squad had some self inflicted wounds in the 3rd inning that allowed the White team to take the lead.

A Ryan Gridley error opened the frame allowing catcher Cody walker to reach safely.

Centerfielder Michael Smith was hit by a pitch, which caused a little concern in the immediate aftermath, but the transfer from Walters State would return to action after giving way to a pinch runner following the at bat.

A sac bunt pushed both runners into scoring position, a walk and a pitching change later, Bulldog lefty Ross Mitchell was summoned to the mound to face Jake Vickerson with the bases loaded.

Vickerson worked the senior for a walk on a full count though he very easily could have been granted a free pass on the pitch before.

Ryan Humphries would give the White team the lead on a two out infield single.

"I don't get many of those," said the Northwest Rankin alum with a chuckle. "Anytime I can get one of those, it's great.

"I was just trying to do something for the team. I had two strikes and I struck out the at bat before that.

"My mindset was to just want to put something in play.

"I kind of got lucky and hit it real soft and beat it out at first base."

Humphries was projected as a potential starter at third base, but volunteered to move to the outfield in an effort to get more sticks in the Bulldog batting order.

"I feel good about it," said Humphries of the position change. "We have a lot of guys coming in here this year that need to find a way to get on the field somehow.

"I told coach that I was ready to play whatever position he wanted to put me at. I am open for anything and I'm ready for anything he wants me to do."

Cohen was pleased with what he saw from Humphries in the fall's first live contest.

"I was really pleased with him tonight," said Cohen. "He had a sinking line drive late in the game that mattered and he came and got the ball.

"He looked comfortable.

"He is going to be a very good offensive player and this just gives us another chance to get him on the field.

"He needs to be in the middle of our lineup, because he can really swing the bat."

Tonight's contest ended in a 2-2 tie after Gavin Collins scored on a passed ball in the 9th inning.

All in all, it appeared the Cohen was happy to be back on the field and optimistic about what the fall may bring.

"You know this is just the first game," said Cohen. "We'll play twenty two more and just see what shakes out."

The Bulldogs return to action on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30.

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