The big blast by Rea gave all the offense Mississippi State (2-0) would require. For good measure though RF Jake Vickerson and DH Reid Humphreys added solo shots, in the second and seventh innings. It was the first three-homer day for State since April 14, 2013 at Texas A&M.
All the early power supported State starter LHP Lucas Laster. But it was fellow lefty Ross Mitchell who earned the decision. Entering after Laster had allowed the lone Miami-Ohio run in the top of the fourth, and with bases still full of Redhawks, Mitchell slammed the door.
He produced a double-play to end that inning and strolled through five full scoreless frames for the decision, with three hits and a walk against his three strikeouts. Mitchell was a potential starter in Saturday’s second game but celebrated a return to the old relief role with his 14th career victory in 18 decisions.
Laster gave up two hits in his 3.1 innings with the one run and three walks, a couple of strikeouts.
The Redhawks did not pitch so badly either, allowing just eight base hits. But with the three homers and a double half of State’s safeties went for multiple bases. M-O starter Ryan Powers (0-1) took the loss on 3.0 innings with five of the runs and five hits to his account, four walks and two strikeouts.
Bulldog batters jumped on Powers immediately as SS Seth Heck, coming off a 4-of-5 opener, stayed hot with a leadoff single. 2B John Holland’s pop-fly looked foul-bound, only to have the wind keep it just fair and miss the shortstop’s glove for a single. A one-out walk of 3B Luke Reynolds stuffed the sacks for CF Jacob Robson. He didn’t get a hit, his grounder to first resulting in a force of Heck, but Robson’s speed kept the inning going.
Given the chance to swing Rea delivered in a big way. With a 2-1 count he made a nice, smooth cut that had the leftfielder running back on contact. He ran out of room fast as Rea’s drive carried well into the Lounge, for Rea’s 18th career homer and first slam.
Vickerson didn’t have anyone on the paths as he led off the Bulldog second. This didn’t lessen his first senior college shot on the 179th at-bat, a no-doubter to rightfield for the 5-0 lead.
For his part Laster was greeted with a first-inning single, but Jake Romano erased himself on a steal try as C Cody Walker’s throw was on time. From there Laster retired eight-straight until facing Romano a second time and walking him to open the fourth.
Then another walk, and another loaded all bases with no outs. As the bullpen got busy Laster was able to strike out Matt Honchel. But Max Anderson singled past shortstop to plate Romano, leaves the bases full, and force a change.
For his first pitch of the game and season, Mitchell did what he’s done so often before. He got an instant comebacker, off the bat of Ryan Elble. A throw home and relay to first double-up and ended the inning with just the one run of damage done.
Powers lasted into the Bulldog fourth, when RF Cody Brown’s double and a walk of Vickerson put a pair on with no outs. Righthander Nathan Williams went full-count to Walker who didn’t get a couple of bunts down. But a fly ball to centerfield worked as well because not only did Brown tag and take third; Vickerson waited for the throw that way and snuck into second base.
Williams came back with two big curveball called strikeouts, of Heck and Holland, stranding both in scoring positions.
Since he had no drama to inherit in top-fifth, Mitchell managed to create it. A one-out single to rightfield ended with Scott Slappey on second as the throw-behind to first was errored by catcher Walker. A walk had two on with the top of Miami’s order up, and Romano did hit it well.
Heck had to knock down the short hop and settle for an out at second leaving Redhawks on corners. No problem, as Mitchell again coxed the comebacker to strand a pair.
With Humphreys on first base via walking and an out in the MSU fifth Miami changed moundsmen again, for righty Nick Scheller. The pitcher did his part with a grounder to second base, only to see Steve Sada throw wide of the middle bag. Humphreys made third base without a throw for Dogs on corners. Then, loaded bases as Rea walked on full-count.
Brown gave it a ride to center, easily deep enough for the sacrifice and 6-1 margin as Humphreys came home.
Mitchell rolled a 3-6 double-play to end the Redhawk sixth, and shrugged off a two-out single and balk call to strand that runner on a strikeout before the stretch. He returned with a 7-1 lead after Humphreys began State’s half with a moon-shot over leftfield. That one swing matched his entire freshman year homer output.
Righthander John Monnig replaced Scheller only to walk Rea and be lifted immediately, for Ryan Marske. He stranded a pair with strikeouts, before giving the ball to Will Schierholz to throw the one-hit ninth.
No Bulldog had more than one hit, while Miami’s Slappey was 2-of-3. Reynolds and Rea both walked twice, and there were only five strikeouts of State swingers.
Freshman RHP Jesse McCord was starting Saturday’s second game.