Mississippi State stormed back for a 19-5 rout of Cincinnati to complete a Saturday set at Dudy Noble Field. Combined with a 7-1 win over Miami-Ohio, the Bulldogs are 3-0. Cincinnati is 1-2 with the teams meeting a third time tomorrow at 1:30.
After playing well in the early afternoon, the host Bulldogs weren’t nearly so sharp for the nightcap. Or as CF Jacob Robson put it, “Honestly at the beginning of the second game we were a little bit flat. We picked right back up after the first inning or two and let it go.”
Did the Dogs ever. Mississippi State evened up the score in the bottom of the second without any base hits in the rally. From there, Bulldog bats took charge with four more multiple-score innings. By the time this assault ended State had scored the most runs in five years, and turned a competitive Bearcat ball club into a punching bag.
So thorough was the thrashing that LHP Ross Mitchell, the winning pitcher in long relief against Miami, actually got to bat in the bottom of the eighth. Not only that but swing, and hit for a RBI single to leftfield for the final Bulldog run.
“There’s no better feeling than watching 19 runs put on the board,” said LHP Vance Tatum, also a winning pitcher in relief role Saturday. Tatum’s challenge was greater than Mitchell’s had been earlier, though. He took the mound with a three-run deficit that instantly became four.
But after the introductory double from Ian Happ with one out in the second inning, Tatum found himself and the handle on Cincinnati swingers. He retired the next ten Bearcats and 14 of the total 17 batters faced. The 4.2-inning stint, with no runs to his account against a hit and four strikeouts, made Tatum the winner.
“I really felt good. Because I just went out there and got a little jittery at first, got settled-in and had the best defense behind me and (Josh) Lovelady calling the pitches. Nothing really to be not confident after that!”
Never mind all the offense coming afterwards, not so coincidentally after Tatum settled everyone down. “Vance was probably our most valuable player of this game,” Coach John Cohen said. “Just putting up a ton of zeroes when we really needed it.”
Tatum was likely to pitch in game two anyway. The call just came a lot sooner than hoped. Freshman RHP Jesse McCord was given the start on strength of good scrimmage outings. But a real opponent was a whole different matchup.
After a one-out walk in the opening inning, McCord was taken over left-centerfield by Ryan Noda for a quick 2-0 lead. With two down McCord walked consecutive Bearcats and Jake Richmond Roped a RBI-single to left. Then after a dozen second-inning pitches McCord was lifted, leaving a runner on first and one out.
“For the first time out McCord wasn’t able to throw the ball in the strike zone as we know he’s going to be able to do,” Cohen said.
Tatum didn’t instantly change things; his errant pickoff put Happ on second base where Noda could score him on the double. That out of the way, Tatum fanned slugger Noda and grounded-out Friday home-run hitter Conor McVey.
”My changeup was really working well today. I actually was more of a ‘heavy’ changeup mix than usual but they weren’t seeing it well so that’s what I stuck with.” Keeping it a 4-0 score seemed a small win at the moment.
Soon it was clearly a big victory. Because State’s offense gradually got to work as well at Doug Lowe’s expense. And, with lots of unintended Cincinnati assistance.
After opening the State second with an out Lowe walked Robson and plunked 1B Wes Rea on a 0-2 count. With two outs 3B Matt Spruill worked a full-count walk, bringing up #9 batter Lovelady. His grounder was slow but popped up nicely for the charging third baseman. McVey just threw it away, the ball ricocheting around long enough that the three Dogs already on the paths could all score on the error. Lovelady stopped at second base.
Lowe plunked SS Seth Heck for a free pass, then hit 2B Ryan Gridley only to have ump Morris Hodges call him back to the box. While State asked for explanation Cincinnati hustled righthander Jarod Yoakam to the hill on 2-0 count.
He finished walking Gridley, then threw way wide of his catcher’s mitt for the tying run as Lovelady came home. State had scored all four runs thanks to four walks, two hit batsmen, the huge error, and no hits. It could have been worse as the bases were left loaded.
Robson broke up the spurious no-hitter by out-running his grounder to open the Bulldog third. That came to nought but showed the bats were warming. In the fourth frame Heck’s ground ball became an infield single. Gridley and Humphreys also hit safely, these drives making it into the outfield. Heck had to hold on Humphrey’s knock to the left side but that only delayed taking a lead.
Yoakam did the work for Heck with a four-pitch walk Reynolds. Robson followed with a single to center making it 6-4.
“Just putting pressure on and staying positive,” Robson said. “That was a huge thing for us this weekend.”
The pressure only increased. Yoakam lasted into the MSU fifth when consecutive two-out walks brought lefthander J.T. Perez to the hill. He loaded the bases with four balls to Gridley, then served something fat to Humphreys. The drive got over rightfielder Happ and off the fence for a three-run double and 9-4 lead.
Robson doubled over the leftfielder to open the Bulldog sixth, and when Rea was plunked on the leg—and not happy about it—Cincinnati sent righthander Nick Voss to the mound. Substitute swinger RF Joey Swinarski was also plunked for loaded bases, and a normal walk of Spruill went for a free RBI.
Lovelady followed with a run-scoring single bringing the top of the order back around. Heck’s grounder resulted in an out at second, but the relay skipped first base. Swinarski and Spruill came home. Gridely singled his way on to put Heck at third, and when Perez’ pickoff throw was wild Heck scored and Gridley took third base.
Wait, there was more. Because Rea got to swing this time and drove in Vickerson and Gridley with his single. Capping the eight-run outburst was Voss’ wild pitch plating Robson for his third run of the affair.
With a lopsided lead State could run some other arms to the hill for early-season work. First baseman Trent Waddell got to pitch too, and while he was tagged by Happ for a one-out home run in the seventh that was all the damage done. RHP Levi Mintz took care of the eighth with a hit, walk, and strikeout; and RHP Dakota Hudson threw a two-hit ninth with a strikeout.
Mitchell did not have to throw even if listed so on the box score. He came up after Reynolds had doubled-in Jake Vickerson for the 18-4 difference. It wasn’t as outlandish a move as seemed. “Funny thing is he came in here as a dual guy, his freshman fall he hit with us,” Rea said. That was four years ago though. Mitchell didn’t wait going after Tristan Hamman’s offering and looped it over the left side of the infield for the RBI.
Mississippi State did tally 13 base hits in the blowout. But the most important chunk of the scoring came without safeties or often any contact. Cincinnati issued 11 walks, hit four batters, and had three major errors committed behind them. Rea, 1-of-3 officially with two RBI and two runs, wasn’t worried how pretty things were, or not.
“It’s always good to score runs, however you can take them. Game-three you’ve got a lot of different guys in there mixing it up. So it’s always good to string something together like that no matter how you do it.”
Robson was 3-of-4 with three runs and a RBI. Though, his last at-bat of the game produced his first failure to reach base after making first 13 previous trips. “I was not aware,” he said of the streak. Humphreys was 2-of-3 with three RBI; Gridley 2-of-4 with three runs scored.
“I thought we really defended the field well,” Cohen said. “We made a couple of big-time plays.”
For Sunday’s third matchup with the Bearcats, the coach said he expects to start soph RHP Austin Sexton. “And we have some other guys we feel we can bring back from Friday.” Cohen also wants to get RHP Trevor Fitts innings as available. The forecast is changing but there is chance of Tuesday weather erasing a scheduled home game with Mississippi Valley State.