McCord made his second start count for that first successful decision, as Mississippi State took care of visiting Alcorn State 10-2. The host Bulldogs remained unbeaten at 9-0, as the SWAC guests left 3-5.
McCord worked 5.2 official innings, charged with both Brave runs on three hits and four walks. He also got six strikeouts while minimizing any damage. The true freshman had already made one start, on the season-opening weekend at that, only getting into a second inning against Cincinnati.
The second time-out wasn’t perfect but was clear progress for a rookie Mississippi State has big plans for. “I just needed to get in my rhythm on the mound and throw strikes,” McCord said. “I struggled a little with my fastball and breaking ball, but I had to get back and work on it. I got into a rhythm in a couple of innings.”
Even his struggles weren’t so glaring. He did serve up a solo home run to Brave Dervincent Hamilton in the third inning, hence being handed the backpack in post-game. The sixth inning saw Alcorn State mount more of a threat and McCord exited after the last walk had two on with one out. The Bulldog bullpen limited damage to keep McCord’s winning decision in effect.
“I thought it was really important Jesse went out and had a quality start for us,” Coach John Cohen said. “He really gave us some signs tonight he’s going to be a great pitcher at Mississippi State.”
RHP Zac Houston got through the rest of the sixth with a RBI-single from ASU’s Ashton Lewis and a ground-ball out. Houston stayed for a two-strikeout seventh before giving the ball to RHP Dakota Hudson and RHP Logan Elliott to work an inning apiece.
The Bulldogs didn’t exactly dominate on offense most of the evening. Alcorn State sent Jonathan Morales to the mound, listed as a righthander but in reality a southpaw. And a very slow-throwing one at that. With some pitches clocked in the 50s range, his 60s-or-so fastballs looked faster. Frustrating, too.
“They’re throwing a soft guy at the beginning, a lefthander. He did a great job keeping us off-balance,” Cohen said. “We just said we’re not taking good swings right now so let’s do something different.”
What Mississippi State did was go to the bunting game. Not for sacrifices either, but to reach base. After a scoreless first inning, the four Dogs who came up initially in the second all dropped bunts in front of the plate. CF Jacob Robson turned his into a single; following pushes by 3B Matt Spruill and RF Jake Vickerson were thrown away at first base for consecutive runs.
SS Seth Heck’s two-out single made it a 3-0 game. Hamilton cut it to 3-1 with his leadoff shot in the third. The Bulldogs got that one back in the fifth as Spruill led off with another bunt base hit. He was in-turn bunted over of course.
ASU reliever Jesse Vasquez nearly got out of the inning with two down. It was catcher Hamilton who negated his earlier shot with an error, as Heck watched a 0-2 ball while the runners double-stole. Hamilton sailed his throw into leftfield to score Spruill.
”We said see if we can pressure these guys,” Cohen said. “And we were able to do that. And we have some pretty good runners.”
After Houston escaped the bases-loaded sixth with just one Brave run scored the MSU offense trumped it in the bottom of the sixth. It began, naturally, with another bunt-single; 2B Ryan Gridley this time. LF Reid Humphreys didn’t get to swing as he was walked. Alcorn State talked it over before leaving Vasquez in, while State made another pinch-hit move.
Luke Reynolds lined a drive off the rightfield fence for a double and RBI, only one as Brown had to wait up. He was still on third base and Reynolds on second with two outs, when Jake Vickerson punched a single past the diving second baseman for the 7-2 advantage.
New C Josh Lovelady singled to open State’s seventh and Heck walked. Designated hitter-turned-pitcher Payden Lynch inherited the runners with no outs. Those runners were indeed running on the first pitch. Gridley reached across the plate for contact that ended up down the rightfield line for a two-run double. Gridley even made third base as the throw-in was errored.
So Cody Brown’s tailing fly to center was good for the sacrifice and the final 10-2 scoreboard.
McCord wasn’t entirely happy with the stat-line, but winning made up for a lot. “It was fun to get out there and play again, build a little bit of confidence. And I’m glad my team played behind me like they did. I still have a lot of improvement but I did alright, I guess.”
Cohen was also pleased to give Houston a chance to come back from some weekend struggles in relief, as well as get Hudson on the hill again. “We got some clutch two-out hits tonight and that’s something good ball clubs are going to do. For the most part we defended well. And it was good to see our arms get some work.”
Whether bunting or bashing the Bulldogs did collect 14 hits. Freshman Gridley from the two-slot set the pace with a 4-of-5 show, scoring twice and driving in a pair. Vickerson was 2-of-3 with two RBI and a run as well; while both Robson and Heck had a pair of hits. For Heck, his leadoff-single in the first extended a streak of games-reached to 39 which is second-longest in the country.
And now rookie McCord has that debut victory. Not to mention a pink-and-aqua backpack to wear around Dudy Noble Field. Again, it was a price worth paying.
“So I’ll hold it until someone else gives up one. Hopefully I wear it the whole year.”