Kruger Goes 3-of-3 at Plate with Two Doubles; Six Freshman Pitchers Work in Shutout

What with the afternoon rainstorms and sharp drop in the thermometer, John Cohen knew his ball club had to be thinking of sunnier conditions ahead this weekend. They just didn’t say so out loud during a 14-0 rout of Alcorn State.

“I’m also proud not one of them, at least around our staff, was talking about a trip to Los Angeles,” the coach said. “And we know they’re excited about that.”

The Bulldogs (7-2) covered their excitement well. They took care of Tuesday evening business, jumping on the Braves for eight runs in the first inning and coasting to victory. Mississippi State battered six Alcorn State pitchers for 17 hits, eight of them worth extra bases.

That allowed Cohen and pitching coach Wes Johnson to stick to their script and run eight Dogs to the mound for something more competitive than scrimmaging or practicing. Maybe. Regardless, State pitching posted its third shutout in four days by limiting the Braves to three hits.

“A pretty productive evening for us,” Cohen said. “When you have nine 0s on the scoreboard that’s a very successful night for any ball club.”

Freshman RHP Keegan James (1-0) only had to work the first inning to get the assigned decision, with a hit and a plunking in the four batters he faced. James rolled a double-play to avoid any harm before handing the ball to classmate LHP Ethan Small. The southpaw had the quickest stint of the evening, striking out all three Braves he faced in the second frame.

RHP Noah Hughes worked the third inning with a walk and strikeout, then in his first varsity action LHP Konnor Pilkington was given two turns. The freshman walked one of the six he faced but erased him with double-play to stay at the minimum.

The remaining innings were worked one each by LHP Jared Padgett (1 walk, 1 strikeout); RHP Ryan Cyr (1 hits, 2 strikeouts); LHP Vance Tatum (1 hit); and finally OF Reid Humphreys with two strikeouts in an in-order ninth. Tatum had been listed to start the evening but Cohen and Johnson opted to let the youngsters get this one going.

“We got six freshmen out there that pitched very, very well,” Cohen said.

Eleven Bulldog batters had at least one hit and four tallied a pair. The leader at the plate though remained DH Jack Kruger, going 3-of-3 with a pair of doubles, two RBI, and two runs scored. He provided the ‘winning’ run as well, driven in by a first-inning triple from RF Brent Rooker that also scored 1B Nate Lowe.

LF Cody Brown had a pair of doubles as well in a 2-of-4 night with two RBI and a run scored. 3B Gavin Collins scored twice before subbing-out, as did every starter but SS Ryan Gridley and 2B/C Hunter Stovall. 3B Luke Alexander returned to action after missing three weekend games with illness.

“I thought we had pretty good at-bats for the most part,” Cohen said. “(Alcorn State) kind of did what we did, they threw a bunch of arms that we had to get used to and we threw a bunch of arms they had to get used to.”

The night’s sour note was confirmation that C Josh Lovelady is done for the year with a ligament, torn on the first at-bat of Friday’s game with UMass-Lowell. Cohen said the senior can be a redshirt candidate.

Mississippi State will practice Wednesday morning before bussing to Memphis for their flight to Los Angeles. The Bulldogs will play twice on campus sites, at UCLA on Friday (8:00ct) and Southern California Saturday (4:00). Sunday’s game with Oklahoma will be at Dodger Stadium at 1:00.

Bart Gregory and Mike Nemeth will broadcast the games, though outlets will be working around conflicts with both the Friday SEC women’s basketball game in Jacksonville and Saturday’s afternoon men’s game with Auburn in Humphrey Coliseum. Check for broadcast availability on-air or on-line.

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