Not bad at all. Brown turned a 10:30am start into a career day, throwing seven shutout innings and sending Mississippi State to a 5-2 victory over visiting Oregon. The Bulldogs ended their fourth weekend 11-3-1, after scoring the first sweeping of a ‘power 5’ conference club since 2014.
Oregon left 8-5, and having been beaten at their own best game. The Ducks came to campus counting on superb pitching, only to be shown-up by State’s starters. Brown took his cue from what Dakota Hudson and Austin Sexton had done in the first two wins.
“Watching them I wanted to do the same thing. It ended up working.”
Brown’s outing was actually more impressive. He turned in the longest starting stint of the weekend for either side, 7.0 complete turns. In it Oregon managed four hits, the first not coming until their fourth inning. And Brown only handed them two free passes with a walk and a plunking.
“He went and just threw the ball in the strike zone,” Coach John Cohen said.
The strikes produced six fly-outs, all routine, and most of the grounder were easy plays to make as well. Only twice did Brown (2-0) face anything resembling a ‘jam’. A pair of Ducks reached in the fourth before he rolled a double-play to end that frame, as he did would in the sixth.
His best test came in the seventh, when Brown was tiring. A pair of base hits and a plunking loaded the bases with two outs. On his 90th pitch Brown coaxed an easy grounder to 2B Ryan Gridley to strand everyone and exit with an intact shutout.
“I wanted to fill the zone, get our offense back in the dugout quick. That was my goal,” Brown said. “Just attacking early with the fastball, that really helped me get in advantage counts and quick innings.”
Oregon starter David Peterson wasn’t awful himself, though he was able to work around most of his early troubles. State expected a strong showing from the junior lefty based on a 0.45 ERA.
“He was another really good pitcher,” said RF Brent Rooker. “Pretty similar to the Friday so we had a similar approach, take the outer-half away from him and make him do something he wasn’t comfortable with. We picked up some patterns early on.”
Early enough to give Brown a 1-0 lead. CF Jacob Robson nubbed one past the mound that second baseman Daniel Patzlaff couldn’t barehand cleanly, for an infield single. Robson stole second on a swinging Rooker strikeout and took third on a ground ball. Oregon pitched around 3B Gavin Collins to set up easier forces but it backfired.
With two out LF Reid Humphreys got behind but on 1-2 count waited on the pitch and took it through the right side scoring Robson. “Reid got us going staying on a ball with two strikes,” Cohen said.
That run had to hold up a while. Peterson stranded one Dog in the second inning and left the sacks stuffed in the third, having put a pair on himself with bounced-ball plunkings. In the fifth Rooker knocked his second single of the day, and DH Jack Kruger walked.
Oregon forced Kruger on a grounder to a drawn-in defense but Collins still got to first ahead of the relay. That allowed Humphreys to earn another RBI, with a one-out fly ball to rightfield.
Peterson’s day ended after a two-out Robson single in the sixth, scoring Gridley from third base. Righthander Jacob Bennett took over and served up a fat fastball that Rooker lined over rightfield, his second two-run shot of the weekend. This one was good for the 5-0 lead that would hold up.
It certainly loomed larger after Brown’s exit. LHP Vance Tatum entered for the eighth and was taken out to leftfield by Travis Moniot in the nine-hole to end the shutout. Two outs later A.J. Balta no-doubted a solo shot over rightfield, and Tatum had a tense moment as Tim Susnara lifted another one in that direction. This drive faded on the track.
For the ninth Humphreys was given a save opportunity and used it well, with a ground ball and two easy fly-outs. “Reid came in and shoved it in the strike zone in the ninth,” said Cohen. The second save of Humphreys’ season went well with his two-RBI day at the dish.
State out-hit the Ducks nine safeties to six, with five base hits from the top two in the order. Rooker was 3-of-4 with the two RBI and two runs, while Robson was 2-of-4 scoring twice with a RBI. Peterson (2-1) went 5.2 with four runs on six hits, walking four and only striking out two.
Sweep complete, the Bulldogs will see their rankings stock rise ahead of a busy week. Though it is spring break for their classmates, State hosts a pair of games with Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday followed by Oral Roberts Wednesday. Then comes SEC season at last, with a road trip to Vanderbilt.
After their 1-1-1 performance in California, and now a sweep of a Pac 12 contender, the Dogs are onestly optimistic again. “We’re going to take this momentum going to Vandy after our two midweek games,” said Brown.