It showed in a dozen Mississippi State strikeouts and about half as many routine ground balls coaxed by Oral Roberts pitching, as the Golden Eagles took a 3-1 Wednesday win at Dudy Noble Field. The visitors left 8-8, while the Bulldogs lost a second midweek game and are 12-5-1 heading into their first SEC weekend.
Vanderbilt’s premium pitchers don’t have to rely on off-speed and bounced breaking balls of course. But they can scout this one and see what four Eagle moundsmen did to Bulldog batters.
“Credit to them, I guess they knew how to beat us,” CF Jacob Robson said. “They saw we were hitting fastballs all season so I guess they tried to change things up and it worked out for them.”
It did, beginning immediately when all three Dogs coming up in the first inning struck out swinging on offerings either in the dirt or well below knee-level. Plate aggression, which had paid off with steady production in the previous weeks, was turned against State.
“They threw a lot of buried breaking balls and we swung at a lot of them instead of making them throw it in the strike zone,” Cohen said. Four Bulldogs fanned twice and four others once. State did manage six base hits, all singles. The closest to an extra-base knock was in the second inning as LF Reid Humphreys lifted one just a bit too high, where his counterpart Michael Hungets could make a leaping grab over the fence.
“We swung at a lot of breaking balls in the dirt, a lot of off-speed,” said Robson, 1-of-4 himself. “I fell victim myself my first at-bat, swung at a changeup in the dirt.”
ORU starter Cale Tims (1-0) threw enough of those and other pitches to work 5.0 innings, with six of the strikeouts. He did allow the only Bulldog run with four hits and a walk. That lone score came in the bottom of the third as with two outs and two on DH Jack Kruger punched a single through the right side that brought SS Luke Alexander home from second base.
Tims was able to strand a pair that frame preserving a 1-1 tie.
State put freshman RHP Keegan James on the mound for a scripted short stint. The rookie got four quick outs before running into rightfielder Noah Cummings, who turned on a fastball and lined it over leftfield for a 1-0 lead. It was the only hit off James.
Ensuing turns went to RHP Ryan Cyr (1.0 inning, 1 hit, 1 K), RHP Zac Houston (0.2, 1h, 2bb, 1K) and RHP Noah Hughes (1.1, 1, 0, 1). Unlike Tuesday, this was an all-righthanded evening…with one exception.
It was freshman LHP Jared Padgett entering for the sixth with the tied tally. He threw four pitches, all balls, to put leadoff Eagle Rolando Martinez on. And, was done, as RHP Paul Young took over to strike out Cummings. Pinch-hitter Sam Grellner spoiled things though with a gap-double and go-ahead RBI.
Oral Roberts added some padding in their eighth, again beginning with a free base. With one out RHP Ryan Rigby hit Martinez, and wild-pitched him into scoring position. A strikeout later, pinch-hitter Brent Williams—batting for Grellner--slapped a base hit past the diving Alexander’s glove for the 3-1 lead.
State would put nine on bases and lose three of them on double-plays. Nathan Garza and Grant Glaze combined for three innings, and Brady Womacks earned his fourth save by striking out the State side in the ninth.
Kruger was 2-of-4 with the only Bulldog RBI. Cummings was 2-of-4 with a RBI and run scored, and twice Martinez touched home plate. Padgett (0-1) took the loss in his first college decision on just those four balls tossed putting the go-ahead runner on.
“One of their runs was a HBP, and one is a four-pitch walk that ends up scoring,” Cohen said. “We did not take advantage of walks and HBPs the way we did. We also struck out 12 times and I’m just guessing eight of them were bounced breaking balls we didn’t do a good job with.”