Outfielder's Two-Homer Evening Paces Mississippi State to Series-Opening Win

He’d already notched a two-homer game as a Bulldog. That was within the cozy confines of Kentucky’s yard a year ago, though. Driving a couple of balls out of Dudy Noble Field? That made Reid Humphreys’ pair of Thursday shots more special.

Except, Mississippi State’s slugging star of the evening saw nothing special about it. “Just trying to put a good swing on the ball!” said Humphreys.

The leftfielder certainly did that. Humphreys notched a trio of extra-base hits at Georgia expense. It began with a second-inning double, but crescendo’d in solo home runs in both the fourth and eighth innings. Humphreys’ eighth and ninth homers of the junior season led Mississippi State’s offense in a 9-2 victory. The home Bulldogs improved to 16-6-1 and 3-1 SEC, while the visiting Dogs are 14-9, 1-3 one game into their conference series.

“Obviously Reid had a brilliant night for us,” Coach John Cohen said. “When he’s squaring balls up to the pull-side and the opposite way he’s just really a tough guy to try and pitch to.”

Humphreys was not the only Diamond Dog that gave Georgia pitching troubles. State finished with 19 base hits in eight turns. Eight of those safeties came in the decisive fourth frame, after Georgia had tied things 1-1 with a run in the top of the inning.

It was Humphreys who got the barrage going, slugging a one-out shot over leftfield. Barely over leftfield, too, as for a moment it seemed he’d again be robbed at the fence. “That’s how strong he is,” Cohen said. “He didn’t even hit that ball that good and it still got out of here.”

“It was super-close,” said Humphreys. “I thought he’d caught it when I was coming around second! It felt good to see it finally fall over.”

UG starter Kevin Smith was about to take a big fall. Down 2-1 now, he was tagged for consecutive singles by 1B Nathaniel Lowe and 2B Ryan Gridley. C Elih Marrero followed with a run-scoring double and SS Luke Alexander plated Gridley with his single at the end of the order.

The top, CF Jacob Robson, turned a high hopper to the mound into an infield single and 5-1 lead. DH Jack Kruger dropped a hit in front of the UG rightfielder who made the mistake of diving and missing. Only Alexander scored on the double but it did not matter. With two outs, 3B Gavin Collins singled in two more. Reliever Addison Albright had to enter and end the assault on a fly ball but the Bulldogs had a 8-1 lead.

Which was more than RHP Dakota Hudson needed. Much more. State’s ace showed no issues starting on short rest with a fine Thursday start, giving 7.0 complete innings. He had a shutout through three turns on 30 pitches, against an order with some left-handed power and the wind blowing briskly to rightfield.

“I kind of had to pound the zone, I knew they had some guys with some power,” Hudson said. “So I had to keep them off-balance and mix my stuff up.”

Georgia scratched for a fourth-inning run as Stephen Wrenn reached on a shot that went off Lowe’s mitt. Gridley got to the carom with no real chance but forced a throw anyway. It went wide and into dead ground putting Wrenn on second. With two outs he was on third and able to score on Trevor Kieboom’s chink single.

Hudson plunked another Georgian and needed a fly ball to strand a pair. “I come in after giving up a run and first thing that’s said, Gavin and Rooker said we’re going to get you some runs right here, don’t worry about it. We wound up getting seven!”

The first Bulldog run came off Smith in the second. Collins walked and took third on Humphreys’ double. A grounder by Lowe was slow enough for Collins to make home on a fielder’s choice.

Hudson had to strand a pair in the sixth, and needed a double-play after a couple of seventh-inning singles. His final line was eight hits for the unearned run with a walk and five strikeouts. Cohen said Hudson did exactly what the team needed to get this game and series started.

“I don’t think he had his best stuff. But we shorted him a day and he just gutted it out. He threw a ton of strike-ones and got a lot of balls in play early in the count and got our defense engaged. When he got up to 96 pitches we needed to get him out of the game.”

After Humphreys’ leadoff homer in the seventh made it 9-1, Georgia was able to score in their eighth off LHP Vance Tatum. A leadoff walk and single set up the RBI opportunity for LJ Talley. But even as he drove in one run his single to left was fielded by Humphreys, who gunned down trailing runner Michael Curry trying to take third base.

LHP Ethan Small threw the top of the ninth and struck out all three Georgians faced. “Ethan came in and just threw the daylights out of it,” Cohen said.

A 3-of-5 evening with two RBI and two runs on two swings made Humphreys the hitting star. The top two in the order, Robson and Kruger, each had two hits with a RBI and run apiece; while Lowe hit safely twice. And Marrero was 2-of-2 in official at-bats while walking in the other two appearances.

Georgia got two hits from Curry and Patrick Sullivan, and ten total safeties.

“We scored a lot of runs and got a lot of hits from other guys,” Humphreys said. “It made it easier for everyone else to loosen up. It was a fun night for us.”

Things get tense again Friday. Georgia saved their best starter, righthander Robert Tyler (2-1, 3.42) for game-two to stay on his schedule. RHP Austin Sexton (2-1, 4.15) starts for State and like Hudson is on a day-less rest.

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