Mississippi State jumped on Arkansas State starting pitcher Taylor Fowler for two runs in the bottom of the 2nd. Joseph Hunter led off the inning with a single. After the next two batters struck out and popped out, Michael Rutledge walked, putting men on 1st and 2nd. Jeff Butts then doubled Hunter in. Rutledge scored on a wild pitch to make the score 2-0, Bulldogs, after two innings.
In the top of the 3rd, ASU got one of those runs back. After the first hitter grounded out to short for an easy out at first, David Humphrey followed that with a single. After Kevin Kull walked, Josh Yates singled Humphrey in for ASU's first run of the game. Josh Johnson ended the inning in dramatic fashion by striking out Elliot Jacobs on a 3-2 count with men on first and third.
"In the first few innings, I had pretty good stuff on my fastball and was locating it," said Johnson, who struck out 6 in the first three innings.
In the bottom half of the third, the Bulldogs once again scored two runs thanks to wildness by Fowler. The first two batters, Ed Easley and Thomas Berkery, reached on a hit by pitch and a walk. After Brad Jones reached on a single to load the bases, the next two batters grounded into fielder's choices to knock in two runs to make the score 4-1.
"The 4-1 score definitely helps out a lot," said Johnson. "It allows you to go out there and relax and throw your game. I give credit to our offense for that."
The Bulldogs continued their damage in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Butts flew out to centerfield, Jeffrey Rea hit a shot down the rightfield line for a single. Easley then walked. Berkery loaded the bases when he hit a grounder to deep short for an infield hit. Fowler walked Jones, scoring Rea from third. Hunter then hit a deep drive to centerfield to knock in Easley for the second and final run of the inning.
ASU brought in Doug Gunderson in the top of the seventh inning, replacing Fowler. Fowler allowed 7 runs (6 earned) on 7 hits and 5 walks in his 6 innings of work. He struck out 4.
Gunderson didn't last an out, walking the first two batters that he faced, then giving up a three-run home run to Butts. He was replaced with Nicholas Lambert after he walked the next batter. Lambert ended the inning by getting Easley to hit into a double play and, after walking Berkery, saw Jones hit into a line drive to the first baseman for the third out of the inning.
"I was seeing the ball well today and I was able to connect on him," said Butts of his home run. "I hit a fastball. Coach Polk was kind of messing with me because he had took the bunt sign off."
Meanwhile, the Bulldog coaching staff replaced starter Johnson in the seventh inning with Jon Crosby. Johnson, in his six inning outing, gave up 2 runs on 5 hits and 1 walk and struck out 7.
"I had another good outing today," said Johnson, who is now 2-0 on the season. "I knew they would be able to swing the bats. They hit Ole Miss (pitching) around and had something like 10 runs (against them) Tuesday night. (MSU pitching) Coach (Russ) McNickle prepared us all week by telling us that we would have to locate our off-speed pitches to keep their batters off-balance."
Crosby, in his one inning of work, gave up one run on two hits.
Right-hander Trent Hill finished the game for the Bulldogs, allowing 1 run in his two-inning outing.
"Crosby is going to pitch either Tuesday or Wednesday, so he needed the bullpen anyway," said Polk. "And we brought Hill in to finish the ballgame."
Hitting stars for the Bulldogs were Butts who was 2-for-3 with a double, a three-home run and 5 RBI. Berkery was 2-for-2 with 3 walks and an RBI.
With the victory, the Bulldogs go to 5-0 on the young season, while the Indians drop to 7-4 on the year. The teams conclude their three-game series with a 1:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon game. John Lalor will start for the Bulldogs and a host of other pitchers will be ready if needed.
"We'll pitch John Lalor tomorrow," said Polk. As for potential relievers, "we have (Brett) Cleveand, (Justin) Pigott and a lot of other guys that we haven't used yet. We'll pitch whoever we need to win the ballgame."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.