Whitney Pitches Bulldogs to Victory

True freshman lefthanded pitcher Tyler Whitney, in his first career appearance for Mississippi State, allowed one run in five innings to help lead the Bulldogs to a 13-2 victory over Mississippi Valley State University Tuesday afternoon at Polk-DeMent Stadium.

Like most true freshmen, Whitney showed some nervousness the first few batters that he faced. Mississippi Valley State plated their only run against the left-hander in the first inning.

"I had a ton of butterflies in the first inning, without a doubt," said Whitney. "But after I got through that inning and got the good run support in the bottom of the first I settled down."

Like this past weekend against Murray State, the Bulldog bats started hot and stayed hot.

Brandon Turner began the hit parade - 19 for the game - with a double down the left field line. Edward Easley knocked him in with a single. By the time the inning was over, MSU had plated three runs.

While Whitney settled down, the Mississippi Valley starting pitcher, Rudy Casias, continued to struggle, allowing two runs on three hits, including Brandon Turner's second hit of the game, in the second inning.

"We moved Jeffrey Rea to the outfield because we had to get Brandon (Turner) in the lineup," said MSU head coach Ron Polk of Turner, who is hitting .750 (12-of-16) after the first four games of the season. "He's a hitter. There's no question about it."

But Turner's bat wasn't the only one hot during the game. In the fourth, MSU used four hits to score three runs. Andy Rice doubled in LaNinfa for the first run of the inning. After a balk scored the second run, Mark Goforth singled up the middle to plate Rice for the third and final run to make the score 8-1.

The Bulldogs added two more in the 7th on a Mitch Moreland two-run home run that was just to the right of the centerfield wall.

"They started me off with a lot of offspeed early, but I got a fastball up in one at-bat and got a single up the middle, then I got another fastball starting off and I got a good piece of it (for a homerun)," said Moreland, who was 2-for-4 with 3 RBI.

While the State hitters kept their bats hot, Whitney kept the Delta Devils' bats cool in his five innings of work, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 3.

"This was good for him because he got his feet wet. He's going to be one of those mid-week guys who might help us a little bit on the weekends," said Polk. "You need guys Tuesday and Wednesday who will compete and throw strikes and give you the chance to win the very important mid-week games."

The Bulldog relief pitching was just as effective.

Jared Koon, in his first appearance as a Bulldog, followed Whitney to the mound and allowed 1 run on 2 hits and no walks, while striking out 3 in his three innings of work. Mitch Moreland closed out the game by striking out two in a scoreless ninth inning.

Their effectiveness may have helped answer one question mark the MSU coaches have concerns about.

"The depth of the pitching staff is still a question mark," said Polk. "With (Jared) Wesson and Matt Lea already out (for the season), we can't afford to lose any more."

And the Bulldogs will need all the pitching they can muster this weekend with Troy and Michigan (4-0) coming in for the Cadence Bank Classic.

"Troy is legitimate according to everybody that we have talked to. And we have defending Big Ten champion Michigan coming in," said Polk. "The depth of the ballclubs that we will see this weekend will be way and above what we saw the past four days. That will be good because we need to be tested. We need to know more about the makeup of the ballclub."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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