Moreland, Bulldogs Slug Warhawks 17-7

They might have preferred to ‘bank' some of their hits and runs for crucial upcoming conference contests. Otherwise, the Diamond Dogs enjoyed some Tuesday evening batting practice at the expense of Louisiana-Monroe, scoring a 17-7 rout at Dudy Noble Field.

"We told ourselves let's come out and put some runs on the board, let's try to hit the ball like we know we can instead of having all these close game we've been having at midweek," said 1B Mitch Moreland. "Today everybody had it clicking." None more so than the first baseman as he slugged a pair of multi-run homers to lead State's hitting parade.

With the win Mississippi State (19-7) wrapped up a successful home stand having won seven of ten chances. The Warhawks left 19-11. They also departed with a mauled pitching staff after the Bulldogs battered them for 21 base hits, which included six doubles and Moreland's longballs. It was the second-most safeties this season for State, and the 17 runs matched the year's high. Eleven Dogs reached on a hit at least once and Moreland, shortstop Brandon Turner, and third baseman Conner Powers each had three base raps.

"It just seemed everything was working for us," said Moreland. Especially in the second and fourth innings when the Bulldogs batted around and Moreland struck his shots, for three and two RBI respectively. They were off different Warhawk hurlers but otherwise almost identical. "They were both fastballs, both away from me and I got a good swing and barreled-up," said Moreland. He has five homers for the year and nine two-baggers.

Freshman lefthander Tyler Whitney took care of his assigned five innings in the midweek start, unfazed by giving up three earned runs on five Warhawk hits. He walked nobody and struck out six while improving his record to 2-1. John Lalor, Jesse Carver, and Mike Valentine shared the other four frames.

ULM starter Ben Soignier (1-1) took the loss and the worst of the pounding, which lasted ‘only' 1.2 official innings. But around those five the sophomore righthander was tagged for ten runs on as many hits, seven of the score earned. He walked two with no strikeouts before handing the ball off to a trio of relievers and staying in the batting order…where he was 0-of-3.

Nearly forgotten afterwards was the fact that Louisiana-Monroe did get on the scoreboard first, in the top of the second inning. Kyle Suire outran his slow roller for an infield single, and on 3-1 Travis Drader hit one high enough to catch the breeze and clear rightfield. Whitney shook that shot off to retire the next five, striking out three.

Having spotted the guests a couple of runs the Bulldogs responded immediately and massively, sending 15 batters up in a second-inning outburst. DH Brian LaNinfa found the left-centerfield gap for a leadoff double, and had to pause at third on a sharp single by LF Joseph McCaskill. The lead runner scored anyway on Powers' first base hit. RF Jeff Flagg seemed to fly out but catcher's interference put him on first base and loaded all sacks. With still no outs CF Mark Goforth could be picky on pitches and out-lasted Soignier to walk in the tying runner, McCaskill. 2B Jeffrey Rea put the home team in front with a fly ball to rightfield, scoring Powers.

And then State really went after the ULM pitcher as Turner and C Edward Easley both singled for RBI, which also sent a Warhawk to the bullpen. Too late, because Moreland liked the first pitch and drove it over leftfield for a three-run blast and 8-2 lead. LaNinfa came back up for another turn in the inning and flew out, but McCaskill hit safely and Powers lined a double into the leftfield corner for his second ribbie of the frame.

"We were just getting some pitches to hit and just working," Moreland said.

A frustrated Soignier hit Flagg and before any change could be made Goforth had doubled in Powers for the 10-2 lead. Righty James Stephens replaced the starter and got Rea to line out and finally end the inning.

State came back for another run in their third as with two outs both Moreland and LaNinfa doubled. ULM got that lone score back in the top of the fourth. Bo Bowman lifted a deep fly that the right- and left-fielders both lost and let fall for a fluke triple, and he scored on a one-out sacrifice fly from Suire.

Soon enough a one-run inning looked fair enough to ULM as the Bulldogs batted around again in their fourth. With Powers on base via his single and one out, Goforth's grounder was booted by the Warhawk second baseman for a run-scoring error. Rea's single had Dogs on corners and Turner doubled Goforth in. Easley's single plated a pair for a twelve-run margin, then Moreland again cleared the left-field fence for his second shot of the evening and a 17-3 score.

ULM brought lefthander Daniel Roberts in to face a series of substitute swingers as Polk was already using the bench. After DH Nick Hardy reached on an errored grounder both LF Matt Richardson and 3B Michael Rutledge struck out. Flagg doubled to open State's fifth and CF Cade Hoggard singled before Roberts fanned the top of the revised order to keep it 17-3.

Lalor took over from Whitney for the sixth and threw two scoreless innings with just a one-out single in the sixth against him. He struck out five-straight to complete his stint. Carver wasn't as efficient though he began the ULM eighth with another fanning. Then order-topper Greg Manley, hitting for Soignier, doubled, took third on a single and scored as Bowman's grounder was errored at second base. A single loaded the bags and Suire got his second RBI with a base hit.

A walk of Drader made it 17-6 with sacks still loaded and only one out. Carver got Doug Low looking on strike-three, then blew one by Nick Wade to strand a trio. Valentine struck out his first two before Laird teed off on a 0-1 offering and homered to left-center for the final margin.

Their last extended homestand done, the Dogs now are on the road for nine consecutive games including SEC series at Arkansas and Tennessee. This weekend takes State (5-4 SEC) to Fayetteville to face the Razorbacks, ranked #3 nationally and leading the league at 7-2.

Polk has tentatively changed his weekend rotation, as regular Friday starter Aaron Weatherford has developed right shoulder tendinitis. "It's nothing serious, we had a MRI done and it showed some inflammation of the rotator cuff. He'll be OK this weekend. We'll probably put Chad Crosswhite in the Friday spot, we don't want to move Josh Johnson up because his arm has been a little tight, too. He'll go Sunday and we'll put Justin Pigott in the Saturday spot. And the intention anyway this year was to have Aaron closing." Polk said Weatherford might could be used as early as Saturday stopping but more likely will be held out for Sunday.

The Bulldogs know they'll need all the arms, and offense, they can muster against a 22-8 Arkansas club. "They're a really good team and we're playing them at their place, which is a good baseball environment," said Moreland. "It's going to be tough on our team but to come out winning two out of three would be humungous for us. We're going to go do the best we can."

Following the weekend SEC series State plays a set with South Alabama on the road next week, but only the Tuesday game is in Mobile. Wednesday's contest will be played in Pearl's Trustmark Park, with gametime tentatively now moved back to 7:00 instead of the published 6:30.

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