Nappi Grand Slam Powers State Past UAB, 9-2

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Jason Nappi's 5th-inning grand slam home run lifted Mississippi State past UAB 9-2 Tuesday afternoon. The Bulldogs moved to 2-2 while winning their home opener on a cold and breezy evening at Dudy Noble Field. The game time temperature was 42 degrees and dipped to close to the freezing mark by game's end. Wind gusts between 15 and 20 mph drove the wind chill figures even lower.

MSU won its fifth straight home opener and also helped Coach Ron Polk move his career mark to 24-5 in home openers as the Bulldogs' skipper. UAB, coached by former MSU assistant Brian Shoop, fell to 2-3 on the season. The two teams meet again March 18 in Birmingham, Ala.

"It was very uncomfortable," Polk said. "We knew we still had some cold weather and this was one of those days.

"(Jason) Nappi is going to hit. He has had some really good swings in our first four games. Catcher Cody Freeman had a nice ball game. The pitchers are comfortable with him. We are trying to get the lineup where we want it to be. We still have a long way to go offensively."

UAB grabbed a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. Jonathan Merritt drew a leadoff walk. Phil Bell followed with a double down the left field line. After a strikeout, Austin Taylor connected for a sacrifice fly. The Blazers scored the next run when Bell stole home, completing a double steal attempt.

The Bulldogs began their scoring with a lone run in the second inning. Nick Hardy lined a two-out double to right center and came home on Cody Freeman's RBI single.

The Bulldogs took the lead for good with four runs in the fifth inning.

Ryan Powers started things with a one-out single. Grant Hogue then legged out an infield hit on a soft chopper, advancing Ryan Powers to second base. After a flyout, Connor Powers drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Nappi followed by lining a 2-2 pitch over the wall in left center. A leaping catch attempt by UAB left fielder Bell came up just empty.

For the red-shirt freshman Nappi, it was his first MSU home run. The Birmingham, Ala. native has been on fire to open the MSU season, with a team-best eight hits and team-best six RBI in his first 14 at-bats.

The Bulldogs have now homered five times in their first four games. Each MSU victory has been punctuated by a grand slam. Andy Rice also hit one in the Bulldogs' season-opening 8-2 victory over North Florida.

M-State then removed all doubt with four runs in the eighth inning - all scores coming after two were out. Cody Freeman opened the inning with a double. Jet Butler connected for an RBI single. Connor Powers followed with an RBI single. Nappi drove home a run with a bases-loaded walk and a balk closed the scoring.

Freshman left-hander Forrest Moore (1-0) earned the win in his first career start. Moore threw 102 pitches in five innings of work. He allowed five hits and two runs (both earned), while striking out five and walking three. Michael Busy followed Moore and threw two innings of middle relief. Aaron Weatherford closed the contest and earned his first save. Weatherford struck out four as the MSU bullpen closed with four innings of hitless relief.

"I was proud of Forrest," Polk said. "He is just a puppy, much like Michael Busby. Those two guys are big-time future pitchers for Mississippi State."

The Bulldogs totaled 10 hits. Freeman led the MSU attack with three hits. Nappi and Russ Sneed have now hit safely in all four MSU contests this season. Bell finished with three of UAB's five hits.

Shay Crawford (0-1) took the loss for UAB. Crawford allowed six hits and five runs (all earned) with three strikeouts and three walks. Kyle Roberson and James Oliver followed in relief for UAB.

The Bulldogs resume their home stand with a three-game weekend series against the Air Force Academy. Game times are 4 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

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