State Shells Governors 13-4

The Diamond Dogs haven't enjoyed too many strong offensive starts this season. So striking for a seven-spot in their first turn at the plate was an encouraging change of pace and an ideal start in a 13-4 victory over Austin Peay State. "I wish we'd do that more often," said catcher Ryan Duffy, whose two-run homer capped the opening inning. "It sure is better to play a game with a lead."

Mississippi State scored all the runs they would need with that first-inning outburst, and a combination of moundsmen limited the visiting Governors to a lone offensive inning. It was the right way to get the midweek series off to a successful start. "When you have a nice lead you don't have to worry about being a hero," Duffy said. "You just go have quality at-bats and try to pitch well." Which the Dogs did, improving to 12-15 while the Govs' season evened up at 12-12.

Andy Wilson, the second of three hurlers booked for Tuesday duty, put in a solid evening's effort by hanging zeros on the top line in his four middle innings. The righthander took over in the fourth, right after APSU had produced their lone outburst, and sent all but two of the 14 batters faced back to the dugout. Wilson (2-0) struck out five with two hits and no walks.

"You know what you're going to get with Andy," backstop Duffy said. "He's going to throw three or four pitches and throw them all for strikes. He did a heck of a job out there, it didn't matter what I put down he was going to throw it right there."

Greg Houston went the first three frames for State, allowing all four Govs runs on seven hits with one walk. Chad Crosswhite made a fourth-straight scoreless relief appearance by throwing the eighth, and Jesse Carver took care of the ninth. And, very nearly, sub-2B Will Coggin, as on a blooped single behind the mound the retreating pitcher ‘clotheslined' his charging teammate with both hands to the face. The only harm was to both Dogs' dugout dignity.

Govs starter Jake Brisbin (1-1) took the loss. He also took that first-frame shelling, but managed to battle on into the fifth before retiring. Brisbin was assessed ten runs on eight hits with a couple of walks and two hit batsmen.

In fact Brisbin got himself in instant trouble by hitting both RF Grant Hogue and LF Ryan Collins. DH Jason Nappi didn't wait for a plunking but hit the ball himself, a first-pitch double bounced to the rightfield wall. Only Hogue scored as Polk held the middle runner; the caution was affirmed as 3B Connor Powers also went after his first pitch and singled to leftfield for two RBI.

A mound talk didn't slow State's early assault as SS Russ Sneed singled to join Powers on the paths. And after trying a bunt, 2B Jet Butler swung away and rolled a two-bagger, two-run hit past the leftfielder for a 5-0 lead before Brisbin finally got an out. Which he followed by serving up a fat one C Ryan Duffy—"I went to the plate thinking don't be the first out!"--could drive over right-centerfield for his second home run of the year and a 7-0 margin.

For his part Houston had better luck to start, though he had a hit and walk in the first inning and a leadoff double in the second. It was when the Govs order came back around things began to happen. A great leaping grab and errant throw by 3B Powers let Rafael Hill reach to lead off, and Tyler Farrar made it two on bases with a one-out hit. SS Sneed got Houston an out from escaping harm.

But Greg Bachman put APSU on the board with his base hit, and Will Hogue followed with a two-run double. "Greg was just leaving some balls up," Coach Ron Polk said. So Ryan Gilboy and Ryne Mantoothe added consecutive singles for a 7-4 difference with a pair on the paths. It took 2B Butler snaring a liner on the jump to get State into the dugout with a three-run margin.

That also concluded Houston's scheduled stint. Wilson was more efficient, retiring his first five foes with a mix of routine grounders and strikeouts. He was two outs into the sixth when order-topper Hill lined one just beyond LF Collins for a double. Wilson got Chad Cunningham to ground to 1B Tyler Moore and strand the runner.

Meanwhile the Bulldog offense was able to rebuild the lead and finish off Brisbin in the fifth. Powers lined a drive that missed the gloves of both the right- and center-fielders for a leadoff double and scored on Sneed's single. A walk of Butler brought the change with sidearmer Jeff Brooks taking the ball to face 1B Moore in a bunt situation.

The first baseman didn't just bump the ball up the left line, it actually rolled dead on the chalk for a bases-packing single. Sneed was able to score on a line-out to centerfield off Duffy's bat; CF Mark Goforth executed a more typical sacrifice bunt that pushed Butler to third base where he came home on Hogue's base hit for a 10-4 score after five.

State loaded the sacks with two outs in the sixth, as Nappi walked, Sneed singled, and Butler reached on an infield dribbler the pitcher couldn't come up with. Moore lined a double to left for a pair of RBI, and Brooks balked in Butler for the last tally of the contest.

The Bulldogs pounded out 14 hits, six of them doubles, with Duffy's shot. But the Governors went down swinging with ten hits of their own. "That's a really good team, people probably don't give them as much credit as they have due," said Duffy. "They took two from us last year when we were playing good."

Sneed hit safely in three of four trips and scored three runs, the same number of times Butler crossed the plate on his two hits. Both had a pair of RBI. MSU's Hogue, the league-leader in steals, got his 18th theft of the year in the first inning, and had two of those doubles.

It wasn't all good news Tuesday for the home team. C Cody Freeman, who banged his kneecap with a cleat in a fluke Sunday injury, will be out at least two and as many as four weeks with a shoulder problem. He also might miss summer ball in rehab after completing this freshman season. Freeman joins senior LHP Justin Pigott on the DL for this weekend's series at Kentucky. Polk did say that RHP Aaron Weatherford, out for a couple of weeks with an elbow problem, will throw an inning or two Wednesday and make the weekend roster. And 2B Brandon Turner's chronic hamstring is healed sufficiently that the soph will likely DH at Kentucky.

In the meantime, Wednesday's 6:30 game with the Govs will see righty Drew Hollinghead (0-0, 4.15) on the mound for MSU in his first college start and fourth overall appearance.

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