Before the last of them had subbed-out, these three were a collective 10-of-13 batting. And they didn't just set the plate, but drove in five runs themselves. "If we do, it gets everybody going and we score a lot more runs," said Collins, leader of the hit parade with four safeties in four turns, three RBI, and a run scored every time he reached. Leadoff Dog Hogue was 2-of-4 with three runs scored, and Powers was 4-of-5 with a pair of RBI and runs each.
By contrast the whole Governors order mustered just five hits and was limited to the pair of fifth-inning runs.
Righthander Drew Hollinghead, making his first State start, put in a sound five-full innings to earn his first college decision. A winning one, too. "I'm just happy to the opportunity," the sophomore said. "After coming off injury I didn't know if I'd ever throw again. I thank the Lord I was able to get out there and pitch and do pretty well." Hollinghead ended up with four hits and both Gov runs, walking four and striking out three.
"The breaking ball was struggling, I was just trying to get the fastball over for strikes," he said. "If I got ahead it was pretty successful so the main thing was working ahead." And, Hollinghead added, working from ahead on the scoreboard. "It gives you confidence when you get ahead several runs."
With State scoring all ten runs in the first five turns, Polk was able to give five moundsmen an inning apiece in relief. That included ace closer Aaron Weatherford, making his first appearance since March 1 when elbow tenderness shut him down. The junior righthander took care of all three foes in the ninth on strikeouts.
Gov lefthander Matt Kole took the losing decision, toiling the first 3.0 innings and giving up four runs on give hits with two strikeouts and a walk. Kole also served as the Gov DH, going 0-of-2 in official appearances with a walk.
State wasted no time jumping on southpaw Kole as Hogue led off with an infield single. Collins and Powers each executed run-and-hits with punches through the right side, the latter collecting his first RBI. SS Russ Sneed dropped the bunt nicely and Kole made the mistake of throwing to third, leaving all hands safe and all bags occupied with no outs.
So a ball-four to 2B Jet Butler meant another run as Collins jogged across. Kole got 1B Tyler Moore to miss a changeup for the first out, and was willing to trade a fly ball by C Ryan Duffy for the sacrifice-run to keep the deficit at 3-0 through one inning.
"Kole was trying to mix spots," Collins said. "He didn't hit his spots too much and left balls over the plate."
A two-out double by Collins in the second set up Powers for his second RBI on another single, this one just clearing the second baseman's glove, for a 4-0 Bulldog lead. Next time around it was Collins' turn to drive in a teammate, at the expense of Gov reliever Jeff Lykins. Hogue reached when Gov catcher Lucas first dropped strike three and then threw past his first baseman for a two-base error. Collins chipped a RBI-hit into short rightfield.
Powers and Sneed followed with singles, the latter plating Collins for a 6-0 scoreboard. A walk of Butler loaded the bases and a balk to Moore notched the seventh run. Lykins got a generous strike-three call of DH Johnny Allen to leave the paths full.
For his part Hollinghead loaded the bases in his second with a pair of walks and base hit before striking out nine-batter Joshua Kemph with off-speed well off the plate. Kole nearly got his side on the board in their third by taking Hollinghead to the rightfield track, with a mild breeze keeping the shot inside. Which was all that mattered.
"Drew pitched well," Polk said. "He hasn't pitched much so his command wasn't as good as I'm sure he wanted it to be."
The shutout held into the top of the fifth, where Hollinghead issued a leadoff walk. Singles filled all corners with one out and a fly-out to rightfield by Chad Cunningham put the first Gov run up. Tyler Farrar earned his RBI with a clean single before Hollinghead ended the inning with a 7-2 margin. And in the bottom of the frame Collins got both scores back. His one-out single up the middle scored Allen from third and Hogue from second. A wild pitch put Collins on second so he could score off Sneed's hit through the left side.
Jesse Carver, Tyler Whitney, and Forrest Moore each got to toss an inning and only freshman Moore was touched for a hit. They had four fannings between them.
Down 10-2, Austin Peay gave one of their weekend arms, righthander David Vicini, a short stint of five-straight outs that sped the evening up. Daniel Tenholder finished out the seventh, after giving up Powers' last hit; and the eighth with a hit to sub-2B Ryan Powers. It was the last of MSU's 14 safeties for the night, all singles save for a Collins double. The evening's efforts raised State's team batting average to an even .300 as the bats are warming up at a good time.
"It gives you a lot more confidence going into the weekend," Collins said, "especially the way we played this past weekend when we should have took the series (against Georgia)."
But the Bulldogs won't be playing Georgia, or at home. They leave tomorrow for a three-game set at Kentucky. State has booked a rotation of RH Chad Crosswhite (2-2, 11.78), RH Lee Swindle (2-2, 4.91) and Ricky Bowen (2-3, 6.62) for the series. Having Weatherford back in the bullpen is a positive development. And Polk expects DH Jason Nappi, who missed Wednesday's game with tonsillitis, to make the trip. He also said 2B Brandon Turner, who has not started a game since March 21 with nagging hamstring problems, will be available for use as a DH against Kentucky righthanders.
Had Weatherford, Turner, Crosswhite, and southpaw starter Justin Pigott been available all the way the Bulldogs would not likely be in their 2-7 SEC shape beginning April. But at least for the second SEC month most of these are back available for some duties, and Pigott should return in another week.
"We'll just try to keep everybody healthy in the second half," Polk said.