The first three batters, Matthew Maniscalco, Tyler Scarbrough and Steve Gendron, got on base via singles. Gendron's single knocked in the first run of the inning. After one out, Brad Corley's single knocked in Scarbrough for the Bulldogs second run of the inning.
"We got on the board early," said Scarbrough. "That was a key (to the victory)."
In the top of the second inning, MSU starting pitcher Todd Nicholas, after striking out the first batter, walked the next batter and had another batter reach on an error, the second error of the game for the Bulldogs. Not letting the two base runners bother him, Nicholas struck the next two batters to end the inning.
"Early in the game, they had 8 or 9 guys on base," said MSU coach Ron Polk. "They could have broke this thing open, but we struck some guys out. Anytime you do that, it is hard to put a (big) inning together. The only way you have a big inning is you have to put the ball in play and they didn't do a good job of doing that in all three games."
While the Bucs' hitters couldn't cash in on their early opportunities, State expanded its lead with four runs in the second inning. Mungle launched his first home run of the year, a two-run blast, over the right field fence and Hunter followed that with a solo shot to left. Tyler Scarbrough walked, stole second and Matthew Brinson drove him home with the first of his team-leading three hits.
"I got (the ball) on the sweet part of the bat, I guess," said Hunter, when asked about his first home run as a Bulldog.
After 2 innings, the Bulldogs led 6-0.
ETSU finally got on the scoreboard in the third inning.
The first two batters reached base on a single and walk. Nicholas almost worked his way out of the inning without allowing a run to score when Blake Church's tailor-made double play grounder was thrown low and in the dirt, allowing the runner on third to score.
"We didn't help him," said Polk. "He probably threw 20 to 25 pitches that he didn't need to. We just didn't make a couple of plays that we have been making. That was tough on Todd."
The Bulldogs expanded the lead to 7-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Steve Gendron started it off by walking with one out. After Matthew Brinson singled, moving Gendron over to third, Brad Corley singled to knock Gendron in.
Redshirt freshman right-hander Jamie Gant replaced Bulldog starting pitcher Nicholas in the top of the fifth inning.
Nicholas, in his four innings of work, allowed 1 run on 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6.
"I felt good," said Nicholas. "I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes, throw like I can. I had more of a comfort level this time."
Despite struggling with his control and walking two, Gant got out of the inning without allowing a run by striking out two and getting the final batter in the inning to weakly ground out to first base.
In their half of the inning, the Bulldogs, after one out, saw Joseph Hunter double off the Will Clark section of the outfield fence screen, his second extra base hit of the day. Tyler Scarbrough singled him in to increase the Bulldog lead to 8-1.
Coach Polk, wanting to get several pitchers some work, brought Brooks Dunn in the top of the fifth inning.
The Bucs quickly jumped on Dunn, getting their first three batters on via a base hit, hits batsman and an RBI double down the third base line. With men on second and third, the next batter's ground ball out scored the runner on third.
The Bulldogs led 8-3 after five and a half innings.
The Bulldogs, with the help of the Bucs' defense, continued to expand the lead by scoring two runs in their portion of the inning.
With the bases loaded, Hunter hit a shot to shortstop that was errored, allowing two runs to score.
At the end of six, MSU led 10-3.
Jeff Lacher came in to pitch for the Bulldogs in the top of the seventh.
"We wanted to get some guys on the mound today, Lacher, Gant, Dunn and others that may be of help to us during the mid-week," said Polk.
After striking out the first batter of the inning, Lacher loaded the bases on two hits batsmen and a single. Howdeshell hit a RBI single that just got past second baseman Scarbrough. Lacher got out of the inning with no further damage by striking out Brotherton and picking off Howdeshell.
The Bulldogs led 10-4 after six and a half innings.
In the bottom of the seventh, a double by Gendron knocked in Scarbrough who had reached on an error by the first baseman.
With the run, the Bulldogs lead moved out to 11-4 after seven innings.
"We go out there with the mentality that we are going to score every inning," said Hunter.
Senior right-hand pitcher Jacob Blakeney came in for the Bulldogs in the top of the eight inning and retired the side.
The last Bulldog pitcher of the day, Robby Goodson, came in to pitch for the Bulldogs in the ninth inning and struck out three of the four batters that he faced. With this three strikeouts, Bulldog pitching recorded a season high 15 strikeouts.
"We like to think that we can average a strikeout an inning over the course of the year," said Polk, when asked about his pitching staff's success at striking out so many hitters early in the season. "I like to look at 2.5 strikeouts per walk and I think this staff is capable of doing that."
Jamie Gant (1-0) earned the victory, his first as a Bulldog.
Bulldog hitters who had double digit hits included Scarbrough (2-for-4), Gendron (2-for-4), Brinson (3-for-4), Corley (2-for-3) and Hunter (2-for-3).
Despite MSU's three errors in the game, their first errors of the series, Nicholas still feels really good about the Bulldog defense.
"Defense is not a factor with us," said Nicholas. "We have guys out there that will catch the ball if it is hit in the air. That is a good feeling when you are on the mound."
MSU's next game action is this Tuesday night when they face UAB (13-0) in Birmingham. Game time is set for 6 p.m. True freshman Brad Corley will start on the mound for the Bulldogs.
UAB defeated Kentucky Sunday afternoon to move to 13-0 on the season, their best start in school history.
"We now go to UAB Tuesday against a team that is undefeated right now," said Polk. "They were a team that struggled last season but have brought some new guys in that have really helped them. We will start (Brad) Corley on the mound against UAB. (Jonathan) Papelbon will be right behind him."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org