Of course this wasn’t the first game for freshman righthander Cox, and after his efficient victory it surely won’t be the last. Cox worked the first three scoreless, and hitless, innings to put Mississippi State on the winning track 6-2. The Bulldogs improved to 17-9 while Alcorn State left 6-18.
But the Braves didn’t leave without making an impression on the home team. “I thought they came in here and played really hard,” Coach John Cohen said. Hard enough to take advantage of some less than sharp Bulldog defense and score a couple of runs to keep things competitive.
“And I think they’re going to win a lot of ball games down the stretch because they do some fundamental things very well,” Cohen said.
Still Mississippi State did enough things well, or well enough, to take care of midweek business. Cox (2-1) was a big reason. He stormed through all three of his frames in-order, facing all nine Braves just once with six strikeouts and no walks, much less any hits. In fact Alcorn State couldn’t even manage as much as a fly ball off Cox with the other outs on grounders.
“I was glad to get out there and get back in the zone, get some ground balls. It gave me a little confidence,” Cox said. “I was locating away really well, but it took me about two innings to come in on batters.”
“He was outstanding,” Cohen said of Cox. Nor was the relief work by most of the six other Dogs who pitched too shabby with one brief exception. This was not a reference to second pitcher Ross Mitchell, either, because the two runs charged to him were unearned. CF Hunter Renfroe miss-played a fly ball off the bat of Darryl Parks which led to one run on a ground ball. Eduardo Gonzalez accounted for the other Brave score by doubling-in a run for a 3-2 scoreboard at the time. Gonzalez was caught stealing to end that inning.
Andrew Busby made a brief appearance in the ASU, just long enough for a leadoff single and hit batter that had the Braves wondering if they could take a lead. Lefty Luis Pollorena ended that hope on pop-out and strikeout in the first of his two full innings. “Luis got us out of a tough situation,” Cohen said. Trevor Fitts, Jacob Lindgren, and Jonathan Holder took care of the other three innings apiece.
The Bulldog offense made things a little harder than necessary as well. SS Adam Frazier scored in the opening inning without any hitting involved, reaching on a walk and stealing second before taking home on a wild pitch. Nothing came of three Dogs reaching base in the second as ASU starter Cedric Pomerlee scuffled around big trouble for a while. But not entirely, as another walk of Frazier in the third inning combined with a plunking of 3B Brayden Jones set the table. Frazier scored on a catcher’s throwing error and DH Trey Porter produced a sacrifice fly for the 3-0 lead.
LF Nick Ammirati, normally a catcher, singled and made second as his base hit got by the ASU leftfielder to lead off the MSU sixth. 2B Sam Frost hit a real double for one RBI. State padded the margin in the eighth as Trey Fullerton subbed-in and doubled to score Demarcus Henderson. Fullerton himself made home on another wild pitch.
“I was proud of Tyler staying in the game and when he was asked to come in banged a ball in the gap when we needed it,” Cohen said. Frazier had just one hit but also one official at-bat, as he walked four other times and scored twice as the top of MSU’s order. Rea and Frost also had two hits each.
Pomerlee (0-2) soldiered through 6.0 innings with four runs on as many hits, two strikeouts, but eight walks. “We should crush guys like that,” said Rea. “But when you are seeing 90, 95 on weekends and go to seeing 75, 78 it is a little difference. But good teams make that adjustment and we did at times tonight.”
“I thought we pitched it well,” Cohen said. “We have 11 punchouts and no walks, that’s a pretty good evening. But we shouldn’t give up any runs, we drop an average fly ball because we’re not locked-in on what we’re doing.”
Any such inattention could be disastrous this weekend as Mississippi State is back on the SEC road, for a series at Auburn (4-2 SEC). The Bulldogs (2-4) are coming off two intense series with LSU and Arkansas, both featuring an extra inning nailbiter that went the wrong way in State’s case. Now they have their chance to get back in the league win column if the batters can gets some balls to fall and the defense back up what has been good starting pitching so far.
“I think it’s going to be a really good weekend,” Cox said.