The win came in game-one of a Sunday twinbill. Mississippi State (14-0) was putting its perfect season start on the line in a second contest starting at 3:50. Saint Josephs (2-7) lost for a third time on this weekend visit to Dudy Noble Field.
Detz, a fall junior college transfer who hadn’t even practiced at first base for State until January, moved into the lineup after an opening-weekend injury to starter Wes Rea and was an immediate hit. Rea is back in game-shape and even started Friday’s first meeting with the Hawks, going 2-of-2. But it is Detz who still swings State’s hottest stick.
He turned in a 3-of-4 performance in Sunday’s first set, hitting safely his last three turns. It was the middle two that mattered most. In the third inning of a scoreless-to-then game he came up with two outs, after CF C.T. Bradford had doubled to right-centerfield. Detz blooped an offering by Hawks righthander Kyle Mullen (1-2) beyond second base and between three defenders for the ice-breaking RBI.
The second safety loomed a little larger, as in-between Saint Josephs had taken a 2-1 lead off State starter Kendall Graveman. It was short-lived though. In the bottom of the sixth Bradford singled his way on, and was running for second on the first pitch to Detz. Mullen nearly hit the batter, and would wish he had as Detz skipped aside. Because catcher Brian O’Keefe’s throw was errored putting the tying Dog on third base.
Another base hit to rightfield evened the scoreboard. A bigger inning was in store as C Mitch Slauter singled. RF Demarcus Henderson didn’t get a bunt down though, and grounded into a double-play to boot. But that left Detz still on base and DH Hunter Renfroe came through. He didn’t try crushing anything, but poked it the other way and missed the second baseman’s glove for the go-ahead single.
This was just enough offense for Mississippi State’s bullpen to protect. In fact, lefthander Luis Pollorena was already on the mound, having entered an out into the sixth. Even though he did give up hit that scored Saint Joseph’s go-ahead run Pollorena prevented further damage. So he was on the hook when Detz delivered in the bottom of the frame, and earned the winning decision.
Pollorena (2-0) worked a total 1.0 inning with two hits, a walk and strikeout. He was taking over after Graveman’s 5.1 stint with the two runs on his account, off three hits, two walks and four strikeouts.
Graveman, making a key start in context of winning a conference weekend role, was generally good. He either rolled his trademark ground ball outs, eleven in all, or got called strikeouts. Even the first Hawk hit, in the third, didn’t leave the infield. Not until two outs into the fourth were any of his offerings put in the outfield.
That one by Mike Muha led to the first Saint Joseph’s score though. Graveman walked him into scoring position with a pass of Stefan Kancylarz, before Chris Hueth slapped the ball to the right side. It one-hopped right in front of 2B Brett Pirtle and caromed off his glove into centerfield for a run-scoring error. Detz made plays with the leather, too, ending that threat on a well-struck grounder by John Brue.
Meanwhile Mullen had survived the third-inning run and had just three hits through five frames. He was given the brief lead, too. A one-out Graveman walk in the sixth with the middle of Saint Joseph’s order up was the bullpen cue. Pollorena got one fast out but walked Kancylarz to give Hueth another chance. He hit a clean single this time, to centerfield for the lead. Kancylarz got hung-up rounding second and was tagged.
Pollorena returned for the Hawk seventh and a single. He got a called strikeout before Gentry was summoned to face the number-nine batter. A different one at that as lefty Ryan Pater pinched, and grounded into a 4-6-3 double-dip.
Down 3-2, Muha moved to the mound in the seventh and kept State from adding any to the margin with 2.0 innings of one-hit pitching and a strikeout. But the Hawks couldn’t hit Gentry at all in the eighth. Righthander Ben Bracewell got the ninth-inning save situation and despite a two-out infield single earned his first save since 2010.
Bradford and Renfroe, coming off a five-game absence with a cracked right hand, each had two hits for State. The Bulldogs had nine total safeties compared to six for the Hawks, who were led by Hueth and Brue with a pair apiece.