By JOEL COLEMAN
One by one, Mississippi State batters came to plate in the first inning Tuesday night. No matter what Alcorn State starting pitcher Jahborus Smith did, the Bulldog hits just wouldn’t stop coming.
MSU sent 12 men to the plate in the first inning and racked up eight runs and eight hits in the frame on the way to an easy 14-0 win over Alcorn on a cool, dreary and, at times, rainy evening at Dudy Noble Field.
“You’re concerned coming into a ballgame like this that your kids will take your opponent for granted,” Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said. “Then you’re concerned they’re not going to be ready to play because it’s colder weather with storms rolling through in the afternoon and not knowing if we’ll play or not, but I thought our kids were really focused on the task at hand. I’m proud they were able to answer the bell.”
Eight different MSU pitchers combined to shut down the Braves. Keegan James started and picked up the win for the Bulldogs as he allowed just one hit in a scoreless first inning.
Ethan Small, Noah Hughes, Jared Padgett, Ryan Cyr, Vance Tatum and Reid Humphreys also each threw an inning for Mississippi State.
Konnor Pilkington was the lone MSU pitcher to go longer than one inning as he faced the minimum over the course of the fourth and fifth innings.
“I don’t care what the situation is,” Cohen said. “When you have (your pitching staff) put up nine zeros on the scoreboard, that’s a very successful night for any ball club.”
Jack Kruger had a 3-for-3 night to pace the Mississippi State offense. Kruger had a pair of doubles and drove in two runs to continue his red-hot start to the season. Kruger is now batting .562 for the year.
Two of Kruger’s hits came in the first inning as the Bulldogs essentially put the game out of reach. With one out, Kruger’s single got the MSU rally started. Nathaniel Lowe followed with a single to put runners on the corners. That began a string of three-straight run-scoring hits for the Bulldogs. Brent Rooker stroked a two-run triple just ahead of RBI doubles from Gavin Collins and Cody Brown.
Already up 4-0, a Ryan Gridley single preceded an RBI hit from Hunter Stovall that scored Brown and made it 5-0. Later in the inning, Jacob Robson drove in the sixth run on a fielder’s choice. On a throw down to second to try and catch a stealing Robson a batter later, Stovall stole home to make it 7-0. Kruger capped the frame’s scoring with a double that plated Robson.
The Bulldogs continued to add on to their lead throughout the game. In the second inning, Gridley had an RBI single. Kruger and Lowe each had RBI doubles in the third inning to make it 11-0.
Reid Humphreys pinch hit for Kruger in the fifth and added a run-scoring groundout. Later in the frame, Brown walked with the bases loaded to stretch MSU’s lead to 13-0.
In the sixth, Jake Mangum’s first career hit drove in the Bulldogs’ final run.
Mississippi State, who sits at 7-2 for the season, will now head to Los Angeles for three games this weekend. The Bulldogs will play at UCLA on Friday at 8 p.m. and at USC on Saturday at 4 p.m. before capping the weekend with a matchup against Oklahoma at Dodger Stadium at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Courtesy of the win over Alcorn on Tuesday, the Bulldogs will take a six-game winning streak with them to the West Coast.
“I’m proud that (on Tuesday) not a one of (the MSU players) were talking about the trip to Los Angeles coming up even though they are all really excited about that,” Cohen said. “We took care of business that we had to take care of in town before that.”
It wasn’t all good news for Mississippi State on Tuesday. Cohen announced after the win over Alcorn that catcher Josh Lovelady will be out for the year with a torn ligament in his knee suffered in last Friday’s win over UMass Lowell.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Cohen said of Lovelady’s injury. “We’re really going to miss Josh. It’s just a real shame. That kid worked so hard. He was starting on Friday night for us because he deserved to and just a freak thing happened.”