By JOEL COLEMAN
An NCAA baseball weighs about five ounces and is around nine inches in circumference. It’s apparently looking a lot bigger than that to Reid Humphreys right now.
Humphreys continued his red-hot hitting of late with three more hits on Friday night, including a pair of home runs, as Mississippi State easily defeated Georgia 9-2 at Dudy Noble Field.
“(MSU assistant coach Will Coggin) has done a good job of giving me some things to do on the side and I’m just feeling good right now,” Humphreys said.
Humphreys had a second-inning double before adding solo homers in both the fourth and seventh innings to lead a Mississippi State offense that totaled 14 hits. Eight of the nine batters in MSU’s starting lineup had at least one hit and scored at least one run. Brent Rooker was the lone starter to not reach base and score for Mississippi State (16-6-1, 3-1).
Behind the offensive firepower, MSU starting pitcher Dakota Hudson had it on cruise control. Hudson picked up the win going seven innings, scattering eight hits, striking out five and allowing just one unearned run. Hudson hasn’t allowed an earned run in the last 21 2/3 innings he has pitched.
“I just feel like I’ve really gotten into my routine really well,” Hudson said. “Whether or not I feel great when I’m out there (on the mound), I’m just competing and feel good with what I have.”
Mississippi State gave Hudson all the cushion he needed in a fourth inning that saw MSU send 11 men to the plate and score seven runs. Humphreys began the outburst with one out with his first home run of the night, a blast to left field that just barely cleared the wall.
“It was super close and I thought it was caught when I was coming around second,” Humphreys said. “It felt good to see it finally fall over. I’ve got to hit it a little farther I guess.”
MSU got seven more hits in the frame. After singles from Nathaniel Lowe and Ryan Gridley, Elih Marrero, Luke Alexander, Jacob Robson and Jack Kruger all had run-scoring hits. Following a pop out from Rooker, Gavin Collins had a two-run single that chased Georgia starting pitcher Kevin Smith from the game.
Smith took the loss after allowing 10 hits and eight runs in his 3 2/3 innings on the mound.
Mississippi State added to its lead in the eighth on Humphrey’s second dinger, an opposite-field shot over the right-center field wall.
“I felt like I hit that one well and was glad to see it go over too,” Humphreys said.
Georgia (14-9, 1-3) scraped across its runs in the fourth and eighth innings. After Mississippi State had taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on an RBI groundout from Lowe, Georgia evened things with a run-scoring single from Trevor Kieboom in the fourth.
In the eighth, after MSU’s lead had swelled to 9-1, Georgia got to Mississippi State reliever Vance Tatum and cashed in a run on Trey Logan’s pinch-hit double. That would be all Georgia could muster though.
Ethan Small closed out the game for MSU by striking out the Georgia side in order in the ninth.
“He just threw the daylights out of the ball,” Cohen said of Small. “I think we’re seeing a guy who could be a future star here.”
Mississippi State will try and win the three-game series Friday at 6:30 p.m. as a pair of junior right-handers battle on the mound at Dudy Noble Field. Mississippi State will start Austin Sexton while Georgia turns to its ace, Robert Tyler.
“(Tyler) is really good and has a great arm and a great breaking ball,” Cohen said. “We’ve just got to keep pressuring those guys. We’ve got to put ourselves in positions to keep pressuring their defense.
“We’ve just got to keep winning each pitch. That’s what we did (on Thursday).”