By JOEL COLEMAN
PEARL – The Egg Bowl is still seven months away, but the Mississippi State pitching staff went ahead and threw up a few goose eggs anyway on Tuesday night in Pearl.
Playing in front of 8,542 fans, the largest crowd in Trustmark Park history, a trio of MSU hurlers combined to shut out Ole Miss. The No. 4 Bulldogs took a 2-0 victory over the No. 12 Rebels to claim the Governor’s Cup.
Mississippi State (28-13-1) received four splendid innings from Ryan Cyr. Making his first career start, the freshman right-hander allowed four hits and two walks while striking out one.
“I thought coming in, Cyr was going to be rested and have good velocity and create some good spin with the baseball early in the game and he did,” Cohen said. “He got us off to a phenomenal start. He’s a very competitive young man. With the depth of our pitching staff, we haven’t been able to get him out there as much as we’ve wanted to, but I thought this was a tremendous opportunity for him and I thought he took advantage of the opportunity.”
Cyr has now pitched 16 total innings this season without allowing a run. He has yet to pitch in a Southeastern Conference game, but Tuesday felt good to Cyr as he proved he can compete with the league’s best, even if it doesn’t count in the SEC standings.
“It felt good to break the role I was in and pitch against an SEC opponent,” Cyr said. “I just went right at them. I knew I had my defense behind me and threw strikes. Hopefully, they’d get themselves out. That’s all I wanted.”
Zac Houston and Jacob Billingsley followed Cyr on the mound. Houston went 2 2/3 scoreless innings before giving way to Billingsley in the seventh inning with a pair of Ole Miss runners in scoring position and two outs.
With MSU already up 2-0, Billingsley got the Bulldogs out of the jam by striking out Tate Blackman.
“I’m pretty confident with all my pitches, so I just figured I’d go ahead and get ahead there with the pitch I wanted to throw,” Billingsley said of the strikeout. “It got it done.”
Billingsley again wiggled out of trouble in the eighth. After allowing singles to two of the first three Ole Miss batters in the inning, Billingsley induced a pair of fly outs to end the threat.
The Rebels ended the game 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Billingsley went on to record a save and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Houston was credited with the win for MSU. Chad Smith was saddled with the loss for the Rebels (31-11).
State scored its runs in the early innings. Facing Smith, MSU’s Jake Mangum led off the bottom of the first with a single. Later in the frame, Mangum crossed home on a two-out base hit from Reid Humphreys.
The Bulldogs got to Smith again in the third. Jack Kruger worked a one-out walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then came around to score on an RBI single from Nathaniel Lowe.
The two runs were plenty for MSU’s pitchers. Though Ole Miss had nine total hits in the contest, Bulldog hurlers stranded 11 Rebels on the bases to record the first-ever shutout in the Governor’s Cup. The last shutout in a Mississippi State-Ole Miss game played in the Jackson area came in 2006 when the Rebels blanked the Bulldogs 1-0 in what was then known as the Mayor’s Trophy Game.
Mississippi State hopes that Tuesday’s victory serves as an appetizer for what’s to come later in the week. Once again, the Bulldogs hit the road for a key SEC series as MSU travels to Alabama for a three-game set beginning on Thursday.
“We have a big weekend coming up,” Cohen said. “It’s a Thursday-Friday-Saturday format so that’s a little bit different. Dakota (Hudson) loses a day and so does (Austin) Sexton and whoever we throw on Saturday. Those guys will be ready.
“Our kids are studying for their finals and we’ve got all kinds of stuff going on just like everyone else in our league does, but it’ll be a short week so we need to get rested and ready for a big weekend.”