February 26, 2012 7:40:00 PM
STARKVILLE - After a few pitches, Will Cox admitted afterwards he had to gather himself to get the nerves out of his system.
The freshman right-hander from Amory, Miss., was able to do just that with his emotions and completed the longest outing for a Mississippi State University pitcher in the 2012 campaign.
"I just like to go out and pump the (strike) zone," Cox said. "I like to make the hitters beat us and make the defense work."
Cox (1-0) allowed just three hits and struck out eight, the most by any MSU hurler this season, in route to a victory in his college debut as the Bulldogs (6-1) defeated Mississippi Valley State University 5-1 at Dudy Noble Field Sunday.
"I knew (about the start) throughout the week and it kept building up," Cox said. "As I kept telling people, it seemed like the whole town of Amory was here tonight and that helped out a lot."
The right-hander, who arned all-state honors in 2011 after posting a 12-1 record with a remarkable 0.41 earned run average and 147 strikeouts over just 85 1/3 innings of mound duty as a senior at Amory High School, sat down 13 of his next 15 batters after committing a two-base error that would lead to the Delta Devils (0-7) only run of the contest.
"We knew coming out of high school that he was a strike thrower," MSU coach John Cohen said. "His slider has come a long way and when that 87 to 89-mile-per-hour fastball becomes 92-93 and it will one day, he'll become a real force."
After Cox's efficient 83-pitch outing, Jonathan Holder recorded the final six outs of the game in perfect form to earn his first ever college save.
Holder, who gave up being a dual-threat player earlier in the spring to focus on pitching, has already the most appearance in the 2012 season by an MSU pitcher with three and has still not surrendered a single hit in his three innings of work.
"It was tough and I love hitting but I knew it would come down to one or the other so in the long run, I picked pitching and it's turned out a lot better," Holder said. "My plan has been to get outs and do my job quickly."
MSU struggled to get quality swings at the plate against MVSU right-hander David Lostra. The soft-throwing Lostra relied heavily on change-of-speed action with his breaking ball but Bulldogs third baseman Daryl Norris knocked in two runs and got two hits before the MVSU starter was pulled.
Norris was one of three MSU members of the lineup to record a multi-hit day along with Adam Frazier and Wes Rea joining him with an run batted in during the afternoon.
The victory completed a perfect sweep of the four-games in three-day weekend for the Bulldogs and now gives them three pitchers (Cox, Chris Stratton and Ben Bracewell) that have not given up an earned run in over seven innings of work.
MSU will next take the field for a Wednesday game against the University of Memphis at 4 p.m. at Dudy Noble Field. Cohen was unsure after the Sunday victory who would be getting the pitching start for his club against the Tigers (3-3).
Mississippi State (6-1) 5,
Mississipppi Valley State (0-7) 1
W - Will Cox (1-0) 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
L - David Lostra (0-2) 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 3 K
Most Valuable Player: Mississippi State sophomore RHP Will Cox - Cox (1-0) allowed just three hits and struck out eight, the most by any MSU hurler this season in route to a victory in his college debut. Cox is the first MSU starter to earn a decision this season.
Turning Point: 3rd inning - After committing a hurried throwing error on a bunt, Cox settled down to turn away 13 of the next 15 hitters and keep the Delta Devils to one run in a game where MSU struggled at the plate. Cox's pitching didn't allow a single fly ball from the moment MVSU scored its only run of the contest.
Numbers of the day - 5 RBI - MSU's team-leading RBI totals by Trey Porter and Daryl Norris
100 - percentage of successful stolen base attempts Sam Frost has on the 2012 season (2-for-2).
7 - Number of innings Will Cox pitched Sunday marking the longest outing by an MSU pitcher this season.
5 - Number of times MSU has eclipsed the 10-hit plateau in seven games this season.
Next game: Wednesday, 4 p.m. vs. Memphis
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
2. The Ups and Downs of Nelson's Pillar BOOK REVIEWS