March 7, 2012 8:30:08 AM
STARKVILLE - Tanner Gaines was not part of the plans for the 2012 season. The redshirt freshman right-handed pitcher was not being considered for significant time on the mound either this past fall or early this spring.
The former all-state selection from Baldwyn High School stabilized the Bulldogs on the mound in a 7-3 victory over Penn State University at Dudy Noble Field.
After nine different pitchers were handed the baseball this past weekend in four straight MSU victories, Gaines was exactly the answer the Bulldogs were looking for pitching 4 2/3 inning of no-hit relief against the Nittany Lions.
"With the pitching staff we have, you have to earn what you get in playing time and it's very difficult," Gaines said after the game but just before he received a shaving cream pie from his teammates in honor of his first collegiate win.
In the 68-pitch outing, Gaines (1-0) only reached a three-ball count with four of the 16 faced batters thanks to getting his curveball over for strike one consistently.
"We always have loved the arm but we've been waiting for the command to one day show up," MSU coach John Cohen said. "If a kid works that hard, you absolutely love it and our kids can feel something special like that."
Gaines was the first MSU relief pitcher to enter the game for No. 23 MSU (11-2) as sophomore C.T. Bradford struggled to get outs in his season debut on the mound. The southpaw allowed a Nittany Lions (2-8) squad, which came to Starkville hitting .217 as a team, three runs on
five hits and having right-handed hitters hit 4-for-9 Tuesday evening.
"We need to get C.T. out there as the 16th different arm we've thrown this season already," Cohen said. "He was drafted out of high school as a pitcher and threw the ball 91 (miles per hour) tonight. He was rusty with the command."
Caleb Reed, the senior preseason All-American selection, end his third save of the season after he came into the game during a two-strike count in the eighth inning. Following a successful pick off play and a strike, Reed had successfully tip-toed through his worst jam of the evening.
After Wes Rea blasted a 400-foot foul ball down the left field line, MSU outfielder Demarcus Henderson and shortstop Adam Frazier would score on wild pitches on consecutive throws with Franklin seemingly startled with Rea's power.
"If it would've been fair, I got it pretty good," Rea said with a smile. "I'd like to think that was on me but our base runners did an excellent job."
Rea would actually get some RBIs in the box score off a two-run hit in the eighth inning that expanded a 4-3 Mississippi State lead into a three-run comfortable advantage for Reed in the final frame. Rea, the Bulldogs cleanup hitter, finished the night with two hits and drove in
Mississipppi State (11-2) 7,
Penn State (2-8) 3
W - Tanner Gaines (1-0) 4.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K in 68 pitches
L - Mike Franklin (0-1) 3.2 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 6 BB, 3 K in 82 pitches
S - Caleb Reed (3) IP, 0 H, 2 K
Most Valuable Player: Mississippi State right-handed pitcher Tanner Gaines - Entered the game and blanked PSU no-hit shutout relief over the next 4.2 innings.
Turning Point: 8th inning - Daryl Norris singled in one run and Wes Rea followed with a two-run hit in the inning that expanded a 4-3 Mississippi State lead. Rea finished the night with two hits and drove in three runs while Norris extended his team-leading and career-best hitting streak to eight games.
Next game: Today, 6:30 p.m. vs. Penn State University
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.
5. A Stone's Throw: The veil COLUMNS