FILE - MSU sophomore Daryl Norris returned from the disabled list to provide two hits Friday night in a 7-4 victory over Vanderbilt. Photo by: MSU athletics
April 6, 2012 11:00:26 PM
STARKVILLE --.Welcome back Daryl Norris, nice to see you again Brent Brownlee and thanks for coming along C.T. Bradford.
This was the message in the Mississippi State University baseball clubhouse Friday night after a 7-4 victory over Vanderbilt University at Dudy Noble Field.
All three positional players had an impact in the victory, which marked the first time MSU (19-11, 4-6 in Southeastern Conference) has won the Friday night opener three times in a row since 2007 when the Bulldogs last made it to the College World Series in Omaha.
"It's one step forward and then two steps back because we'll wake up tomorrow morning and evaluate his knee and if that thing is really swollen," MSU coach John Cohen said. "The debate right now is do you play him or do you play Porter? I would love to pencil Daryl in at third base but I can't imagine his knee will allow him to do that."
Norris, after not seeing live pitching in over four weeks, ripped singles to left field in his first two at-bats since going down with a kneecap injury on March 7 against Penn State University. Norris, who had been taking batting practice the past two weeks, took swings in the cage this afternoon and motioned to the MSU coaching staff he was good to play Friday night in his first conference game of the 2012 season.
"I took some swings this afternoon and gave them the signal I was okay," Norris said with a grin. "We took BP in the morning and he asked if I could play or at least hit so I said yes. I have to see how the swelling goes tomorrow."
Norris would end the evening 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored as the Bulldogs designated hitter.
In the seventh inning with MSU up 6-4, Brownlee singled in the final run of the game with a pinch-hit shot to left field scoring infielder Sam Frost. It was Brownlee's first hit and RBI since Feb. 25 against Mississippi Valley State University.
"(My knee) is better when I sit, warm up and then go out there," Brownlee said. "If I play too much on it right now, just coming off surgery, then it'll swell up too. We knew that would happen this early."
Bradford scored a run and got an infield single in the four-run third inning that chased Vanderbilt starting pitcher Kevin Ziomek (2-5) from the contest after just 46 pitches. The rehab trio went 4-for-8 with two RBI and two runs scored against the Commodores (12-18, 3-7).
The constant throughout MSU's injury troubles have been the consistent pitching from junior right-hander Chris Stratton. The Tupelo native, who is rising significantly up the draft boards, picked up his conference-leading seventh victory by going six innings and allowing just three earned runs over six hits in 102 pitches.
With protection in front and behind him in the order, Wes Rea went 2-for-4 with a career-high three RBI.
"We've had those opportunities all year and in those games we win, we've come through every time," Rea said. "We see how hard (Norris) works and felt like he was invincible up until the time he got hurt. You can't help but feel happy for a guy like that."
Sam Frost had another multi-hit game near the bottom of the MSU lineup as the junior from Hoover, Ala., has seen his batting average rise 183 points since March 18 (.158 to .341). He had a two-RBI shot off the left-centerfield wall to make the score 6-1 in the third frame.
With the victory and losses by Auburn, LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss tonight mean the Bulldogs gained a game in the Western Division standings over every currently in front of them.
The Saturday contest of this series will start at 2 p.m. as Kendall Graveman (2-1, 3.05) takes his first shot in game two of a league series against Vanderbilt freshman Tyler Beede (1-3, 5.46). Beede was the 21st overall selection by the Toronto Blue Jays in last year's draft and rejected their $2.5 million offer to sign in order to keep his commitment to Vanderbilt.
"The gameplan is to see if Daryl Norris is available and who's available to face this guy because older guys can hurt younger guys in that situation," Cohen said. "We're going to have our hands full but we need to win a series and (Saturday) is huge."
Mississipppi State (19-11, 4-6) 7,
Vanderbilt (12-18, 3-7) 4
W - Chris Stratton (7-0) 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, BB, 6 K in 102 pitches
L - Kevin Ziomek (2-5) 2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K in 46 pitches
S - Caleb Reed (7) 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K in 35 pitches
Most Valuable Player: Mississippi State first baseman Wes Rea (2-for-4, 3 RBI and run scored)
Turning Point: 3rd inning - MSU jumped all over Vanderbilt starter Kevin ZiomekiIn the third inning, Mitch Slauter reached as a hit batsman. C.T. Bradford followed with a base hit, which chased VU starter Kevin Ziomek. New pitcher Drew VerHagen was reached for back-to-back run-producing hits by Wes Rea and Daryl Norris.
"It feels good to finally be getting everybody back," Brownlee said. "These are our guys and we need them out there for us to be atour best."
Sam Frost followed with a two-run double - his second double of the game - and suddenly MSU held a 6-1 lead.
Number of the day:
183: Number of points Sam Frost's batting average has risen since March 18. The junior infielder left the opening series at LSU batting .158 and left Dudy Noble Field Friday night hitting .341, which puts him third on the team.
19 - With the save tonight, Caleb Reed tied for third with Pete Yong (1987-89) with 19 career saves. The senior All-American selection is still 10 away from school record of 29 set by Van Johnson.
7 - Chris Stratton now leads the Southeastern Conference in victories with seven. He's already matched his season-high win total with that victory. Before the 2012 campaign, Stratton had never had more than five in a season.
41 - Amount of days between Brent Brownlee's last base hit (Feb. 25 vs. MVSU) and RBI.
Next game: Saturday, 2 p.m. vs. Vanderbilt
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. Evading the Nazis BOOK REVIEWS