February 15, 2013 8:21:31 PM
STARKVILLE - Seemingly every player in the Mississippi State University lineup that was going through a severe injury last year had a big day as the Bulldogs won its 10 consecutive season opener.
MSU (1-0) pounded out 21 hits and had 11 different players score a run in a 16-1 blowout of the University of Portland Friday night to start the 123rd season of baseball at Dudy Noble Field.
Bulldogs third-year players Wes Rea, C.T. Bradford and Daryl Norris all produced for a combined six hits, five RBIs and six runs scored against an overwhelmed Pilots (0-1) squad predicted by Baseball America to finish seventh in the West Coast Conference this season.
"C.T. came up to me this afternoon in batting practice and said to me 'coach I hadn't played a game in 10 months' and I said 'wow, I didn't think about that - thanks for reminding me," MSU coach John Cohen said with a laugh.
Rea got the team started with a massive two-run home run over the right-centerfield wall for the first runs of the 2013 season. The third career home run for Rea was on his first swing of the season after Portland pitcher Matt McCallister (0-1) took a curveball over the middle of the plate.
"That's luck I guess that he hung a curveball," Rea said. "I'm a first-pitch guy and when I saw that, I knew it was my pitch."
Rea started 63 games last season despite suffering through a cyst injury in his shoulder that would on occasion make him at times unable to feel the bat at all in his right arm.
"It's huge for everybody to score runs because the questions in the offseason were all offense and it was a good thing to swing the bats hot in game one," Rea said.
Bradford, a former Mr. Baseball in the state of the Florida, went on the disabled list twice last season with a severe shoulder injury. He responded to his first game since April 28 with three RBI and a two-run home run over the right field wall in the third inning to put the Bulldogs into double digit run territory for only the sixth time in the last two seasons.
"It's what we want do as a hitting staff," Bradford said. "We know we have a great pitching staff but as hitters we need to stay sharp with them and give them support."
Bradford, who was the 2011 NCAA Atlanta Regional most valuable player as a freshman, was able to bring back Friday the ideal 1-2 punch at the top of the MSU order with junior leadoff hitter Adam Frazier.
"We're just excited to get out there (because) we've been playing each other for months and so it was just good to see somebody else," Bradford said. "I hit a fastball down out of the ballpark and it sure felt good."
Eight of the nine-member MSU starting batting lineup recorded a hit with the 1-2-3-4 spots in the lineup finishing 11 of 21 with 12 runs scored and 12 RBI.
McCallister didn't get Portland (0-1) off to a positive start on the mound as the senior from Phoenix, Ariz., allowed nine earned runs over just 1 1/3 innings before getting pulled after just 43 pitches. Last season, Portland was seventh in the country with a 2.89 ERA as a team but each of their first three pitchers (McCallister, junior Chad Kjernhus and redshirt freshman Aaron Moore) gave up at least three earned runs.
The concern heading into the 2013 season for MSU was the emergence of the offense but Friday the No. 5 Bulldogs recorded the largest margin of victory in a season opener since they defeated the University of Alabama-Birmingham 17-1 to open the 2000 campaign.
"It is so important for guys to get off to a good start because confidence in baseball is a huge thing," Cohen said.
MSU sophomore Jacob Lindgren, who had been dominant in preseason scrimmages this month, finished six innings in his first ever regular season college start. The Bay St. Louis native allowed just one run on five hits in a 65-pitch outing. After getting into trouble in three of the first four innings, Lindgren was able to induce a double play to relieve the stress. MSU led the nation in double plays defensively last season with 71 and Bulldogs new second baseman Brett Pirtle, a junior college transfer from Texas was able to turn each of them perfectly Friday.
"I was really trying to attack the hitters and let my defenders do work," Lindgren said. "My fastball was doing well despite leaving it up a couple times."
Mitch Slauter extended his hitting streak from last season to seven games and had a career high four-hit day that included two RBI and one run scored. The senior, who caught 62 games last season, caught all nine innings of the opener that included nine strikeouts by MSU hurlers.
Mississippi State (1-0) 16,
Portland (0-1) 1
W - Jacob Lindgren (1-0) 6 IP, 5 H, R, ER, 3 K, 3 BB in 65 pitches.
L - Matt McCallister (0-1) 1.1 IP, 7 H, 9 ER, K, BB in 43 pitches.
Most Valuable Player: Junior CF C.T. Bradford - Obviously lots to choose from tonight (especially with Mitch Slauter's career high four hits) but the Pace Fla., native rebounded nicely from his injury-plagued 2012 season to have three RBI and a pair of hits including a 2-run home run in his 2013 debut.
Turning Point: 2nd inning - The Bulldogs send McCallister to the dugout early after a seven-run second frame where they batted around and had six consecutive MSU batters reach base. After the second inning was over, Lindgren was able to trot out with an 8-run advantage and cruise to his first victory in 2013.
Next game: Saturday, 2 p.m. vs. Portland - MSU will face the 2012 West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year in left-handed pitcher Travis Radke. Radke led the Pilots in wins last year going 7-4 overall and he ranked second in the WCC in opponents batting average (.197), fourth in ERA and sixth in strikeouts (85).
"We're going to go in and watch film on him because he's really good and we understand that tomorrow is a whole different day," Cohen said.
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.
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