February 16, 2013 6:36:37 PM
STARKVILLE - After cranking out 21 hits and 16 runs the day before, Mississippi State University got a victory in the style Dudy Noble Field fans are more accustomed to under coach John Cohen.
The Bulldogs (2-0) used five pitchers to combine for a four-hit performance and got their first run via a squeeze play attempt in a 2-1 victory over the University of Portland Saturday afternoon.
The victory marked the 1,000 win for MSU in the history of Dudy Noble Field.
Portland starting pitcher Travis Radke and MSU junior right-hander Evan Mitchell embarked on a classic pitchers duel through the first five innings with the only run crossing the plate coming when MSU executed a squeeze play with Hunter Renfroe at the plate and 265-pound Wes Rea at third base.
Radke, who was the 2012 West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year, finished after 114 pitches through 6 2/3 innings allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out nine. The southpaw from Thousand Oak, Calif., was able to mix his arsenal of arm angles and breaking pitches to confuse MSU batters into nine strikeouts.
"(Radke) is an SEC caliber pitcher who changes speeds and nothing comes out of his hand the same way two times in a row," Cohen said.
After being walked to load the bases two innings ago and grounding into a 6-4-3 double play, MSU junior left fielder Demarcus Henderson wasn't about to let another RBI opportunity get away. The Waynesboro native slapped the game-winning single over the glove of second baseman Jeff Melby to score Daryl Norris in the sixth inning.
"I wasn't going to pass up that chance twice because I remember against Samford that same thing happened so that was playing around in my head," Henderson said. "He threw me a fastball low and away and that's actually right in my wheelhouse because it something I can take the other way."
Henderson, who was selected in the 43rd round out of Wayne County High School by the Houston Astros in 2010, also had a diving catch in left field that preserved the Bulldogs one-run lead late in the contest.
After Evan Mitchell completed five innings, MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson gave fans an idea of what the bullpen strategy could look like late in games this season. After watching Evan Mitchell record 92-93 miles-per-hour on the radar gun, the Bulldogs first tuned to the complete opposite approach of third-year sophomore Ross Mitchell (1-0).
Evan Mitchell left to a standing ovation in the longest outing since tossing eight innings in the NCAA Atlanta Regional win over Austin Peay less than a hour from his high school. Mitchell finished the regional win allowing just three earned runs over five hits including eight strikeouts in 128 pitches.
"The exciting thing for us about Evan is the lack of big misses," Cohen said. "Maybe his slow start had to do with the cold weather but he was very prospecty today for sure."
Ross Mitchell, who recorded 24 appearances last season, allowed just one hit in the sixth inning to earn his first victory of 2013 and fourth career win.
The right-left-right relief combination of Ben Bracewell, C.T. Bradford from centerfield and Jonathan Holder worked a perfect final three innings. Holder earned his 10th career save in a MSU uniform as the Hurley native has allowed just one earned run in 30 career innings on the mound. Over the last three seasons MSU is 70-1 in games where they're leading after eight innings.
"I love (the closer role) and I just gave a speech to the team about adrenaline and coming in the last inning to get just a few outs gets me going," Holder said.
Bradford had what Cohen said in the preseason may be a normal day for the junior from Pace, Fla., as he had a base hit, a diving catch and got MSU out of a jam by coming into a 1-2 count to finish a strikeout in the seventh inning.
"We've really run our intra-squad scrimmages this preseason just like we did in this ballgame so we knew we'd use C.T. in a situation like that," Cohen said. "This is the time of the year to be able to do it too with our outfield depth."
The only multi-hit day for MSU came off the bat of senior designated hitter Trey Porter as the Gulfport native disregarded the normal lefty on lefty matchup cliché against Radke.
"The amazing thing is lefties hit Radke better last year at a .250 clip so we wanted to actually get more lefties up against him late," Cohen said.
Mississippi State (2-0) 2,
Portland (0-2) 1
W - Ross Mitchell (1-0) P, H, 0 R, K, 0 BB in 19 pitches.
L - Travis Radke (0-1) 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 9 K, 2 BB in 114 pitches.
Most Valuable Player: Sophomore closer Jonathan Holder - Holder worked a perfect 1 2/3 innings Saturday for his 10th career save in which he recorded four strikeouts. MSU is now 70-1 in games where they lead after eight innings over the last three seasons thanks to him and former relief option Caleb Reed.
Turning Point: 8th inning - MSU used three different relief pitchers to get out of a jam with two runners on and only one out in 2-1 game.
Next game: Sunday doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. vs. Portland - MSU senior right hander Kendall Graveman will make his 2013 debut and the 30the career start for the Alexander City, Ala., native coming off of sports hernia surgery in the offseason.
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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