March 3, 2013 8:15:48 PM
STARKVILLE - With less than two weeks before the start of Southeastern Conference play, Mississippi State just continues to load up victories to start the 2013 campaign.
The Bulldogs won its 14th and 15th straight games Sunday in a doubleheader sweep of St. Joseph's University in what has been come to be known as classic John Cohen style victories under the fifth-year head coach.
MSU got five innings out of its starting pitcher, used six different relievers and used eight stolen bases to crank out five runs in two games to make it 18 straight win at Dudy Noble Field. With the victories, MSU maintained itself as one of eight undefeated teams left in Division 1 college baseball, six of which started their seasons on Feb. 15.
"I feel like our starting pitchers could get deeper in the ball game but the reason we're not letting them is we don't think we have to," Cohen said. "We have the luxury of having a bullpen that has bought into their roles and gosh, I don't know if there's a school in the country that has as many little tiny pieces coming out the bullpen as we do."
Alex Detz led the offensive charge again as the junior college transfer from California had five hits, two RBIs and a run scored in the Bulldogs 3-2 and 2-0 wins. Detz, who has been filling in for sophomore co-captain Wes Rea as he continues to battle a quad injury, hit .611 (11 for 18) with nine RBIs, five runs scored while slugging .722 in the last six games. While Cohen would prefer Rea's 265-pound frame as the target for throws at first base, Detz has failed to make a defensive error this season.
"He's done a very nice job with the zone and with two strikes," Cohen said. "He's really only been playing first base for two months. Alex has been playing third base for us a lot and he will be a nice left-handed option at third base. That's where depth is important."
The No. 5 Bulldogs are still averaging 7.2 runs per game this season as starters Hunter Renfroe and Rea begin to work themselves back into the lineup. Rea had two at-bats Friday night that resulted in two singles while Renfroe played Sunday for the first time since suffering a slight fracture in his right hand. The junior outfielder went 2 for 7 combined in both games with an RBI in MSU's 3-2 victory.
Both of St. Joseph's (2-8) starting pitchers (Daniel Thorpe, Kyle Mullen) Sunday received a quality start but took the loss on the mound as their offense managed just 12 total hits between the two games. MSU (15-0) is second in the country in runs allowed per game at 1.6 and have a combined team ERA of 1.27.
"The coach for them was the assistant coach of the year at Army two years ago and their pitchers could locate a breaking ball better than anybody we've seen in a long time," Cohen said.
Gentry, a freshman from Gulfport, found a role in both games of the doubleheader Sunday as he managed remain hitless in the afternoon session and then got St. Joseph's sophomore catcher Brian O'Keefe to induce a double play ball that proceeded a strikeout in the evening game.
"If I keep the ball down and get ground balls, I could see myself working in the relief role," Gentry said. "I know the minute that I didn't hit my spots, it would result in a hit."
Gentry's 3.00 ERA in eight appearances would normally be cause for celebration in most clubhouses but in Starkville the right-hander has the highest on the club despite limiting opponents to a .118 batting average in six innings.
"That's is (MSU pitching coach) Butch Thompson at his best because this is a guy with a high arm slot when he gets here," Cohen said about the ¾ motion now of Gentry. "He's a guy that made a lot of noise as a ninth and 10th grader and really didn't have as much output the last two years. The minute he got here and Butch got him to drop the arm, he became a different guy."
In order to break the school record for consecutive wins to start a season (18 in 2006), the Bulldogs must defeat Mississippi Valley State University (6:30 p.m., Tuesday) and then sweep University of Central Arkansas this weekend.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Adam Frazier, Renfroe and C.T. Bradford all had their hitting streaks snapped. Frazier, the Bulldogs junior leadoff hitter and shortstop, had a 10-game hitting streak in the works while the other two had a hit in nine straight contests.
Sophomore right-hander Brandon Woodruff is expected to get the baseball first for MSU Tuesday night for his third start in 2013 as the Wheeler native looks to make his case for a weekend rotation slot after coming off elbow tenderness in early spring.
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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