March 10, 2013 5:56:28 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University senior catcher Mitch Slauter suggested the University of Central Arkansas starting pitcher Bryce Biggerstaff "was nothing special".
The junior right-hander simply used what he had to finish a complete game in a 7-3 victory over No. 3 MSU Sunday that left Bulldogs hitters confused and out of character.
"We just forgot about what our identity was offensively for the past two days so that part needs to get better and quickly because if it doesn't, we're not going to be the team we want to be," MSU coach John Cohen said.
Biggerstaff (2-0) now has two complete game performances in the 2013 season with the previous version being a no-hitter on Feb. 24 in a 13-0 victory over Jackson State University.
"It was nothing we had never seen before," Slauter said. "Early in the game I thought we hit a lot of balls hard but they just found their gloves and he just continued to compete."
MSU's lack of patience at the plate created an atmosphere for Biggerstaff where there was only instance in the seventh inning where UCA coach Allen Gum debated taking him out of the game. MSU put the ball in play on the first and second pitch 14 times Sunday leading to low pitch innings for the Bears right hander.
"We took the swings that their pitcher wanted us to take," Cohen said. "You do that and you'll lose ball games, period. We were not discipline enough, forcefully enough and stubborn enough to take our swings."
In a second straight game MSU (17-2) never took the lead, the Bulldogs needed a strong outing by senior right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman to lessen the load on the bullpen.
By the second out in the sixth inning, Graveman (1-1) was forced to leave the game after having already thrown 98 pitches but limiting UCA (14-2) to just five hits and three earned runs.
"I thought I got the ball over the plate all day (because) I had seven strikeouts and several ground balls," Graveman said. "Ground balls against this team are what you want. What more could you possibly ask for?"
Since Feb. 25, a stretch that totals 10 games, the only MSU starting pitcher to get through six full innings is sophomore Jacob Lindgren and he'll be scheduled for a MRI scan Monday morning after injuring his left knee on a line drive Friday night.
Graveman said after the loss Sunday he witnessed Lindgren go through a weight lifting session Sunday and Cohen said he was told by the sophomore left-hander that he could start running on it Monday. All the signs and talk from the MSU coaching staff before the MRI is optimistic about a early return for Lindgren. MSU hosts No. 8 Louisiana State (15-1) Friday night at Dudy Noble Field for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch.
"I haven't thrown in the towel at all that Jacob Lindgren could be our starting pitcher Friday night," Cohen said Sunday.
UCA senior catcher Michael Marietta had a three-hit day with a RBI as the Oak View, Calif., native batted .500 (6-for-12) this weekend that included the only home run ever given up by MSU sophomore closer Jonathan Holder Friday night. Marietta continued his hot streak against Holder with a RBI single to right field to make it 5-2 in the ninth inning.
In the three game series MSU pitchers managed to hit 12 UCA batters and walked another 12 against the nation's leading offense coming into the weekend.
"They do a really good job holding their ground and taking the HBP," Cohen said. "In our industry they call those freebies but there's nothing free about them. You still have to stand in there, hold your ground and get hit by the pitch."
MSU plays away from Dudy Noble Field for the first time this season Tuesday night as they face the University of Southern Mississippi at 6:30 p.m. at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
Without any official announcement, Cohen all but stated senior left-hander Luis Pollorena (3-0, 1.88) will be MSU's starting pitcher Tuesday after being the only pitcher on the roster to not see action this weekend.
"We need Pollo to get us deep in that ball game," Cohen said. "He's pitched well against Southern Miss and in that ballpark."
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.
4. A Stone's Throw: Beware COLUMNS