February 21, 2014 8:38:47 PM
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Mississippi State left fielder Jacob Robson (1-for-1 with a run scored and three stolen bases and three walks) in first start of 2014 season.
STARKVILLE -- Jacob Robson firmly believes speed doesn't slump.
The sophomore outfielder, from Ontario, Canada, specifically brought in to provide the running element to this Mississippi State baseball team played to his immediate strength Friday night.
Robson had a career-high three stolen bases and a remarkable running catch in left field as MSU got back to its small ball roots in a 6-2 win over Holy Cross at Dudy Noble Field.
In what was the Crusaders first game of the 2014 season, nine different pitches went to the rubber for the 2013 Patriot League regular season champions and No. 7 MSU (3-2) took full advantage of that inexperience. The Bulldogs stole eight bases as a team Friday night, one short of the school record last accomplished in 1995.
"We did a good job of sticking to our tools and our identity tonight and it worked," Robson said. "We have tons of speed on the team, especially in the outfield, so we don't care who we are playing, we're going to use our speed all the time."
Cohen mixed up the lineup again by starting the Canadian duo of Robson and Hann for only the fourth time since they arrived on the Starkville campus from their country's national team. Robson already has five walks this season and is one of nine to have more than one in the first five games of the 2014 season.
"Everybody has amazing tools here on this team and it's about trying to figure out when and how to use them. That's what this part of the year is for."
In the sixth inning, when MSU starter Brandon Woodruff was beginning to show signs of wearing down, Robson sprinted after a well hit line drive by Holy Cross second baseman Andrew Barry and made a catch that took away a perceived guaranteed double off the bat. Robson's play, which will go down in the scorebook as a simple fly out, is exactly the kind of athletic combination of speed and instincts that Cohen has been recruiting toward for the past several seasons.
"The play Jacob made in the outfield is a special play and he took away a mistake that was made on the mound," Cohen said. "It's not a easy play and I don't know how many outfielders in our league can make that play. He made it look easy. That's team baseball."
Woodruff was efficient Friday night and was one out away from a quality start but limited Holy Cross (0-1) to just three hits and one earned run in a 97-pitch outing. The junior right-hander demonstrated three quality pitches in his command and only issued three walks. Friday night marked just the fifth time Woodruff has worked into the sixth inning in his three-year college career.
"It was really nice to see Brandon come out and pitch well and really see his arm turn around," Cohen said. "He showed three pitches - a very good fastball, very good slider and even a change up to lefties. The only mistake he made tonight was the drop at first base. We work on that so much. You got to make those type of plays. His overall performance was great tonight."
After a 6-4 loss Wednesday where Cohen was visibly angry at his club for "running away from their identity", MSU used seven walks, eight stolen bases and excellent defense to pick up a much needed win for confidence purposes.
"Gradually we're starting to let the game come to us offensively and that's a comfort level," Cohen said. "We need to just let it happen and not try to go to effort. A lot of clubs struggle with that because with 4,000 people in the stands you want to show them how much you've improved instead of letting the game come to you."
Reid Humphreys got his first career hit in the seventh inning as the younger brother of former MSU player and current Washington Nationals outfielder Tyler Moore smacked RBI-single to past the third baseman to put the Bulldogs up 6-2.
Following a game where he reverted back to the pop up, pull swing mentality against Memphis, C.T. Bradford paced the MSU offense with two hits back up the middle in the five hole of the Bulldogs order. The former Mr. Baseball in Florida added a run in the first in opening inning, a RBI and a HBP in the contest. Bradford, the son of former MSU player Mike Bradford, has reached base in each of the first five games this season and got his first extra-base hit of the season with a double in the fifth.
Myles Gentry, the little-known side arm right-hander from last year's bullpen surprises, got his first career save by limiting Holy Cross to just one hit in 3 1/3 innings. The Gulfport native, who has worked with MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson on being able to showcase three different arm angles, had five strikeouts and only went to three-ball counts on three batters.
"Myles comes in and mixes it up with some movement and he was outstanding creating sink," Cohen said. "He really salivates with all those right handers on a single club."
Cohen committed to having junior Trevor Fitts pitch one of the two doubleheader games scheduled Saturday at Dudy Noble Field but wasn't completely sure as to which one. The Bulldogs and Crusaders will take the field for game one at 11 a.m.
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.
3. Community Calendar for the week of February 19, 2017 ENTERTAINMENT