April 25, 2014 11:24:38 PM
STARKVILLE -- The key to Friday's doubleheader split was for Mississippi State Jonathan Holder was the same old closer and for Texas A&M Daniel Mengden was a completely different pitcher.
Holder secured a victory for the host Bulldogs by coming into a bases loaded situation created by a wild and ineffective Jacob Lindgren and getting four strikeouts in his 2 2/3 innings of relief. MSU rode the relief effort of Holder to a 5-1 win similarly to the five innings Holder threw at Missouri.
A weather delay began at 8:35 p.m. Thursday and the contest was eventually postponed until 5 p.m. Friday. Before the delay, the Bulldogs battered Texas &M early pitching to a 4-1 lead with three innings left to complete where they pounded out six hits and knocked out freshman left-handed pitcher Tyler Stubblefield before he could record an out in the second frame.
Holder, who earned his fifth save of the 2014 season and 35th of his college career, effectively got ahead of A&M hitters with fastball before getting swing-and-miss action with the curveball.
"I really need to focus on staying in pitchers counts instead of hitters counts because if I don't, they can just sit on one type of pitch," Holder said. "I still don't have good enough stuff to throw it by you if you're looking for it."
It was a similar sequence and result to the domination MSU fans have seen from Holder in the last year and a half and not the struggling junior in the first couple months of the season.
"It was a very similar situation that I've been brought in many times in my career where I have to have a strikeout mentality," Holder said. "That's really when the adrenaline starts flowing and try to be as nasty as I can."
Holder threw 28 of his 42 pitches for strikes and allowed No. 20 MSU to earn its sixth straight victory before the start of the second game of the weekend series.
Mendgen, A&M's projected ace for the 2014 season, showed more consistent elements of his stuff that led him to being a Team USA selection last summer and a highly rated draft prospect this upcoming summer. Mengden (3-6), who came in with an ERA over 4.00, scattered nine hits over two runs in a 108-pitch effort that lasted six innings. The right-hander, who in 2013 ranked fourth in the SEC in innings pitched (110.2), fifth in opponent batting average (.201), sixth in strikeouts (94), seventh in wins (8), ninth in ERA (2.11), just hadn't gotten the offensive support and bullpen support to make his junior season shine just yet. All of those things happened for the Aggies (26-18, 9-11) in a 6-3 victory where they never trailed and allowed Mengden to tally a victory over MSU left-handed ace Ross Mitchell (6-4).
"I felt like we either haven't given him any support or he has come out of games and had the bullpen blow it for him," Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said. "I think he was really good and mixed up his changeup tonight well with his plus fastball and plus breaking ball."
In the opposite plan than Ole Miss had two weeks ago against Mitchell's soft-tossing style, A&M continued to stay patient and waited for the left-hander to lift fastballs up the strike zone for a four-run fifth inning that knocked Mitchell out of the game.
"I thought we did a really good job of understanding that the pitch that came in for strike one was still going to be there later in the at-bat," Childress said. "Mitchell does such a good job of pitching down in the strike zone that you have to be patient for pitches up just by inches. Short of the first couple innings on Thursday, I think we've played really solid fundamental baseball."
Cole Lankford had two hits and a RBI as the Aggies power hitter attacked Mitchell in both of his plate appearances.
The rubber game of the weekend series starts at 2:30 p.m. and according to MSU coach John Cohen, will likely be a starting matchup that includes Bulldogs sophomore right-hander Preston Brown. Brown (3-1, 1.95 ERA), who hasn't pitched since March 29 due to shoulder soreness, has worked his way back into the rotation after solid bullpen sessions with MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson. A&M will counter with sophomore right-hander Grayson Long. The 6-foot-5 pitcher held No. 21 Kentucky to two runs on eight hits while striking out eight over a career-long eight innings.
"If Preston Brown wakes up tomorrow and feels like he has all week, then we are going to give him the baseball," Cohen said. "Bracewell will be available, Woodruff will be available (Saturday) and even Lindgren after 17 pitches will be available. I don't know how deep Preston can get us in the game."
MSU's Cody Brown continued his hot streak with the bat by sending a fastball deep over the wall in right-center for his first career home run. In his last eight games, the redshirt freshmen is hitting .429 (9 of 21) with nine runs, six walks, five RBIs, three stolen bases, two doubles, a triple and the home run from Friday.
Matthew Britton had three hits in the first two games total including a two-hit evening in the second game of the day. MSU got three-hit nights from Brett Pirtle and Alex Detz in the 6-3 loss but were unable to string together enough consecutive hits to make it interesting.
MSU used its 44th different lineup this season but continued to have the same issues offensively as before by leaving nine runners on base in the loss Friday night.
"You look up and down our lineup and everybody is hitting balls hard but we couldn't string anything together and we found gloves at times tonight," 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.
5. Evading the Nazis BOOK REVIEWS