March 11, 2013 10:31:42 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University senior catcher Mitch Slauter said the University of Central Arkansas starting pitcher Bryce Biggerstaff "was nothing special."
The junior right-hander simply used what he had to keep hitters confused and out of character en route to a complete game Sunday in a 7-3 victory against No. 3 MSU.
"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) allowed eight hits, three earned runs, and one walk. He struck out three in a 109-pitch (73 strikes) effort for his second complete game of the season. His first was a no-hitter Feb. 24 in a 13-0 victory against 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 made thing easier for Biggerstaff and left UCA coach Allen Gum with only one inning -- the seventh -- in which he debated taking Biggerstaff out of the game.
MSU put the ball in play on the first or second pitch 14 times, which helped the right-hander keep his pitch count low.
"Bryce isn't going to wow you with the tangible aspects like lighting up a radar gun," Gum said. "What he does is throw strikes, pitch to our defense, and never get flustered. He did a great job of making sure his stuff had that power sink."
MSU (17-2) didn't lead for the second game in a row. Senior right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman (1-1), who was counted on to go deep into the game to lighten the load on the bullpen, went 5 2/3 innings and threw 98 pitches. He limited UCA (14-2) to five hits and three earned runs. He walked one and struck out seven.
"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 of 10 games -- sophomore Jacob Lindgren is the only MSU starting pitcher to pitch six innings. He is scheduled for a MRI scan this morning after he was hit in the left knee with a line drive Friday night.
Graveman said he witnessed Lindgren go through a weight lifting session Sunday. Cohen said Lindgren told him he could start running today. All the signs and talk from the MSU coaches before the MRI has been optimistic, which suggests Lindgren could be able to pitch at 6:30 p.m. Friday when MSU plays host to No. 8 LSU (15-1) in the first game of a three-game series at Dudy Noble Field.
"I haven't thrown in the towel at all that Jacob Lindgren could be our starting pitcher Friday night," Cohen said.
UCA senior catcher Michael Marietta had three hits and an RBI to spark the series' clinching victory. He batted .500 (6-for-12) in the three games, including a home run against sophomore closer Jonathan Holder on Friday night. Marietta had an RBI single against Holder that was part of a three-run ninth that helped UCA clinch the victory. Holder allowed two hits and one walk and hit two batters in the ninth.
"MSU has so many quality arms that it was nice to see somebody like Marietta have that kind of success," Gum said. "I didn't think offensively we brought our best game this weekend but in a big environment, against a SEC team, we did enough pitching and defense to take two games. I'm thrilled for our guys to be able to say that."
MSU hit 12 batters and walked 12 in the three-game set. UCA entered the series as the nation's leading offense. It was 21-for-96 (.217) against MSU, which dropped its batting average to .285. Opponents are hitting .219 against UCA.
"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 will play its first road game at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday against the University of Southern Mississippi at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
Senior left-hander Luis Pollorena (3-0, 1.88) likely will start for MSU. He was MSU's only pitcher not to 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."