April 10, 2013 10:43:15 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
PEARL -- Mississippi State University baseball fans had the situation they wanted.
The Bulldogs' most consistent hitter was at the plate with the bases loaded in a tie game in the fifth inning. Adam Frazier rewarded the optimism of those fans with a two-run single to left field to give MSU its first and final lead Tuesday night.
"It's all about not giving up and understanding that a pitch you can do something with will come," said Frazier about the hit that lifted No. 21 MSU to a 5-1 victory against No. 23 University of Mississippi before a crowd of 8,240 at Trustmark Park in the annual Governor's Cup matchup. "I felt like I wasn't coming through in those situations lately, and it was good to make sure to get a key hit."
Before last weekend against the University of Florida, Frazier was suffering through a 5-for-36 (.138) slump. The junior shortstop was making solid contact, but he wasn't getting rewarded for his effort. Now he has hits in four of his last five games, and an RBI in three straight games.
"It was just finally great to see one fall tonight," Frazier said. "I hadn't changed much about my approach but stayed patient with the understanding that eventually the balls I was putting barrel on would fall. As long as they fall for hits, that's all anybody will remember."
Frazier dumped a fastball reliever Brady Bramlett the opposite way to short left field to score sophomore Wes Rea and junior C.T. Bradford with two outs. The hit ended a stretch that saw MSU (27-9) put the leadoff batter on base in five consecutive innings and not score. Ole Miss starting pitcher Josh Laxer worked in and out of trouble for 4 2/3 innings. The sophomore right-hander allowed just one run on two hits, but he had five walks in an 87-pitch effort.
Frazier, a Dick Howser Trophy preseason nominee and likely high pick in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft, still is the player MSU coach John Cohen wants at the plate in key situations the most because of his consistency. The Dick Howser Award goes to the national player of the year.
"He is just one of those guys that just gets hits and gets hits when it matters," said Cohen, whose team earned its fourth victory in five games against Ole Miss. "He just knows how to play because he understands counts and how to get his barrel in position, and that's a skill that is hard to teach in a 18-year period before a kid gets to us. You either have that feel or you don't and he has it."
Ole Miss (23-10) has lost six games in a row to Southeastern Conference opponents after losing the final two games to Florida and being swept by Vanderbilt University last weekend in Oxford. The Rebels put only two runners on base after scoring in the second.
"At the end of the day we're not tough enough," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "You just can't walk 10 guys and hit a guy and expect to win. It's amazing they only got five runs."
After struggling to find any velocity in 1 1/3 innings, Brandon Woodruff was removed for soft-tossing left-handed sophomore Ross Mitchell. In his 15th appearance this season, Mitchell allowed just two hits in six innings to win the game's most outstanding player award. Mitchell needed 82 pitches to lower his ERA from 1.12 to 0.98.
"Usually I throw my change up more, but tonight I went with breaking ball first pitch and they were just taking those for strikes," Mitchell said. "Once they let me get ahead, I went with my best pitch, fastball, and kept thinking you have to win with your best pitch, so throw it.
"I attacked them the same way I normally do, and after every game I talk to you, it seems like I say the defense made every play."
Woodruff, who was impressive in his last start at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Ala., gave up the one run and topped out at 81 mph. Cohen said his sophomore right-hander wasn't dealing with an injury and that he was more than confident to go to Mitchell to keep the Bulldogs in the game. Since suffering its fourth weekend series loss at the University of Arkansas, MSU has rallied to win five of its last six games against teams ranked in the top 30 of the latest Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The Bulldogs swept the two games in Pearl for only the second time in Cohen's five-year tenure. MSU beat the University of Southern Mississippi 13-5 on March 12.
"I think our kids feel a little bit of momentum," Cohen said. "You have to grind through games like this where your energy level is down, and good clubs just find a way to shake through that and win. We did that tonight."
Six MSU players had hits, including junior Derrick Armstrong, who had a single and scored a run. He made his first at-bat since March 19.
MSU will play Ole Miss in a three-game Southeastern Conference series May 10-12 in Oxford. It will return to SEC play Friday when it will play Texas A&M University in game one of a three-game set. Senior left-hander Luis Pollorena likely will open the weekend in front of friends and family in his home state at 6:35 p.m. Friday. The matchup will be the first time in 15 years the programs have met.