April 13, 2013 11:12:11 PM
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The No. 21 Mississippi State University baseball team clinched its second consecutive Southeastern Conference series Saturday with a 9-3 victory against Texas A&M University at Blue Bell Park.
Senior right-hander Kendall Graveman threw a third-straight complete game and received a conference-game best 15-hit attack to help MSU improve to 29-9 and 7-7 in the SEC. Texas A&M dropped to 21-15 and 6-8.
"The fast start was really important for us," MSU coach John Cohen said. "Texas A&M has a great environment. They have great fans, just like we do. They stand, holler, and do their thing. You know with Kendall, you will always have a great chance to win, so the fast start gave us a great advantage today."
The Bulldogs built a 7-1 lead after three innings. MSU had five extra-base hits, including Hunter Renfroe's team-best 12th home run and Alex Detz's first in the Maroon and White.
The offense would be more than enough for Graveman, who threw 110 pitches and scattered nine hits.
"Kendall was tremendous today and very economical," Cohen said. "You don't like two solo home runs. But that comes from asking Kendall to fill the strike zone. When you have a big lead, you just shove the ball in the strike zone.
"A solo home run hurts your far less than a walk or two, which can lead to the big inning."
Graveman (5-2) allowed nine hits and three runs (all earned), with six strikeouts and no walks. In the last 27 innings, Graveman has allowed 19 hits and four runs, with 13 strikeouts and two walks.
MSU also played its 20th errorless game and turned two more double plays, giving them five for the series.
"The defense is so important behind a groundball such as Kendall," Cohen said. "We are playing the game at a very high level defensively."
On offense, the Bulldogs grabbed the lead for good by breaking a 1-1 tie with a four-run second. Adam Frazier started the scoring in that frame with an RBI double. Detz followed with a two-run home and Renfroe added one more as MSU went back-to-back.
In the ninth, the lead was expanded with an RBI groundout by Demarcus Henderson and an RBI triple by Frazier.
Frazier and Renfroe each had three hits. Wes Rea and C.T. Bradford added multiple hits.
"We had a bunch of guys who took really good swings," Cohen said. "In this game you are not going to be rewarded with a bad approach. It is important to go up there with a good approach and then some things can happen for you."
Blake Allemand, Brandon Wood, and Hunter Melton each had two hits for Texas A&M. Starting pitcher Rafael Pineda (3-3) left the game in the third after allowing eight hits and six runs (five earned).
The teams will play the series finale is at 1:05 p.m. today. Neither team has announced a projected starting pitcher.
n On Friday, MSU found a way to win a SEC road game.
Thanks to strong starting pitching by Luis Pollorena, dominant closing by Jonathan Holder, and Renfroe's 11th home run of the year, MSU defeated Texas A&M 3-2 in the opening-game of a three-game weekend series.
"Texas A&M has a great atmosphere," Cohen said. "I thought our kids approached this game with a great workmanlike attitude. They came out and competed and got a huge win. It means a lot when you can go into Saturday with a chance to win a series."
MSU won a conference series opener for the third time five tries this season.
Pitching in front of friends and family in home start, the senior left-handed Pollorena made the most of his fifth start of the season. Pollorena (6-1) pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and two runs (one earned), with three walks and two strikeouts. Holder earned his 10th save.
"You really can't say enough about Luis," Cohen said. "He goes out there every Friday night and commands the strike zone. Jonathan was just nasty there at the end. This isn't pro baseball where you wait until the ninth inning to use your closer.
"Jonathan is the best we have, and the game was on the line in the seventh inning."
The Bulldogs battled back from a 2-0 deficit with single scores in the fourth, fifth, and sixth. Renfroe began the MSU scoring with an RBI double in the fourth. The game-tying run scored on an errant pickoff attempt. Renfroe's team-best 11th-round tripper cleared the left field and gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.
"Hunter has 11 home runs in a different day and age with the bats," Cohen said. "He has more home runs than three or four teams in the league combined. He is so hot for us, and he always has good at-bats. We had some really great timely hitting."
Pollorena faced the minimum in four of his first six innings, while the Bulldogs turned two of their double plays. In the seventh, the call went to Holder with Aggies at first and third and one out. A flyout and strikeout snuffed that threat. The third double play ended the eighth inning, before Holder retired the side in order in the ninth inning.
"You can not say enough about the poise Jonathan displayed in an incredibly difficult situation," Cohen said.
Renfroe was the lone multiple hitter for MSU, which had five hits. Texas A&M had seven hits, including two by Logan Taylor.
Daniel Mengden (4-2) worked seven innings for the Aggies and took the loss.