February 27, 2014 1:19:28 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State baseball essentially had to use a form of reverse psychology Wednesday to ignore the on-the-field thermometer at game time.
"We told our kids, we don't do cold," MSU coach John Cohen said. "We don't use that as a excuse for not going out there and performing."
In bitterly cold conditions at Dudy Noble Field, MSU (6-4) provided its best two-day stretch of offense in a 10-1 victory over Mount Saint Mary's. The Bulldogs scored 23 runs in the last two days after posting just 42 runs in the first eight contests.
Cohen wasn't sure the game would be played with weather forecasts with temperatures dipping into the high 20s without a wind chill but both teams agreed to have the mid-week game and MSU's bats took full advantage.
Eight different players provided a total of 12 hits as Brett Pirtle led the offensive charge with a three-hit, two-RBI day against Mountaineers pitching. Pirtle, a 176-pound second baseman, has found a groove in the cleanup spot of the MSU order while hitting .341 with 7 RBIs and providing that much needed protection for Bulldogs power hitter Wes Rea.
Mount Saint Mary's (2-3) ran seven different pitchers out to the mound in what seemingly appeared to be a tryout situation for the remainder of the 2014 season for their club.
Senior Demarcus Henderson and fourth-year junior Rea each tallied two RBIs. Freshman Reid Humphreys, senior Alex Detz and junior Seth Heck all drove in one run apiece as well. Trailing 1-0 in the third, the Bulldogs plated three runs on a wild pitch and run-scoring hits by the middle of the MSU order in the form of Rea and Pirtle.
The offensive onslaught continued with a six-run eighth frame thanks to five two-out RBIs and MSU batting around for the second time Wednesday. For the game, the Bulldogs hit .385 (5-for-13) with two outs. State now has 29 two-out RBIs on the season, 11 of which came during the two-game midweek tilt.
"We needed some offensive production like this early in the year just to get some confidence and I would consider it a pretty productive two days for us," Cohen said.
In his first career start on the mound, right-hander Preston Brown had a classic outing for a freshman trying hard to impress for more opportunities. Brown had seven strikeouts but five walks while allowing just two hits over six innings. The 94 pitches were the most any MSU starting pitcher has been allowed to throw under the watchful eye of MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson.
The crucial outing for MSU on the mound might have come from Amory native Will Cox. The junior delivered a three-inning stint where he surrendered just one hit and had six strikeouts in just 35 pitches, 27 of which were strikes. Cox, who now leads the team with two saves, has dropped down to a 3/4 motion and the MSU staff is hopeful he can be a reliable bullpen arm deep in the season.
Mississippi State returns to Dudy Noble Field Friday at 6:30 p.m. for its first game in the Diamond Classic presented by Polk's Meat Products against Michigan State. The Spartans have already knocked off nationally-ranked Oregon State in the Big Ten/Pac 12 Challenge last weekend.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.