February 23, 2011 8:47:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State baseball team received another quality effort by a starting pitcher Tuesday in a 6-4 victory against Northwestern State (La.).
Sophomore Kendall Graveman allowed two earned runs and four hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked none.
Junior college transfer Andrew Busby (1-0) earned the win. The sophomore left-hander gave up two runs on three hits.
Caleb Reed struck out the side in the ninth for his second save to help the Bulldogs improve to 5-0.
MSU starters have surrendered just five runs this season, and the team has a 1.40 ERA.
Graveman set down the Demons (2-2) in order in the first two innings.
"This was the first time I''d been out this year, and it was good to get off to a good start," Graveman said.
Catcher Cody Freeman, who went 3-for-3, said Graveman had five pitches hitting the strike zone.
Graveman credited Freeman for calling a great game, which MSU coach John Cohen has allowed catchers to do since the fall.
"Those guys meet with (pitching coach) Butch (Thompson) almost every single day, so he''s got a lot of confidence," Cohen said. "We just feel like it speeds the tempo and sets rhythm. That''s the way it was in the old days. The catcher had to do his homework on the other club and who we''re pitching and come up with a plan with our coaching staff. I think it''s worked out pretty well."
Nine of the 19 batters Graveman faced went down on ground balls, which Cohen had hoped to see. Graveman said the softer contact created by the bats that comply with NCAA''s new regulations to lower exit velocity help him get ground-ball outs, which helps pitchers last longer.
"When they get deep in the count, they really try to put the ball in play and make the defense make plays," Graveman said of the Demons. "We kind of tried to challenge them, as we''ve been doing all year. They didn''t hit it hard, but they were making contact."
Freshman C.T. Bradford went 1-for-2 and had a two-out, RBI double in the seventh that gave MSU a 6-2 lead. Bradford drove in a game-high three runs.
MSU took a 2-0 lead in the fourth when Jarrod Parks and Daryl Norris walked to start the inning. Freeman laid a bunt single to load the bases, and Bradford drove in Parks with a fielder''s choice. Ogden dropped a bunt that was fielded at first but dropped at home by Aaron Munoz when Norris crossed.
Northwestern State responded with back-to-back doubles to start the top of the fifth, before Ray Frias and Munoz drove in runs in the next two at-bats and tied the game at 2.
Busby took the mound for the first time as a Bulldog in the top of the sixth and got through his first two innings untouched before giving up a pair in the eighth.
Jacob Williford (0-1) took the loss, allowing two earned runs on two hits in six innings.
Parks finished 2-for-3 and registered his team-best 10th hit of the season.
MSU will play host to Belmont for a three-game series starting at 4 p.m. Friday.
Cohen plans to stick with Devin Jones and Chris Stratton as his starters for Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Busby could be in line to start Sunday after impressing Tuesday.
"His last two or three times out in the fall, and even in the spring, were phenomenal," Cohen said. "His breaking ball has come a long way. His command''s come a long way. In the fall, he was 87-89 (mph), now all of sudden there''s times when it''s 92-93."
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