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MSU baseball beats Cincinnati to complete weekend sweep

 

Brandon Walker

 

 

STARKVILLE -- It's not surprising that the Mississippi State baseball team won its first four games this weekend to start the season. 

 

The only surprising part is how easily MSU did it. 

 

Starting with a 6-2 victory against Cincinnati on Friday night, MSU wasn't challenged in its four-game stretch against Cincinnati or Miami University. MSU's dominance started to take hold Saturday in 7-1 win against Miami. It built on that effort later in the day in a 19-5 win against Cincinnati. 

 

On Sunday, MSU put that exclamation point on the sweep with a 16-7 victory against Cincinnati at Dudy Noble Field. 

 

Afterward, even MSU coach John Cohen was flummoxed by the ease with which his team opened the season. 

 

"I wouldn't have thought we would have gotten through without a close game," Cohen said. "The nature of our team, and the nature of college baseball as a whole, is you have a lot of close games. We didn't really have that this weekend." 

 

MSU outscored Cincinnati and Miami by an average of eight runs per game and never trailed after the second inning in any game. Most of the dominance was due to a consistent offense. Starting with a 10-hit effort Friday night, the Bulldogs averaged 11.5 hits per game. They punctuated the weekend with a 15-hit effort Sunday. 

 

"I thought we did a really good job, one through nine, of getting good at-bats," Cohen said. "Seems like we had a lot of guys who had very good weekends, and that's what you want to see early." 

 

The Bulldogs had 18 players earn plate appearances in the four games, and 14 had at least one hit. Twelve Bulldogs had multiple hits. 

 

On Sunday, that lineup efficiency was a factor, as eight Bulldogs had hits and nine scored at last one run. No MSU player was as active as junior college transfer John Holland, who enjoyed his best game as a Bulldog. After getting only one hit in his first nine at-bats Friday and Saturday, Holland ripped three singles in five at-bats to end his day with four RBIs and two runs scored. 

 

"I got some good pitches to hit," said Holland, who had RBI singles in the third and fourth innings. "It's nice. We took some pressure off our pitching staff. It's nice to be able to share the hits around the entire lineup." 

 

The Bulldogs scored early and often against the Bearcats and Redhawks. Against Cincinnati, MSU batted around in one inning on three occasions, including an eight-run third Sunday. In that frame, the Bulldogs followed the lead of firestarters Seth Heck and Ryan Gridley, the team's leadoff and No. 2 hitter. The duo, which combined for five hits and four runs scored, each walked, setting the table for MSU to turn a 2-1 lead into a 10-1 cushion. The inning featured an RBI double by redshirt freshman Brent Rooker and RBI singles by Holland, Heck, and Gridley. 

 

The offensive explosion epitomized MSU's first four games. 

 

"We scored a lot of runs this weekend," Cohen said. "This is a ballpark where that's not easy to do, so hopefully that trend will continue." 

 

That offensive prowess made it easy for MSU's pitchers, though they didn't need much help. In 36 innings, the Bulldogs surrendered 15 runs. Ten were allowed by freshmen Jesse McCord (starter) and Paxton Stover (reliever), who were making their college debuts. 

 

The Bulldogs used five pitchers Sunday. Reliever Daniel Brown threw two scoreless innings to pick up his first career win. 

 

MSU (4-0) was scheduled to play host to Mississippi Valley State at 4 p.m. Tuesday. But MSU announced Monday that that game has been postponed. 

 

Follow Dispatch sports writer Brandon Walker on Twitter @BWonStateBeat

 

 

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