April 15, 2010 9:56:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State baseball team received a shot of positive energy heading into Super Bulldog Weekend, topping South Alabama 9-5 on Wednesday night.
Mid-week wins have come for the Bulldogs (17-16) this season, but the fashion in which MSU rebounded from its weekend sweep to Arkansas was what coach John Cohen had been searching for from a young lineup that has drawn more ire than praise in recent weeks.
MSU tallied 13 hits, but production from the bottom portion of the lineup and pivotal RBI singles from Jaron Shepherd and Wes Thigpen in the bottom of the seventh inning helped turn a one-run game into a 9-4 lead.
Shepherd collected his RBI off the bench, while Thigpen drove in a pair from the nine hole.
The bottom half of the Bulldogs lineup accounted for four hits, two runs and five RBIs.
"Numbers are confidence; it doesn''t matter if you smoke the ball or if it just falls in," Cohen said. "If you get hits, you believe more in yourself. Hopefully that will move guys forward and give them more confidence."
Cohen said he noticed a difference in his players'' at-bats, something the team charts down to the pitch. The second-year coach noticed balls being hit more squarely to center field than usual, and he admitted the Bulldogs'' recent stretch of misfortune, which has seen injuries and youth cause extended growing pains, could be turning.
"When guys mishit balls but hit them to the center of the field, you know good things are going to happen," Cohen said. "When it''s foul balls, pop ups, hook groundballs, -- that''s when it''s not going right for you.
"You can come out here and hit 15 line drives in a row right at people and not score any runs and feel horrible. There''s a degree of things happening and going your way, and we need that to happen."
Connor Powers also went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, registering his 17th multi-hit and 13th multi-RBI game of the season.
MSU leadoff hitter Luke Adkins was 3-for-5 with a run.
The Bulldogs got three innings from starter Luke Bole, who left with three runs -- two earned -- seven hits, and four strikeouts on his stat line.
Reliever and one-time Friday starter Kendall Graveman delivered the knockout innings and got the win. Graveman (2-2) tossed four innings and gave up just one earned run on three hits.
The freshman last started April 2 at South Carolina, but lasted just an inning after giving up four quick runs. Cohen opted for Caleb Reed last Friday, which he''ll stick with for this weekend''s Tennessee series, and Graveman''s comfortable in whatever role the team needs. Though he admits being demoted for the first time as a player was a tough adjustment.
"Workout wise, my body had to adjust from relieving to starting, then back to relieving. That''s another thing I had to adjust to," Graveman said. "I think that may be a strong point for me this season."
South Alabama (24-14) used six relievers following Lance Brown''s exit in the fourth. Brown was tagged for three runs in the first inning, as Adkins, Ryan Duffy, and Powers opened up the game with consecutive singles. Cohen sensed an early offensive spurt.
"We had a great, great practice Tuesday, so I felt like we were going to do something tonight," Cohen said.
Tyler Vick and Clint Reynolds paced USA with three hits each.
MSU will return to action at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Tennessee, which sits at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference''s East Division with a 3-9 league mark.
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