Adam Frazier had two hits and scored MSU's first run of the game in Friday night's 5-3 win against Mercer. (Photo by Michael Wardlaw, SDN)
Despite being without a trio of its most productive players, Mississippi State picked up where they left off, grinding out a 5-3 win over the Mercer University Bears.
On a cool night at Dudy Noble Field, the Bulldogs (13-2) had trouble finding a groove from the mound but managed to effectively pitch around trouble most of the evening.
â€śWe spent the last 24 hours trying to explain to our guys just how good this club is," MSU baseball coach John Cohen said. "Theyâ€™re a good club. Theyâ€™re not 11-3 by accident.â€ť
Left-hander Ross Mitchell drew his first start of his career lasting a couple of innings before the Bears plated the first run of the contest.
In the second, Mercer (11-4) opened the frame with a single to right by Nick Backlund, who is batting .473 for the season, followed by a one-out single from David Reid-Foley. Chesny Young drew a walk to load the bases setting the table for Nate Moorhouse to hit a soft grounder to third scoring Backlund to tie the game at 1-1.
In the home half of the frame, State answered with a manufactured run of its own.
Hunter Renfroe was 1-for-4 for the evening, but his one hit was a double down the left-field line to lead off the inning. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Taylor Stark single to left.
Junior right-hander Chris Stratton entered the game in the third without his usual dominating command, but managed to pitch around a couple of jams. The Tupelo native allowed one run on a solo home run in the fourth on his way to picking up the win over five innings of work.
â€śIt wasnâ€™t very pretty but weâ€™ll take it as a team for sure,â€ť said Stratton, who walked five batters in addition to striking out seven. â€śYou canâ€™t say enough about (the defense), but Iâ€™ve got to get better if weâ€™re going to win in the SEC.â€ť
Cohen agreed the command wasnâ€™t there but felt Stratton did have a solid outing. â€¨â€śHe didnâ€™t command it the way that he normally does but still," Cohen said. "If you look at his line, he had a good game. He made big pitches when he needed to. Iâ€™m not going to make excuses for him but these are tough conditions to pitch in when it is a little cool and you have to sit on the bench for extended minutes. I think he is to the point where he expects more out of himself and thatâ€™s a plus. This was not a bad outing for Stratton.â€ť
The Bulldogs took the lead for good in the fifth.
Mitch Slauter drew a bases loaded walk followed by a Wes Rea fielderâ€™s choice giving State the 4-2 lead.
The two teams traded runs in the eighth inning before Caleb Reed entered the game in the ninth innings for his fourth save of the season. â€¨At the plate, Mississippi State turned in five runs on eight hits while holding Mercer to three runs on seven hits. Adam Frazier and Demarcus Henderson both had multi-hit nights with a pair of 2-for-4 efforts.
On the mound, the MSU hurlers punched out 11 Bear batters while walking six.Â â€¨The two clubs return to the diamond this afternoon for a 2 p.m. first pitch at Dudy Noble Field.
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