By Matthew Stevens
For the first time this season Daryl Norris got to experience the best of both worlds at Mississippi State.
Just in case it wasn’t enough to go 2-for-4 with four RBIs and a pair of runs scored, the freshman from Fairhope, Ala., pitched a shutout in the eighth inning during MSU’s 9-4 victory over Eastern Illinois Tuesday night.
“Got to swing the bat some and get on the mound too,” Norris said.
Norris, who was the Mr. Baseball selection in the state of Alabama last year, laced an RBI-double down the left field line clearing the bases and making the Bulldogs lead 7-2 in the fourth inning.
“I was expecting a curveball in that at-bat but I got six fastballs in a row so I was able to get the last one,” Norris said.
The Bulldogs highly-touted recruit, who was pursued heavily coming out of high school by Major League Baseball scouts, was currently fourth on the team in hitting but had only three extra base hits in 37 at-bats in 2011.
“For Daryl Norris as an example, he’s hit so many stinking rockets at people – for him to hit a ball that reached the outfield grass was big,” Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said. “When that starts to happening to you, it weighs on you – no doubt.”
Norris’ RBI-single in the opening inning allowed Mississippi State (13-4) to jump all over EIU’s starting pitcher Troy Barton for four runs early on. Barton, a sophomore right-hander , had only given up one earned run in five relief appearances this season but was drilled for six runs over three innings in 70 pitches of work.
“It’s a rough road trip for us at Alabama, Southern Miss, Memphis and here so what you’re trying to do in our case is make sure their heads are up and tell them we’ve done this before,” EIU head coach Jim Schmitz said.
Eastern Illinois (1-11) was led at the plate by leadoff batter Zach Borenstein’s 4-for-4 effort that included a triple and a double along with two RBIs and a run scored.
“What we were trying to do is get the leadoff guy on and we did that tonight and there’s been games where we’ve gone zero for nine innings in doing that so that’s a positive,” Schmitz said.
In his fourth mid-week start of the 2011 season, Kendall Graveman (2-0) got the win by going five innings and allowing three runs on seven hits in just 60 pitches.
The sophomore had help from newcomers as Andrew Busby, Norris and C.T. Bradford combined to hold EIU to just three hits in four innings.
After struggling all weekend against Sacred Heart, Norris went 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position putting the freshman in a better frame of mind to open up Southeastern Conference play in Nashville against Vanderbilt this weekend.
“We were able to put a couple of big innings together,” Norris said. “It was really good for us to put together some good at-bats right now.”
Nick Vickerson had his first career three-hit game and saw his batting average jump 32 points in the process (from .263 to .295).
Mississippi State will play tonight in another mid-week non-conference game at 6 p.m. against Lipscomb in Nashville where left-handed junior Nick Routt will make his 2011 debut on the mound.