By MATTHEW STEVENS
The definition of "business-like approach" for Mississippi State now includes an 18-0 home midweek victory.
That's how Bulldogs head coach John Cohen referred to the blowout performance by his squad over a team that was rated the third-worst in Division 1 college baseball.
"You talk about it in the scouting report but you can't hide from these kids in the information age that the other team over there is struggling like they are," Cohen said. "This is about competing against the game."
Every Mississippi State player that received a plate appearance Wednesday night got on base and in a game that was called after seven innings of play, State still used four pitchers that hadn't seen much action in the last couple of weeks.
Sophomore right-handed mid-week starter Kendall Graveman (3-0) got the victory after being removed from the contest following four perfect innings that included three strikeouts. Graveman, who hadn't pitched in a game since March 15, mowed down Alabama A&M (3-21) as only one batter hit a ball out of the infield and that was a routine flyout to center fielder Jaron Shepherd.
"I felt fresh in this outing and the two-seam (fastball) was really working today so we stuck with it,," Graveman said. "We got a lot of ground balls and my defense did a great job."
In his first start of the 2011 season, senior Trey Johnson got on base three times and pounded a RBI-double to right-center field in his final at-bat. The Blinn (Texas) College transfer, who ended with three RBIs, drew a smile on his face when he saw his name in the lineup as the designated hitter after a morning batting practice.
"I was looking forward to getting out there and helping any way I can," Johnson said. "I'm always ready whenever I'm called whether it's the first pitch or the last at-bat of the game."
Mississippi State (19-6) eclipsed its season-high total of runs in the fifth inning as Alabama A&M starting pitcher Demarcus Steward was completely ineffective allowing eight earned runs on just four hits due to eight walks in just 3 1/3 innings that included 90 pitches.
MSU hung five runs on the board after a scoreless opening frame after Steward walked first baseman Daryl Norris, senior shortstop Jonathan Ogden, Johnson and senior left fielder Nick Vickerson. A double down the right field line by senior outfielder Jaron Shepherd emptied the bases and busted the frame wide open.
MSU's offensive production was led by catcher Cody Freeman's fourth three-hit day of the 2011 season. The senior, who has started 20 games, took over second on the team in batting average (.364) with a 3-for-4 evening in the cleanup spot that produced four runs runs.
After a eight-run frame, MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson went to a pair of relievers that hadn't been seen much action in Victor Diaz and C.C. Watson.
The duo combined to give up just one hit and four strikeouts. Watson, a left-handed sophomore, had only two appearances this month, struck out the final three batters of the game to lower his earned run average from 6.75 to 4.91 in the 28-pitch outing.
"We wanted to get some kids, some freshmen the ball," Cohen said. "The issue is you got to jump right back into a caliber of baseball Friday that is highly competitive."
After having only five at-bats through the first month of the season, freshman second baseman Adam Frazier had his second multi-hit day in a four-day span with a 2-for-4 effort with a pair of RBIs.
"We have a lot of faith in him and there's no doubt he's going to be a factor because he's a guy that just gets hits," Cohen said.
Mississippi State will be on the road for Athens, Ga., this morning as they prepare for its third Southeastern Conference weekend series with a trio of games at Georgia (11-14, 3-3 in SEC play) this weekend.