By MATTHEW STEVENS
In the final mid-week game at Dudy Noble Field, Mississippi State head coach John Cohen was pleased with his team approach in a 13-3 victory over Mississippi Valley State.
“They treated this like business and prepared the right way,” Cohen said.
In his seventh mid-week start of the 2011 season, MSU sophomore right-hander Kendall Graveman was as dominant as he’s ever been in his short college career by matching career highs in innings pitched, number of pitches and strikeouts in a single outing since arriving on the Starkville campus.
“I just tried to keep them off balance and managed to throw two or three pitches in the strike zone,” Graveman said.
Graveman (5-0) allowed two earned runs off five hits in seven innings of work that lasted 100 pitches and battled through a difficult third inning in which he allowed four straight MVSU hitters to reach base but settled down to retire the next seven batters.
“That was a little bit of bad tempo on my part and once I found it, I rolled along and got some quick outs,” Graveman said. “I started throwing a little slider that I’ve been fine tuning for a couple of weeks through a lot of flat ground and bullpen work.”
In a game that was supposed to be a bullpen-by-committee effort Tuesday night, MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson elected to stay with Graveman for his longest outing of the season in order to save same relief arms for a critical series in Oxford starting Thursday night.
“It’s kind of a pattern with (Graveman) that he’ll get behind guys early but once he gets on a roll, he shoves it in the strike zone and lets his movement take over,” Cohen said. “I would’ve expected to at least throw four guys, but I’m not surprised at how Kendall threw it at all.”
Tuesday’s night blowout win for Mississippi State (30-18) marks the 20th straight win for the Bulldogs over Mississippi Valley State and the first 30-win season in the Cohen era with the last time being the 2007 squad that reached the College World Series in Omaha.
Mississippi State used a six-run sixth inning to break open what was a close game thanks to defensive mistakes by the Delta Devils (18-32) as MSU needed only a pair of singles by freshmen Adam Frazier and Hunter Renfore to plate all six runs.
The Bulldogs pounded sophomore Kameron Stady (0-4) for six earned runs over five innings in only his second start of the season.
Senior right fielder Jaron Shepherd continued his hot stretch of hitting this month (10-for-21 in May) with a double and a pair of RBI sacrifice flies for the evening.
Shepherd’s bloop double into short left field produced a scary moment when the Delta Devils outfielder Luke Walker’s head smashed into shortstop Jerry Hildreth. The MVSU left fielder was helped off the field and taken by ambulance to a local hospital before the game was completed. MVSU head coach Doug Shanks informed the State coaching staff after the game that Walker has suffered a broken orbital bone of his eye but didn’t have any further details.
“I know this happens a lot but we hope the Luke Walker kid is OK because that was a really serious collision and when I walked out there, it was pretty violent injury,” Cohen said. “Obviously that’s a concern for all of us.”
The 10-run victory over Mississippi Valley State, the second place team in the Southwestern Conference, marks the 16th time MSU has put up a double-digit run effort against the in-state opponent.
“We knew they’ve come out ready to play because they’ve played other SEC schools like LSU and Alabama close,” Graveman said.
Mississippi State nows travel to Ole Miss for the spotlighted Southeastern Conference series of the week starting with an ESPNU broadcast at 6:36 p.m. on Thursday night. The Bulldogs have won three series at their in-state rival since 2000.