The Mercer pitching staff did a number on the Mississippi State Bulldogs Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs returned the favor.
Kendall Graveman mixed up off-speed pitches and held the Bears to just three hits, helping State to the series-clinching 3-1 victory.
Graveman battled through the early innings before settling into a rhythm and taking control of the game.
“Every time I go out there I think I’m going to get into the ninth,” said Graveman, who picked up his first win of the season Sunday afternoon. “I felt like I was in tempo and once I got rolling about the third or fourth inning, I could tell that I could get to the ninth inning if we needed it.”
The young right-hander was exactly what No. 23 Mississippi State needed against a Mercer team who pounded out 14 hits on Saturday. “Obviously Kendall Graveman was an important part of the day,” said MSU head coach John Cohen. “We needed somebody to carry the heavy-lifting and that’s exactly what he did. That’s a very good offensive ballclub over there and he just neutralized them.”
Mississippi State struck first in the opening frame with a one out infield single by Taylor Stark. The MSU left fielder advanced to second on a wild pitch, giving Cohen the opportunity to do what he does best, play small ball.
“We had to get some guys moving because for whatever reason we are taking better cuts with the hit and runs than we are with advantage counts,” Cohen said.
Trey Porter, who was 2-for-8 over the weekend, turned in a single to left scoring Stark and gave MSU the early 1-0 lead.
State added two more runs in the fourth when Cohen had the runners moving for a hit-and-run. Wes Rea scored from second on a single down the left field line by Mitch Slauter. Hunter Renfroe scored on a sacrifice bunt from Demarcus Henderson, giving MSU the 3-0 lead.
Mercer got its lone run of the game in the first after a lead off walk from Graveman, his only walk of the afternoon.
“They can really swing the bats,” said Slauter of the Mercer lineup. “Coming into the week, we knew they could swing it and had some pop, but we prepared well for them all week. We knew that Kendall had good sink and we could get some ground balls.”
“I really have a lot of sink so I think I match up well against (the wind blowing out to left),” he said. “If you want to try to lift it, then try to lift it and we’ll see what happens.”
At the plate, Rea had the only multi-hit afternoon for the Bulldogs going 2-for-4. Mississippi State turned in seven hits in the series finale. Caleb Reed entered the game with one out in the ninth to close out the game and pick up his fifth save of the season. The two MSU hurlers combined for nine strikeouts while walking just one batter.
The Diamond Dawgs hit the road for their first road test of the year. They face Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday and Wednesday before opening conference play at LSU on Friday evening at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rogue, LA.