Mississippi State fans didn’t expect pitcher Chris Stratton to get upstaged in game two, but that’s exactly what Kendall Graveman did when he threw a three-hit complete game on Friday night to help the Bulldogs to a 7-1 win over Tennessee.
The MSU junior was simply brilliant holding the Volunteers in check.
“I thought my slider was good (Friday night) to righties and when it is good, it is good,” said Graveman, who struck out eight, allowed just four baseballs to leave the infield while collecting 15 ground-ball outs.
“I’m really proud of Kendall (Friday night),” said MSU baseball coach John Cohen. “I just thought he was phenomenal. He commanded the strike zone, he had the one walk on a three-two fastball. He really could have gotten through that without walking anybody. I counted up. He threw 21 fastballs at 90 miles per hour or better.”
The Bulldogs (23-16, 7-10) struck first in the second inning with a leadoff walk by Daryl Norris. C.T. Bradford followed with an infield single and advanced to second on a Hunter Renfroe bunt. After a Wes Rea walk, Matthew Britton turned in an RBI sacrifice fly to right scoring Norris from third.
State held the 1-0 advantage until the fourth when the Volunteers (22-17, 7-10) played small-ball, manufacturing a run on a Davis Morgan single through the left side, tying the game at 1-1.
The Bulldogs answered in the home half of the inning with three runs courtesy of a leadoff double by Bradford, who was 2-for-3 for the evening, followed by a double from Rea, a walk from Britton and a base-clearing triple from Adam Frazier.
“When we score a lot of runs we string a lot of hits together like that, big hits," Rea said. "It is just something we are going to have to do to win. When we do that, we win, when we don’t, we lose. That’s just something that this team has to do.”
The big hits returned in the fifth when Rea yet again delivered a double, this time off the wall in left-center.
“It seems like we hit a lot of those," said a smiling Rea. "That’s just something different at our ballpark and we have to play with it. I bunted a couple times (Thursday) night so it felt good to swing away and I hit a few baseballs (Friday night).”
State added a pair of runs in the frame, extending their lead to 6-1 through five innings.
Britton scored an insurance run in the home half of the eighth inning to cap the scoring for Mississippi State. The run came on a Frazier single to right, his second hit of the evening.
“Adam played spectacular defense for us tonight,” said Cohen. “He got a bunch of in between hops (Friday night) and was able to corral balls and get outs for us.
“We’ve played two games without making a really big mistake defensively and that’s what we have to do. That’s the team we have to be.”
Mississippi State had seven hits for the evening with a trio of Bulldogs going 2-for-3 in Rea, Bradford and Frazier.
Heading into the series finale, State has an opportunity to pick up its first sweep since taking all three games from the Volunteers last season.
Having only used three pitchers through two games, the Bulldogs feel they are in a good position to break out the brooms.
“It really helps us because we can use a lot of our pen guys and still have them come back on Tuesday against Southern Miss,” Cohen said. “I’m absolutely sure that Holder will be involved (today), Lindgren will be involved (today), Caleb will be available and having that kind of bullpen support will really help.”
First pitch is set for 1 p.m. at Dudy Noble field with Evan Mitchell the likely starter for the Bulldogs.