Feb. 15, 2014
Starkville, Miss. - Second-ranked Mississippi State used a pair of three-run innings on Saturday to pull even in the three-game series, downing Western Carolina, 6-1, at Dudy Noble Field. The Bulldogs pushed across a trio of runs in the home halves of both the fourth and eighth innings to even the season-opening series.
Sunday's series rubber-match is scheduled for 2:30 pm ET / 1:30 pm CT. Transfer graduate student, RHP T.J. Fussell, is scheduled to get the starting nod for the Catamounts while RHP Ben Bracewell will get the start for MSU.
In a role reversal from Friday night's season-opener, it was Mississippi State that got the strong pitching performance from a junior right-hander. One night after WCU's Jeremy Null stymied one of the SEC's preseason favorites, MSU's Trevor Fitts returned the favor in game two. Fitts recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts while limiting the potent Catamount offense to one run on seven hits with just two walks over six innings to earn the victory.
Three relievers from Mississippi State's bullpen held the Catamounts hitless over the final three frames, surrendering three walks to represent WCU's lone base runners in the final third of the game.
Western Carolina senior starter Jordan Smith (0-1) struck out seven Bulldog batters in four and a third innings of work as the first of nine Catamount hurlers to toe the rubber. The Liberty, N.C., native was touched for three runs on four hits while allowing six walks, though just one runner that was issued a free pass scored.
For a second-straight day, Western Carolina (1-1) threatened in the top of the first inning against the Bulldogs. Bradley Strong belted a one-out single to right field with Cody Jones moving him into scoring position with a single up the middle. However, WCU was unable to bring home a run.
Two frames later, the Catamounts again threatened to break the ice as Aaron Attaway singled on the second pitch of the frame with Jones delivering his second base hit of the contest to put two aboard. Yet, back-to-back strikeouts as a part of four-consecutive WCU punch out's ended the third inning.
Mississippi State (1-1) broke through in the fourth inning as Brett Pirtle singled through the right side ahead Cody Brown who drove home the game's first run on a triple to right center field. With Brown clinging to third base, a pair of walks to Derrick Armstrong and Gavin Collins loaded the bases for the Bulldogs. Outfielder Jake Vickerson then drove home two runs on a single to right field handing the home squad a 3-0 advantage.
Half an inning later, the Catamounts trimmed the Bulldog lead back to two with a solo run. Bradley Strong struck out but reached on a wild pitch before swiping second base to move into scoring position. Two wild pitches later, Strong raced home to make light the scoreboard, making it 3-1.
The two-run margin stood as the Bulldogs continued to work around the Catamount offense, stranding five WCU base runners between the sixth and eighth innings. Mississippi State then pulled away in the eighth with three runs on four hits with a hit batter and walk in the frame.
All told, WCU stranded 12 base runners in the loss including six that were in scoring position.
Jones led the six Catamounts with base hits, finishing 2-for-5 on the day with Bradley Strong (hit, walk), Matt Smith (hit, walk), Dale Urquhart, Jr. (hit, walk) and junior Jacoby Hoyle (two walks) each reaching twice on Saturday. Strong added a game-high two stolen bases for the Catamounts.
For Mississippi State, first baseman Wes Rea drove home two runs on a 1-for-3 outing with Brown delivering the lone extra base hit of the contest with the RBI triple. Third baseman Alex Detz (2-for-5) and Brett Pirtle (2-for-3) paced the Bulldogs with four of the nine hits.