Feb. 16, 2014
Starkville - No. 2 Mississippi State used a five-run third inning in the rubber game of the season-opening series between the Catamounts and Bulldogs to hand Western Carolina a 7-2 loss Sunday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.
With a scoreless game heading into the bottom of the third inning, MSU's Demarcus Henderson led off with a double to right field. Catamount starter T.J. Fussell walked Matthew Britton, but recorded an out when Zack Randolph failed to move the runners with a bunt. Fussell recorded the second out of the inning with on a pop up to shortstop, but another walk loaded the bases full of Bulldogs. Mississippi State broke scoreless tie when Wes Rea was hit by a pitch scoring Henderson. Brett Pirtle cleared the bases knocking a three-run triple down the right field line. Pirtle scored when C.T. Bradford reached first on a bunt single giving the Bulldogs a 5-0 lead. Fussell recorded the final out of the inning escaping further damage with a strikeout.
Western Carolina got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth when Jacob Hoyle clocked the Catamounts' first homerun of the season over the right field fence off Bulldog starter Dakota Hudson. Hudson, who only worked four innings allowing just the one run on four WCU hits, held the Catamounts bats at bay ending the inning with a double-play and fly out the short.
Mississippi State tacked on two insurance runs in the eighth inning when the Bulldogs loaded the bases on a hit batter and two walks. WCU almost avoided damage when Daniel Garner lined into a double play, but Randolph delivered the Bulldogs sixth two-out RBI of the game with a single to center. MSU scored its final run of the game when Alex Detz earned a free pass with the bases still loaded giving the Bulldogs a 7-1 lead.
WCU answered when the two-time preseason All-American selection and the Southern Conference's Preseason Player of the Year Aaron Attaway, who finished as the Catamount's leading hitter going 3-for-5 giving him six hits on 13 plate appearances in 2014, clubbed his second double of the season with two outs in the top of the ninth. Bradley Strong followed with a single to center scoring Attaway giving the game its final score of 7-2.
The Purple & Gold outhit Mississippi State with nine hits compared to four hits. However, MSU stranded only two runners, while WCU was guilty of stranding ten runners on the base path.
Strong and Cody Jones each finished with two hits in five plate appearances for the Catamounts, while Hoyle went 2-for-4 out of the clean up spot in the lineup.
Four Bulldogs had one hit apiece with Pirtle's three-RBI triple leading the run production for MSU.
Fussell was saddled with the loss in five innings of work scattering three hits and allowing five runs - all earned. Fussell recorded nine strikeouts as WCU's starters sent 28 MSU hitters back to the dugout after strikeouts in the three-game set - Jeremy Null had 12 strikeouts in Friday's game and Jordan Smith recorded six Ks Saturday.
Ben Bracewell, who was Mississippi State's third pitcher of the game, earned the win in one and a third innings of work. Bracewell allowed one hit and struck out four Catamounts.
Western Carolina host Winthrop Tuesday, February 18 at 4 p.m. in its home opener at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. The game will be aired on the Catamount Sports Network and available online through the WCU live stream.