MSU pitcher Chad Girodo (18) delivers to the plate against Akron Saturday afternoon. (Kim Murrell/SDN)
By JOEL COLEMAN
It took 22 2/3 innings, but Akron proved opposing teams can indeed score runs against Mississippi State pitching.
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Fortunately for the Bulldogs, one was all the Zips could muster and the MSU offense reached double-figures for the second time in three games as State defeated Akron 10-1 in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader at Dudy Noble Field.
The Bulldogs (3-0) also beat Lamar University 2-0 earlier in the day.
Against Akron, sophomore left-handed pitcher Luis Pollorena picked up his first-ever win in a State uniform by pitching 3 1/3 perfect innings in relief of MSU starting pitcher Chad Girodo.
Girodo was saddled with a no-decision after pitching just 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits, two walks and a run while striking out three.
"Chad didn't go out and do the things we feel confident he's going to do in the future, but the interesting thing about playing 18 innings with a gap in between is that, under NCAA rules, it's impossible to prepare for that," said Bulldogs head coach John Cohen. "You're basically talking about eight hours here at the ballpark. The NCAA allows you to practice for four, so what happens is you start getting concerned when you're not totally prepared.
"But I think our kids were sharp, we were able to play a lot of people, and defensively I'm pleased with the guys that are playing for us and the way we're pitching it."
Saturday's victory over Akron was the second time in as many days MSU downed the Zips after recording a season-opening 11-0 win against them on Friday.
Much like in that contest, the Bulldogs' bats put on a show, tallying 17 total hits and granting Girodo with a 6-0 lead after just two innings of play.
Jarrod Parks, Daryl Norris, Nick Vickerson and Brent Brownlee all had at least one RBI over the first two frames to give State the big early advantage.
"Getting two runs (in the first inning) right off the bat, it's just easy for a pitcher to go out there and kind of coast," said Girodo.
For the first 10 batters he faced, Girodo indeed cruised, retiring them all in order.
The Zips (1-2) finally got to Girodo with one out in the fourth on a double by Jason Corzine.
Drew Turocy followed with a single for Akron but Girodo escaped the inning without allowing a run.
However, Girodo wouldn't be as fortunate in the fifth inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Girodo walked Corzine, forcing in a run and breaking MSU pitching's scoreless innings streak.
Cohen then called on Pollorena, who induced a ground out to end the threat with the Bulldogs still leading 6-1.
"(Pollorena) is just an energy guy," said Cohen. "He kind of feeds off our other players. He's going to have a lot of outings for us this year. He's that guy who gives you that left-handed breaking ball. The great thing about Luis is he controls the running game really well and you can't bunt on him because he defends the middle of the field so well.
"His breaking ball has movement, but he's not going to overpower anybody. But he's just a passionate guy and our kids enjoy playing behind him."
Pollorena continued to impress, then Hunter Renfroe took the hill in the ninth inning to record the final three outs for MSU.
Before Pollorena could exit though, Norris put the game away for the Bulldogs.
In the bottom of the sixth, Norris roped a bases-loaded triple to centerfield that stretched State's five-run lead out to 9-1.
The freshman from Fairhope, Ala. scored himself on Jaron Shepherd's infield single one batter later to cap the game's scoring.
Norris finished the game 3-for-5 with 5 RBIs and a run scored.
"All the guys in front of me, just having those guys show me how to do it," said Norris of his big day. "Taking good swing after good swing and it's good to come out here, get my first start and play well."
In beating Akron, MSU has now needed just over 6 hours to get in all three of its games this season.
It took the Bulldogs just 2 hours and 3 minutes to dispatch of the Zips Saturday.
In defeating Lamar in the first game of the doubleheader, the Bulldogs needed just 2 hours and 1 minute, while Friday's win over Akron was played in an even 2 hours.
Thanks in large part to the new rules governing bats, times between pitches and times between innings, all three of State's games this season have been shorter than 2010's shortest contest, a 2 hour, 7 minute 2-1 loss to Jackson State at Trustmark Park.
Cohen thinks his squad is adjusting well to the quicker pace of play.
"In this ballpark with these bats, the tempo is going to be vitally important," said Cohen. "Tempo doesn't come from the pitcher, it really comes from the catcher. That's something we've spent a lot of time on this year and I think our catchers are doing a great job with that."
The Bulldogs will look to stretch their season-opening winning streak to four games today against Lamar.
First pitch at Dudy Noble Field is slated for 2:30 p.m.
Junior left-hander Tim Statz is scheduled to be the Bulldogs' starting pitcher.
Prior to playing State, Lamar will face Akron at 10 a.m.