By MATTHEW STEVENS
In the final mid-week game at Dudy Noble Field, Mississippi State head coach John Cohen was pleased with his team approach in a 13-3 victory over Mississippi Valley State.
â€śThey treated this like business and prepared the right way,â€ť Cohen said.
In his seventh mid-week start of the 2011 season, MSU sophomore right-hander Kendall Graveman was as dominant as heâ€™s ever been in his short college career by matching career highs in innings pitched, number of pitches and strikeouts in a single outing since arriving on the Starkville campus.
â€śI just tried to keep them off balance and managed to throw two or three pitches in the strike zone,â€ť Graveman said.
Graveman (5-0) allowed two earned runs off five hits in seven innings of work that lasted 100 pitches and battled through a difficult third inning in which he allowed four straight MVSU hitters to reach base but settled down to retire the next seven batters.
â€śThat was a little bit of bad tempo on my part and once I found it, I rolled along and got some quick outs,â€ť Graveman said. â€śI started throwing a little slider that Iâ€™ve been fine tuning for a couple of weeks through a lot of flat ground and bullpen work.â€ť
In a game that was supposed to be a bullpen-by-committee effort Tuesday night, MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson elected to stay with Graveman for his longest outing of the season in order to save same relief arms for a critical series in Oxford starting Thursday night.
â€śItâ€™s kind of a pattern with (Graveman) that heâ€™ll get behind guys early but once he gets on a roll, he shoves it in the strike zone and lets his movement take over,â€ť Cohen said. â€śI wouldâ€™ve expected to at least throw four guys, but Iâ€™m not surprised at how Kendall threw it at all.â€ť
Tuesdayâ€™s night blowout win for Mississippi State (30-18) marks the 20th straight win for the Bulldogs over Mississippi Valley State and the first 30-win season in the Cohen era with the last time being the 2007 squad that reached the College World Series in Omaha.
Mississippi State used a six-run sixth inning to break open what was a close game thanks to defensive mistakes by the Delta Devils (18-32) as MSU needed only a pair of singles by freshmen Adam Frazier and Hunter Renfore to plate all six runs.
The Bulldogs pounded sophomore Kameron Stady (0-4) for six earned runs over five innings in only his second start of the season.
Senior right fielder Jaron Shepherd continued his hot stretch of hitting this month (10-for-21 in May) with a double and a pair of RBI sacrifice flies for the evening.
Shepherdâ€™s bloop double into short left field produced a scary moment when the Delta Devils outfielder Luke Walkerâ€™s head smashed into shortstop Jerry Hildreth. The MVSU left fielder was helped off the field and taken by ambulance to a local hospital before the game was completed. MVSU head coach Doug Shanks informed the State coaching staff after the game that Walker has suffered a broken orbital bone of his eye but didnâ€™t have any further details.
â€śI know this happens a lot but we hope the Luke Walker kid is OK because that was a really serious collision and when I walked out there, it was pretty violent injury,â€ť Cohen said. â€śObviously thatâ€™s a concern for all of us.â€ť
The 10-run victory over Mississippi Valley State, the second place team in the Southwestern Conference, marks the 16th time MSU has put up a double-digit run effort against the in-state opponent.
â€śWe knew theyâ€™ve come out ready to play because theyâ€™ve played other SEC schools like LSU and Alabama close,â€ť Graveman said.
Mississippi State nows travel to Ole Miss for the spotlighted Southeastern Conference series of the week starting with an ESPNU broadcast at 6:36 p.m. on Thursday night. The Bulldogs have won three series at their in-state rival since 2000.