The mindset for the Mississippi State baseball team was not to focus on its opponent, but rather it was to battle a mental war.
The No. 13 (Collegiate Baseball) Bulldogs took a 2-0 win over the Grambling Tigers Tuesday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.
"I told our kids before the game, 'we are really not playing Grambling, we're playing against the game itself," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "We're playing against the elements and I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job."
The Bulldogs improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2011 and the second time since 2008. It was MSU's first back-to-back shutouts since stifling Southern Miss and Ole Miss in April of 2012.
In the five games this season, the Bulldog pitching staff has only allowed three runs. The previous low through five games was five in 1953.
"Every time we put a guy out there, they're quality," Cohen said. "It was a good ballgame for us in a lot of ways. (It let's us know that) this is who we are, (and) this is our identity. We're going to defend, we're going to convert double plays when we have to and we're going to make good defensive plays."
State started sophomore right hander Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff (1-0) tied a career-high with six innings pitched. He gave up no runs on five hits and threw 86 pitches.
"It was important for Brandon to go out and have a quality start," Cohen said. "I thought he did that. I thought it took him about 25 pitches to get into attack mode and in the bottom of the zone. I thought he did a great job with that."
Woodruff walked only one batter and tied a career-high with eight strikeouts. He struck out the side in the fifth inning and started the sixth inning with a punch out for four in a row.
"I was getting a lot of swing and misses on my change up," Woodruff said. "That was definitely the pitch for me."
The Bulldogs used five pitchers in relief of Woodruff. Freshman righty Myles Gentry, junior left hander C.T. Bradford and redshirt sophomore lefty Ross Mitchell each pitched a 0.1 of an inning.
Redshirt freshman righty Preston Brown pitched 0.2 of an inning and sophomore left hander Jonathan Holder recorded the four-out save and struck out the side in the ninth for his second of the season.
Holder came in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and two outs. He used two fastballs and curve ball to get the strikeout and get MSU out of the jam.
"The pitchers before basically set me up, so it was a good situation," Holder said. "It could have been less base runners, but you have to come in there with them anyway."
Mississippi State got the scoring started in the second inning. Junior outfielder and nine-hole hitter Demarcus Henderson delivered an RBI single to center field to score Alex Detz from second base.
"With a guy in scoring position, you have to do whatever you can to put a ball in play," Henderson said. "That's what I'm trying to do."
Grambling starter Brock Baker (0-1) pitched 5.1 innings and gave up only two runs on four hits. He walked two batters and struck out two.
"He wasn't overpowering," Henderson said. "It's something we haven't seen this year, (and) something we haven't seen all fall or spring. He was a slow guy. A lot of guys were out in front and not staying back. It's something we need to see. I would rather see it now than later in the season."
The Bulldogs got another run in the fifth inning when Bradford singled up the middle to score Daryl Norris.
There was no further scoring from that point.
"Runs are at a premium," Cohen said. "I didn't think we had really good at-bats. I was a little disappointed in that, but for the most part, we got some hits when we had to. Demarcus got a big hit and C.T. got a big hit. We made some plays."
MSU junior catcher Mitch Slauter extended his hitting streak to nine games after an infield single in the first inning. Junior outfielder is the only Bulldog to record a hit in all five games this season.
State is back in action this Friday when it hosts the inaugural Diamond Classic presented by Polk's Meat Products. The Bulldogs welcome Purdue and Samford to Starkville.
MSU will play Purdue on Friday, both teams in a doubleheader on Saturday and Samford on Sunday.