By MATTHEW STEVENS
Cody Freeman apparently did it all Tuesday on the diamond for Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs senior catcher had a perfect 3-for-3 day at the plate including two bunt hits for the player that would be the first to admit he likely wouldn’t win a foot race to first base.
“I wasn’t planning on bunting but the third baseman was playing back so I’ll take it,” Freeman joked. “Yeah, I’m pretty slow so I’m sure everybody else was surprised.”
Freeman was also given the duty of calling pitches for six innings, a job normally done by MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson, for the four hurlers Tuesday in the Bulldogs’ 6-4 victory over Northwestern State.
Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said after the game he’s been giving his catchers that freedom, which is a rarity now-a-days in college baseball, since the fall workouts.
“We’ve done that all fall and those guys meet with Butch almost every single day so he’s got a lot of confidence,” Cohen said. “We just think it speeds up the tempo and keeps the pitcher in rhythm. That’s the way it was in the old days."
Four of the five RBIs by Mississippi State (5-0) were driven in by freshmen C.T. Bradford and Daryl Norris.
The Bulldogs got on the board in the fourth inning when back-to-back walks by Northwestern State starting pitcher Jacob Williford turned into two runs with a fielder’s choice and a fielding error in another example of the small ball approach by Cohen in 2011.
“We work on it every day and I think it’s going to help us out a lot this year,” Freeman said. “I know with these bats we’re going to continue to work on it.”
Williford (0-1) ended up the hard-luck loser Tuesday after the redshirt-sophomore southpaw registered a quality start after giving up just two earned runs on five hits in six innings of work that consisted of 88 pitches.
Northwestern State (2-2), which had just come off winning two of three against Brigham Young in a weekend series, answered quickly when two doubles eventually were plated by sacrifice hits to knot the score.
Those pair of runs was the only damage the Demons could produce off MSU starting pitcher Kendall Graveman as the sophomore right-hander finished five innings in 65 pitches allowing just four hits while striking out three in front of an announced crowd of 1,644 at Dudy Noble Field.
“Coach Thompson kind of let us play our own game and we had pitches going,” Graveman said. “Especially when they get deep in a count, they liked getting the ball in play so we let the defense make plays."
The Northwestern State bullpen implosion was immediate as right-hander Jacob Roak hit the first two batters he saw in the seventh inning and after conceding a single to Bulldogs third baseman Jarrod Parks, nailed Norris again before being relieved quickly by Demons head coach J.P. Davis.
Bradford nearly cleared the bases on a double to left-center as the former Mr. Baseball in the state of Florida moved into a tie for second on the team in RBIs with seven and is hitting .444 in his first five games of college baseball.
Junior right-hander Andrew Busby got the win in his Mississippi State debut after working two shutout innings of relief but allowing a pair of runs in the eighth inning before Thompson decided to turn to another junior college transfer in sophomore Luis Pollorena.
The 5-foot-6, 165-pounder was able to line out and a ground ball to second before handing the baseball over to submarine-style pitcher Caleb Reed to earn his second save of the 2011 season on a perfect final inning.
Mississippi State will return to Polk-Dement Stadium for its next game as the Bulldogs put their five-game winning streak on the line in a three-game series with Belmont starting Friday at 4 p.m.