Behind the strong arms of Ben Bracewell and Chris Stratton, Mississippi State opened the 2012 campaign on a winning note defeating Washington State 6-2 on Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.
MSU head coach John Cohen has been quick to explain this year’s team centers around the pitching staff and that was evident in the opener as a trio of hurlers combined for a four-hit performance that allowed just two unearned runs.
“Man, it was awesome,” said Bracewell who earned the start after missing last season due to surgery. “I guess that first inning couldn’t have gone any better than it did. I wanted to get in and get out quick. Just get my feet back under me. It has been almost two years now. I loved it, the feeling was awesome.”
Bracewell sat the Cougars down in order in the first two innings allowing the Bulldogs to grab an early lead.
State opened the scoring in the second inning after a leadoff double to left by Daryl Norris and a single up the middle by Trey Porter allowed Norris to advance to third. Taylor Stark stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and no outs and slapped an RBI single to right to put the Bulldogs on the board.
After Mitch Slauter was hit by a pitch, State received a pair of sacrifice flies from a pair of freshmen, Wes Rea and Matthew Britton, giving it the early 3-0 advantage.
Washington State answered with a pair of runs in the fourth after a pair of errors by the Bulldogs ending the night for Bracewell who allowed two runs on three hits.
Freshman Jonathan Holder entered the game to faced one batter and recorded two outs on a strike-out, throw-out play and kept the MSU lead at 3-2.
“I’m really pleased with Ben,” said Cohen. “It is so difficult this early in the year to sit over there through some extended innings offensively and wait in the cold. When your adrenaline is pumping and you’ve got to get back up and throw it in the strike zone, it is a difficult task.”
The Bulldogs plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning before turning the game over to veteran Stratton.
The right-hander was simply dominant allowing just one hit over four complete innings and proving he could be much more efficient on the mound.
“I definitely worked at it in the fall and this spring," Stratton said. "I really kept my numbers down so that’s been really really nice. I love striking people out but throwing less pitches is a lot better, especially for our team.”
Stratton, who is normally a weekend starter for the Bulldogs, wasn’t exactly upset to come on in a relief effort on Friday.
“I kind of like it because you can blow it out and not worry about going long in the game,” he said. “You kind of know how long you’ve got.”
Mississippi State added a run in the bottom of the eighth inning on a Norris single to left that capped the scoring for the evening and preserving the Bulldog win.
“We have some beef and we have some runners, just a nice recipe,” said Cohen of the 13 hits he received from his team. “We have a long way to go but this is what we kind of envisioned and tried to put together. We really believe in these kids and it is just a matter of how quickly they get experience because they are all experiencing things for the first time.”
Cohen is also quick to warn his team about the Cougars who managed just four hits over the course of the game.
“Washington State is a very good offensive club," Cohen said. "They can really hit. They are going to come back this weekend. We haven’t seen the best of them yet.”
Mississippi State is set to host WSU in game two of the three-game series today at 2:30 p.m. and the series finale on Sunday is set for 1:30 p.m.