Good coaching and a good piece of hitting led to Mississippi State picking up a walk-off 1-0 victory over the visiting Kansas Jayhawks on Friday night.
MSU head coach John Cohen gave redshirt freshman Wes Rea a bit of advice as he walked to the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
Rea then belted the game-winning double off the left field wall scoring C.T. Bradford, who opening the inning with a leadoff walk.
“I told him I wanted him to have bunt-type body language when he came up to the plate,” said Cohen. “It is hard to bunt a guy that is 6-foot-6 and weighs 290 pounds. He’s done it before and he is good at it. I just felt like he was going to get a fastball early up in the zone.”
That’s exactly how it played out and Rea took full advantage.
“It was a fastball in," said Rea, who picked up his only hit of the evening in his final at bat. "They had been beating me there all night. I struck out twice on the same pitch. Coach Cohen put on a hit and run because (Kansas) thought I was going to bunt the ball, it was good coaching on his part.”
Rea’s heroics simply capped a night that was dominated by stellar pitching from both squads.
MSU starter Ben Bracewell wasn’t as efficient as he might have liked to be but he was effective nonetheless, going three innings allowing no runs on two hits while striking out three and walking four.
“Ben didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but a lot of his misses weren’t big misses,” said Cohen. “He’s a competitor and he’ll bounce back.”
In relief, Chris Stratton was spectacular facing just one batter over the minimum in six complete innings allowing just a single hit while striking out eight.
“His stuff is real and it is fun to see that scoreboard light up with 92, 93, 94 at times,” said Cohen. “The 85 was his slider, that’s big league stuff.”
Stratton improved his record to 2-0 this season.
Wes Benjamin matched MSU pitch for pitch over six and a third innings. He struck out six and walked no one.
“The biggest thing was he was getting out one,” said Rea. “It is hard to do when you’re getting out one every inning.”
At the plate, Mississippi State could muster just five hits but three were extra base hits as Daryl Norris and Trey Porter each had a double added to Rea’s game-winner.
Porter’s double extended his hitting streak to four games and continues to get the attention of his coach.
“He’s a really good hitter, but what he brings is toughness, real mental toughness,” said Cohen. “He can really dictate the pitches he is going to hit because he is so much on the plate. We’re really glad to have him at Mississippi State.”
Kansas, on the other, had totaled three hits with catcher James Stanfield picking up a pair of hits. The Jayhawks saw their record slip to 4-1.
The Bulldogs, now 3-1 this season, return to the diamond today to face Mississippi Valley State at noon before taking on Kansas once again at 4 p.m. MSU expects to send Kendall Graveman to the hill against MVSU and Nick Routt will face the Jayhawks.