There would be no late inning heroics to save the Mississippi State Bulldogs Saturday afternoon.
During an afternoon where the Bulldogs simply couldn’t solve Mercer pitching, they fell 6-1.
State scattered seven hits scoring just a single run. The Bears starter, Brandon Marker, was brilliant over eight complete innings mixing his pitches and keeping Mississippi State off-balance.
“He did a good job of locating pitches, spotting up,” said MSU's Adam Frazier, who was 2-for-4 continuing his seven-game hit streak. “He changed speeds a little bit, I guess, and we couldn’t get a timely hit. Tip your hat to him because he had a good day and we didn’t come out and play like we should have.”
Mercer opened the scoring in the top of the first when after singles from Nick Backlund and Travis Benn, Bulldog catcher Mitch Slauter allowed a passed ball, scoring Backlund from third.
The Bears added a run in the third and again in the fourth, pushing the lead to 3-0 by way of small ball.
“They were taking good swings and advancing runners with the bunt a lot,” said Frazier. “They got a couple of home runs. They got the big hits and we didn’t, that’s what it takes to win.”
Starting pitcher Nick Routt lasted just four innings for Mississippi State allowing three runs on nine hits with six strikeouts. Following the game, Routt felt like he pitched pretty well, but said it was just a good day at the plate for Mercer.
“To be honest, I felt like I was hitting the corners well," Routt said. "They just had a good approach. They are a hacking team and they come out swinging no matter who is on the mound.”
The undoing of the left-hander was allowing the leadoff batter to reach base in each of his innings except the opening frame.
“That was the biggest challenge for me today, having leadoff men on base,” Routt said. “That just puts you automatically in battle mode where you can't let that run score.”
Mississippi State head coach John Cohen knew an off day was coming at some point and despite the outcome is pleased with the overall effort at this point in the season.
“Nick (Routt) and Evan (Mitchell) didn’t have their best game (Saturday) although Nick struck out six and Evan punches out three,” said Cohen. “We’ve played 16 games and I feel liked we’ve pitched it pretty well in 15 of them.
“When you look at the number of guys that are freshmen and sophomores that are on this baseball field for us right now and the number of division one games they’ve played in…I think we are at a stage where we are in a learning phase. We’ve got to keep learning and keep getting better each day. Hopefully (Saturday) we can chalk up to a good learning experience.”
The Bulldogs got on the board in the sixth inning when Demarcus Henderson, who was 2-for-4, reached after being struck by a pitch. He advanced on a Trey Porter grounder and took third on a wild pitch. Wes Rea stepped to the plate and picked up an RBI sacrifice fly to right, scoring Henderson.
“The guys that are filling in are doing the very best they can,” said Cohen. “The guys toward the bottom are playing some of their very first Division I games. They are getting blown up a little bit, they’re getting beat.”
State surrendered a season-high in hits by allowing 14.
Evan Mitchell entered the game in the fifth inning and gave State three innings allowing three runs on four hits while striking out three and walking three.
Chad Girodo and Trevor Fitts were the bright spots on the mound for MSU allowing just one hit combined over two innings of work.
Mississippi State and Mercer conclude this weekend series today with a 1 p.m. scheduled first pitch.