By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal
STARKVILLE – Last season, the Mississippi State pitching staff witnessed a season of downfalls and was inconsistent throughout the year.
But in the season opener on Friday, Bulldog junior righthander Devin Jones got the pitching staff off on the right foot.
Jones (1-0) limited Akron to just one hit over seven innings to help MSU capture an 11-0 victory in front of 3,074 fans at Dudy Noble Field.
“I felt real good and I just tried to locate,” said Jones, who threw just 68 pitches. “I tried to get ground balls and that was the big thing today, especially with these new bats and a great defense behind me. My defense played awesome and I couldn’t ask for anything better out of them.
“We got up a couple of runs and that allowed me to settle in and I felt like it was a great outing.”
MSU reliever and rookie Daryl Norris tossed the final two innings and did not allow a hit and struck out five.
Jones started off in a good rhythm and needed just six pitches in the first inning. After that, his offense got him all the runs he needed in the first inning. The Bulldogs plated two runs in the first, including a lead-off home run by Nick Vickerson.
“Oh yea and it’s always a good feeling when you can go less than 10 pitches,” said Jones. “We’ve been working in the fall and early spring towards getting low pitch counts and just limiting our pitches. And today, I feel like it has worked well.”
Opening his third season at MSU, head coach John Cohen said he had plenty of nerves to go around on Friday. And for good reason on and off the field.
“I was real pleased with our kids and the preparation our kids have put in is unbelievable,” Cohen said. “There are going to be some bumps in the road, for sure, but it’s great to get off to a start like this.
“But I don’t know what is more frightening, opening up your season or your daughter getting her driver’s license and driving by herself for the first time. And both of those things happened today.”
Rookie left fielder C.T. Bradford had three hits to pace the Bulldogs’ 14-hit attack.
Jonathan Ogden had two hits, including a two-run home run to highlight a six-run, sixth inning for the Bulldogs.
“I’ll take it and it felt good and it was a good way to open the season,” said Ogden. “From our pitchers to the guys who came in behind us, it was just a great start. Every one was so anxious to get out here from the starters to the guys who came in behind us.”