By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Behind a new lineup and a couple of new-look pitchers, Mississippi State opened its 2012 season playing the way coach John Cohen has been hoping it would.
The Bulldogs pounded out 13 hits and got strong pitching efforts from Ben Bracewell and Chris Stratton on Friday night en route to a 6-2 defeat of Washington State at Dudy Noble Field.
The 3,449 in attendance saw a balanced hitting attack, led by sophomore third baseman Daryl Norris, who had three hits and an RBI. Every starter had either a hit and/or an RBI, and MSU batted 6 of 13 with runners in scoring position.
“We have some beef, and we have some runners, all those things. It’s just a nice recipe,” said Cohen, who’s in his fourth season as head coach. “And again, we have a long way to go, but this is kind of what we had envisioned. This is what we were trying to put together.”
Norris started the offensive attack in the second inning, hitting a leadoff double and later scoring on Taylor Stark’s opposite-field single. Sac flies by freshmen Wes Rea and Matthew Britton gave State a 3-0 lead.
Norris also added an insurance run in the eighth when he drove home Brent Brownlee with a two-out single. Norris and Brownlee, a senior who had two hits, were two of the more experienced hands in a lineup that featured four sophomores, two freshmen, and two junior college transfers.
MSU scored three of its runs with two outs, including a pair in the fourth inning on singles by C.T. Bradford and Adam Frazier.
Bracewell, back after missing last season due to Tommy John surgery, didn’t get the decision but had a strong outing as the starter. In 41/3 innings, the sophomore righty gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits, striking out five.
Washington State had five left-handed bats in its starting lineup, and that group was a combined 1 for 9 with three strikeouts and a walk versus Bracewell, who got ahead in the count early and often and threw 58 pitches.
“That first inning really couldn’t have gone any better than it did,” he said. “I wanted to get in and get out quick, just to get my feet back under me. It’s been almost two years now, and it was awesome.”
Stratton, a junior who’s normally been a starter, worked the final four innings to earn the win. He allowed one hit and fanned three, showing much better pitch efficiency than he’s had in the past.
“I love striking people out, but throwing less pitches is a lot better, especially for our team and helping out the bullpen,” Stratton said.
An error and wild pitch helped Washington State get on the board in the fourth. Taylor Ard and Jason Monda had RBI hits to make it 3-2. Starter J.D. Leckenby suffered the loss, allowing five runs in four innings.
Game 2 is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today, although rain is moving into the area.