By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Wes Rea is fine with his coach’s small-ball approach, but the large Mississippi State first baseman likes to swing away, too.
He got to do that Friday night, stroking a pair of doubles and driving in three runs to back Kendall Graveman’s complete-game effort in a 7-1 Bulldog win over Tennessee.
The season-high 6,424 in attendance at Dudy Noble Field saw MSU (23-16, 7-10 SEC) capture its second league series of the season. It’ll go for the sweep at 1 p.m. today.
It was State’s first Game 2 win in an SEC series this year, but it’s now 4-2 on Fridays.
MSU had four extra-base hits, and all came during the fourth and fifth innings, when it scored five runs. Adam Frazier two hits, including a triple, and three RBIs.
“Lately we’ve been hitting balls hard right at people, so (Friday) they fell, and hopefully they’ll fall again (today),” Frazier said.
Graveman (3-2) tossed his second complete game of the season, allowing one run on three hits, striking out eight and walking two on 101 pitches. He recorded 15 groundball outs, and during one stretch he retired nine consecutive hitters as the offense built up a lead.
Tennessee got the ball out of the infield four times.
“I just thought he was phenomenal tonight – no kidding,” head coach John Cohen said of Graveman. “He just commanded the strike zone.”
State broke open a 1-1 game in the fourth, scoring three runs with the help of three extra-base hits. C.T. Bradford led off with a double and scored on Rea’s double.
Frazier stroked a two-out, two-run triple down the right field line for a 4-1 lead.
The next inning, a walk and hit batsman set the table for Rea’s two-run double off the left field wall to make it 6-1. That sent Tennessee starter Robbie Kidd (2-1) to the showers. In 42⁄3 innings, he allowed six runs on five hits, struck out three and walked five.
“I bunted a couple of times (Thursday) night, so it felt good to swing away, and I hit two balls tonight,” the 6-foot-5, 287-pound Rea said.
MSU got the leadoff man on base six times and finished with seven hits, including two by Bradford.
“I felt like we did a better job commanding the strike zone offensively,” Cohen said, “and that’s something that we’re really working on hard.”