STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s ninth inning rally came up shy Friday night.
The Bulldogs broke open a shutout with a pair of runs in their final at bat but fell short to Western Carolina 3-2 in the season opener.
“This is an SEC-caliber team we’re playing,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “They won 39 games last year and will win at least that many this year. They’re really old and have a bunch of seniors. They’re a very good ball club.”
MSU had the tying run at third base in the bottom of the ninth after a two-run single by Wes Rea but ran out of chances and dropped its first season opener since 2003.
The Diamond Dogs were nullified by WCU starter Jeremy Null. The 6-foot-8 junior tossed eight shutout innings with 12 strikeouts giving up just three hits and a walk.
“That was a gutsy performance,” Cohen said. “You just don’t see that this early in the season. He went out there and wanted to win the ball game and he did. He did a great job. We didn’t take good swings against him.”
Bryan Sammons earned the save.
The Catamounts collected eight hits led by designated hitter Luke Gragg going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Shortstop Aaron Attaway added a 2-for-3 outing with a double.
Junior Brandon Woodruff got off to a shaky start on the mound for Mississippi State. The former Wheeler standout walked four, hit another and allowed two singles leading to two runs in one-plus innings of work.
Ross Mitchell went the rest of the way tossing a career-high eight inning of relief with seven strikeouts.
The Bulldogs finished with five hits led by centerfielder C.T. Bradford going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.
Game two of the series resumes at 4 p.m. today. Junior right-hander Trevor Fitts will take the mound for MSU while the Catamounts counter with senior righty Jordan Smith.