By From School Reports
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Junior outfielder Demarcus Henderson delivered a clutch RBI single in the sixth inning and sophomore relief ace Jonathan Holder tossed 1.2 innings of shutout relief as No. 5 Mississippi State (2-0) nipped the Portland Pilots 2-1 on a wind-chilled Saturday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.
Five Bulldog pitchers combined to limit Portland (0-2) to a run on four hits.
The win was Mississippi State’s 1,000th at the current site of Dudy Noble Field, MSU’s on-campus baseball home since 1967.
“It’s great to be a part of a program with so much history,” said Cohen, who has now been associated with 179 of those wins as a player and head coach at State. “The 1,000 wins represent a lot of players, coaches and fans who through the years have given so much to Mississippi State baseball.”
Starting pitchers Evan Mitchell and Travis Radke hooked up in a dandy pitching duel. Mitchell allowed one run on three hits while striking out six in five innings, his longest stint since a career-best 8-inning freshman year performance in the NCAA Atlanta Regional. Radke, the 2012 West Coach Conference Freshman of the Year, registered nine strikeouts and scattered seven hits before exiting the game in the seventh.
After three scoreless innings, State broke scoring ice. Junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe reached on a bunt single that scored Wes Rea from third. The Pilots avoided further damage later in the fourth by turning an inning-ending double play.
Mitchell walked the first Pilot batter he faced in the sixth and Jeff Melby then came through with his second single of the game to tie the score.
State used a two-out rally to regain the lead in the home half of the sixth. Daryl Norris delivered a two-out single and later touched home on Henderson’s game-winning hit.
Ross Mitchell (1-0), who replaced starter Evan Mitchell in the sixth, pitched an inning of scoreless relief to get the win. Ben Bracewell and C.T. Bradford blanked the Pilots in the seventh and into the eight before Holder, a candidate for the 2013 NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award, came on to close the door. Holder fanned four of the six batters he faced over the final two frames to earn his first save of the year and the 10th of his two-year career.
“Jonathan Holder did a great job for us and Nick Ammirati was outstanding today behind the plate,” said Cohen. “That’s going to be so important for us to have two catchers that can do a great job for us. We hung in there pretty well against a very good, SEC-caliber pitcher (Radke), and then Demarcus (Henderson) gets the big hit for us.”
Designated hitter Trey Porter laced a double and a single to lead State at the plate. Melby had two of Portland’s four hits.
During pregame ceremonies, 2012 Bulldog senior outfielder Brent Brownlee was presented the Mike Burns Teammate of the Year Award by Coach John Cohen and Martha Burns, the wife of the late All-SEC outfielder. Among others on hand for the ceremony were Burns’ former Bulldog teammates Bill Hamilton and Ken Tatum, also members of State’s 1965 and 1966 SEC championship teams. Tatum, a second-round MLB draft pick, pitched six years in the Majors.
State and Portland conclude their four-game opening weekend series Sunday with a 1 p.m. twinbill at Dudy Noble Field. The radio broadcasts of the two games will be heard in the Golden Triangle on WNMQ-FM (103.1).