Diamond Dogs oust Hilltoppers for fifth-straight win

By Miss State Media Relations

STARKVILLE – A six-run fifth inning proved decisive as Mississippi State turned back Western Kentucky 9-3 in college baseball action Wednesday night at Dudy Noble Field.

The Bulldogs capped their season-opening 12-game homestand with a 9-3 record. MSU ran its win streak to five games, while defeating WKU for a second time in two all-time series meetings. Fresh off a victory over Southeastern Conference foe Western Kentucky, the Toppers could not beat an SEC foe again, falling to 9-4.

M-State rallied from a 3-1 deficit by scoring six times in the fifth inning of play. That outburst matched the second largest this season for the Bulldogs. MSU also had a six-run inning in a 9-0 win over Rhode Island on Feb. 20. Ironically, the Bulldogs have come from behind in seven of their victories this season.

“We really pitched it well and defended it well,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “I am encouraged with our performance tonight. This was a big win heading into a big weekend.”

In the MSU fifth inning, Nick Vickerson started things with a one-out walk. Luke Adkins followed with a double to left center, scoring Vickerson. Connor Powers followed with a game-tying RBI-single. After Powers stole the second of his two bases in the game, Cody Freeman laced an RBI-double down the left field line. That hit placed the hosts ahead for good.

A two-run single by Jaron Shepherd and RBI-single by Wes Thigpen capped the monster inning.

MSU scored first on a sacrifice-fly by Shepherd in the second inning. The Toppers answered with two runs in the fourth inning and another score in the fifth inning. C.C. Watson entered in relief for the Bulldogs and worked his squad out of a tight spot in the fifth inning with a critical double play.

Watson (1-0) threw 1.2 innings of middle relief to earn his first win in the Maroon and White. Waton struck out one and walked two while facing six batters. Tyler Whitney started and was lifted in the WKU fourth inning. Corey Collins followed Whitney to the mound and preceded Watson. Caleb Reed, Devin Jones and Ben Bracewell completed the contest for MSU.

“The guys who came in to pitch did a great job,” Cohen said. “Coach (Butch) Thompson has done a great job with Tyler (Whitney). He just got behind in the count and threw so many pitches early. As a staff, we pitched it very well tonight.”

After the big fifth inning, the Bulldogs ran the lead to 9-3 an inning later when Vickerson and Adkins started things with back-to-back walks. After a wild pitch, Powers again had the big hit with a two-run single to right field.

Powers finished with three of MSU’s 11 hits, as well as three RBIs. For the Bulldog first baseman, it is his seventh multi-hit game of the season, as well as his second three-hit game. It is his eighth multi-RBI game, including fourth with three or more this year. Vickerson added his third multi-hit game to the MSU ledger. Also for MSU, Luke Adkins ran his hit streak to seven games.

Kes Carter and Matt Rice each had multiple hits for the Toppers, who totaled eight hits and threw seven different pitchers. Craig Stem (0-1) took the loss.

The Bulldogs hit the road for the first time this season going to the Whataburger Classic, being hosted by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. MSU faces No. 19 Oklahoma at 2 p.m. CT Friday. The game will be broadcast locally on WFCA-FM (107.9) and will also be carried via Internet on Maroon to the Max.