By MSU Media Relations
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State junior right-hander Kendall Graveman delivered the Bulldogs best pitching start of the season Sunday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.
Graveman worked a career best 8-1/3 innings, allowing three hits and one run as the Bulldogs turned back the Mercer Bears 3-1 in the final game of a weekend three-game college baseball series.
MSU saw its seven-game win streak snapped with a 6-1 loss in the middle game of the series Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, MSU returned the favor with a pitching gem being tossed by Graveman and completed by Caleb Reed.
“The players made the plays behind me and (Mitch) Slauter called a great game,” Graveman said. “I could tell I was in a tempo. I felt like once I got to third or fourth inning, I had a chance to go to the ninth inning if we needed it.
“Run support early makes you relax. I believe in our hitters. We all know we have some key guys out but we have some other guys I believe will step up and do the job.”
The victory allowed MSU to cap its season-opening 17-game homestand with a 14-3 record. Other than the setback Saturday, the other two defeats in the homestand were by a single run. For MSU, it was also victory No. 100 for fourth-year coach John Cohen at his alma mater.
Mercer drops to 12-5.
“Obviously, Kendall is an important part of this day,” Cohen said. “We really needed someone to lift us and that is exactly what he did. That is a very good offensive ballclub and he totally neutralized them. Today, he was equally good with left-handers and right-handers. If he doesn’t walk one guy then they don’t score.
“I am glad to see Kendall rewarded because he works so hard day in and day out. He also cheers for his teammates. He does all the little things on our bench. It makes you feel good. He is deserving of any success he has and he is going to be successful in anything that he does.”
After a one-out infield error in the first inning, Graveman retired the next 11 batters in a row. A leadoff walk in the fifth inning was followed by a sacrifice bunt and back-to-back singles. However, a double play ball lifted the Bulldogs out of that tight spot.
The double play started another string of 11 consecutive outs. Graveman was lifted after a leadoff single and ground ball out in the ninth inning. Reed got a popup and strikeout to record his fifth save in as many opportunities.
“The run early was good,” Cohen said. “The offense is a work in progress. Our kids are just battling their hearts out. We are starting more runners. It seems like we are taking better swings in hit-and-run situations.”
MSU scored in the first inning on an RBI-single by Trey Porter. The lead grew to 3-0 on an RBI-single by Slauter and a sacrifice bunt by Demarcus Henderson.
The Bulldogs finished with seven hits. Taylor Stark and Wes Rea each had multiple hits. Stark did leave the game with a base-sliding injury in the fifth inning. Henderson extended his hit streak to a team-best eight games.
Mercer finished with three total hits, including two in the run-scoring fifth inning. Starting pitcher David Randall (1-2) was pulled with two outs in the fifth inning and took the loss.
Graveman struck out a career best eight batters, while walking one.
MSU hits the road for the first time this season with a two-game midweek series at Southeastern Louisiana. The Bulldogs and Lions play at 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in Hammond. Both games will be statewide broadcasts on the Bulldog Sports Network.
The Bulldogs will then remain on the road for a Southeastern Conference three-game series at LSU.