MISS. STATE TURNS BACK USM
By Chris Burrows
STARKVILLE Brett Wheeler may not be 100 percent yet, but it’s safe to say the Mississippi State pitcher is on the way to getting there.
Wheeler worked five scoreless innings Tuesday night to highlight Mississippi State’s 5-1 win over Southern Mississippi before 1,643 at Dudy Noble Field.
“I’m at maybe 80 percent, but I’m happy about the way it went,” said Wheeler, who was followed by Scott Polk for four innings. “It was definitely better than my last outing.”
The Old Dominion transfer, who has battled through elbow surgery, had pitched only 11-plus innings and was knocked around for five runs in three innings by Jackson State in his previous start.
Aside from pitching through a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning, Wheeler put away USM quietly. He helped himself with a pickoff and was backed by error-free defense.
“Brett has worked on all phases of his game and the pickoff was big,” said MSU pitching coach and associate head coach Pat McMahon. “He’s getting his arm strength back and it was a very positive outing for him.”
Southern Miss, while getting a strong performance from pitcher John Bale, gave up two unearned runs in the fourth inning. The lead never changed hands again, despite a solo homer from USM’s Jared Martin in the seventh inning.
With two outs in the fourth inning and MSU’s David Hayman on board by an error, Ben Jenkins ripped a ball to deep center field. USM outfielder Jeff Davis and the ball slammed into the fence at the same time, allowing Hayman to score easily.
Davis, who rolled backwards off the fence from the recoil of the blow, had trouble picking up the ball. Jenkins, who was credited with a double, never stopped running and scored before the relay throw could reach the catcher.
“It was a very unusual play,” MSU head coach Ron Polk said. “But one of the big keys was getting Bale’s pitch count up. He threw 39 pitches that (fourth) inning.”
MSU added three insurance runs in the eighth inning, taking advantage of the last of USM’s four errors. Brad Freeman had an RBI single and two batters later, Rob Hauswald drove home two more runs with a hit.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 5, SOUTHERN MISS 1
USM 000 000 100 1 9 4
MSU 000 200 03x 5 10 2
WP – Brett Wheeler (2-0). Save – Scott Polk. LP – John Bale (7-6). Multiple hits – (MSU) Brad Freeman 3, Adam Piatt 3, Rob Hauswald 2. (USM) Derek Reams 3. 2B – (MSU) Ben Jenkins. HR – (USM) Jared Martin. Records: Mississippi State 29-14. Southern Miss 24-19. Attendance: 1,643. Time: 2:43.
Notes: Senior Brian Clark is hitting .545 (6-for-11), with two homers, three doubles and two walks in the past week. … Starter Brett Wheeler had his best outing of the season, going five scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out three. … The clubs play again at 7 p.m. today.