By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
PEARL – Mike Bianco wouldn’t say he’s found a Sunday starter, but David Goforth threw like an SEC weekend warrior on Tuesday night.
In front of 7,322 at Trustmark Park, Goforth turned in a fine 52⁄3 innings in his first collegiate start as No. 11 Ole Miss held off Mississippi State, 5-3, in the fourth annual Governor’s Cup.
The sophomore right-hander allowed two runs on three hits, walked two, struck out one and threw 70 pitches. He didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning.
Pegged earlier this season as the Rebels’ closer, Goforth (1-1) entered the game with an 8.31 ERA.
“We wanted to be able to get him out from the beginning, just let him pitch and feel free and work all his pitches,” Bianco said. “And that’s probably the best I’ve ever seen him.”
Ole Miss (20-6) has had difficulties with its Sunday pitching, but Bianco would not say whether Goforth could fill that role.
“We’ll keep the TBA there for a while.”
Said Goforth, “It was a lot better than I expected, to be honest with you. I was able to get a lot of first- and second-pitch outs.”
Goforth’s night was ended by Connor Powers’ two-run homer over the giant screen behind the center-field wall to cut the Rebels’ lead to 4-2.
It was the first home run in the four-year history of the Governor’s Cup.
Powers had two of MSU’s three hits off Goforth, including a two-out triple in the fourth, the Bulldogs’ first hit of the game and just Powers’ third three-bagger of his career. Goforth faced the minimum through the first three innings, with a walk erased by a double play.
MSU (14-11) fell behind 4-0 but had its chances to rally.
There were runners at second and third with one out in the seventh, but Ole Miss reliever Eric Callender struck out Jonathan Ogden and grounded out pinch-hitter Ryan Duffy.
In the eighth, MSU had two on with no outs, then bases loaded with one out, but reliever Brett Huber quelled the threat.
State had the tying run at the plate in the ninth, but Matt Tracy set down the last three batters – two looking at strike three – for his first save.
“We’ve got to find guys who can handle a two-strike approach, which we’re really searching for that,” MSU coach John Cohen said. “That’s just a skill level that you’ve got to have, and obviously we’re not displaying that right now.”
MSU didn’t help itself defensively, committing four errors, which led to two unearned runs.
Zach Miller and Kevin Mort had three hits apiece for Ole Miss. Tim Ferguson, Matt Smith and Taylor Hightower had an RBI each.
Ole Miss jumped on MSU starter C.C. Watson (2-1) for three runs in the second, and only one of those runs was earned. Right fielder Luke Adkins had David Phillips dead to rights on a throw home, but catcher Cody Freeman dropped the ball.
MSU’s third run came on Ryan Collins’ RBI groundout in the eighth.
MSU used five pitchers, including freshman Luke Bole, who threw 32⁄3 innings of solid relief for MSU, allowing one run on four hits.
Freshman Ben Bracewell came in but never got to pitch; he pulled a hamstring while warming up and will be evaluated.