STARKVILLE, Miss. – A two-run rally in the ninth inning was not enough Friday night as Mississippi State dropped a 3-2 decision to Western Carolina in the 2014 season-opening baseball game played at Dudy Noble Field.
For MSU, it was the first opening-day loss since the 2003 season. Head coach John Cohen lost an opener for the first time in 15 tries as a head coach.
Western Carolina starter Jeremy Null sparkled for eight innings. The junior right-hander allowed three hits and no runs through eight innings. The Bulldogs scored twice in the ninth inning against three WCU relievers but stranded runners on the corners to end the contest.
“You really can’t punch out as many times as we did (12 total strikeouts) and expect to win,” Cohen said. “We really struggled against a good pitcher. We gave them a couple of opportunities and they took advantage of them. We didn’t take advantage of ours.”
Western Carolina struck for two runs in the first inning. Jacob Hoyle and Luke Gragg each had RBI-singles off MSU starter Brandon Woodruff in the first inning. Woodruff was pulled after a leadoff walk an inning later.
From there, Ross Mitchell took care of things on the mound for the Bulldogs. Mitchell worked a career-best eight innings with a career-high seven strikeouts. Defensively, the Bulldogs turned three double plays behind the junior left-hander.
The Catamounts did scratch for an insurance score in the seventh inning. Aaron Attaway laced a one-out double and scored on an RBI-single by Cody Jones.
In the MSU ninth inning, Alex Detz drew a leadoff walk to reach base safely in a 24th straight game. Brett Pirtle followed with a hit. Wes Rea slapped a two-run single up the middle. After a second out, pinch hitter Cody Brown drew a walk. However, the rally ended there with Jacob Robson flying out to left field to end the contest.
MSU finished with five hits, including C.T. Bradford’s 24th multi-hit game of his Bulldog career.
Gragg had three hits and Attaway added two hits for the Catamounts, who finished with eight hits.
“We have two more games in the series and we are looking forward to competing,” Cohen said. “We simply have to pound the strike zone because Western Carolina is a team that will put it in play.”
Junior right-hander Trevor Fitts is expected to draw the start for MSU when the series resumes at 4 p.m. Saturday.