STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State sophomore right-hander Preston Brown threw a career-high eight innings of shutout baseball as the Bulldogs blanked Southern Illinois 3-0 Tuesday night at Dudy Noble Field.
Myles Gentry threw the ninth inning for his second save. The duo combined to allow five hits, with seven strikeouts and a walk. For MSU, it was a third straight shutout at home for the first time since the 1982 season.
“Preston was very impressive,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “We need guys to be strong at the beginning of the ballgame. We’ve got guys that have done it at the end, but we need guys to do it at the beginning. Preston certainly did that tonight.”
MSU (13-7) gained all the offensive momentum it needed by scoring twice in the third inning. Matthew Britton began things with a one-out walk. Jake Vickerson also drew a walk. After a second out was recorded, a walk to Wes Rea loaded the bases. Brett Pirtle followed with a two-run single to right field.
An inning later, the Bulldogs ran the lead to 3-0 on an RBI-single by Britton. Demarcus Henderson began that threat with a one-out base hit and later scored on that hit from Britton.
MSU finished with seven hits. Rea had sixth multi-hit game of the season, while Henderson had his fifth. Henderson also stole a pair of bases, giving him eight for the season.
The Bulldogs also sparkled defensively. MSU turned its Southeastern Conference-leading 19th double play, while playing errorless ball for the 13th time in a game this season, including nine of the past 10 games. The defensive masterpiece was highlighted by a highlight-reel play by second baseman Pirtle as he threw out a runner at first base while on his back.
“We really needed (Myles) tonight,” Cohen said. “We knew he was going to pitch tonight against a right-handed dominant club. Myles is very, very capable. Offensively, we did enough to get the win.”
Southern Illinois (8-7) received two hits from Jake Welch. Connor McFadden (1-1) was the first of five pitchers thrown by the Salukis and took the loss.
MSU now opens conference play this weekend against Georgia (11-6). Led by first-year coach Scott Stricklin, those Bulldogs won their ninth straight by beating Western Kentucky 26-7 Tuesday night.
“Georgia is really on fire right now,” Cohen said. “I don’t know what it is about us, but every time we play a conference opponent, they seem to be on fire. We are going to need to go in there and do what we do best. We have to pitch, play defense, and hold them at bay. This is big for us. Conference play gives you a fresh start.”
The series is set for game times of 6 p.m. CT Friday, 11 a.m. CT Saturday and noon CT Sunday. Saturday’s game will air on ESPN3 and FSN.