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STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State scored six runs in the first inning and cruised to an 8-1 victory over Northern Illinois in the college baseball season opener Friday evening at Dudy Noble Field.
A crowd of 2,551 braved a rather cold evening to watch the Bulldogs win the coaching debut of new head coach John Cohen. Cohen has now won all 10 of his season openers as a Division I head coach. However, Friday’s contest took on added meaning since Cohen was a standout player for the Bulldogs from 1987 to 1990.
“It was real strange walking out of that tunnel,” said Cohen, who has also coached at Northwestern State and Kentucky. “I have had that feeling before every game to start a season. However, this year was so different, because I played here. This was a very special night and brought back so many memories.
In the postgame, first baseman Connor Powers presented Cohen with the game ball. Cohen later admitted he had also received the game ball from his team after his coaching debut at Kentucky and Northwestern State.
The Bulldogs removed all doubt from the nightcap of the opening round of the BankFirst Baseball Challenge by scoring six times in the bottom of the first inning. In the tournament opener, Northern Illinois dropped a 6-3 verdict to North Florida.
In the MSU first inning, Ryan Collins started things with a leadoff walk. Luke Adkins followed with a one-out single in his first at-bat with the Bulldogs. Collins and Adkins then followed that up with a double steal. Powers followed with a two-run double to right center. An RBI-single by Jet Butler, plated Powers and made the score 3-0.
After a walk to Scott DeLoach, JuCo transfer Jarrod Parks slapped an RBI-double. Mark Goforth reached as a hit batsman to load the bases. A walk to Ryan Powers forced DeLoach home. A sacrifice-fly by Collins ended the at-bat.
That offensive explosion would be more than enough for an MSU pitching staff which combined to scatter six hits and struck out 17 Huskies.
Forrest Moore (1-0) threw three innings of one-hit relief to garner the win. Moore struck out five and walked one while tossing shutout relief. Ricky Bowen worked the first four innings for MSU but did not last long enough to qualify for the decision. Bowen struck out eight and walked five in four innings of work, allowing three hits and one run. Chad Crosswhite threw two innings of two-hit, shutout relief to close out the contest.
“We did a really good job of throwing strikes tonight,” Cohen said. “We had some players come out of the pen and compete. Offensively, we were able to take advantage of the big first inning and make it stand up.”
The Bulldogs finished with seven hits. Jet Butler was the lone multiple hitter for the Maroon and White. Jordin Hood had three of NIU’s six hits.
Starting pitcher Chris Wakefield (0-1) worked 5-1/3 innings and took the loss for the Huskies.
Tournament play resumes Saturday with MSU and North Florida playing at noon. MSU and Northern Illinois will play again at 4 p.m.