Graverman fires Miss. State to victory
Junior hurls first complete game of season as Bulldogs top LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Mississippi State's Kendall Graveman knew his team needed a lift on Sunday afternoon. Graveman delivered just that, throwing the 21st-ranked Bulldogs first complete game of the season in a 7-1 Southeastern Conference victory against No. 10 LSU at Alex Box Stadium.
"Well when [the coaching staff] arrived here at MSU, we wanted to pitch it better than our opponents," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "That is certainly the case in our ballpark, because it plays so big. We are now getting to that point. Even though we only won one game, we out-pitched LSU the entire series.
"It was really good to see Kendall go out there and give us the type of start that we really needed."
With the victory, MSU snapped a four-game losing streak while moving to 15-7 overall and 1-2 in league play. LSU fell to 16-4 and 2-1. The Tigers won their sixth consecutive series from the Bulldogs with a 3-2, 10-inning win Friday night and a 4-3 win Saturday night. Of MSU's seven losses this season, five have been by one run.
"Our defense was real good all weekend," Cohen said. "This is a tough surface and it is choppy. We just have to work on some situational hitting issues. The offensive part has to pick up. However, we pitched it and defended it all weekend.
"When we have good swings and score five runs in an inning, we will be a difficult team to play."
The Bulldogs played errorless ball the entire weekend, including two nifty defensive plays by reserve third baseman Sam Frost late in the game. MSU gained its much needed separation early Sunday with five runs on five hits in the first inning. The Bulldogs batted through the lineup for the eighth time this season in their biggest first inning of the year.
Adam Frazier started things with a leadoff double. Tyler Fullerton then reached as a hit batsman. Trey Porter followed with an RBI-single to right field. Hunter Renfroe followed with an RBI-double. A sacrifice-fly by Mitch Slauter produced the inning's third run.
Demarcus Henderson and Wes Rea closed out the big inning with back-to-back RBI doubles.
All of that damage came off LSU starting pitcher Aaron Nola. A true freshman making his first start, Nola (3-1) allowed seven hits and six runs (five earned), with six strikeouts in six innings of work.
"He is a freshman who has great stuff," Cohen said. "Fortunately, we got to him before he had a chance to figure some things out. It felt good to be on the other end of that for once."
The Bulldogs also scored on a sacrifice fly by Frazier in the sixth inning and Rea's second home run of the year in the eighth inning.
The early offense would be more than enough for Graveman, who threw the Maroon and White's first complete game in a conference game since Chris Stratton did it in an 11-7 home win against Tennessee on April 17, 2010.
MSU's last complete game was Nick Routt's masterpiece in a 7-3 win against Georgia Tech to clinch the 2011 Atlanta Regional on June 5, 2011.
"You have to feel really good for a guy like Kendall," Cohen said. "He works at it every day. He does coverage every day. He works our bullpens. He has a chart in his hand every day. He is first at practice and last to leave. He is the type of kid who gets it and who works hard every day to be the best he can be.
"He is also doing that engineering thing on the side. Man, he is the type of person who is going to be successful no matter what he does in life. Right now, he is being very successful for us on the mound."
Graveman (2-0) worked a then-career best 8.1 innings in last Sunday's 6-1 home win against Mercer. This time Graveman threw 101 total pitches and closed the deal. The Alexander City, Ala., native allowed 10 hits and one earned run on a groundball out in the sixth inning.
Graveman struck out no batters, issued three walks and got an amazing 19 groudball outs.
For the weekend, MSU pitching allowed 21 hits and eight total runs. Two years ago in this stadium, LSU hitting racked up 32 runs and 37 hits off MSU pitching.
Frazier and Henderson each had multiple hits for the Bulldogs, who totaled nine hits. Frazier has now hit safely in 19 games this season.
Ralph Rymes had four of LSU's 10 hits. JaCoby Jones and Alex Edward also added multiple hits for the Tigers.