by Knox Bardeenknoxbardeen@csssports.comATLANTA Mississippi State got a quick run in the first inning but exploded in the fourth for seven more as the Bulldogs beat Austin Peay, 8-3, Saturday at Russ Chandler Stadium in the NCAA Atlanta Regional.
When a team scores eight runs as soundly as Mississippi State did Saturday, focus is usually drawn to the teams hitters. But freshman starting pitcher Evan Mitchell stole the thunder from the bats of his teammates by throwing eight strong innings and allowing just five hits and three runs.
Obviously we are really proud of the effort that Mitchell gave us today," said Mississippi State head coach John Cohen. "His last three outings have just been outstanding and thats why we put the ball in his hands today. He went out there and did a really good job of attacking the strike zone for the most part. I think thats an area that he knows he needs to get better at but the stuff is outstanding. The competitiveness is there."
Mitchell was pitching in front of about 150 friends and family as hes just one year removed from graduating from a local high school. Coming home to pitch in such a big game with the emotions of pitching in front of a large group of friends isnt easy, and Cohen was unsure how his freshman pitcher would react.
"When a kid is at home he can be really concerned about it or he can just go out there and do his thing," said Cohen "There is no doubt that he rocked it tonight. He did a super job. The fact that he carried us through 8 innings and we only had to use two guys will be huge for us tomorrow.
Mitchell said he could hear the calls from his friends in the stands and was excited to see some of the faces he saw, but his game plan was to come in and fill the strike zone and forget about the emotion from the crowd. He wanted to treat this game like any other outing.
Three Bulldog hitters provided the team with multiple hits Saturday and seven hitters spread 10 hits out to beat Austin Peay. Freshman C.T. Bradford opened the flood gates in the fourth with an RBI triple and Mississippi State sent its entire starting lineup to plate in the inning, tallying six hits, two walks and a hit batsman.
Mississippi State is now the only team remaining in the Atlanta Regional without a loss. The Bulldogs will wait for the winner of the Georgia Tech-Austin Peay game and try to advance to a Super Regional with a win at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Cohen said hell watch a lot of film and the early game Sunday to prepare for whichever team Mississippi State plays.
"We will try to do a really good job of scouting because it could be either one of those teams," said Cohen. "I think both of those teams have shown that they are really capable. No matter who it is, it will be a great challenge for us and we are going to wait till we can evaluate that game before we make a decision. It could be Devin Jones, it could be Nick Routt, and we are just not 100 sure. It could even be Chris Stratton but we will wait until that game unfolds.