Mississippi St. upsets No. 2 USC
Bulldogs use three-run sixth inning to topple Gamecocks
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- A three-run sixth inning lifted Mississippi State to a 5-3 Southeastern Conference baseball victory against second-ranked South Carolina Saturday night at Dudy Noble Field.
The Bulldogs have now won at least one game in five of six conference series this year. MSU has also now won eight games against ranked opponents. The victory also allowed the Maroon and White to better last season's overall win total with 17 games remaining. The teams will meet again in a series-deciding rubber match at 1:30 p.m. Easter Sunday.
With the victory, MSU improved to 24-15 overall and 7-10 in league play. South Carolina fell to 30-8 and 13-4. The Bulldogs remain in fifth place in the Western Division standings but did gain a game on three of four rivals above them. South Carolina slipped into a three-way tie for the overall league lead with Vanderbilt and Florida.
In the sixth inning, Ryan Collins broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run, no-out single.
"We finally got some breaks to go our way," Collins said. "We have playing some good ball, but we just haven't gotten many breaks."
Once the lead was assumed, the Bulldogs put matters in the capable hands of closer Caleb Reed. While earning his seventh save, Reed threw the final 2.2 innings, allowing one hit and no runs, with four strikeouts and two walks. In his last nine appearances, Reed has thrown 17.1 innings of shutout relief.
"I was just trying to make quality pitches," Reed said. "I have to credit my defense behind me. They did a great job tonight."
The Bulldogs grabbed a 2-0 lead with a pair of scores in the third inning. Five straight Bulldogs were retired in order before C.T. Bradford connected for a two-out single. Brent Brownlee followed with a hit. Jarrod Parks then extended his hit streak to 12 games with an RBI-single. A misplay in the outfield allowed MSU's second run to score.
The Bulldogs returned the favor in USC's next at-bat. Christian Walker and Brady Thomas began the inning with back-to-back hits. After a sacrifice bunt and lineout, an infield error extended the inning instead of ending it.
The error also scored a run. After a walk to Evan Marzilli, Robert Beary ripped a two-run single.
After the sacrifice bunt, MSU starter Nick Routt was lifted. Routt worked 3.1 innings, allowing two hits and two runs (both unearned), with three strikeouts and two walks. In relief, Luis Pollorena was touched for the Gamecocks' third run (also unearned) but then found cruise control from there.
Pollorena (5-2) worked three innings to earn the win. The sophomore left-hander allowed four hits and one run, with three strikeouts and one walk.
"We (Pollorena and Reed) are developing into quite the 1-2 punch," Reed said.
The Bulldogs took the lead with three runs in the home half of the sixth inning. USC starter Colby Holmes hit Parks before being lifted one batter into the sixth inning. Trey Johnson followed with a single. Wes Thigpen sacrificed in the next at-bat with the USC relief pitcher John Taylor (2-1) throwing away the ball, allowing a game-tying score. Ryan Collins followed with the go-ahead two-run single.
After pitching 14.1 innings of one-run relief in last weekend's series against Arkansas, the Bulldog bullpen had another solid Saturday. USC did not score in the final five innings and only advanced three runners into scoring position.
"We knew we might use the bullpen early," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "It isn't that Nick lost his stuff but we know we have guys in the pen, who can get us out of jams to win us games. Luis and Caleb have been huge all year for us. I can't tell you how much they have meant to our program."
Holmes worked five-plus innings, allowing five hits and three runs (two earned), with six strikeouts and no walks. Four Gamecocks followed in relief.
The Bulldogs finished with eight hits. Bradford, Parks and Johnson each had multiple hits.
The Gamecocks finished with seven hits. After a four-hit performance in Friday's 8-2 USC win, Walker added two more hits to the USC ledger Saturday night.