COLUMBIA, S.C. - Mississippi State freshman right-hander Ben Bracewell retired the side in order in the ninth inning as the Bulldogs held off a late South Carolina rally, 8-7 in a Southeastern Conference baseball game played Saturday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.
The Bulldogs evened the weekend conference series at a game apiece. For M-State, it was their first win in the Carolina since taking the middle game of a series in 2006. The Bulldogs can make it back-to-back series wins from Carolina with a win in Sunday's series finale.
With the victory, MSU improved to 15-12 overall and 3-5 in league play, while 12th-ranked USC fell to 21-6 and 6-2. The Gamecocks are now 15-2 at Carolina Stadium this season.
"We had three freshmen and a sophomore out there, competing their hearts out for us today," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "You can't overstate what Ben Bracewell is doing for our ball club. This was a very big win for our pitching staff today."
MSU sprinted out of the gates early, staking right-handed freshman Chris Stratton to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Luke Adkins opened the game with a single, while Jet Butler followed with a double to right field. Ryan Collins connected for a two-run double down the left field line. Ryan Duffy hit a sacrifice-fly to close out that inning.
The Bulldogs plated single scores in both the second and third innings, stretching the advantage to 5-1.
Backed by the offensive success, Stratton recorded another quality start. Stratton was lifted after Whit Merrifield hit a solo home run to start the USC sixth inning. That round-tripper brought the hosts within 5-3.
Stratton (3-3) allowed eight hits and three runs (all earned), with five walks and two strikeouts. Chad Girodo worked the sixth and seventh innings before running into trouble in USC's four-run eighth inning. Devin Jones worked the Bulldogs out of that tight spot in the eighth inning, before Bracewell struck out a pair and retired the side in order in the ninth inning for his fourth save.
MSU expanded the lead with one critical run in the seventh inning and two critical scores in the eighth inning. Cody Freeman had a run-producing single in the MSU seventh inning. An inning later, Jet Butler had a sacrifice-fly and Ryan Collins had another RBI-single.
The Gamecocks opened the eighth inning with three straight singles and MSU's only error in the contest. A two-run double by Brady Thomas ended Girodo's night. An RBI-groundout scored another run before Jones worked the Bulldogs out of that jam.
MSU finished with 10 hits. Adkins and Collins each had three hits for the Bulldogs. For Adkins, it was his sixth three-hit game of the season, while for Collins, it was his fourth.
USC finished with 12 hits. Merrifield and Jackie Bradley, Jr., each had three hits for the Gamecocks.
Starting pitcher Sam Dyson (2-1) took the loss. Dyson worked 5.1 innings, allowing eight hits and five runs (all earned), with three strikeouts and no walks. Seven Gamecock pitchers followed Dyson to the mound.
The series finale is set for a 1 p.m. CT Easter Sunday first pitch and will be televised nationally by ESPNU.