STARKVILLE, Miss. - Three costly eighth-inning errors led to Mississippi State's undoing as the Baseball Bulldogs dropped a 4-2 decision to No. 14 Ole Miss in a Southeastern Conference baseball game played Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.
With the victory, Ole Miss improved to 31-13 overall and 12-7 in league play. Thanks in part to a suspension of the LSU-Florida game, the Rebels moved into sole possession of second place in the Western Division. UM has now won five straight games in league play. Meanwhile, MSU fell to 20-21 and 5-14.
The rare Friday night's pitching dual was tied 1-1 entering the eighth inning. UM then took advantage of three Bulldog errors on the infield to score three unearned runs. The Bulldogs scored once in the home half of the eighth inning but stranded a pair of runners in that at-bat.
For MSU, Tyler Whitney drew the Friday start and turned in his longest outing of the year. Whitney (0-2) allowed only one earned run over seven innings of work with a season-best eight strikeouts. Whitney left with the bases loaded and a 1-1 tie.
In the eighth inning, Matt Snyder drew a leadoff walk for UM. Zach Miller followed with a ground ball erred by the MSU shortstop, advancing pinch-runner Jordan King. Alex Yarbrough followed with a bunt attempt which wound up being thrown high by Whitney to load the bases.
Caleb Reed followed in relief, walking Taylor Hashman to force in the go-ahead run. A dropped foul ball extended the life of Taylor Hightower before he popped to the first baseman. An RBI-single by Miles Hamblin - the only UM hit in the inning - scored one run and a sacrifice-fly by Tim Ferguson plated another.
"I was very pleased with Whitney," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "He did a good job. We have an outstanding shortstop and he just couldn't turn a double play. That was a huge point in the game."
In the home half of the eighth inning, the Bulldogs made some noise. Winning pitcher Matt Tracy (3-2) walked Luke Adkins to start the eighth inning and end his night on the mound. In relief Brett Huber got a lineout from Connor Powers. After a strikeout of Russ Sneed, Cody Freeman lined an RBI-double to left field, scoring Adkins. Jet Butler drew a walk but both he and Freeman were stranded when Ryan Collins struck out to end the inning.
One at-bat later, Jaron Shepherd began the inning with a leadoff single. Shepherd later stole second but was stranded there as Huber got three straight strikeouts to close out his sixth save.
For the contest, the Bulldogs struck out a season-high 17 times - 11 of those came thanks to the arm of UM ace Drew Pomeranz. Lifted after a one-out hit batsman in the seventh inning, Pomeranz allowed five hits and only a first-inning run on a groundout. Pomeranz struck out 11 and waked one in 6.1 innings of work.
"Pomeranz is really good," Cohen said. "However, we swung at a lot of ball fours tonight. He seemed to get better after the break (a 1 hour, 5 minute rain delay in the third inning). He is what you are supposed to look like on a Friday night in the SEC. That is to take nothing away from Tyler, because he pitched great. He is a competitor and wants to be out there.
"He even got five outs in the eighth inning, but we just didn't record them."
After MSU scored in the first inning, UM tired things in the fourth inning on Hashman's fifth home run of the season.
Ole Miss finished with nine hits. Kevin Mort was the lone multiple hitter for the Rebels with three singles.
MSU finished with eight hits. Adkins had three hits, while Freeman and Shepherd each had multiple hits.
The Bulldogs and Rebels resume the series with a 6:36 p.m. start Saturday. MSU is scheduled to start freshman right-hander Chris Stratton (4-3, 4.97 ERA), while Ole Miss is scheduled to start senior right-hander Aaron Barrett (6-2, 3.36). The contest will be televised regionally by SportSouth. The series finale is at 1:36 p.m. Sunday on Comcast Sports Southeast.