STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State failed to score in its final three at-bats Saturday night, dropping a 12-10 slugfest to No. 14 Ole Miss in a Southeastern Conference baseball game played at Dudy Noble Field.
The victory allowed the arch-rival Rebels to clinch the rain-plagued weekend league series. MSU will attempt to salvage the series finale in a 1:36 p.m. Sunday afternoon contest, which is slated to be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast.
Ole Miss continued its recent tear, winning a sixth straight league contest. The Rebels moved within one game of Arkansas in the Western Division standings. UM is now 32-13 overall and 13-7 in league play, while MSU fell to 20-22 and 5-15.
Again, the Bulldogs had a struggle in the field. MSU made three errors Saturday after making four in the series-opening 4-2 loss on Friday night. The defensive collapse allowed the Rebels to break a 7-7 tie with four scores thanks in part to two MSU errors at second base in the UM sixth inning.
The Bulldogs clawed right back with three scores in the sixth inning, including a two-run single by Luke Adkins. However, another defensive miscue allowed UM to plate a critical insurance score in the ninth inning.
"We are battling," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "We had a little meltdown at second (base) with Jet (Butler). He's better than that. He is a great kid and works hard. I just feel horrible for him. It's not like he isn't trying. I spoke with him in the dugout and let him know we're behind him."
The Bulldogs took advantage of early Rebel wildness to open at 5-2 lead. MSU scored a lone run in the first inning and added two scores in both the third and fourth innings. The Bulldogs only had two hits during those innings but took advantage of four wild pitches, a passed ball and three hit batsmen.
Ole Miss grabbed a 7-5 lead with five scores in the fifth inning. A two-run single by Matt Snyder was the big blow in that at-bat, tying the teams at 5-5. Zach Miller followed with a hit chasing MSU starting pitcher Chris Stratton.
"Stratton is a freshman and is acting like a freshman," Cohen said. "He's taking five or six pitches to get strikeouts and ran his pitch count up. He's going to be a great one. He's just struggling to go longer than five innings right now."
The story of the game may have been an Ole Miss bullpen which snuffed out any attempt at Bulldog rally. Trent Rothlin put the fire out in the sixth inning and finished by retiring the final nine batters he faced over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Brett Huber made it 12 straight retired Bulldogs as he worked the side 1-2-3 in the MSU ninth inning for his seventh save.
Matt Crouse (5-1) worked only 2/3 of an inning but managed to pick up the win. Greg Houston (5-1), who followed Stratton to the mound, took the loss.
The Rebels finished with 14 hits. Miller and Taylor Hightower each had three hits. Tim Ferguson and Alex Yarbrough each added multiple hits.
The Bulldogs finished with seven hits. Nick Vickerson had his first three hit game in the Maroon and White. Adkins also collected his first three-RBI game of the season.