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Diamond Dogs Oust Georgia Tech 7-3 To Claim Atlanta Regional Crown

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Nick Routt tossed State's first complete game of 2011, allowing just two earned runs and striking out six.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

ATLANTA, Ga. - Nick Routt threw Mississippi State's first complete game of the season as the Diamond Dawgs upset ninth-ranked Georgia Tech 7-3 to win the championship game of the Atlanta Regional played Sunday night at Russ Chandler Stadium on the Georgia Tech campus.

Following the same script of the 2007 Bulldogs, the Maroon and White took to Atlantic Coast Conference country and won all three games it played to win a regional championship. The Bulldogs advance to their fourth-ever Super Regional and first since 2007. MSU will play No. 2 national seed Florida in a best-of-three Super Regional series next weekend in Gainesville, Fla.

Complete game times, dates and television assignments for that super regional will be announced late Monday after all other regional tournaments complete play.

With the victory, MSU improves to 37-23, while Georgia Tech finishes 42-21. This marks a third straight season that the Georgia Tech season has ended in a regional tournament loss at home. The Jackets had made Sunday's title match with a 12-2 elimination of Austin Peay in Sunday's early game.

"I think it is an understatement to say we are really proud of these guys," said MSU head coach John Cohen, who is guiding his alma mater through its first postseason competition as the head coach. "They have come a long way. This is a big step for our program. Our eight seniors have been through a lot. I couldn't be happier for them."

Routt saved his best outing of the 2011 campaign for the team's biggest stage. The junior left-hander allowed six hits and three runs (two earned), with one walk and six strikeouts. Routt retired the first nine batters he faced. Down the stretch of the contest, Routt had another string of 11 straight Jackets put down in order.

For Routt, it was his fifth career complete game but first since 2009.

"I was working on throwing in the strike zone," Routt said. "Georgia Tech swung early in the count, and I had some good defense behind me."

The Bulldogs only made two errors in 27 innings of tournament competition. Conversely, Georgia Tech made a season-high five in Sunday night's game alone. Six of the seven runs by the Bulldogs were unearned in the victory.

MSU had flirted with the complete game one night early. Evan Mitchell worked eight-plus innings before giving way to the bullpen in Austin Peay's final at-bat. For the tournament, the three MSU starting pitchers posted a 1.96 ERA. This trio allowed 16 hits and six runs (five earned) in 23 innings of work, with 17 strikeouts and nine walks.

The Bulldogs never trailed in the tournament. Sunday, MSU staked Routt to a 6-0 lead with a single score in the first inning, two scores in the second inning and three scores in the third inning. Bradford had a hit in each of those three at-bats - including a two-run double in the second inning and two-run single in the third inning.

"This was such an incredible weekend," Bradford said. "I can't say enough about the effort of our pitchers. They were great. Right now, this team is playing with a lot of confidence. We just have to keep things going."

Playing before a majority crowd of Bulldog faithful, the story was told in those early innings. Working out of the home dugout, the Bulldogs struck quickly. Bradford led off the first inning with a single. After a sacrifice-bunt by Ryan Collins, Bradford came home on an RBI-single by Nick Vickerson.

In the second inning, an infield throwing error opened the door. That misplay reached Cody Freeman, who took second base on a sacrifice-bunt by Brent Brownlee. Jonathan Ogden followed with a single. Ogden took second base on a groundout. Bradford's double down the left field line scored both runners.

Jaron Shepherd started things with a one-out double in the third inning. A misplay getting the ball back in gave Shepherd third base. Freeman drew a walk, before Brent Brownlee had an RBI-single through the infield. Another error extended the inning and reached Wes Thigpen. Bradford's two-run single down the right field line scored Freeman and Brownlee.

The Jackets battled back with single scores in the fourth and fifth innings. The Bulldogs answered with an RBI-single from Shepherd in the sixth inning.

In the ninth inning, the Jackets mounted a final threat against Routt. Three hits plated one score but a pair of Tech players were stranded on the base paths when Shepherd caught a line drive in right field to secure the Bulldogs' 11th-ever Regional/District championship.

"It feels really good to get it done and get to a super regional," Routt said. "This is what I signed on to do when I signed at Mississippi State., to go and play in the postseason. The first two years we didn't do that and it really feels good to go deep into the postseason."

Bradford, a freshman center fielder, finished 7-of-13 for the tournament, with five RBIs and two extra-base hits. Teammates Mitchell, Routt, Shepherd, Brownlee, Vickerson and Freeman also earned all-tournament honors.

Florida also advanced by winning all three games it played in the Gainesville Regional. The Gators beat in-state rival Miami 11-4 in Sunday's championship. Florida is 48-16 overall, including a 3-1 mark against MSU during the 2011 regular season and postseason.



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