The Bulldogs (17-1) never led in the game. But MSU battled back to knot the score 1-1 in the fourth, 3-3 in the sixth and 5-5 the ninth innings before the Bears (13-2) plated the game-winning two runs in the extra frame. The loss snapped an impressive 17-game win streak for Mississippi State, second-longest in school history, and sets up a deciding third game in Sunday's 1:30 p.m. (CDT) series finale.
Some 28 Bulldogs and 16 Bears made the box score in the 3-hour, 48-minute marathon. Demarcus Henderson went 3-for-4 and Hunter Renfroe, Daryl Norris and Nick Ammirati collected two hits apiece as State out-hit UCA 11-9. Renfroe and Henderson laced RBI singles in the bottom of the ninth and the Bulldogs stranded runners at second and third after knotting the score at 5-5.
"The story of the game is when you walk nine and hit six, it's shocking they only scored seven runs, said MSU skipper John Cohen, off to his best season coaching at his alma mater. "The doubles plays bailed us out today and gave us a chance to win the ball game. We didn't command the baseball and didn't do some average things well. It wasn't a horrible offensive day for us, but we really struggled to put some things together.
Evan Mitchell opened on the mound for State, allowing a run during his 2-2/3 inning stint. Nine other MSU hurlers followed Mitchell to the mound, and one of those, centerfielder C.T. Bradford, made two separate mound appearances in the game. Sophomore Brandon Woodruff (1-1) was charged with both runs (one earned) in 10th and took the loss.
State pitchers issued nine walks, struck six and stranded 14 base-runners in the game. The Bulldogs avoided even greater damage with the assistance of a season-most four double plays. State's defense has now turned 26.
Jeffery Enloe started on the hill for UCA and allowed three runs over 5-2/3 innings. Five pitchers followed. Zach Barr registered the last two outs of the ninth just before the Bears' two-run burst in the 10th and earned the decision when a fielding error and a Michael Marietta single put the Bears back on top.
Four Bears delivered two-hit performances, with Marietta and Scott Zimmerle leading the way with two-hit, two-RBI plate performances.
"Give credit to them (UCA)," added Cohen. "They're a good ball club. There's a reason why they have won 13 games. There's a reason why they came in leading the nation in scoring, leading in walks, leading in HBPs. They're a good club and we've got to come back tomorrow and do whatever we can to try and win the series."
Sunday's series finale wraps up a 19-game homestand for the Diamond Dogs, who play their first game away from Dudy Noble Field Tuesday (6:30 p.m.) against Southern Miss at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss. State then opens its 30-game league schedule for 2013 hosting LSU Mar. 15-17 in a three-game weekend series.