After matching a school record with a 17-innining victory over Missouri Tuesday night, No. 13 MSU knocked off No. 12 South Carolina 5-3 in an equally-compelling second round game at the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament.
The fifth-seeded Bulldogs will now face the ninth-seeded Texas A&M Aggies in the final game of Thursday’s tournament play. That contest will start about 30 minutes after the completion of the 4:30 contest between Arkansas and LSU. The MSU-Texas A&M contest will be televised regionally by SportSouth and also shown on ESPN3.
“It was such a big win coming on the heels of last night (a 2-1 victory over Missouri),” MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson said. “We knew going in we were going to give several of our relievers the night off, so we were going to have to find a way.
“The early runs were big. It really picked us up.”
MSU and Texas A&M are the lone 2-0 teams in this year’s event. Texas A&M upset top-seeded Vanderbilt 5-0 in another second-round contest Wednesday.
The story of Wednesday’s victory was freshman right-hander Myles Gentry. Gentry (4-0) threw a career-high 5.2 innings of three-hit shutout baseball. Gentry matched a career-high with eight strikeouts. The MSU bullpen has now thrown 19.1 innings of shutout relief.
“Myles gave us just what we needed,” Thompson said. “We were going to go with right-handed guys in relief. We were just hoping that Myles didn’t get beat up too badly by their left-handed hitters. I thought he really grew up a lot tonight. This tournament and this ballpark allow you to stretch some guys out.
“Myles was really a hero tonight on so many levels. He was a freshman doing that against a tremendous offensive team.”
MSU (42-16) defeats South Carolina for a third time in a season for the third time. The Bulldogs have won seven of their last eight games in the SEC Tournament.
The Maroon and White struck first with two runs in the first inning. Adam Frazier opened the game with a leadoff single and took second base on a wild pitch. After a Hunter Renfroe single placed runners on the corners, Wes Rea and Demarcus Henderson followed with back-to-back RBI-singles.
The lead grew to 3-0 in the third inning. Brett Pirtle led off with the first of his two doubles. Rea and Henderson followed with back-to-back sacrifices to score Pirtle. The Bulldog second baseman has now hit safely in eight straight games and reached base safely in 31 straight games.
South Carolina (39-17) responded with three runs in the fourth inning. MSU starter Luis Pollorena was lifted in the fourth inning. Pollorena allowed four hits and three runs (all earned), with three walks and two strikeouts.
A bases-loaded walk to Max Schrock forced in the first run. Brison Celek followed with a two-run single, tying the contest and chasing Pollorena.
Both teams had limited scoring chances from there until the ninth inning.
USC starter Nolan Belcher settled down from the early issues to pitch into the seventh inning. Adam Westmoreland (7-2) followed and kept the Bulldogs in check until the ninth inning. Closer Tyler Webb was touched for the go-ahead hits.
In the MSU ninth inning, Frazier and Alex Detz started things with back-to-back hits. A walk to Pirtle loaded the bases. Rea and Henderson followed with run-producing hits.
For the contest, MSU finished with 12 hits and stranded 12 base runners. Rea had three hits, while Frazier, Pirtle and Henderson had multiple hits.
South Carolina finished with seven hits and had no multiple hitters.