Before a Dudy Noble Field crowd of 11,102, the ninth-ranked Bulldogs beat Central Arkansas 5-3 in the final game of the opening day. Top-seeded MSU will face second-seeded South Alabama at 7 p.m. Saturday in a battle between the final two unbeatens.
For MSU, it was the first postseason win at home since winning twice to capture the 2007 Starkville Super Regional.
Friday’s attendance figure ranked 16th all-time at Dudy Noble Field and also marks MSU’s fifth largest postseason home crowd. In Friday’s opener, South Alabama knocked off Mercer 9-4. A total of 17,788 attended the two games on the MSU campus.
The total attendance Friday was the second largest nationwide of the 16 regional venues.
“We were very sloppy defensively,” MSU head coach John Cohen said.”We made four errors and that is not characteristic of us. But we battled through it. Overall, you get through it. Our kids were a little amped up.”
Drawing a boost from the boisterous crowd, the Bulldogs scored first.
Central Arkansas (39-21) broke on top with single scores in the third and fourth innings. The Bulldogs struggled defensively, making four errors. Ironically, MSU has won all three games this season when it made four errors.
The Bulldogs battled back for a tie in the fifth inning. Pirtle tripled and scored on another RBI-single by Rea.
In the sixth inning, the Bulldogs grabbed the lead for good with three scores.
Sam Frost walked to start the inning. After a sacrifice bunt, Demarcus Henderson singled. An RBI-groundout by Adam Frazier plated the go-ahead score. Insurance runs came courtesy of an RBI-single by Detz and RBI-double by Renfroe.
The Bulldogs finished with 11 hits. Detz had three hits, while Pirtle and Rea each had two hits. Pirtle has now reached safely in 34 straight games. The Bulldogs turned two double plays, matching last season’s school-record 71 doubles plays for the season.
The final double play was brilliantly turned from first baseman Rea to shortstop Frazier back to second baseman Pirtle. Postgame, Cohen postgame called that twin killing the play of the game.”
Central Arkansas finished with five hits. Michael Marietta had two singles for the Bears.
Kendall Graveman (6-5) pitched 6.1 innings to earn the win. Graveman allowed four hits and two runs (one earned), with five strikeouts and two walks. Chad Girodo threw a scoreless 1.2 innings in relief. Jonathan Holder worked around three walks to complete the ninth inning for his 17th save.
“Central Arkansas is a disciplined team,” Graveman said. “We knew that from the first time we played them. They did a job of taking pitches in the first inning. After that, I got on a roll and was able to get through the next couple of innings.”
Central Arkansas’ Caleb McClanahan (10-6) was lifted during the big sixth inning. McClanahan allowed 11 hits and five runs (all earned), with two walks and no strikeouts. Blake Clayton completed the contest on the mound for the Bears.
In Saturday’s matchup, USA is slated to start senior right-hander Matt Bell (6-1, 3.52), while MSU is slated to start senior left-hander Luis Pollorena (6-3, 4.30).