The ninth-ranked Bulldogs (45-17) knocked off South Alabama 6-2 before a crowd of 11,124 at Dudy Noble Field. Top-seeded MSU is now the lone unbeaten in the four-team, double-elimination event
Central Arkansas and South Alabama will meet at 2 p.m. Sunday. The winner of that contest will play MSU at 7 p.m. in the tournament championship. That team would have to defeat MSU twice in the space of 24 hours. A potential second championship game would be at 7 p.m. Monday.
“We really needed another large crowd and we need to close it out Sunday night,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “I am so proud of the team and the fans. It was another really great night for Mississippi State baseball. This thing is not over though. We have to come back out and play really well again Sunday night.”
In relief, Ross Mitchell sparkled again. MSU starter Luis Pollorena was lifted after 3.2 innings of work. Pollorena carried a no-hit bit into the fourth inning but was lifted after surrendering four hits and two runs in that at-bat.
Mitchell took matters from there. The sophomore left-hander allowed four hits and no runs over the final 5.1 innings of play. Mitchell moved to 12-0 with all of those victories coming in relief. Mitchell becomes the eighth Bulldog hurler to win 12 or more games in a season and first since Bobby Reed won 15 in 1990.
“I want the other team to hit the ball and when you defense makes no errors behind you, you really have a chance to win,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think about the wins personally. I am simply out there trying to help my team win. I have been placed in some fortunate situations this year.
“Sometimes, the team might be behind and rallies at the right time. Sometimes, a starting pitcher does not go five innings. It’s a team sport. I am simply out there doing my job.”
Such a rally took place Saturday night. MSU erased a 2-0 deficit with four runs in the fifth inning and two runs in the seventh inning. All six runs came after two were out in an inning.
“Our kids do a great job of changing their approach when there are two outs,” Cohen said.”I think they may try to do too many things in other situations. We are trying to teach our kids to mentally approach each at-bat like they have two outs and two strikes. That is when they do their best work.”
In the decisive fifth inning, Nick Ammirati started things with a one-out walk. After a second out was recorded, Adam Frazier singled and Alex Detz drew a walk to load the bases. Hunter Renfroe followed with an RBI-single, followed by a two-run hit from Brett Pirtle and an RBI-single by Wes Rea.
In the seventh inning, C.T. Bradford slapped a critical two-out single for a pair of insurance scores.
For the contest, MSU had nine hits. Pirtle and Bradford each had multiple hits. Pirtle has now reached base safely in 35 straight games. Frazier has hit safely in 13 straight games.
South Alabama (43-19) had eight hits. Dustin Dalken led the Jaguars with two hits. Matt Bell (6-2) pitched 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and five runs (four earned), while taking the loss.
MSU officials would like to remind the fans that a “White Out” is in effect for Sunday’s night contest. Fans are encouraged to wear White while packing Dudy Noble Field for a third straight night.