STARKVILLE, Miss. – Another masterful pitching performance by junior left-hander Ross Mitchell helped carry the No. 17 Mississippi State baseball team to a 6-3 win over third-ranked Vanderbilt Saturday night at Dudy Noble Field.
Playing before a season-largest crowd of 10,064 and a nationally television audience, MSU halted Vanderbilt’s string of 15 straight conference series wins.
MSU improved to 17-8 overall and 4-1 in league play, while Vanderbilt fell to 19-5 and 2-3. MSU won a weekend series from Vanderbilt for the first time since 2012 and also made amends for four losses to Vanderbilt a season ago.
“We didn’t play well last year against this club,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “I think our kids really remembered that and wanted to get them back when they came to our place. Overall, it was a very good evening for us.”
The evening did not start well as Vanderbilt scored twice in the first inning, putting the Maroon and White behind in a conference game for the first time since their league opener.
Mitchell (4-1) was touched for two earned runs in that frame, thanks in part to a walk and hit batsman. From there, Mitchell regained his usual form, throwing 7.1 innings, allowing six hits and not allowing another run.
“After the first inning, Ross Mitchell was Ross Mitchell,” Cohen said. “When you make the type of plays we have made in the field this weekend, you like Ross Mitchell on the mound. We came into the game with a .986 fielding percentage and that is unheard of for this level.
“You have to consider most of our pitchers are ground ball out pitchers, so the fielding percentage is not getting padded by fly outs and strikeouts.”
MSU began its rally with a single score in the second inning and two more scores in the third inning. Derrick Armstrong started the scoring with a line drive sacrifice out in the second inning. In the third inning, Seth Heck continued his brilliant offensive start by lining a two-run double. Heck has been retired twice in 11 plate appearances in the series, with one of those coming on a sacrifice fly.
Two defensive miscues by Vanderbilt opened the door in the Bulldog fifth inning. VU starter Jared Miller (5-1) was lifted with one out in the inning. Miller allowed four hits and four runs (three earned), with five walks and two strikeouts.
The Bulldogs closed their scoring with a bases-loaded walk to Armstrong in the seventh inning and a sacrifice fly by Brett Pirtle in the eighth inning.
Jonathan Holder got the final two outs in the eighth inning and worked around back-to-back singles to start the Vanderbilt ninth inning for his third save.
Alex Detz had two of MSU’s six hits.
Zander Wiel had two hits and two RBIs to pace Vanderbilt’s eight-hit attack.
The series concludes with a 1:30 p.m. start Sunday. MSU is scheduled to pitch junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (2-0, 3.55 ERA), while VU is scheduled to pitch sophomore right-hander Tyler Ferguson (3-0, 1.63).