An RBI-single by C.T. Bradford lifted the Mississippi State baseball team to a 3-2, 11-inning victory over Missouri in the opening game of a three-game Southeastern Conference series at Taylor Stadium.
MSU had not played an extra inning game this season until going 11 innings to defeat Southern Miss 4-3 in Pearl. The Bulldogs followed that up with a 6-5, 10-inning win over Ole Miss last Saturday. The Bulldogs then made it three-for-three in extras with the Friday night win.
In its first meeting as conference foes, MSU also beat Missouri 2-1 in 17 innings at last season’s Southeastern Conference Tournament. The rematch ended more quickly as Seth Heck doubled and scored when Bradford dribbled a single into right field with two outs in the inning.
“Our first 15 or so at-bats, I was pleased with the hard contact we were having,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “We did a great job with our hit-and-run segments. Jonathan Holder threw 82 pitches tonight and he was a warrior. We had to have him tonight to give us a chance to win the game.”
MSU improved to 24-15 overall and 8-8 in conference play, while Missouri fell to 17-19 and 6-10. The Bulldogs won a Friday night conference road game for the first time since April 12, 2013 at Texas A&M. The Bulldogs won the opening game in a conference series for only the second time this season.
Perhaps, the game’s biggest storyline was Jonathan Holder. Holder (4-1) worked 5.1 innings of scoreless relief, allowing three hits with six strikeouts and two walks. Holder threw 82 pitches, in relief of starter Trevor Fitts (2.2 IP) and Jacob Lindgren (3 IP).
Missouri built a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Kendall Keeton had a sacrifice fly after back-to-back hits.
MSU battled back for a 2-1 lead with two runs in the fourth inning. Brett Pirtle started things with a one-out single. Heck followed with a single. After a groundout advanced both runners, Gavin Collins followed with a two-run double.
“I think Gavin may have been the unsung hero in this game,” Cohen said. “He had two hits and drove in two of the three runs. I think he only had one passed ball and he did a great job of helping our pitches really execute.”
Missouri tied the contest in the sixth inning when Lindgren walked a pair and wild pitched home a run. Holder followed in that at-bat and closed the door with a strikeout and the bases loaded.
MSU finished with nine hits. Bradford had three hits, while Collins and Heck each had two hits.
Missouri finished with seven hits, made the game’s only error and stranded 12 base runners. Eric Anderson, Josh Lester and Logan Pearson each had two hits for the Tigers. Keaton Steele (0-6) took the loss.
The series continues with a 2 p.m. start Saturday. MSU is scheduled to start junior left-hander Ross Mitchell (5-3, 2.15 ERA), while Missouri is scheduled to start junior right-hander John Miles (2-4, 5.25 ERA). The series finale is at 1 p.m. on Easter Sunday.