TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Matthew Britton is helping send Sewell-Thomas Stadium out in style.
A native of Cullman, Ala., Britton celebrated his own personal homecoming with his first collegiate home run Friday night. Thanks to the pitching of Ross Mitchell and Jonathan Holder that would be enough as Mississippi State knocked off Alabama 1-0 in a Southeastern Conference baseball game played Friday night.
With the win, MSU clinched its seventh conference series win on the season. The Bulldogs have now won back-to-back series here, three straight series from the Tide overall, including the last five games. MSU has also won eight straight conference road games and will be bidding for a third straight road sweep in the 3:05 p.m. series finale Saturday.
MSU improved to 35-19 overall and 18-11 in league play. In its final season playing at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, Alabama dropped to 33-21 and 14-14. The Bulldogs left the field ½ game behind Ole Miss for first-place in the division standings with a guarantee of finishing no worse than third. The Bulldogs could also be in line to be third in the overall conference standings, if Vanderbilt completed a win over South Carolina Friday night.
For MSU, it was about the pitching Friday night. In its eighth quality start on the season, Mitchell ran his string of scoreless innings worked to 21.3. Jonathan Holder entered with one out in the seventh inning and completed the contest for his NCAA-best 37th career save.
“I am really proud of our pitching staff,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “When you score nine runs in a game (MSU did in a 9-4 win Thursday night), you have a feeling that runs are going to be at a premium the next night. It has just been an incredible streak that Ross has been on here of late. He really pitched his heart out.”
UA had a runner at second base with one out when the call was made to go to Holder. Entering with a 0-2 count, Holder got two strikeouts on his patented curve ball to essentially snuff the home team’s best scoring threat.
“We really didn’t want get beat by a flare,” Cohen said. “Ross had only thrown (73) pitches, but we felt like we had a strikeout waiting in the bullpen. It was a big moment in the game and we simply wanted to make sure they didn’t make contact and have something fall in to tie the game.”
Holder surrendered a leadoff single to start the ninth inning but wound up striking out five to record his seventh save of the season.
The Bulldogs had several scoring chances early. MSU stranded half of its 10 base runners over the first three at-bats. UA starter Spencer Turnbull (5-6) tightened things up from there and remained in a highly-competitive pitcher’s duel with Mitchell.
Things remained scoreless until the seventh inning when Britton hit Turnbull’s first pitch of the inning to left field for a towering home run – the first of his Bulldog career.
“Really proud of (Britton),” Cohen said. “It is always a big deal when you are playing in front of the home folks. We had some really good swings tonight but didn’t have a whole lot to show for it. Fortunately, he got on one. That was a really great time for the first home run.”
That would be more enough for the duo of Mitchell and Holder. Mitchell (8-4) worked 6.1 innings, allowing five hits, with two walks and two strikeouts.
Both teams finished with six hits. UA’s Kyle Overstreet was the lone multiple hitter for either team.
The teams will play again at 3:05 p.m. Saturday in the final regular season game for each squad and the final game at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Comcast Sports Southeast will have the regional broadcast.