LAFAYETTE, La. – Mississippi State’s pitching took center stage Friday in the opening round of the Lafayette Regional.
Second-seeded MSU (38-22) now faces fourth-seeded Jackson State at 6 p.m. Saturday in the winners’ bracket final of the four-team, double-elimination event. JSU stunned top-seeded Louisiana 1-0.
MSU won its regional tournament opener for the third time in four seasons. The Bulldogs did it from the mound as Fitts and Gentry combined to retire the final 16 batters in the game.
“Our defense was really good in this game,” Gentry said. “When you are pitching to contact, you have to be able to trust the guys behind you. I trust these guys completely.”
San Diego State (42-20) quickly built a 2-0 lead with two runs in the second inning. The Aztecs started things with a leadoff double from Brad Haynal. Selby Zavala then reached on a dropped third strike. Steven Pallares followed with an RBI-single. After a groundout, a sacrifice fly by Evan Potter ran the lead to 2-0.
MSU quickly answered with four runs in the home half of the second inning. After SDSU starter Mary Seyler got two quick outs, the Bulldogs’ bats erupted. MSU eventually scored all five runs in two outs in the contest.
“Scoring five runs with two outs is huge,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “That is a sign of maturity. That is what happened last year. We scored a ton of two-out runs, especially in Omaha. I think that is just a sign of these guys having been there.”
Alex Detz started things with a single. Wes Rea followed with a ground ball but the Aztecs cold not convert a flip play at second base. Matthew Britton followed with an RBI-single. C.T. Bradford walked to load the bases. Jake Vickerson followed with a three-run triple which cleared just inside the right field foul line.
“I am never going to hit a home run,” Vickerson said.”So I just wanted to put my head down and run. The error was real big and we talk about creating the big inning all the time. We were given some opportunities and we did a great job of taking advantage of those.”
Things remained that way until MSU plated a critical insurance score in the fifth inning. Brett Pirtle began the inning with a single. After consecutive outs, Cody Brown and Detz followed with back-to-back singles to plate the game’s final score.
The Bulldogs threatened twice more but stranded two runners in both the seventh and eighth innings.
MSU finished with nine hits. Vickerson, Pirtle and Detz each had multiple hits.
Fitts (5-3) pitched five innings, allowing three hits and two runs (both earned), with three walks and two strikeouts. Gentry retired all 12 batters he faced – one by strikeout – to earn his fourth save.
“I really knew Myles was going to be great because he gets many more ground ball outs than I do,” Fitts said.”When I left the game, I told Myles to stay down in the zone and that was he going to get those outs.”
Pallares had multiple hits for San Diego State.
Seyler (8-6) worked 4.2 innings, allowing five hits and five runs (one earned), with two walks and two strikeouts. Marcus Reyes and T.J. Kendzora completed the contest for the Aztecs,