LAFAYETTE, La. – Mississippi State continued its bullpen dominance and earned a spot in another regional championship game Saturday night.
Behind 5.1 innings of shutout relief from Jonathan Holder, Mississippi State knocked off Jackson State 3-1 in the winner’s bracket final of the Lafayette Regional being played on the Louisiana-Lafayette campus at Tigue Moore Field.
“We feel fortunate to get through this one,” MSU head coach John Cohen said.”Having to win a game in tournament play is always difficult. Obviously, it was a win that puts us in a better position. My hat is off to Jackson State for playing so well. They hung in there until Jonathan came in and really slammed the door.
“They have older kids who have been waiting for this opportunity.”
MSU will now face either Jackson State or Louisiana-Lafayette at 6 p.m. Sunday in the championship round of the tournament. The Bulldogs will have two chances to win one game to advance to a super regional. If MSU drops the Sunday night game, a second championship game would be played at 6 p.m. Monday.
MSU will be playing for its third regional championship in four seasons.
The story of the Lafayette Regional remains the MSU bullpen. Ben Bracewell drew the start and was lifted after a bases-loaded walk tied the score 1-1 with two outs in the fourth inning. Holder (7-1) entered and completed the contest. In his 5.1 innings of work, the junior right-hander allowed one base runner (on a sixth-inning double by Tilur Smith), while striking out nine and throwing only 65 pitches.
It matched Holder’s second-longest stint of the season.
“We wanted to get ahead in counts,” Holder said.”After watching them play last night and then watching what (Bracewell) was doing early in the game, I felt like they were aggressive and would be swinging. I feel good in high adrenaline situations. Ben had them swinging early tonight and they made things easier on me when I came in.”
In two regional contests, the MSU bullpen has allowed only one base runner in 9.1 innings of work.
MSU (39-22) built a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Cody Brown began the inning with a single. Brown took second base on a groundout and third base on a wild pitch. A sacrifice fly by Matthew Britton placed MSU on top.
Jackson State (32-24) answered with a run, thanks in part to some wildness by Bracewell in the fourth inning. The Tigers pieced together a single and three walks to plate the game-tying score.
In the sixth inning, the Maroon and White broke on top for good with two scores. Jake Vickerson started the inning with a single. After a sacrifice bunt by Brett Pirtle, Gavin Collins followed with an RBI-single. Seth Heck followed with a hit. Cody Brown followed with a ground ball out producing another score.
The Bulldogs had some chances early as they stranded three base runners over the first two innings.
“The game was won or lost in the fourth inning,” Cohen said. “(Bracewell) competed his tail off but he was trying to be too fine. Our kids really rallied around him because they love him so much. Both of those guys really did their job.”
MSU finished with seven hits. Vickerson and Pirtle each had two hits.
JSU finished with three hits and no multiple hitters. Desmond Russell (9-5) went the distance on the mound for the Tigers, allowing seven hits and three runs (all earned), with seven strikeouts and two walks.