Five-Run Eighth Rallies Diamond Dogs Past #2 Vanderbilt, 9-8
After being shut out in the first two games of the series, the Bulldogs salvaged the finale in the opening series of conference play. MSU snapped a 12-game VU win streak in the series and a 12-game win streak for the 2011 Commodores.
MSU improved to 15-6 overall and 1-2 in league play, while Vanderbilt fell to 19-2 and 2-1.
Mississippi State found some offensive rhythm Sunday afternoon, pounding out 11 hits and producing more quality at-bats. However, things still looked bleak before the Maroon and White put together a five-run, five-hit top half of the eighth inning of play.
In the eighth inning, a lead-off single by Jarrod Parks and walk to Ryan Collins ended the relief stint for VU's Corey Williams. After a pop-up, Daryl Norris and Taylor Stark followed with back-to-back one-out singles. Starks hit scored Parks and chased VU reliever Will Clinard.
New VU pitcher Navery Moore walked pinch-hitter Cody Freeman, forcing Collins home with another score. Also pinch-hitting, Adam Frazier ripped a two-run single to left center, scoring Stark and Norris. Bradford then knocked in the go-ahead run with an RBI-single, scoring Freeman.
"The attitude in the dugout was real positive, even when we were down early," said Stark, who entered the contest in the third inning in the outfield. "We kept talking about chipping away and staying the game. The attitude has been good the whole weekend. We felt like if we could get started and get a rhythm, we had a chance."
Stark, a true freshman right-hander, saved the day on the mound for the Bulldogs. In his fourth appearance, Stark threw 1.2 innings, retiring six of the seven batters he faced to earn his first save in the Maroon and White.
"It seems like the whole season we haven't been able to get any ground balls to find a hole," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "Today, we were able to find the holes. Sometimes, that's just the nature of the game.
"We played five different freshmen in this ballgame today and especially for Taylor to do what he did with the RBI situation with the bases loaded and to throw that last inning and a half for us, that was just huge."
The Commodores spoiled Bradford's first start by scoring four runs in the first inning. While making his fourth appearance on the mound, Bradford was touched for four hits and four runs (all earned) in only one inning of work.
Tony Kemp began the first inning with a leadoff double. Anthony Gomez followed with an RBI-single. Aaron Westlake made it three straight hits with his third home run of the season - a two-run shot off the extended wall in dead center field. After a lineout, walk and groundout, an RBI-single by Connor Harrell scored the other run.
In the second inning, the Bulldogs battled back. Collins began the inning with a leadoff triple to right center. After an out, Collins scored the Maroon and White's first run of the weekend on an RBI-single by Norris.
Vanderbilt expanded the lead with a pair of scores off MSU reliever Caleb Reed. This time, the Commodores strung together five straight hits for the two scores. Kemp began things with a one-out triple and trotted home on an RBI-single by Gomez. An RBI-double by Westlake extended the lead to 6-2. Jason Esposito and Mike Yastrzemski followed with hits but a base running mistake cost the hosts a chance to score more.
In the third inning, the Bulldogs again used the three-base hit to its advantage. Nick Vickerson tripled to center field and later scored on an RBI-single by Bradford, who shifted to the designated position after he left the pitcher's mound. Bradford was thrown out stealing, prior to a two-out single by Parks in that at-bat.
The Bulldogs closed within 6-4 with a pair of scores in the top half of the fifth inning. A one-out infield error reached Nick Vickerson. Vickerson swiped his league-best 17th stolen base of the season, prior to a two-out, two-run home run by Parks. The MSU third baseman's second home run of the year landed in the outfield bleachers just past the 375 mark in left center field.
That home run ended the day for VU starter Taylor Hill. Hill lasted 4.2 innings, allowing six hits and four runs (two earned), with four strikeouts and one walk.
The Commodores answered with a run of their own in the home half of the fifth inning. Conrad Gregor drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second base on a sacrifice-bunt. An RBI-single by Riley Reynolds scored Gregor, extending the lead to 7-4.
Things stayed that way until the Commodores brought home one more run in the seventh inning. A sacrifice-bunt by Drew Fann brought home pinch-hitter Jack Lupo, who had reached on one of two MSU errors in the contest.
Chad Girodo (1-0) threw one inning of scoreless relief while earning the win. Andrew Busby recorded the first out in the eighth inning before giving way to Stark. After Bradford, Reed looked sharp, allowing seven hits and four runs (three earned), with six strikeouts and four walks in five innings of work.
Parks had three of MSU's 11 hits. Bradford and Norris added multiple hits.
VU finished with 13 hits, led by three from Gomez and Westlake. Kemp and Reynolds also had multiple hits.
The Bulldogs have no midweek games scheduled for this week. MSU will open the home portion of its schedule by hosing No. 26 Auburn next weekend. The Bulldogs and Tigers meet at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.