State Ousts UAB, 8-1, To Stay Alive In NCAA Tallahassee Regional
The 14th-ranked Bulldogs pounded out nine hits and blew open a tight contest with a five-run sixth inning, as MSU eliminated UAB 8-1 in a second-round game of the Tallahassee Regional played at Florida State University's Dick Howser Stadium.
MSU (40-23) gets a rematch with Samford (40-22), which fell 8-1 to Florida State Saturday night, in another elimination game at noon EDT Sunday. MSU would then also have to beat the Seminoles Sunday night to force a winner-take-all championship game on Monday night.
For Conference USA champion UAB (32-30), the season is now complete.
With Saturday's victory, the Bulldogs have won at least one game in 26 different regional tournament appearances. The victory also gives the Bulldogs their 18th 40-win season in program history and first since 2005.
The Bulldogs were held scoreless over the first 13 innings of regional play before breaking through on a two-run double by Sam Frost in the fifth inning against UAB. After back-to-back outs to start the frame, Matthew Britton and Mitch Slauter drew back-to-back walks. Frost crushed a ball to the left center gap for his squad's second hit of the game - a two-run double.
"Obviously we needed to get something going offensively (Saturday) and had a little help," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "Certainly we needed something to get going and we did. We just kept hanging around and we had a couple of things happen for us. We used the short game."
An inning later, the Bulldogs did play the bunting game to perfection, while turning four hits and two UAB errors into a five-run at-bat.
Hunter Renfroe began the inning with a double to right center. In his first career start at a defensive position, Luis Pollorena legged out an infield hit on a bunt attempt for his first Bulldog single. Wes Rea followed with a two-run double which fell just inside the left field line.
A pair of sacrifice bunts followed. One bunt resulted in an error. Another error would later extend the inning. Trey Porter also had an RBI-single and the Maroon and White suddenly led, 7-1.
"(The short game) is something we just have to do," Cohen said. "UAB is extremely well-coached. They did a nice job defensively. The placements of our bunts really caused some havoc. I think we had three or four bunts that you couldn't roll them out there with your hand any better than that."
In the seventh inning, a sacrifice fly by Frost capped his season-best three-RBI night and closed the scoring.
MSU starter Kendall Graveman was lifted with two runners on and one out in the fourth inning. Graveman allowed one hit and struck out five, while walking two. Winning pitcher Ross Mitchell (3-0) entered in relief and got a double play ball to get his squad out of that inning.
In the fifth inning, Mitchell was lifted with one out. Caleb Reed pitched the final 4.2 innings, allowing four hits and four strikeouts, while earning his ninth save. A nation-leading 70th double play closed out the victory.
"I went up to (pitching) coach (Butch) Thompson after the eighth and I was like 'I've come this far just let me go ahead and finish this and save the rest of the guys,'" Reed said. "That gives us a chance. The less we use (Saturday) the more we have for the rest of the week."
UAB starter Ryan Nance (4-4) was lifted with two outs in the fifth inning. Nance allowed two hits and two runs (both earned), with seven strikeouts and four walks. Chase Mallard, Dillon Napoleon and David Hayes followed in relief for the Blazers.
Britton and Porter each had two hits for the Bulldogs. Slauter ran his hit streak to a season-best five games, while Adam Frazier saw a hitless afternoon end his streak at 13 games. The two-run double by Rea was his team-best ninth multi-RBI hit of the season.
"I think our guys are remarkable," Cohen said. "I think they show up every single day and I think there are several guys on our club who are playing hurt. They have to fight, fight, fight to get on the field."
Keith DePew had two of UAB's six hits.