FILE - Mississippi State infielder Sam Frost had a season-high 3 RBIs Saturday in a 8-1 victory over UAB in an elimination game in the losers bracket of the 2012 NCAA Tallahassee Regional Photo by: MSU athletics
June 2, 2012 4:33:05 PM
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Mississippi State University offense picked the perfect time to be rejuvenated Saturday afternoon.
In an elimination game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Bulldogs tagged relief pitching for six runs in the sixth inning of an 8-1 victory to earn the right to continue playing in the 2012 NCAA Tallahassee Regional hosted by Florida State University.
"Obviously we needed to get something going offensively today and we had a little help," MSU coach John Cohen said. "We kept hanging around and had a couple things happen for us later in the game."
After being held to just a scattering of five hits the day before against a motivated Samford University club, MSU (40-23) looked they would follow up with another pedestrian effort. The Bulldogs surrendered a career-high seven strikeouts by the fifth inning to UAB starting pitcher Ryan Nance before getting their first run of NCAA play.
The scoring got started on a 2-RBI double by the Bulldogs nine-hole hitter Sam Frost, who came into the tournament hitting just .221, as the junior walk-on had a season-high three RBIs.
UAB (32-30) was eliminated in its first NCAA Regional appearance since 1991 as former MSU coaches Brian Shoop and Ron Polk would lose the deciding game to the school that the school that employed them both in the 1980s.
"I said it coming into this week (that) we're not a great offensive club," Shoop said. "We need productive outs and to situational hit. Our numbers are easy to read Yes we had chances but it was against really solid arms against Mississippi State."
In a frame where MSU would bat around for the 15th time this season, the Bulldogs would get RBI hits from freshman Wes Rea and junior Trey Porter.
However, it would be the lower part of the order and two of the smallest guys in stature having the biggest impact as Frost and Matthew Britton to combine for three hits, three runs scored and three RBIs throughout the game.
"Those were huge runs and then Sammy took some great swings for us today," Cohen said. "Sometimes you just need one guy to step up for us and be accountable and that's what (Frost) did for us today."
MSU starter Kendall Graveman, who had been battling a groin injury the last two weeks, was lifted with two runners on and one out in the fourth inning and his head coach said he wasn't very pleased about getting the hook.
"There was nothing wrong with Kendall but we just wanted to get a left on left matchup happen there and Kendall was not at all happy about that," Cohen said. "You don't want him to be happy about it either but the strength of our club is our bullpen."
Graveman allowed one hit and struck out five, while walking two but MSU went to the left-handed matchup pitcher Ross Mitchell (3-0) and he 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 to get his ninth save of the 2012 season. 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."
MSU will face either Florida State University (44-15) or Samford University (40-21) in another elimination game at 11 a.m., Sunday. MSU would then also have to beat the other team Sunday night to force a winner-take-all championship game on Monday night.
"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."
No. 14 Mississippi State (40-23) 8,
UAB (32-30) 1.
W - Ross Mitchell (3-0) IP, H, ER, BB, 0 K in 18 pitches
L - Ryan Nance (4-4) 4.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 7 K in 99 pitches
S - Caleb Reed (9) 4.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K in 56 pitches.
MVP: MSU third baseman Sam Frost (1-for-4 with season-high 3 RBI)
Turning point: 6th inning - 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 MSU suddenly led 7-1.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
4. A Stone's Throw: Beware COLUMNS