June 18, 2013 10:45:40 AM
STARKVILLE - It's amazing to think what Trey Porter could do if he could actually see perfectly out of both eyes.
In the last month of the season, Trey Porter developed a severe eye infection that held him out of primary action and was told not to wear his contact lenses until the infection had cleared. Against doctors orders, Porter has been wearing his contacts only during games and with less than 20/20 vision the senior designated hitter hit a rocket to right centerfield for the game-winning two-run single in the eighth inning.
For the second time in as many games at TD Ameritrade Park, MSU orchestrated a come-from-behind victory in the eighth inning to defeat Indiana University 5-4 Monday night in front of 25,620 fans.
The Bulldogs (50-18) have won two games in the College World Series for the first time since 1985. MSU will now enjoy three days off before facing either Indiana or Oregon State for the Bracket 1 championship at 2 p.m. Friday. This contest will be televised nationally by ESPN. With a victory Friday, MSU will advance to the best-of-three national championship series for the first time in school history. Either Oregon State or Indiana would have to knock off MSU both Friday and Saturday to prevent the Bulldogs from reaching that series. The Bulldogs have won 10 postseason games for the first time in school history. MSU will carry a five-game win streak into Friday's play. The Bulldogs have won 50 games for the fourth time ever.
Porter has suffered through multiple injuries from a knee injury to a severe flu virus in his two-year MSU career after getting to Starkville by shear force of will as a walk-on from Gulf Coast Community. Now it was a freak eye ailment that was supposed to limit his action in his final college season.
"Nobody works harder in the weight room or in practice than that young man," MSU coach John Cohen said. "If he said he's only gotten one workout in today, I'm shocked. He usually has gone through three or four. He's always ready for moments like tonight."
Porter's two-run stroke that easily fell in drawn-in outfield was just his sixth hit in the last two months and fifth multi-RBI game of the 2013 season. Porter's hit followed a masterful seven-pitch at-bat by Demarcus Henderson that included multiple foul balls and resulted in a bloop single to right field to score Brett Pirtle from third base and extend the inning.
In a year where MSU has refused to do anything the conventional way, Porter's game-winning single to cap a second consecutive comeback victory may just be exactly how this was supposed to play out for the Bulldogs program.
"We overcome some things that we did wrong tonight but I'm proud of our kids because we kept battling and competing and really having fun," Cohen said. "Everybody contributed."
MSU senior reliever Chad Girodo entered the game tied in a 1-1 tie in the third inning with a runner on first base, the ninth round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays allowed four of the next five batters to reach and two to score.
"I didn't think I could get my slider over the plate all night so I was thinking 'oh no, what do I do now if the pitch that has worked for me throughout this run isn't going to work'," Girodo said. "Once again, I needed to not think so much."
Girodo minimized the damage by striking out University of Indiana's Casey Smith on that slider to strand the bases loaded and limit the Hoosiers to a 3-1 lead in the first inning of his first College World Series appearance.
They strikeout of Smith on three pitches with a similar looking ugly swing that opponents have had to that biting slider in the postseason has become such a familiar scene during this playoff run for the Bulldogs. It was that strikeout that catapulted Girodo to work 6 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts to lead MSU (50-18) to an exciting, come-from-behind 5-4 win over Indiana.
I just thought the story of the game is Chad . . . just battling and battling and battling," MSU coach John Cohen said.
Girodo (9-1) struck out the side in the fourth, stranding a runner at first base. He stranded men at the corners in the fifth by striking out Smith again. He stranded runners at second and third in the seventh by striking out eighth round selection Dustin DeMuth, arguably the Hoosiers best hitter. All of these tightrope walking attempts by Girodo kept Indiana (49-15) from adding to its lead, which shrunk to one run in the sixth, then disappeared altogether in MSU's three-run eighth frame.
All of Girodo's strikeouts came on his sweeping 75-78 miles-per-hour slider, which was just as effective against Indiana's fearsome lefties as it was against righties thanks to his ability to back-door it or throw it to a righty's back foot.
"At the beginning (of the season), when I first started facing righties with (my slider), I knew it was running into their bats, so I was kind of iffy on throwing it," Girodo said. "Then one day I was like, 'It's my best pitch, I'm going to go with it,' and if I get beat then I got beat with my best pitch on that day."
The Hoosiers struck out 14 times on the night, the most punch outs for a MSU pitching staff in a College World Series game in school history, and Girodo had 10.
"I was just a little upset about our lack of competitiveness in the batters box, and that's taking absolutely nothing away from Girodo," Indiana coach Tracy Smith said. "He's good--he's really good. But, he's not Sandy Koufax, and we've got to do a better job of digging in there and simply put balls in play."
In the 2013 NCAA tournament, Girodo is 3-0 with an astounding 34 strikeouts and five walks in 19 innings.
"I really had no clue and it didn't even feel like I had five or six," Girodo said when asked if he noticed how many strikeouts he had. "I just try to get in a zone, not worry about anything. It's been going well for me."
Jonathan Holder and Wes Rea just aren't interested in having the 27th out of a game be the normal, boring closer experience.
The duo from the Mississippi gulf coast have combined in two playoff experiences to not only close out critical games for the Bulldogs (50-18) but also give fans extreme heart attacks in the process. With runners on a second and third and MSU clinging to a 5-4 lead with two out in the ninth, MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson asked for Holder one more time during the 2013 season.
Holder's 20th save of the season and 29th of his MSU career, which ties him for the school's all-time record with Van Johnson (1995-98), came on a slow roller just in front of the mound. What should be a routine play was anything but normal in MSU's 5-4 victory over Indiana University Monday night in the winners bracket game of the College World Series. Holder short hoped the throw to Rea but the 272-pound first baseman made a brilliant pick on the errant throw to survive another nail bitter situation after the duo were involved in potential calamity over a week ago to clinch the Charlottesville Super Regional on a wheel play to first base.
When asked about their inability to work together in stressful situations during the post-game media conference, Rea's carefree and joking nature took over immediately.
"I got this Holder, don't sweat this," Rea said with a smile as MSU coach John Cohen rolled his eyes. "I guess if you all go back to the Super Regional in the last inning, the perfect feed that I gave him right to the chest that he dropped - well, (Holder) thought it was behind him. So we kind of have been going back and forth on if it a good feed or bad feed. Either way he dropped it. So here we go again, bottom of the ninth, tough situation and I guess you can say in the end that my feed was definitely better than what he gave me tonight to handle. My point is we know the better athlete of the two is who caught the best ball is all I gotta say."
Cohen immediately piped in to remind everybody that the wheel play and the bunt play in front of the mound is something his pitchers at MSU work on everyday in practice.
"Holder comes in, throws two pitches, two quality pitches, gets save number 20, and then doesn't move his feet and throws the ball in the dirt to make everybody's heart stop," Cohen said with a smile. "We work on that a little bit, don't we, John? Everyday."
Holder simply shrugged his shoulders throughout the roast of him because the 27th out represented the fourth 50th win season in MSU baseball history and placed the Bulldogs one win away from the CWS championship series.
"I just was going to say tonight's throw was payback for the bad feed from Wes in Virginia," Holder said. "Last I checked, I'm not the most un-athletic guy in the world out there."
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.
5. SCT's 'Almost, Maine': it's love ... but not quite ENTERTAINMENT