May 10, 2014 11:09:09 PM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State star pitchers Ross Mitchell and Jonathan Holder earned a giant thank you from their coaches, players and fans Saturday night.
The Bulldogs duo held a pesky Volunteers team to just two hits over 10 innings in a 1-0 win Saturday night in front of a restless and nervous 7,321 at Dudy Noble Field.
A week after Mitchell pitched a complete game shutout at Auburn, the junior left-hander allowed two hits in 6 1/3 innings in a 92-pitch effort. The crafty left-hander, who doesn't register over 85 miles per hour on the radar gun, kept Tennessee off the scoreboard with a career high five strikeouts. Mitchell's earned run average dropped to 1.98 after Saturday's outing.
"It's amazing to watch different teams try to attack Ross a different way each time out," MSU junior shortstop Seth Heck said. "They tried to get his pitch count up and get him out of the game earlier and even that didn't work for them."
Mitchell gave MSU a team-leading seventh quality start of the season before giving way earlier than expected to the Bulldogs power arm out of the bullpen. Holder got consistent swing-and miss action up and down the Volunteers lineup with both his curveball but an explosive fastball as well Saturday night.
Holder, MSU's preseason All-America selection at closer, got his fifth win of the season after throwing 3 2/3 innings of hitless relief that including seven strikeouts.
"I just felt like I had some adrenaline tonight when I came into the game," Holder said. "For the first time in a while, it felt normal and I had everything working."
Heck finally sent the home fans away happy with a run-scoring single in the 10th inning over the reach of Tennessee third baseman Taylor Smart. MSU (32-19, 15-11 in SEC) had left nine runners on base before the walk-of chopper by the Bulldogs shortstop. Heck took a fastball off Kyle Serrano (3-3) for the walk-off hit forcing Tennessee to come back today to try and win its first series in Starkville since 2004.
"What you saw tonight was good baseball that is old fashioned with it being based on pitching and defense," Cohen said. "It's a shame anybody had to lose that game but we're at home and needed this."
Tennessee (29-19, 11-15 in Southeastern Conference) got a brilliant effort from senior Nick Williams as the right-hander didn't allow a run in his 133-pitch outing but drew the hard luck no decision. Williams, a Knoxville native from Farragut High School, kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for all nine innings of regulation.
Williams backed up a solid start against Kentucky with nine scoreless innings that would've normally been good enough for a win but leaves without being reward because of both teams' offensive ineptitude throughout the contest.
"I can't put into words what (Nick) did tonight and the home plate umpire and MSU's coaching staff talked about what a warrior he was all night long," Serrano said. "In pitching sometimes you can get frustrated to keep getting out of jams and there is nothing to show for it but tonight showed the character of that young man."
After racking up seven strikeouts through six innings, Williams showed some senior maturity by pitching out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in seventh inning and a tough spot with runners on in the ninth. Williams had eight strikeouts including one on his final pitch to send the game into extra innings
"It's a tough loss for us but you just have to tip your hat to the other team with the way they pitched it and defended it too," Williams said. "Everybody is growing up this weekend and we're believing in ourselves."
With wins by Vanderbilt and LSU, MSU needed the victory Saturday to stay in contention for one of the four byes out of the single elimination round in the upcoming SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala.
Tennessee will roll out sophomore left-hander Andy Cox, who received a hold in Friday night's win over MSU. MSU has announced sophomore Preston Brown (4-1, 2.28 ERA) as its starting pitcher but Cohen said that decision could change before the scheduled 1:30 p.m. first pitch.
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.
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