May 30, 2014 6:37:32 PM
LAFAYETTE, La. -- Mississippi State couldn't have laid out a better script for its opening act in the NCAA Lafayette Regional Friday afternoon.
Scene 1: Win the game by getting run-scoring hits from unlikely contributors Jake Vickerson, Alex Detz and Matthew Britton. The Bulldogs (38-22) got all its runs in a 5-2 victory over San Diego State with two outs from a trio of batters that have struggled to find any consistency throughout the 2014 season.
Vickerson, who has seen his older brother Nick have big hits in the postseason for MSU just three years ago, was a seemingly odd choice for the 2-spot in the lineup after finishing the season with a .255 average. The Bulldogs left fielder was 3 for his last 22 before getting his bat rejuvenated in a season finale series at Alabama where he went 3-for-5 in the weekend.
"He is just working on his stroke all the time," MSU coach John Cohen said. "He's trying to take the ball out of the air and done a great job of that of late. We played five or six outfielders pretty consistently and all of those guys are pushing each other."
After a mound visit following a SDSU fielding error and a walk, Vickerson pounced on the very next pitch to send it crashing off the right field wall for a bases-clearing triple to give MSU its final lead of the day.
"Coach pulled me aside and said be ready to attack this first pitch there," Vickerson said. "After throwing four straight balls, the guys is going to try and get it back in the zone so I was setting up for a pitch up that I can drive."
The three-RBI hit for Vickerson was his first triple of his MSU career and only the sixth extra-base hit in a MSU jersey and he joked after the win Friday that power isn't his forte.
"I am never going to hit a home run," Vickerson said."So I just wanted to put my head down and run. The error was real big and we talk about creating the big inning all the time. We were given some opportunities and we did a great job of taking advantage of those."
Detz, whose mother Toni was in Section D of M.L. 'Tigue' Moore Field after traveling from San Luis Obispo, California for this regional, went 2-for-4 with a RBI in the fifth inning Friday after arriving to Lafayette with just a .237 batting average. Detz was a major on-base percentage catalyst in last year's run to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska by hitting .350 in the 2013 NCAA tournament and the senior attacked the Azetcs arms today to start his second postseason with MSU.
"Scoring five runs with two outs is huge," Cohen said. "That is a sign of maturity. That is what happened last year. We scored a ton of two-out runs, especially in Omaha. I think that is just a sign of these guys having been there."
Britton has been noted more for his arm at third base and his defense than his ability at the plate but the junior from Cullman, Alabama drove in the first MSU run of the tournament with a single to to center.
"He's just engaging the pitch," Cohen said. "He needs to swing at everything until it's a ball and when he's got that mentality, he's a really good hitter. He has been quick to the ball and swing early."
MSU moved to 8-3 in a NCAA Regional game under Cohen and the program has won three straight regionals after winning the the first game of the tournament.
MSU's choice to start Trevor Fitts worked to perfection as the junior right-hander was able to survive a rocky second inning but had his second-longest outing in the month of May. Fitts (5-3) pitched five innings, allowing three hits and two runs (both earned), with three walks and two strikeouts. The key was MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson being committed to using sophomore reliever Myles Gentry against a right-handed dominant San Diego State club. The Gulfport native pitched to contact perfectly by getting a frustrated Aztecs club to swing early in counts. Gentry retired all 12 batters he faced, only one by strikeout, to earn his fourth save of the 2014 season in just 34 pitches.
"The one thing we haven't done in our last 12 games down the stretch is stayed in the zone with what we swing at," SDSU acting coach Mark Martinez said. "Today I think we got a little hurried up in our at-bats and tried to make things happen instead of letting the game come to us."
MSU will now face the winner of UL-Lafayette/Jackson State at 6 p.m. Saturday with its two most dominant bullpen arms of lefty Jacob Lindgren and closer Jonathan Holder with an extra day of rest.
"I think it's big but we might not have Myles tomorrow, which is big too because I think there's a lot of right-handed hitting in this tournament," Cohen said. "We watched a lot of film on Lafayette and not so much on Jackson State so we're going to really want to watch this game tonight."
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