May 13, 2013 10:32:37 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
OXFORD -- Twelve outs away from being swept by its archrival, a pre-game image appeared in the minds of the Mississippi State University baseball players.
"There was this big, black bear thing in front of our dugout waving a broom before the game," MSU coach John Cohen said in reference to the University of Mississippi's mascot. "I think our kids thought about that down 6-0. They were not going to let (the sweep) happen."
Down 6-0 in the sixth inning, No. 21 MSU rallied for its biggest comeback victory in more than two years to earn a 7-6 victory and avoid its first sweep at Swayze Field since 2005. The victory also was MSU biggest comeback since it rallied from a 10-2 deficit in the eighth inning for an 11-10 victory against the University of Georgia on March 28, 2010.
"I can't remember many six-run deficits in our league this year," Cohen said. "I think with the performance of the bats, pitching, and defense it's like being down 56 or something in football."
The comeback could mark another turning point this season for MSU. Cohen stressed
victories like this one are what "championship programs go through while making a run."
"This game today gives us life, gives our season some life again," MSU junior shortstop Adam Frazier said. "We know now we still have a realistic shot at hosting a regional in a couple of weeks, and I think coming into this weekend we had that too much on our minds."
MSU batted around in a five-run sixth thanks to RBIs from senior catcher Nick Ammirati, junior outfielder Demarcus Henderson, and junior designated hitter Alex Detz to cut Ole Miss' lead to 6-5.
Before the sixth, MSU (37-15, 14-13 Southeastern Conference) had just two hits against starting pitcher Bobby Wahl. The projected first-draft pick, who threw 15 pitches Friday night in the first game of the series that was suspended due to rain, was looking to run his record to 10-0, but he pitched only 5 1/3 innings after fighting command issues all afternoon.
"The moment we got Bobby Wahl out of the game was so big because we got a couple hits after that and then that just set the tone," Frazier said.
Frazier's two-run single in the seventh gave MSU the lead and completed his first four-RBI day. The performance helped make up for a ground ball Frazier misplayed at shortstop in the first that helped Ole Miss score three runs off sophomore starter Jacob Lindgren.
"It's easy to say things are going our way and feel sorry for yourself," Cohen said. "The hard thing is giving yourself a chance to do what we did today."
Lindgren failed to get more than three outs in a start for the third time this season. Ole Miss added three more unearned runs against Jonathan Holder and Chad Girodo to make it 6-0 by the third.
"I don't know a lot about all of the Mississippi State-Ole Miss games played throughout all the years," Cohen said. "I do know this one is my favorite."
Before Sunday's game, Ole Miss (35-17, 14-13) was 28-2 this season when leading after six innings, but the combination of Jeremy Massie, Scott Weathersby, Matt Denny, and Aaron Greenwood couldn't complete the sweep.
"This will go down as we blew the lead (and) had a six-run lead going into the sixth inning," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "The truth of the matter is they just played better. They hit better and ultimately they pitched better."
MSU junior right-hander Ben Bracewell (1-1), who has suffered through two separate medical procedures on his throwing arm, earned his first college career victory with his longest career outing. Bracewell got the final 15 outs and allowed just one hit. The former Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger All-American out of high school didn't allow a ball out of the infield for the final two innings.
"I knew I was kind of in it for the long haul, and I just felt like I had really good command of it today," Bracewell said. "We were in a state of panic after yesterday, and this gives us so much confidence going into that South Carolina series."
MSU will close the regular season with four straight home games at Dudy Noble Field. It will play host to Oral Roberts University at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday before wrapping up the SEC regular-season slate with three games against South Carolina. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 6:30 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m. Saturday.
MSU, which is sixth in the SEC, will have to sweep South Carolina, which is fourth in the SEC, and will need LSU to win one game against Ole Miss, which is fifth, to earn the fourth final bye in the SEC tournament. The SEC tournament starts Tuesday, May, 21, at Hoover Ala.