June 1, 2013 11:33:50 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State University baseball team is one victory away from winning its first NCAA Regional in Starkville since 2003.
MSU thrived with two outs Saturday, scoring all of its runs in that situation en route to a 6-2 victory against the University of South Alabama in a winners' bracket game in the NCAA Starkville Regional at Dudy Noble Field.
The hitters in the Nos. 3-6 spots in the Bulldogs' order (Hunter Renfroe, Brett Pirtle, Wes Rea, and C.T. Bradford) all had run-scoring hits in the fifth and seventh innings to complete the second consecutive victory in the regional.
A two-RBI single through the hole at second base by Pirtle had the crowd of 11,124 off its feet to give MSU its first and final lead. The single marked the 35th consecutive game Pirtle has gotten on base as the 176-pound cleannup hitter has provided more than adequate protection for Renfroe, who is projected to be a first-round pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft.
Following a 2-for-4 night against the University of Central Arkansas in the opening game of the regional, Rea added a run-scoring single after Pirtle to give the MSU bullpen more than an acceptable cushion. Alex Detz, a junior college transfer from Cuesta (Calif.) College, had his second consecutive three-hit game and is 6-for-7 with three runs scored in the tournament.
Ross Mitchell (12-0) had another quality relief appearance turn into a pitching victory. The sophomore left-hander handled a quality USA lineup for 5 1/3 innings of scoreless work. Mitchell's 12 wins ties him for sixth all-time in school history for a season, and is six behind former MLB player Jeff Brantley's 18 in 1985. The Smyrma, Tenn., native saved MSU in his 30th appearance of the season by keeping the power-hitting Jaguars off balance with his off-speed pitchers. Mitchell induced USA (43-19) into five ground outs in a 64-pitch effort.
USA ace pitcher Matt Bell (6-2) cruised through the lineup the first time through, and allowed just two hits in the first four innings.
For the sixth time in seven games, MSU senior left hander Luis Pollorena was chased before the sixth inning. This time, four straight singles gave the Jaguars a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
After going a combined 4-for-6 Friday in a 9-4 opening-round victory against Mercer University, Nick Zaharion and Nolan Early found success with run-scoring hits off Pollorena the second time through the order.
USA, which won the Sun Belt Conference regular-season championship, will play the UCA in an elimination game at 2 p.m. today. MSU will play the winner of that game at 7 p.m. game. If MSU loses, the teams will play at 7 p.m. Monday.