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Strong relief effort lifts MSU baseball past No. 2 South Carolina

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State''s baseball team has a budding duo of standout relief pitchers. 

 

Luis Pollorena and Caleb Reed proved their worth again Saturday night, combining for more than five quality innings in a 5-3 win against the No. 2 University of South Carolina. 

 

Pollorena (5-2) earned the win after allowing one unearned run in three innings. He struck out three and walked one before Reed allowed just one hit in the final 2 2/3 innings.  

 

"I just think about last year (at Marion Military Institute), how I started, and just try to get as many innings as I can because I know Caleb''s gonna be in right behind me," Pollorena said. "(I) struggled the first inning, but once I found that cutter it was game over." 

 

Saturday''s game marked the second straight weekend Pollorena and Reed combined for an extended-innings win. The former threw three and the latter tossed five in a 5-3 win at the University of Arkansas last Sunday.  

 

"We''ve been a great one-two punch up to this point, and when I take the mound that''s the mind-set that I have to have: The game''s got to be over -- I know I''ve said that countless times," said Reed, who notched his seventh save to tie the series. 

 

Today''s rubber match is set for 1:30 p.m. at Dudy Noble Field.  

 

Despite a stellar appearance by starter Nick Routt, who pitched just 3 1/3 innings and didn''t give up a run, the left-hander was pulled early. He struck out three and didn''t allow a batter to reach second base until the fourth. He pitched three hitless innings before giving up back-to-back singles and a sacrifice bunt to open the fourth. His pitch count was at 59 when MSU coach John Cohen pulled him. He''d only walked two.  

 

"When Nick starts missing outside and having big misses and getting out of the zone, that''s our sign for him," Cohen said. "It''s not that he''s doing poorly, it''s that you have two guys you got to get in the game to have a chance to win the game." 

 

With a 2-0 lead in the fourth, the Bulldogs (24-15, 7-10 Southeastern Conference) encountered a piece of misfortune when the usually reliable Jarrod Parks, whose RBI single in the third accounted for two runs, booted a ball at third base that would have ended the inning but allowed South Carolina to score a run.  

 

Robert Beary followed with a two-run single that gave South Carolina (30-8, 13-4) a 3-2 lead.  

 

All three runs were unearned. 

 

With two runners on in the bottom of the sixth, Wes Thigpen delivered an RBI sacrifice bunt that relief pitcher Bryan Harper launched over first baseman Christian Walker''s head. The ball got stuck in the infield tarp, so the second run of the play didn''t count.  

 

But Trey Johnson and Thigpen, who were at third and second, respectively, didn''t have to wait long to come home as Ryan Collins followed with a two-run single to center to give MSU a 5-3 lead. 

 

Collins said he hit a slider for the winning runs. 

 

"He had been trying to pound away, so I was just looking to go with it and just try to lift something over the plate," Collins said. "Nobody out, two runners in scoring position, (I was) just trying to get something to the outfield, get something where we can either tag up or get a base hit and get the lead." 

 

Collins went 1-for-3 with a team-high two RBIs. Parks was 2-for-3 with an RBI and raised his SEC-leading batting average to .406.  

 

South Carolina''s SEC-leading bullpen, which entered the weekend with 12 wins and 13 saves, ran into trouble in the sixth when coach Ray Tanner lifted starting pitcher Colby Holmes for John Taylor, who gave up two hits and two runs. He and second reliever Bryan Harper each lasted a third of an inning. The Gamecocks used three relievers in the inning before Jose Mata got a ground ball to end the frame.  

 

Reed started the ninth by hitting DeSean Anderson. He later walked Christian Walker with one out. Pitching coach Butch Thompson visited the mound but left Reed in to finish the game. 

 

Reed responded by getting a fielder''s choice and a ground ball to end the game.  

 

"The conversation was, ''Do you need a break?'' " Reed said. "Especially for a breather, because to be honest with you, it was a big at-bat with Walker and he thought I may have took something out of my tank for that. (He) came out there to give me a breather and tell me to keep throwing quality strikes." 

 

Holmes got a no-decision after giving up two earned runs on five hits in five innings. He struck out six and didn''t walk a batter.  

 

Walker led the Gamecocks, going 2-for-2 with a run.  

 

Cohen said freshman Daryl Norris, freshman Evan Mitchell, or junior Devin Jones, who three 12 pitches Friday, are possible starters for today''s game.  

 

The Gamecocks will be without starting center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who injured his wrist while diving for a ball. South Carolina officials say he will miss two to three weeks.  

 

 

 

Friday 

 

South Carolina 8, MSU 2 

 

As many opposing batters have found out this season, South Carolina'' Michael Roth is one of the country''s toughest pitchers.  

 

The Gamecocks No. 1 gave up two runs in the first two innings but was otherwise flawless in his 6 1/3 innings. He gave up three hits, walked three, and struck out four to lead South Carolina.  

 

The Bulldogs'' hitting woes continued, as they managed just two hits off three relievers, and stranded nine runners. 

 

South Carolina had 14 hits, including nine off starting pitcher Chris Stratton, who gave up five earned runs in five innings. Stratton struck out three and walked one.  

 

Stratton dropped to 4-5 in his second straight off-night in the Friday role since being moved from Saturday. Stratton''s ERA is 8.25 since the move.  

 

Jonathan Ogden hit his seventh home run this season for MSU.

 

 

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