May 13, 2011 9:27:00 AM
OXFORD -- The Mississippi State baseball team scored three runs in the eighth inning Thursday night and then held on for a 7-6 victory against the University of Mississippi in a Southeastern Conference baseball game at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.
The Bulldogs built a 4-1 lead and led 4-2 in the home half of the seventh inning. The Rebels then took the lead on a three-run home run by Alex Yarbrough.
But MSU (31-18, 12-13 SEC) rallied in the top of the eighth, using back-to-back singles before things got tough for the Rebels. With men at the corners, Brent Brownlee laid down a bunt and reached first base when no one covered first base. Nick Vickerson scored on the play to tie the game at five and put men at first and second.
With one out, both runners took off on the pitch that resulted in a strikeout, but a throwing error in an attempt to get the lead runner at third allowed a second run to score and left Brownlee at second. Wes Thigpen then singled through the left side, and a fielding error in left field allowed Brownlee to score to give the Bulldogs a 7-5 lead.
With the victory, the Bulldogs (31-18, 12-13 SEC) won the series opener in this stadium for a second straight time. It also helped them move into sole possession of third place in the SEC Western Division standings, one-half game out of first place, while Ole Miss fell to 27-22 and 11-14.
"I wish everybody could see the way our kids are practicing and the effort in the weight room, and every single thing they do every day," MSU coach John Cohen said. "They''re finally getting a reward for that work."
Chad Girodo (3-0) got the win despite surrendering Yarbrough''s home run.
Caleb Reed threw the final two frames for his 10th save. The save moved the junior right-hander into a three-way tie for fourth place on the school''s all-time single season saves chart. Reed worked around a single and walk in the eighth inning.
Ole Miss had an even better scoring threat in the ninth. Two walks and an infield hit loaded the basses, but Reed got a run-scoring double play ball and a strikeout to snuff this final threat.
"It was a tough game," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "We thought we had them at the end but they got couple of hits and we made some errors allowing them to gain the lead again. That also happened early on, we didn''t play the field as well as we needed to. I think Matt Crouse struggled with his position early on and they got some two-strike hits. Matt started putting up some zero, which got us back into the game and the home run from Alex Yarbrough helped us. We need to play better tomorrow and make fewer errors."
In his second start of the season, Luis Pollorena delivered. The sophomore left-hander threw his longest start as a Bulldog, allowing allowed seven hits and four runs (all earned) with four strikeouts and two walks.
"I knew I was beginning to struggle," Pollorena said. "I just reached into my heart and brought out the warrior within me to keep competing. They can have big players, but they still have to hit the ball. I just kept it below their knees and it worked out."
The Bulldogs used small ball to perfection to build the early lead. In the first, Jarrod Parks reached on a two-out infield error. After a walk to Nick Vickerson, Jaron Shepherd produced an RBI single.
The lead grew to 2-0 an inning later when Jonathan Ogden doubled, took third on a sacrifice bunt attempt and scored on a sacrifice-fly by C.T. Bradford.
After the Rebels closed within 2-1, the Bulldogs plated two critical scores in the third. Again, a leadoff error started things. Vickerson singled and both runners advanced on a Shepherd sacrifice bunt. A Brownlee sacrifice fly scored one run and a Ryan Collins'' RBI double scored the other.
That would be enough offense for Pollorena, Girodo, and Reed.
"Pollorena gutted it out and grinded for us and did one heck of a job for us," Cohen said.
Vickerson and Jaron Shepherd each had multiple hits. Third baseman Jarrod Parks reached via error twice and was officially hitless, which snapped his 21-game hit streak.
Austin Anderson had three hits, while Yarbrough and Blake Newalu each had multiple hits for the Rebels.
Starter Matt Crouse worked six innings, allowing four hits and four runs (one earned). Brett Huber threw the seventh inning. Bobby Wahl (0-1) finished the contest and took the loss. He allowed three runs -- two earned -- on four hits with two strikeouts in two innings
Game 2 of the three-game series will be at 7:06 tonight (SportSouth). MSU is scheduled to start junior left-hander Nick Routt, while Ole Miss is scheduled to start junior right-hander David Goforth (4-6, 4.79). Saturday''s series finale also is set for a 7:06 p.m. start (SportSouth).
1. Harbin's slam lifts Caledonia HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Malik Newman commits to Mississippi State COLLEGE SPORTS
4. New Hope wins baseball playoff opener in extra innings HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. MACJC softball playoffs will have local flavor COLLEGE SPORTS