June 19, 2018 10:05:52 PM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
OMAHA, Neb. -- A moment three years in the making was a lot for Konnor Pilkington to handle and it took him some time to find that handle. Once he found it, he finally did what he's wanted to do for three years: win at the College World Series.
The junior starting pitcher from Hurley made it known in the preseason that two consecutive exits in the Super Regionals were wearing on him, made it known that his Mississippi State baseball career would be missing something if it did not include the famed trip to Omaha, Nebraska. In his opportunity Tuesday, he did some of his best work, going six innings and collecting the win.
Pilkington's six innings, with six hits and two runs allowed, were more than enough as the MSU bats gave him long sought-after support in Tuesday's 12-2 win over North Carolina (44-19).
"I felt early on I was just trying to throw it and I guess the atmosphere kind of got to me a little bit, I will admit that," Pilkington said. "I felt like I left some balls up, got behind in the count and they had opportunities. I was lucky to get away with some pitches, but then in the sixth inning I told myself I'm going to back off a little bit and sink a couple of pitches, stay black to black and stay down in the strike zone."
When he did, Pilkington was incredibly hard to hit.
The leadoff double and ensuing sacrifice fly in the first inning gave Pilkington's start a bleak look at the beginning, but it ended up as the only run scored while he was on the mound; the second run scored was credited to him on a Cole Gordon wild pitch.
"I thought we did a really good job of making pitches when it mattered," MSU interim coach Gary Henderson said. "When the game got tight Konnor did a great job through six of making pitches when the game was in the balance or the inning was in the balance."
Mangum one short
For the first time in over a month, Jake Mangum finished a game without a hit. It kept him on 99 hits for the season, one shy of becoming the first Bulldog to tally 100 hits in a season since Adam Frazier set the school's single-season record with 107 in 2013.
MSU (39-27) can play a minimum of two more games and a maximum of five in the College World Series, so if MSU makes the national championship series, Mangum could break Frazier's record.
Tar Heel miscues
The seven RBIs from the bat of Jordan Westburg will be remembered by the College World Series record book, but his particular game of a lifetime comes with a unique twist: all seven of those runs were unearned.
His grand slam in the second inning was made possible by Justin Foscue hitting in an error by his third base counterpart Kyle Datres; Westburg's run was unearned because the Dustin Skelton strikeout that preceded him would have been the final out of the inning if not for the error. Westburg's three-run double in the eighth was unearned after Elijah MacNamee hit into a fielder's choice gone awry on a throwing error.
"What I think, and I think I'm dead on, I think everybody that's here is capable of taking advantage of the other team's mistakes," Henderson said. "I think that's how you get here. I think absolutely we are better at that piece of the game now than we were early in conference."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson