Bulldogs survive scare from GeorgiaPublished 10:35am Wednesday, May 21, 2014
HOOVER, Ala. — Jonathan Holder did something he doesn’t normally do, but that was OK. His Mississippi State teammates responded the way they always do.
Holder, MSU’s All-America closer, blew a save by giving up two runs in the top of the ninth inning. The Bulldogs bailed him out, however, as Gavin Collins scored from second on a throwing error in the bottom of the 10th to beat Georgia 5-4 in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Tuesday.
Mississippi State (36-20) improved to 7-0 in extra-inning games this season. It advanced to the double-elimination portion of the tournament, where it’ll play South Carolina tonight at 8.
“Our kids feel really comfortable winning these types of games,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “Give credit to Georgia for three good swings to get back into the game. In the bottom half of the 10th inning, we executed perfectly to find a way to win the game. I hope the kids continue to play with this kind of confidence in extra innings.”
Mississippi State trailed 2-1 in the sixth inning, when it scored three times to take the lead. Wes Rea put the Bulldogs from Starkville ahead with a two-run pinch-hit double to the gap in right center. Pinch runner Derrick Armstrong then hustled home from second on a fielder’s choice to the shortstop to score what turned into a huge insurance run.
MSU pitcher Lucas Laster went a career-high 8 1/3 innings. He allowed two runs on five hits, with two walks and a career-best eight strikeouts.
He gave way to Holder with one out and a runner on first in the top of the ninth. Holder, the NCAA’s active leader in career saves, gave up three consecutive singles, however. The last, by Jess Posey, brought in the tying run to help send the game to extra innings.
“I think Lucas did exactly what we wanted him to do. We didn’t help him as much offensively as we probably should have. I thought he (Lucas) competed phenomenal,” Cohen said. I thought Holder was pretty sharp. He left a couple breaking balls up. Lucas was great.”
Holder kept Georgia (26-29-1) off the board in the top of the 10th inning, and Mississippi State immediately started the game winning rally in the bottom half of the inning.
Collins led off with a single up the middle. Armstrong tried to bunt him into scoring position, but Georgia reliever Jared Cheek was unable to throw a strike and ended up hitting Armstrong with a pitch.
Mississippi State’s Jake Vickerson then laid down a perfect bunt in front of home plate.
Catcher Brandon Stephens fielded it cleanly, but rushed his throw to first and sent the ball down the right field line. Collins scored easily to give the Bulldogs the walk-off win.