Bulldogs run-rule South Carolina

Published 10:35 am Thursday, May 22, 2014

    Mississippi State's C.T. Bradford runs the bases during Wednesday's SEC tournament game against South Carolina. Bradford had three hits and scored twice as the Bulldogs won 12-0. (Bill Simmonds/Mississippi State Sports Information)

Mississippi State’s C.T. Bradford runs the bases during Wednesday’s SEC tournament game against South Carolina. Bradford had three hits and scored twice as the Bulldogs won 12-0. (Bill Simmonds/Mississippi State Sports Information)

Wow. That escalated quickly.

Mississippi State exploded for eight runs on eight hits in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday night, and went on to stun South Carolina 12-0 in the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, Ala.

It was Mississippi State’s largest margin of victory in the SEC Tournament since a 16-2 win over Auburn in 1990. The Bulldogs also won for the first time by the tournament’s recently-enacted 10-run rule, The game was called after South Carolina was retired in order in the bottom of the seventh inning.

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Seth Heck and C.T. Bradford each had three hits and two runs scored for Mississippi State, and Derrick Armstrong drove in two runs.

“It was good to see our bats get going like that. It’s always addicting when you get one run, more runs after that start coming,” said Mississippi State second baseman Brett Pirtle, who hit a three-run homer to kick-start the big seventh inning.

Mississippi State (37-20), the No. 5 seed in the tournament, won for the second straight day — and ninth time in 11 games overall — to advance to a winners’ bracket game tonight at 8 against Kentucky. The winner will advance to Saturday’s single-elimination semifinal round.

MSU coach John Cohen, while pleased with the win, cautioned against reading too much into Thursday’s blowout.

“This is one win, it doesn’t mean anything except that it allows you to advance. We are going to play a great Kentucky team who can really score runs. We have got to be ready for them,” Cohen said. “If you win tomorrow, you get a day off. That could be big for our ball club to rest our pitching staff a little bit.”

South Carolina (42-15) fell into the losers’ bracket and will play top-seeded Florida today at 1 p.m.

South Carolina fell to 1-8 all-time against Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament. Wednesday’s loss was Carolina’s worst ever in the tournament.

“I am a little lost for words. I didn’t expect that. I thought we were ready to play. We had our bounce in our step, but we didn’t get off to a good start and it snowballed on us,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said.

Mississippi State eased out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the third. Armstrong singled in a run, Wes Rea had a run-scoring fielder’s choice and Demarcus Henderson an RBI single.

South Carolina threatened in the bottom of the third, putting runners at first and third with no outs. That was when Cohen made the move that might have swung the game.

Cohen, following the same pattern that helped the Bulldogs make a run to the College World Series last season, pulled starting pitcher Trevor Fitts at the first sign of trouble. He brought in relief ace Jacob Lindgren, who got out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts and proceeded to shut down the Gamecocks until MSU’s hitters put the game out of reach.

Lindgren (6-1) retired all 12 batters he faced in a stellar four-inning relief stint. He struck out six of them.

“Jacob did what he has done all year,” Cohen said. “The game was on the line when we brought him there in the third inning and he got the big outs we needed. We really needed to win this game so it was a good night for us.”

The Bulldogs stayed in control of the game until blowing it open in the top of the seventh.

Heck and Bradford got things rolling with back-to-back singles, then Pirtle turned on a pitch from Taylor Widener and hit it into the right field bullpen for his second home run of the season and a 7-0 lead.

“I knew it was out. That at-bat, I was just trying to get something going. There were a couple of at-bats (Tuesday) where I should’ve gotten something going and didn’t,” Pirtle said. My team needed me right there, so I wanted to get it done. I was happy about that.”

Pirtle’s homer reset things for the Gamecocks, but they only got worse. Three consecutive singles, an RBI double by Heck and two errors led to four more runs. A bases-loaded walk to Jake Vickerson capped the inning and made it 12-0.

“It has been a long time since I have had my tail kicked like that. They obviously played a great game, and we didn’t,” Holbrook said.

SEC Tournament

Wednesday’s games

LSU 11, Vanderbilt 1

Arkansas 2, Ole Miss 1

Kentucky 4, Florida 2

Mississippi St. 12, South Carolina 0

Today’s games

Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss, 9:30 a.m.

Florida vs. South Carolina, 1 p.m.

LSU vs. Arkansas, 4:30 p.m.

Kentucky vs. Mississippi St., 8 p.m.