Bulldogs better Carolina

Published 10:54 pm Saturday, April 15, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Mississippi State is still climbing its way up the Southeastern Conference standings, and it took the latest step by making a little history.

The Bulldogs rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth inning Saturday, and then held on in the bottom half to beat South Carolina 5-4.

With victories in the first two games, Mississippi State (25-12, 10-4 SEC) clinched its first series victory in Columbia since 1998. It wiil go for the sweep Sunday afternoon.

The Bulldogs have won their fourth series in a row overall, and 10 of their last 11 conference games since being swept by Arkansas.

South Carolina (21-13, 7-7) has lost three consecutive SEC series after winning five of its first six league games.

“That was an outstanding win,” Mississippi State coach Andy Cannizaro said. “This game was about confidence for us. After winning last night, we had more confidence. We have been getting some really great production out of the bullpen. I am really excited about how those guys have come in and thrown strikes.”

Luke Alexander hit a solo home run in the third inning for the Bulldogs, and Hunter Vansau had an RBI double in the seventh.

Carlos Cortes hit two home runs for South Carolina, one in the bottom of the third inning and the other in the ninth. He drove in all four of the Gamecocks’ runs.

Cortes finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs and leadoff man Jacob Olson had two hits and scored two runs. Those two combined for five of South Carolina’s eight hits, and T.J. Hopkins had two more.

The teams entered the ninth inning tied at 2, but Mississippi State pieced together the bigger rally and walked away victorious.

Ryan Gridley, Cody Brown and Vansau hit three singles in a row to load the bases for MSU. A ground out brought home Gridley, while a wild pitch scored Brown. Hunter Stovall followed with a critical two-out RBI single. A runner was thrown out at the plate on that hit, but the damage had been done.

“It was a great game, I thought, until the ninth inning when we made some bad defensive plays. I felt every play was there to be made to get us out of that inning and we didn’t make it,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “In tight games in this league, against really great competition, that’s not going to get you on the right side of the win column.”

Trey Jolly (2-1), the third of four relief pitchers used by Cannizaro, got the win by pitching a scoreless eighth inning.

Spencer Price worked the ninth and gave up Cortes’ second home run, but avoided any more trouble to earn his 13th save of the season.

Jacob Barton threw 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, and Trysten Barlow pitched two-thirds of an inning. Starter Cole Gordon made it through four and wound up with a no-decision.

“I really can’t say enough about what our relief pitchers have been doing,” Cannizaro said. “Cole gave us exactly what we wanted in his start. When we get to the ballpark, we tell the guys we are going to try to put something together and to be ready. They just continue to pitch, challenge hitters and get outs.”

Will Crowe (3-3) pitched into the ninth inning for South Carolina, but took the loss. He left the game after giving up the three straight singles to load the bases.