Mississippi State overcomes suspensions, deficits to take series from Georgia

Published 8:38 pm Sunday, April 7, 2024

STARKVILLE — At the end of a twisting, turning, tumultuous weekend at Dudy Noble Field, Mississippi State sent Georgia to the showers.

Mississippi State scored twice in the bottom of the eighth inning, and overcame a five-run deficit earlier in the game, to beat Georgia 9-8 in their series finale Sunday.

Mississippi State (21-12, 6-6 Southeastern Conference) came from behind three times to win. The home Bulldogs won their second SEC series of the season, both at Dudy Noble Field.

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“It’s huge. All the emotion that went into this, and that’s what you need in the league. You’ve got to get two out of three at home,” Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis said. “We felt good about it all weekend and obviously everything went upside down. But to get this one today gives you a lot of momentum going into next week.”

Mississippi State was without starting catcher Johnny Long and starting third baseman Logan Kohler, who were both among 11 players ejected late in Saturday’s game.

The ejections normally carry an automatic one-game suspension, but the SEC only levied that penalty on five players after an overnight appeal — Long and Kohler for Mississippi State; and Georgia catchers Fernando Gonzalez and Henry Hunter, and relief pitcher Daniel Padysak.

Gonzalez was allowed to play Sunday and will serve his suspension for Tuesday’s game vs. Kennesaw State, because Georgia (24-7, 5-8) only had two catchers available Sunday.

“We didn’t know what was happening going into today. Once we realized some of us were going to be able to play again we were more energized. It was an exciting morning, to say the least,” said Mississippi State outfielder Bryce Chance, who went 2-for-3 and drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.

Kolby Branch hit a grand slam in the top of the third inning as Georgia jumped to a 5-0 lead. Mississippi State answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning, however, and Connor Hujsak tied it with a solo home run in the fifth.

“When that five-spot was put up we knew we were still in it,” Chance said. “Especially on a Sunday in the SEC. Once you can get into the bullpen there’s a good chance you can stick around and we ended up doing that.”

Both teams scored in the sixth inning to trade the lead back and forth, then Georgia’s Clayton Chadwick hit a two-run double in the seventh inning to put the visiting Bulldogs back in front 8-7.

In the bottom of the eighth, MSU’s Dakota Jordan walked and Hunter Hines singled before Hujsak reached on a fielding error. Jordan scored the tying run as Hines moved to third base, and the Chance hit a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in Hines with the run that put Mississippi State ahead 9-8.

Tyler Davis retired the side in order in the ninth to finish a dominant relief performance. Davis (3-0) pitched three scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and no walks while striking out three.

“As the game went on I started to see that maybe it was me that’s going to finish this game, but it wasn’t the mindset going into it,” Davis said.

After the emotions of the weekend, as well as two one-run games decided in the eighth or ninth inning, Lemonis said he was glad to come away with a series victory.

“Exhausting,” Lemonis said. “I wish I could be excited. I’m worn out right now. I gave all the coaches a hug and I know our kids felt that way. You’re proud of them as a coach.”