TUSCALOOSA, Ala., – Mississippi State won its fourth straight SEC road series this weekend and have now claimed six of their first seven conference series overall.
But the fourth-ranked Diamond Dogs didn’t leave Alabama’s Sewell-Thomas Stadium as happy as they would have liked on Saturday. MSU dropped the first game of a doubleheader 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth before bouncing back with a 2-1 victory in seven frames to take the series.
“We’ve been very successful on the road and I credit our kid’s toughness,” said MSU skipper John Cohen. “But man, the greed in me says we let one slip through our fingers today. We could’ve swept a good Alabama club on the road and we let it slip through our fingers. That one’s gonna burn us for a while.”
Both games were originally slated for seven innings following a rainout on Friday but the first game Saturday went nine as the two teams were knotted 2-2.
Ryan Gridley broke up the stalemate in the top of the ninth with a sacrifice fly but the Bulldogs’ bullpen could not sustain the lead. Four relievers combined for four walks to force in the tying run before Blake Smith surrendered a walk-off RBI single to Chance Vincent.
State starter Austin Sexton was lifted in the bottom of the 4th holding a 2-1 lead with runner at third and a 2-2 count. Jacob Billingsley ended up allowing an RBI double off the wall in center by Will Haynie.
“Our scouting report said that (Haynie) needs to see spin and Billingsley is one of our best spin guys,” Cohen said. “We left a breaking ball up and he hit it. In retrospect, do we take Sexton out there with a runner in scoring position? Who knows? But we felt like spin was the way to go.”
In Game 2, the Diamond Dogs were once again able to establish an early lead with RBI singles by Gridley and Reid Humphreys in the second inning.
That proved to be all Mississippi State starter Konnor Pilkington needed to improve to 2-1. Pilkington pitched a career-high 5 2/3 innings and seven strikeouts while giving up just one run on three hits and two walks.
“I was mixing my slider and fastball,” Pilkington said. “I haven’t really done that much in the past but tonight I made it a point to mix pitches.”
Daniel Brown tossed the final 1 1/3 innings to earn his first save as Alabama fell to 10-11 in the SEC and 25-20 overall.
Humphreys led the Bulldogs (30-14-1, 12-9 SEC) at the plate Saturday going 3-for-6 with a triple and three RBIs in the twinbill.