STARKVILLE – Not even a two hour, 10-minute thunderstorm delay could damper the spirits of 9,092 Mississippi State fans nor deter Zac Houston from his mission Sunday night.
The Mississippi State junior right-handed pitcher gave the maroon and white faithful a moment to remember combining with Ryan Rigby on a two-hit shutout to defeat Louisiana Tech 4-0 and punch their ticket to a sixth super regional at Dudy Noble Field next weekend.
Houston tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts during his six innings of work while walking three and giving up just two hits.
“I just went with my fastball primarily, it had good life on it,” Houston said. “Later in the game around the third inning, I started getting command over my breaking ball and started using that as well.”
Holding a 4-0 lead in the top of the seventh, Houston had to leave the game after loading the bases with no outs. MSU coach John Cohen called upon Ryan Rigby to work his sidearm magic in relief hoping for a ground ball.
Instead, Rigby struck out the next two batters and then got a fly out to end the threat without any damage done.
Rigby went the rest of the way from there pitching three perfect innings with four strikeouts to earn his first save of the season.
“The ball just came out of his hand really, really well,” Cohen said. “I think we would’ve had to have a crowbar to get it out of Rigby’s hand tonight because he was just feeling it. All of our kids are competitive but he’s on a different level in terms of the way he competes.”
Mississippi State (44-16-1) collected 10 hits paced by Jacob Robson‘s 3-for-4 evening featuring three infield singles. Nathaniel Lowe was 2-for-4 and Jake Mangum doubled to propel MSU to its first ever regional sweep.
Brent Rooker was named the Most Valuable Player of the Starkville Regional by batting .400 over the weekend including a double, two home runs and six runs batted in. Rooker drove in a pair during Sunday’s championship game with an RBI single and a sacrifice fly.
Houston, Mangum, Jack Kruger, Ryan Gridley and Reid Humphreys joined Rooker on the All-Tournament team.
Mississippi State host the winner of the Lafayette Regional final between the Ragin’ Cajuns and Arizona at 1 p.m. The Wildcats would have to defeat Louisiana-Lafayette twice to advance.