Bulldogs handcuff champs

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – John Cohen’s dynamic bullpen duo put Mississippi State on the brink of a breakthrough.
Luis Pollorena and Caleb Reed combined for 52/3 innings of masterful relief work in the Bulldogs’ 5-3 win over No. 2 South Carolina on Saturday at Dudy Noble Field. Pollorena (5-2) got the win, Reed got his seventh save, and now MSU can take the series at 1:30 p.m. today.
“We knew if we had any kind of lead, that Pollo and Caleb were going to pitch in this ballgame, because those guys have been so good for us,” Cohen said.
Pollorena entered in the fourth and let three runs in, although two of those belonged to starter Nick Routt. Pollorena settled in after that and worked into the seventh. He wound up working three innings, allowing one unearned run on four hits.
Then it was Reed’s time. With two runners in scoring position and one out in the seventh, he struck out the next two batters to preserve a two-run lead.
He had more trouble in the ninth, with two runners reaching, but after a short mound visit from pitching coach Butch Thompson, Reed got the final two outs.
He allowed one hit and struck out four in 22/3 innings.
“The game’s got to be over,” Reed said of his closer’s mentality. “I know I’ve said that countless times, but that’s just the way – ” Before he could finish, Reed took a celebratory shaving cream pie to the face from teammate Cody Freeman.
There could be even more celebrating today if MSU (24-15, 7-10 SEC) can win the series. The Bulldogs took a game from both Vanderbilt and Florida, both top-five teams nationally, earlier this year.
Getting two from the Gamecocks (30-8, 13-4)?
“That’d be tremendous,” Reed said. “No reason to be satisfied with one. A win (today) catapults you in more ways than anybody could ever imagine.”
MSU went ahead for good with three runs in the sixth.
South Carolina starter Colby Holmes was pulled after plunking leadoff man Jarrod Parks, and Trey Johnson singled. Then new pitcher John Taylor (2-1), who took the loss, made a wild throw to first base on Wes Thigpen’s bunt, allowing one run to score and tie it at 3-3.
Senior Ryan Collins put the Bulldogs ahead with a sharp two-run single to left field. MSU could’ve had more, but it left the bases loaded.
Collins’ big hit was a big relief for a club that’s struggled with runners in scoring position. Prior to his at-bat, State was 1 for 6 in those situations Saturday.
“Here lately we’ve been playing good ball, we just haven’t made the big play,” Collins said. “We’ve been hitting balls hard, just right at people. We finally caught some breaks tonight.”
Routt didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning, but he allowed back-to-back singles to open the frame, and he was pulled after a sacrifice bunt put two men in scoring position.
A two-out error by Parks at third base let one run in, and nine-hole hitter Robert Beary did further damage with a two-run single to left field off Pollorena. South Carolina led 3-2 at that point.
MSU had a 2-0 lead in the third when Parks looped an RBI single to score C.T. Bradford, and Brent Brownlee also scored when the right fielder mishandled the ball.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@journalinc.com.