By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
OMAHA, Neb. – Trey Porter hasn’t seen much action lately, but he sure made the most of his chance Monday night.
The senior stroked a two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning to lift No. 14 Mississippi State past No. 8 Indiana, 5-4, in the second round of the College World Series in front of 25,260 at TD Ameritrade Park.
It was the second consecutive game in which MSU (50-18) rallied in the eighth inning, having scored twice in the eighth just two days earlier to beat Oregon State, 5-4. The Bulldogs are now off until Friday, when they’ll face the winner of Wednesday’s elimination game between Oregon State and Indiana (49-15).
A win Friday will send MSU into the championship series for the first time in nine CWS appearances.
“Fifty (wins) doesn’t mean much to these guys,” MSU coach John Cohen said. “Trying to win a ring is what they’re all about, and that’s why we love them so much.”
Porter, a senior, has played in three of MSU’s eight NCAA tournament games. He entered against Indiana in the sixth inning as the designated hitter with the bases loaded, sending a long fly ball to right field that was caught.
That preserved, for the time being, a 3-2 Indiana lead.
Back-to-back singles by Brett Pirtle and Wes Rea opened the MSU eighth inning, and that brought Indiana coach Tracy Smith out for a visit with reliever Ryan Halstead.
Demarcus Henderson then worked a seven-pitch at-bat and singled to right field, and after making sure it would land safely, Pirtle broke for home and just beat the tag to tie it at 3-3.
“I thought Henderson’s at-bat was probably the best at-bat of the night, both clubs,” Smith said. “And I thought that was the key to them winning, because I thought Ryan was making some good pitches.”
Indiana brought in left-hander Brian Korte with two outs and men on second and third, and the left-handed batting Porter stayed in. He got a 3-1 fastball and laced it over the second baseman to break the tie.
“I just happened to step in the box when the game was on the line, and anybody else could have stepped up on this team,” Porter said. “That’s how we are. We fight until the end.”
Reliever Chad Girodo (9-1) worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with 10 strikeouts on 104 pitches. Closer Jonathan Holder got the final out for his 20th save, giving MSU its first 50-win season since 1990.
It was Holder’s 29th career save, tying the school record held by Van Johnson.
Girodo is 3-0 in NCAA play this year, with 34 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings of work. He got a big strikeout in the seventh to strand runners at second and third.
“When you’ve got a guy out there putting up goose eggs for you,” Rea said, “there comes a time emotionally, physically, mentally, that you’re saying, all right, we need to make something happen for this guy. He’s dealing.”
Rea had two hits for MSU , while Pirtle had three and reached base safely for the 41st consecutive game. State finished with 11 hits to Indiana’s nine.
“I was just a little upset about our lack of competitiveness in the batter’s box,” Smith said, “and that’s taking absolutely nothing away from Girodo. He’s good. He’s really good.
“But he’s not Sandy Koufax, and we’ve got to do a better job of digging in there and just simply put balls in play.”
Sam Travis had a pair of doubles for Indiana and drove in a run.
MSU took a 1-0 lead in the first. Adam Frazier stroked a single on the first pitch of the game, reaching base safely for the 20th consecutive game, and later scored on Hunter Renfroe’s fielder’s choice.
Indiana tied it in the second on Casey Smith’s two-out RBI single to center field.
MSU starter Trevor Fitts was chased in the third inning with a man on base. Girodo then gave up a Kyle Schwarber single and an RBI double by Travis. Scott Donley’s RBI groundout made it 3-1 Hoosiers.
In the sixth, Rea’s RBI single cut it to 3-2, but State could’ve had more. It loaded the bases with one out, but Halstead, after giving up a single, got a pop-up and flyout to end the threat.
Indiana starter Will Coursen-Carr, a freshman left-hander, gave up two runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out four and walking two. Halstead (4-5) gave up three runs on four hits in 2 1/3 innings.