By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Matthew Britton’s childhood visions came to life with one sweet swing of the bat.
At Regions Park, a place he frequented while growing up in nearby Cullman, Britton kept Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament with a game-winning RBI single in the 10th inning, giving his team a 4-3 win over No. 1 seed LSU.
It was MSU’s second win over the Tigers (43-16) in three days. The Bulldogs (37-22) will face Kentucky for the second time in three days in today’s semifinals, at noon.
A long afternoon of offensive frustration for MSU was eradicated over the game’s final three innings, when it scored all four runs. It was tied in the bottom of the 10th when Mitch Slauter hit a one-out double, bringing Britton to the plate.
The redshirt freshman had entered the game as a pinch runner in the eighth and stayed in at second base. On a 3-2 pitch from Nick Rumbelow, Britton lined a fastball toward second baseman JaCoby Jones, who dove but could only deflect the ball into shallow center field.
Slauter scored easily, and a joyous celebration ensued both on the field and in the stands, where several of Britton’s family and friends were watching.
“I grew up watching the SEC Tournament every year,” Britton said. “We’d always come, and we’d watch pretty much every game. … I always dreamed of being out there and playing, and now I finally got the opportunity. A big deal for me.”
MSU got on the board in the eighth on Hunter Renfroe’s single. In the ninth, Wes Rea led off with a double, and Adam Frazier’s third hit of the game knocked in a run to make it 3-2.
Late sub Luis Pollorena, normally a pitcher who had three at-bats all year coming in, tied it with a sac fly off LSU closer Nick Goody (1-2).
MSU stranded 10 runners on the day, eight of them in scoring position as LSU starter Ryan Eades tossed six shutout innings.
“We had some sequences where we didn’t swing the bat early on the way I know we can. But our kids stayed with it. They showed great fortitude,” MSU coach John Cohen said.
Freshman left-hander Jacob Lindgren got his first career start for MSU, and LSU got to him early with two runs in the first and another in the second. Lindgren gave up three runs on five hits in 42/3 innings.
Jonathan Holder (2-0) pitched the 10th for the win. He has thrown 261/3 scoreless innings this year, setting a school record.