By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Adam Frazier is having another stellar SEC Tournament, and he just might carry Mississippi State to a second consecutive title here.
The junior shortstop had four hits and scored twice as the 16th-ranked Bulldogs topped Texas A&M, 6-4, at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Thursday night. The win sent fifth-seeded MSU (43-16) to Saturday’s semifinals to play the winner of today’s Vanderbilt-Texas A&M game.
Frazier, who was named tournament MVP last year, is 9 of 18 with six runs scored in the first three games this week.
“This is the Adam Frazier in tournament play you expect. He’s a special player,” MSU coach John Cohen said.
MSU, which swept a three-game series from Texas A&M (32-26) in April, banged out 10 hits and scored four unearned runs off three errors.
State took a 5-2 lead with a three-run fifth inning, which began with a Frazier leadoff single. He went to third on a hit-and-run single by Alex Detz, then scored on Brett Pirtle’s RBI hit.
Then the Bulldogs got a gift. With two outs, Nick Ammirati’s slow grounder rolled right between the legs of A&M first baseman Cole Lankford, allowing two runs to score.
“We didn’t play good defense. That hasn’t been very characteristic of us,” Aggies coach Rob Childress said.
His starter, Rafael Pineda, gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings, but only two of them were earned. He left after yielding the three runs in the fifth.
In Pineda’s previous outing against MSU, on April 13, he went just two-plus innings. Frazier had three hits that game.
“I feel like I see his changeup pretty good, and he gave it to me a lot,” Frazier said. “I flew out on it to left (field) in one at-bat, and really just tried to take advantage of his mistakes, and balls found a couple of holes.”
The Aggies answered in the bottom half of the fifth. After chasing MSU starter Kendall Graveman with one out, A&M got a two-run single from Blake Allemand to make it 5-4.
In 4 1/3 innings, Graveman was charged with four runs – two earned – on five hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
MSU got a big play in the seventh when center fielder Hunter Renfroe caught a Krey Bratsen fly ball and rifled a throw to first base to double up pinch runner Brandon Wood.
“Hunter’s a guy, even though he didn’t get any hits tonight, he’s a guy who can change the game just like that,” Cohen said. “That was a huge double play.”
Renfroe was 0 of 5 and remains mired in a big slump. Over his last 20 games, the junior slugger is 17 of 79 (.215 average) with two home runs.
Frazier had an RBI single in the eighth to pad the lead for closer Jonathan Holder, who worked a perfect ninth for his 16th save. Reliever Ross Mitchell (11-0) got the win with 3 1/3 innings of shutout, hitless ball.
Each team scored in the first inning thanks to errors by the opposing shortstop. Texas A&M brought in two runs, on Troy Stein’s groundout and then Hunter Melton’s RBI single.
Pirtle drove in MSU’s run on a groundout to the pitcher. MSU tied it at 2-2 in the fourth on Ammirati’s sacrifice fly. On the previous at-bat, MSU executed a perfect hit-and-run, when Pirtle broke for second base and Demarcus Henderson singled through the hole vacated by the covering shorstop.
That allowed Pirtle to take third.
With this win, MSU welcomes a day off today. Cohen said they might do some light work, but his plan is to get back to Starkville to watch his daughter, Jordan, graduate high school.
“I’m glad I’m going to be able to be a part of that.”