By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State got the best of Central Arkansas when it counted most.
In the final game of 2013 at Dudy Noble Field, the No. 14-ranked Bulldogs jumped ahead early and stayed there in a 6-1 win over the Bears in the NCAA Starkville Regional title game on Monday night. MSU (46-18) will head to Charlottesville, Va., to take on Virginia in the super regional round this weekend.
State could’ve won the regional on Sunday, but UCA (42-22) took a 5-2 win thanks in part to four MSU errors. Monday, Central Arkansas was sloppy early, and the Bulldogs pounced.
MSU and UCA faced each other six times this year, with the Bears taking two of three in the regular season. State got two of three when it counted most, having won on Friday.
“We just weren’t going to let this one get away from us,” MSU designated hitter Alex Detz sad. “We just felt like we were better team than them.”
Hunter Renfroe had three hits and two RBIs for MSU, and reliever Chad Girodo (7-1) struck out a career-high 12 in 62⁄3 innings of one-run work.
“I haven’t stretched him out like this before in his career. He did a masterful job tonight,” MSU coach John Cohen said.
A night after UCA (42-22) took advantage of four MSU errors, the roles reversed. State scored twice in the first with the aid of an error by third baseman Garrett Brown, which allowed Hunter Renfroe to score for a 2-0 lead.
MSU also got an unearned run in the second. First baseman Scott Zimmerle booted Sam Frost’s grounder then slammed into Frost, who was shaken up. He stayed in and scored on Adam Frazier’s groundout.
UCA committed three errors on the night.
Frazier and Renfroe both singled home runs with two outs in the fourth for a 5-0 lead.
MSU had 11 hits, including two each by Frazier, Detz and Demarcus Henderson. State scored four runs with two outs, including Renfroe’s RBI single in the sixth.
“We got short and quick swings,” Renfroe said. “Yesterday we got kind of big and tried to hit balls out of the ballpark, which isn’t going to happen.”
UCA ended MSU starter Ben Bracewell’s night by loading the bases with one out in the third. Girodo entered and got a fly ball and a strikeout to preserve the 3-0 lead.
“He was incredible. He had the right stuff,” UCA coach Allen Gum said.
The Bears again loaded the bases in the fourth, with two outs, but Girodo fanned Forrestt Allday.