By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Things are finally going Matthew Britton’s way, and the same goes for his team.
Britton, a freshman second baseman, had three hits and scored the winning run in Mississippi State’s 3-2, 14-inning win over Tennessee on Saturday. It gave the Bulldogs (24-16, 8-10) their first series sweep since last May, when they swept the Volunteers in Knoxville.
Most of the season-high 9,233 at Dudy Noble Field had left to go watch the spring football game by the time Brent Brownlee stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the 14th. A wild pitch by Nick Blount brought home Britton, who had led off the inning with a single.
Entering the game, Britton was batting .110. His two-out, two-run single to center field in the sixth tied the game at 2-2.
“We just have a lot of confidence in Matthew. We think he’s going to be a great player,” head coach John Cohen said. “But the league’s knocked him around a little bit, and he’s got to recover from that offensively.”
Britton said he’s been working on hitting the ball to the middle of the field. His teammates have kept encouraging him, too.
“They’re always supportive, but it’s hard not to get down when you’re not hitting,” Britton said. “But you’ve just got to keep working.”
With so many injuries, Cohen hasn’t had many other options, so Britton’s been forced to work through his struggles. The Bulldogs, who won the first two games of this series by scores of 2-1 (11 innings) and 7-1, have been searching for offensive consistency.
The pitching and defense carried State through the weekend against a Tennessee lineup that ranks last against SEC pitching. The Bulldogs made only one error all weekend, and on Saturday it did a good job of getting lead runners out on bunts.
“I feel like we came together as a team more this week than we have all season,” shortstop Adam Frazier said. “If you do that, then winning ballgames is what happens.”
Tennessee (22-18, 7-11) tried to force a run across in the 11th on a suicide squeeze bunt, but reliever Ben Bracewell fielded it and got the runner at home.
Tennessee got on the board in the third when Chris Pierce’s single to left field scored Zach Luther with two outs. UT added another in the sixth on Parker Wormsley’s pinch-hit single with two outs – another runner tried to score, but Hunter Renfroe threw him out from right field.
Reliever Luis Pollorena (2-0) got the win, tossing three innings of one-hit ball. Blount (2-3) took the loss.