By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Poise has been a defining character trait for Mississippi State this season, and it needed every ounce of composure Monday.
In the ninth inning of Game 2 of the Charlottesville Super Regional, MSU was looking to get three more outs to secure victory and a trip to the College World Series. It didn’t happen smoothly.
Closer Jonathan Holder, who has set a school record this year for saves, was on the mound with a 6-3 lead. He had entered in the eighth inning after the game resumed – it was suspended by rain and lighting the night before.
After a flawless 10-pitch eighth, Holder had trouble finding the strike zone in the ninth. A single and a walk put two men on base with one out, and so coach John Cohen came out for a visit.
“He just came out there and said, ‘Go with your stuff,’ and that everybody trusts me,” Holder said.
Things get crazy
That seemed to work, as Holder struck out Jared King for the second out. But then things got crazy.
Joe McCarthy rolled a grounder to third and just beat the throw to score a run and delay MSU’s celebration.
Brandon Downes then bounced one to first baseman Wes Rea, who underhand-flipped it to Holder on a play MSU has executed routinely countless times this year.
But Holder lost track of the ball and slipped, and another run scored to make it 6-5.
That gave Virginia runners at second and third. On an 0-2 pitch, Derek Fisher hit a grounder to third baseman Alex Detz, who made a perfect throw to Rea to clinch the win.
“It’s just so easy to think that the whole world is going against us, and it isn’t going to happen, what are we doing,” Cohen said. “But (Holder) has tremendous composure, as do all these guys, that we’re going to figure out a way to win the ballgame.”
Shortstop Adam Frazier said there was no panic.
“We knew it wasn’t over,” he said, “and with the tying run on third, with Holder on the mound you still feel pretty comfortable, and we got it done.”