By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – South Carolina didn’t want to get beat by Hunter Renfroe, but the rest of Mississippi State’s offense was more than happy to pick up the slack.
With their slugger continuing to struggle, the No. 24-ranked Bulldogs rallied from three runs down to defeat the No. 14 Gamecocks, 5-4, in the series opener at Dudy No-ble Field on Thursday night.
Game 2 is today at 6:30 p.m.
MSU (39-15, 15-13 SEC) scored four times in the eighth inning as closer Tyler Webb had a rare blown save for South Carolina (38-15, 16-12). Renfroe was 1 of 4 and left seven men on base, but State still pounded out 14 hits.
This comeback came four days after the Bulldogs erased a six-run deficit to beat Ole Miss.
“With the comebacks, when we have innings to spare, we feel like we’re going to be fine, just because we can score,” said C.T. Bradford, who had three hits.
Over his last 15 games, Renfroe is 14 of 54 with one double and two home runs. He struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh of a 4-1 game.
But in the eighth, which began with a Wes Rea solo home run, Renfroe was intentionally walked to load the bases with the score tied.
Webb (2-2) then walked Brett Pirtle for the go-ahead run.
A big spark that inning was Demarcus Henderson’s bunt single, which was followed by Nick Ammirati’s RBI single to left field. Adam Frazier tied the game with a single off the shortstop’s glove.
“Our kids just showed again that they’re not out of ballgames,” MSU coach John Cohen said.
Closer Jonathan Holder got the final three outs and stranded a runner to earn his 15th save.
Chad Girodo (6-1) got the win with an inning of shutout relief.
MSU starter Luis Pollorena allowed four runs in 42⁄3 innings. South Carolina’s Nolan Belcher tossed 61⁄3 innings of one-run ball.
The Gamecocks struck early with Joey Pankake’s two-run double to the center field wall in the first inning.
Pollorena settled in for a while after that, retiring 12 consecutive batters.
Then he gave up doubles to Brison Celek and Tanner English in the fifth to make it a 3-1 Gamecock lead.
Pollorena got the hook after Graham Saiko’s RBI single made it a 4-1 game.