By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State is doing its best to prove John Cohen prophetic.
For the second consecutive game, the No. 22-ranked Bulldogs beat Alabama in walk-off fashion, taking a 7-6 baseball victory in 11 innings at Dudy Noble Field on Sunday.
That win gave MSU (36-13, 13-11 SEC) its first sweep of the Crimson Tide (27-21, 11-12) in nine years, and it was a big bounce-back weekend for a team that was swept at Vanderbilt the week before.
And now State is up two spots in the Western Division standings, to third, and is fifth overall in the SEC with two weekends of play left. MSU is at Ole Miss next weekend.
“I really believe, and I’ve been saying this for a long time, I think they can get on a roll, and I think they can do some things in the postseason,” said Cohen, MSU’s fifth-year head coach. “But we’re not there yet, and we still have a lot going on in the regular season.”
After a doubleheader sweep on Saturday – including a 5-4 win in 10 innings – the Bulldogs had to overcome a 6-3 deficit Sunday. Center fielder C.T. Bradford played the hero, stroking a 1-out single to right field off reliever Jon Keller (3-6) to drive in the winning run.
The junior had four hits on the day. He came up to bat with two men on, after Wes Rea failed to get down a bunt. Cohen spoke with Bradford as he waited on deck.
“He said, ‘Coach, I’m on this guy. I’m going to hit the ball hard.’”
Bradford got what he was looking for on the first pitch – a slider. Hunter Renfroe beat the throw home from second base.
MSU’s late-game execution didn’t surprise Bradford, who said the Vandy sweep didn’t affect the team.
“We stay calm and keep our heart rate down, and we deliver,” he said.
Jonathan Holder also delivered. The closer entered in the ninth and tossed three shutout innings, striking out six, to earn the win. Holder (2-0) complemented his fastball with a knee-buckling curve.
“Jonathan Holder is like an artist at work,” Cohen said. “It’s just fun to watch that.”
Alabama, which is 1-6 in extra-inning games this season, took a 5-2 lead in the fifth when freshman Mikey White smashed a three-run homer off Ross Mitchell.
Ben Moore’s RBI single in the fifth made it 6-3.