By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State finished the regular season with a flourish, and now it hopes to carry that momentum over into the postseason.
The No. 24-ranked Bulldogs topped No. 14 South Carolina on Saturday, 7-2, to claim the series victory in the regular season finale for both squads. MSU (40-16, 16-14 SEC) reached the 40-win mark in the regular season for the first time since 1997, and in the process earned the No. 5 seed for this week’s SEC Tournament.
The Bulldogs will play No. 12 seed Missouri in the fourth and final game of Tuesday’s single-elimination round. MSU won the tournament last year.
“I think we have the team that can go out there and win it again,” said reliever Ross Mitchell, who improved to 10-0 with 42⁄3 innings of one-run ball.
While Mitchell kept South Carolina (39-16, 17-12) in check, Demarcus Henderson had three hits to lead an 11-hit MSU attack. State was also helped by three Gamecock errors.
In the second inning, Henderson had an RBI single and later scored on a wild pitch to give MSU a 2-1 lead. He also singled home a run during a three-run eighth, capping a weekend in which he was 6 of 12 at the plate.
Henderson bats in the bottom part of the order, and MSU’s six-through-nine hitters got the job done all weekend. They were a combined 6 of 14 with five RBIs on Saturday.
“You’ve got to have a one through nine that can do some things for you to win 40 games in a season,” head coach John Cohen said. “Really proud of the fact that those guys stayed with their identity and did what they can do and not try to do too much.”
MSU starter Jacob Lindgren tossed 41⁄3 innings, giving up one run on five hits. It was his longest outing in four weeks.
Both of South Carolina’s runs came on solo homers by LB Dantzler.
“I thought it was going to be one heck of a game if we’d have played defense,” SC coach Chad Holbrook said, “and we didn’t.”
These teams could meet again on Wednesday. South Carolina is the No. 4 seed and has a first-round bye, so it will get the Missouri-MSU winner.