Bulldogs’ NCAA Run Featured Many Heroes

Since I drove all night and got home at 5:30 a.m. Monday, I decided to take the day off. But I’m back now. Note: The Premature Preview scheduled for last Friday got pushed aside because of baseball, but I’ll have it for you this week.

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When you recall Mississippi State’s unexpected postseason run of 2011, the first name that will likely come to mind is Nick Vickerson. He’s the one who hit that walkoff home run in Game 2 of the Gainesville Super Regional, and then in Game 3 got MSU back in the game with a three-run shot.

In six NCAA tournament games, Vickerson was 8 of 20 (.400) with three doubles, two home runs, six runs and nine RBIs. He had an .850 slugging percentage and had 17 assists at second base with one error.

There were, of course, plenty of other heroes for the Bulldogs.

Brent Brownlee, the oft-injured junior outfielder, has been healthy most of this season. He missed the regular-season series against Florida with a fractured foot (well, he made one late defensive appearance) but made up for lost time this past weekend: 5 of 11 (.455) with three RBIs. Brownlee, who hit .276 during the regular season, had a big two-out, two-run single in Sunday’s game to give State a short-lived 6-4 edge. For the entire postseason, he hit .389 (7 of 18) with six RBIs.

C.T. Bradford, the freshman leadoff hitter, came on strong late in the season. In NCAA play he was 9 of 24 (.375) with five RBIs. He did most of his damage in the regional round (7 of 13, five RBIs).

Jarrod Parks, at one time the SEC’s leading hitter, struggled throughout the postseason. He hit just .208 (5 of 24), but let’s not forget it was Parks who singled to open the ninth inning of Game 2 at Florida to set up Vickerson’s heroics. Parks finished the season with a team-high .363 average.

Caleb Reed gave everything he had and then some. The junior right-hander posted a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 innings, and his 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball kept MSU close in Game 2 vs. UF. He threw 82 pitches and got the win. Then he came back the next day and tossed an inning, giving up the critical three-run homer. Reed’s three shutout innings vs. Southern Miss sealed victory in the first Atlanta Regional game.

Nick Routt threw the game of his life against Georgia Tech, going the distance as MSU clinched the Atlanta Regional title. The junior lefty gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits against a potent lineup.

Luis Pollorena didn’t do well against Florida, but this postseason run began with him on the mound against USM. The scrappy left-hander worked six shutout innings as the Bulldogs pulled off the upset and started a run that nearly took them to Omaha.