Getting shut out back-to-back games, no matter how good the opponent, can humble a team. It can drain your confidence, too. But Mississippi State managed to overcome such circumstances to beat No. 2 Vanderbilt on Sunday, 9-8, thanks to an eighth-inning rally.
After losses on Friday (10-0) and Saturday (4-0), the Bulldogs finally found their groove at the plate, and against one of the best pitching staffs in the SEC. State banged out 11 hits, including two triples and a home run, the latter a two-run shot in the fifth inning to chase starter Taylor Hill.
Parks also started the five-run rally in the eighth with a leadoff single. MSU did it with five singles and a walk, sending 10 batters to the plate. Freshman C.T. Bradford, who started the game on the mound but didn’t last long, had the go-ahead RBI single with two outs.
While Bradford and Caleb Reed struggled on the hill, you’ve got to like the bullpen work from Chad Girodo, Andrew Busby and Taylor Stark: They combined for three innings of two-hit shutout ball, with Stark earning his first save.
So the Bulldogs salvaged some dignity and have something to build on as they get a few days off before hosting Auburn for a three-game set starting Friday. But the first two games against Vandy should also be instructive. In those games, MSU collected a grand total of seven hits in 60 at-bats, an average of .117.
The Bulldogs committed five errors in Friday’s loss, but even without those, the pitching wasn’t superb. Over the first two games, MSU pitchers had an ERA of of 5.63. Throw in Sunday’s game, and the ERA for the weekend was 6.12.
It can’t be said enough, however, that this was the No. 2 team in the country, and at their place. To get even one win up there – which MSU hadn’t done since 2002 – is quite a feat. MSU is now 15-6 overall and, of course, 1-2 in SEC play.
More on the Bulldogs later.