FINAL: MSU 5, No. 2 South Carolina 3

The buzz: Things went according to plan tonight. Nick Routt put in some good work, he was backed up by bullpen stalwarts Luis Pollorena and Caleb Reed, and the Bulldogs (24-15, 7-10 SEC) got enough timely hits to even the series with the defending national champions. Oh, and State has now exceeded its SEC win total from last season, when it went 6-24.

Big inning: State trailed 3-2 entering the sixth, but it got three runs and chased SC starter Colby Holmes. A throwing error on Wes Thigpen‘s bunt allowed the tying run to score, and then senior Ryan Collins laced a two-run single to left field for the 5-3 lead.

Key stats: MSU stranded nine runners and was 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position and two outs. But, a couple of big hits by Jarrod Parks in the third and Collins in the sixth proved to be more than enough. MSU pitchers recorded 10 strikeouts. SC committed two errors and allowed two unearned runs.

MSU at the plate: Three players had two hits: C.T. Bradford, Parks and Trey Johnson. Of MSU’s eight hits on the night, five came in the two innings in which it scored.

South Carolina at the plate: Only Christian Walker had more than one hit, and the Gamecocks (30-8, 13-4) struggled when given chances to score. With two men in scoring position in the seventh, Reed struck out two batters to end the threat. Two men reached base in the ninth but were stranded by Reed again.

MSU on the mound: Starter Nick Routt got a no-decision. While he didn’t allow a hit through three innings, he gave up back-to-back singles to open the fourth and was jerked with one out in favor of Pollorena. A fielding error with two outs let in a run, and then Robert Beary had a two-run single to give the Gamecocks a 3-2 lead. But Pollorena (5-2) threw well, allowing one unearned run on four hits in 3.0 innings. Reed worked the final 2.2 innings, giving up no runs on one hit and fanning four to earn his seventh save.

South Carolina on the mound: Holmes got a no-decision – he gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and struck out six in 5.0 innings (he faced one batter in the sixth). John Taylor (2-1) got only one out and took the loss, being charged two runs (one earned) on two hits. Three other relievers also got work.

Bottom line: MSU is set up to do something big if it can win Sunday. MSU has won only one SEC series this season, and to break through against a team like South Carolina would do wonders.

Quotable: “I just can’t tell the outside world how badly these seniors want it, how hard they’re working in the weight room, on the field. I just think we’re so close to really turning the corner, and it’s neat for us to be able to get one win.” – MSU coach John Cohen, on trying to win the series Sunday

Up next: The decisive Game 3 is set for a 1:30 p.m. start. Cohen said the three candidates to start on the mound for him are freshman Daryl Norris, freshman Evan Mitchell and junior Devin Jones.

Video bonus: I’ve got some postgame video of Collins. Hope you can hear him over the background noise.