FINAL: MSU 8, Austin Peay 3

ATLANTA | A recap of MSU’s win over Austin Peay today at Russ Chandler Stadium.

The buzz: Well, hello, MSU. The Bulldogs (36-23) find themselves one win away from advancing to their first super regional in four years after a dominating win over the Governors (34-23), who face Georgia Tech again tomorrow at 2 p.m. in an elimination game. State will get the winner of that game at 6 p.m., and even if the Bulldogs lose, another game will be played Monday. Because this is double elimination.

Big inning: Uh, the fourth. MSU scored seven times. C.T. Bradford‘s RBI triple got things going, and then a weird play happened when Jaron Shepherd laced a shot off the pitcher’s leg for an infield single. Jarrod Parks scored from second, just beating the throw and accidentally head-butting Austin Peay catcher Matt Wollenzin in the throat area. Then Jonathan Ogden came through with a bases-loaded infield single to make it 5-0. And then, Ryan Collins hit a two-run single, and Wes Thigpen had an RBI double to cap it.

Key stats: MSU pitchers tossed 17 consecutive scoreless innings here before Austin Peay finally got on the board in the ninth. … MSU left 10 men on base, six of those through the first three innings. … Four of MSU’s seven runs in the fourth inning came with two outs. … Bradford extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

MSU at the plate: State had 10 hits, with two apiece from Bradford, Collins and Thigpen. Nick Vickerson had only one hit, but it was an RBI double. He’s got six extra-base hits in his last five games.

Austin Peay at the plate: The Governors had six hits, and only one was an extra-base hit. Michael Blanchard led the way with two hits. Austin Peay never had more than one hit in an inning, although MSU pitchers did issue five walks and a hit-by-pitch.

MSU on the mound: Freshman starter Evan Mitchell (6-1) was lights out, throwing eight-plus innings before finally leaving after loading the bases in the ninth. The Marietta, Ga., native shut out the Govs for eight innings and was ultimately charged with three runs (all earned) on five hits. He struck out eight and walked five on 128 pitches in the longest outing of his career.

Austin Peay on the mound: Starter Jeremy Dobbs lasted 3 2/3 innings, being charged with three runs (all earned) on five hits with three walks, two hit batters, two strikeouts. He left with a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. The Governors used four relief pitchers.

Bottom line: This is mighty huge, but you know that. It’s all coming together for the Bulldogs, who are knocking the cover off the ball, pitching lights out, and playing nearly flawless defense. With two chances to advance, this could happen.

Quotable: “There’s one focus, and that’s the next pitch that’s going to be thrown. I think our folks will be really locked down tomorrow on the game in front of us.” – Cohen

Up next: The schedule has been explained above. But who will MSU pitch? Cohen mentioned three candidates: junior Devin Jones (2-5, 4.45), junior Nick Routt (2-3, 4.15) and sophomore Chris Stratton (5-7, 5.21). Cohen wants to wait and evaluate tomorrow’s Austin Peay-Georgia Tech game.