OXFORD – Mississippi State was the most alert and productive team after a 3 hour, 50 minute rain delay Saturday, and it didn’t take the Bulldogs long to lock up an improbable SEC series victory.
MSU first baseman Connor Powers, the fourth batter after the delay, smashed a three-run home run deep into the left field for a 9-5 lead, and the Bulldogs defeated No. 7 Ole Miss 11-8 before the remnants of a Swayze Field crowd that numbered 8,141 when the game began at 3 p.m.
The Bulldogs, last in the SEC, have secured their first series win against Ole Miss since 2003. State (23-27, 8-17 SEC) swept three at Swayze Field that season, the last team to sweep the Rebels, and will have a chance to repeat that feat at 1:30 p.m. today.
Tied for the SEC overall lead Friday afternoon, the Rebels (36-15, 16-10 SEC) have fallen behind Alabama into third place in the Western Division.
“Our seniors really want this, and we want it for them,” MSU coach John Cohen said. “We need to create some momentum not only to finish out this year but for next year.”
Before the delay the Rebels used a three-run sixth to climb back and make it a 6-5 game. The delay finished up MSU starter Nick Routt and gave the Rebels a go at the Bulldogs’ beleaguered bullpen, but State’s relievers out-pitched their Ole Miss counterparts.
The first pitch of the sixth inning by Ole Miss lefty Nathan Baker resulted in a double by MSU nine-hole hitter Frank Rawdow. After a sacrifice bunt, Baker walked Cody Freeman before Powers launched a decisive blow.
Baker gave up four hits, three walks and three runs in his only inning of work. He had walked only three batters in 18 SEC innings going into Saturday.
Ole Miss starter Brett Bukvich and reliever Aaron Barrett pitched the five innings before the rain.
The three Ole Miss relievers to follow gave up seven hits, six walks, five runs and two home runs.
“We just didn’t make enough pitches,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “We got behind in the count and walked people. That’s not how we pitch.
The MSU pitching staff, at 6.41, has the SEC’s highest earned run average, but relievers Greg Houston and Jared Wesson handled the Rebels Friday, and a day later Chad Crosswhite came out of the delay with three straight scoreless innings before allowing three runs in the ninth.
“Our guys really competed on the mound,” Cohen said. “We got a big enough lead to where we could just throw strikes, play prevent and hope they didn’t hit balls out of the park.”
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal