By Logan Lowery
HOOVER, Ala. – After Georgia tied things up by scoring two runs with two outs in the ninth inning, Mississippi State didn’t panic.
MSU had been there before during the regular season.
State rallied back in the 10th inning to defeat UGA 5-4 to close out the opening day of the SEC Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
“We’re 7-0 in extra-inning ballgames,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “We’d love to be 7-0 in games where we don’t have to go extra innings, but that’s how it rolls. These kids are pretty comfortable in tight ballgames because we play a ton of them.”
State (36-20) is now 9-2 in the SEC Tournament over the last three seasons and advance to play No. 4 seed South Carolina in the nightcap today.
Georgia’s ninth inning heroics spoiled a stellar start on the mound by State’s Lucas Laster. Laster hurled 8 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits with eight strikeouts and a pair of walks.
“I just wanted to come out and give my team a chance to win,” Laster said. “I wanted to go as long as I could to try and save some of the bullpen for the rest of the tournament.”
But after throwing 117 pitches, Laster turned things over to All-American closer Jonathan Holder with one out and a runner at first and a 4-2 lead in the ninth inning.
Holder promptly struck out the first batter he faced but allowed three straight singles. Jess Posey, younger brother of San Francisco Giants catcher Buster, had a pinch-hit RBI single to tie things up and send the game into extra frames.
Wes Rea had given Mississippi State a two-run lead with a pinch hit, two-run double to right-center in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“That really got us going,” said MSU catcher Gavin Collins. “He was first-pitch swinging and looked like he was so locked in right there. That’s what the captain does, he comes up clutch.”
MSU was able to win the game in walk-off fashion in the 10th inning off Georgia closer Jared Cheek (5-6).
Collins led off with a single and Derrick Armstrong was hit by a pitch. Jake Vickerson attempted to sacrifice both runners into scoring position, but UGA catcher Brandon Stephens threw the ball past first base, allowing Collins to trot home with the winning run.
Mississippi State had 10 hits on the evening, led by Seth Heck going 2-for-4 with a double.
Brett Pirtle also went 2-for-4 at the plate, and Holder improved to 6-1 on the mound.
UGA (26-29-1) had eight hits, led by Sean McLaughlin, who was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Nelson Ward was also 2-for-4 as Georgia was eliminated from the SEC Tournament.