By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – John Cohen wasn’t thrilled when Wes Rea took to Twitter last fall and told fans to go ahead and “book your rooms” for this year’s College World Series. But Rea was proved prophetic on Monday when the baseball popped in his glove for the final out at Davenport Field.
Cohen, Rea and the rest of the Mississippi State Bulldogs booked a trip to Omaha, Neb., with a 6-5 win over Virginia in Game 2 of this best-of-three Charlottesville Super Regional. It’s MSU’s ninth College World Series berth and first since 2007.
Rea, a third-year sophomore first baseman, said he had good reason to send out that tweet so many months ago.
“We got to school in August, and the guys just meshed immediately. We just felt like we had something special,” Rea said.
“I made a statement and said, that’s our goal, we’re going to do it. We were fortunate enough to make it happen. Like coach Cohen said, we’re not done yet. That’s not the ultimate goal.”
MSU (48-18) will open CWS play this weekend against either Kansas State or Oregon State, teams that played late Monday.
State punched its ticket by taking down a Virginia team that had not lost two consecutive games at home all season. After an 11-6 win on Saturday, MSU was leading 5-3 on Sunday when rain and lightning suspended action until Monday.
After what amounted to an 18-hour rain delay, play resumed in the bottom of the seventh, when MSU added another run for a 6-3 lead. Things got dicey in the ninth, when Virginia (50-12) scored twice and had runners at second and third base.
The Cavaliers had 23 comeback wins this season.
But closer Jonathan Holder got Derek Fisher to hit a ground ball to third baseman Alex Detz, who fired across the diamond to Rea for the final out.
A dogpile ensued on the pitcher’s mound.
“I don’t really remember much,” Holder said, “but I do remember seeing the ball hit to Detz, and he made just about a perfect throw. And I see Wes full-speed tackle coming at me. It was unbelievable.”
Holder worked the final two innings for his 18th save. Chad Girodo (8-1), who on Sunday had tossed 42⁄3 innings of two-run relief, got the win.
MSU banged out 10 hits and had 30 for the series, posting a team batting average of .390.
Adam Frazier led the way, going 8 for 11 with five RBIs over the two games. Hunter Renfroe was 5 of 9 with three RBIs, while Rea was 4 of 7 and blasted a two-run homer in the third inning of Game 2 for a 3-1 lead.
“If they take that (offensive) approach to Omaha, with that bullpen – they’ll have a lot of success,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said.