COLLEGE STATION Tex. – Mississippi State made the most of its first-ever Southeastern Conference baseball series with Texas A&M.
The 16th-ranked Bulldogs pounded out a conference game-best 15 runs on 19 hits as MSU completed the rare conference road sweep with a 15-4 win over Texas A&M Sunday afternoon at Blue Bell Park.
MSU improved to 30-9 overall and 8-7 in league play, while Texas A&M is now 21-16 and 6-9. The Bulldogs have won five of their last six conference games and have now grabbed back-to-back series wins. MSU is above .500 in league play for the first time this season.
All doubt was removed with an eight-run fourth inning for the Maroon and White. Already leading 1-0, the Bulldogs tallied all eight of those scores with two outs. The big blow was a grand slam by Nick Ammirati – one of three home runs by the Bulldogs. The grand slam was MSU’s first of the season.
“Nick had such a huge swing,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “It really is unheard of in this league to score eight runs in one inning. We were able to do just that with two outs. We just kept plugging away and scoring some runs.
“I felt along this team had a chance to get on a roll. We have pitched it well and defended it well all season. This weekend, you should saw great at-bats and some of our capabilities on offense.”
The Bulldogs pounded out what was then a conference game-best 15 hits in Saturday’s 9-3 series-clinching win. MSU did even better with 19 hits on Sunday. For the weekend, the Bulldogs scored 27 runs on 39 base hits.
“The league is elevated now with 14 teams,” Cohen said. “It is difficult to win a series, let alone to be able to sweep a series, especially on the road. I thought we had some good fortune. Then we got some barrels in the right spot.”
Prior to the Ammirati slam, Brett Pirtle drew a bases-loaded walk and Wes Rea ripped a two-run single. Derrick Armstrong also recorded an RBI with a bases-loaded walk. Ammirati capped the big inning with his grand slam to left field.
Wes Rea had given MSU its early lead with an RBI-double in the first inning.
The early offense would be more than enough for winning pitcher Jacob Lindgren (3-1). In 5.1 innings of work, Lindgren allowed three hits and three runs (one earned), with five strikeouts and three walks.
Texas A&M scored all four of its runs in the sixth inning when MSU had an atypical defensive letdown, committing two errors in the same inning.
Ross Mitchell got the Bulldogs out of their tight spot in the sixth inning, before giving way to Jonathan Holder in the seventh inning. Holder faced 10 batters and struck out four in three innings of one-hit relief for his 11th save.
“Jacob really gave us a quality start,” Cohen said. “Ross came in and got the double play ball but we couldn’t execute. That is very rare, because we are a great defensive team. However, our errors extended the inning.
“Jonathan came in after that and really put his stamp on the game. He did a great job of closing things out.”
MSU expanded the lead with four scores in the eighth inning and two more scores in the ninth inning.
The Bulldogs collected RBI-singles by C.T. Bradford, Ammirati and Adam Frazier in the eighth inning. Renfroe hit his league-best 13th home run of the season and Rea hit his third in the ninth inning.
Rea had his first four-hit game of the season to lead the MSU attack. Renfroe had his fifth three-hit game, while Ammirati had his second. Pirtle added his eighth multi-hit game and Armstrong his first.
Ammirati set a career high with five RBIs, while Rea drove in a career-best four runs.
Krey Bratsen had three of Texas A&M’s eight hits. Mitchell Nau added multiple hits. Starting pitcher Corey Ray (3-1) failed to make it out of the fourth inning and took the loss.
Now, MSU returns home to rest up for Super Bulldog Weekend when longtime Western Division rival Auburn comes to town. The Bulldogs and Tigers meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday (ESPNU), 6:30 p.m. Friday (Comcast Sports Southeast) and 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Thursday night game is part of the national ESPNU Game of the Week package and will help kickoff a weekend full of spring homecoming activities at MSU.
“A lot of teams around the league have had trouble drawing fans to the Thursday night game,” Cohen said. “I don’t want that to be our problem. We need the place packed out Thursday night. This is tremendous exposure for our team and our university. It is a big recruiting weekend for the program as well.
“This is another opportunity for our fans to show why they are the best fans in college baseball. We are excited coming home and playing before those fans. It is going to an incredible atmosphere and a big weekend for our club.”
The first 8,000 fans in attendance Thursday night will receive free t-shirts. A postgame fireworks show is also planned at Dudy Noble Field.