By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – No. 21 Mississippi State captured its second consecutive Southeastern Conference series Saturday night by downing sixth-ranked Vanderbilt 6-3 in front of 10,064 fans at Dudy Noble Field and a national television audience.
The victory came on the heels of a 17-2 win on Friday and snaps a string of 15 consecutive SEC series wins for the Commodores, dating back to 2012.
“It’s not a secret that we did not play well at Vanderbilt a year ago,” said MSU skipper John Cohen. “I think this was a date our guys marked on their calendars and said they wanted to play well against Vanderbilt. We have just not really shown them who we are and not played well against this club, so I think that was important to (our players) as well.”
The Bulldogs (17-8, 4-1 SEC) received another strong starting outing on the mound from Ross Mitchell. The reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week claimed his second straight SEC victory, lasting 7 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks while fanning three to improve to 4-1 on the year.
“Vanderbilt challenged me all night, but I was able to get that big out and my defense was able to make the play behind me,” Mitchell said. “To win a series and still have a chance at the sweep against a great team like Vanderbilt is huge.”
All-American closer Jonathan Holder came on to close things out to notch his third save. Holder struck out three in 1 2/3 innings, surrendering a run on two hits and a walk.
MSU finished with six hits on the evening, led by designated hitter Alex Detz, who was 2-for-4 with a double.
“We situationally hit well enough to push some runs across,” Cohen said. “The walk and the (hit by pitch) really helped us tonight.”
Shortstop Seth Heck also struck a big blow at the plate with a two-run double in the bottom of the third to give the Diamond Dogs the lead.
Fast start for Vandy
Vanderbilt equaled its run total from Friday night in its first at bat. Mitchell hit the leadoff hitter and walked the next batter, setting the table for a two-run single by Zander Wiel.
But State would answer back in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly from Derrick Armstrong off Commodore starter Jared Miller.
The Bulldogs would gain the lead for good in the third when Heck delivered a two-run double to the wall in left.
“It was a 2-0 count and (Miller) had missed badly with two fastballs, so I was kind of cheating to one pitch and was able to get my barrel out and hit it over (the left-fielder’s) head,” Heck said.
Mississippi State would strike again in the fifth inning, taking advantage of two Commodore errors in the inning to go up 4-2. The Diamond Dogs would add another run in the seventh, as Armstrong drew a bases loaded walk from Vandy reliever Brian Miller.
Detz led off the eighth with a double to left-center and would plate an insurance run following a sacrifice fly by Brett Pirtle to take a 6-2 lead into the final frame.
Holder surrendered back-to-back singles in the top of the ninth and gave up a run as MSU traded a run for an out and was able to get off to its best start in conference play since 2006.
The Commodores out-hit State with eight knocks on the night, led by Wiel, who went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs batted in.
Second baseman Dansby Swanson also added a double as Vanderbilt dropped to 2-3 in the league and 19-5 overall.
Jared Miller suffered the loss on the mound, falling to 4-1. Miller was lifted after 4 1/3 innings, having served up three earned runs on four hits with five walks and a pair of strikeouts.
The Diamond Dogs will go for the series sweep at 1:30 p.m. today. State will send junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (2-0, 3.55 ERA) to the mound, opposed by Commodore sophomore righty Tyler Ferguson (3-0, 1.63).