By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In its desperate search for some offense, Mississippi State found it from a pair of unlikely sources.
Matthew Britton and Sam Frost, two of the weaker hitters in the lineup, sparked the Bulldogs in an 8-1 win over UAB at Dick Howser Stadium on Saturday. MSU avoided elimination from this NCAA regional and will face Samford at 11 a.m. Central time today.
Britton, a freshman second baseman, was 2 of 3 with his first career double and three runs scored. Frost, a junior third baseman, was 1 of 4 with a season-high three RBIs. Entering Saturday’s game, those two were hitting a combined .188.
“They go about their drill work every single day. You’d think they were both hitting .400,” MSU coach John Cohen said. “That’s the way they act, and that’s what you want.”
The Bulldogs (40-23) will need to sustain the offensive momentum if they hope to advance past this weekend. They will have to beat both Samford and Florida State today, and if that happens, will need to defeat FSU again on Monday in this double-elimination format.
Samford beat MSU on Friday, 5-0. That poor offensive showing carried over into Saturday, as UAB starter Ryan Nance (4-4) retired the first 11 hitters he faced.
But State broke through in the fifth with a two-out rally. After Britton and Mitch Slauter walked, Frost smashed a two-run double off the base of the left-center field wall for a 2-0 lead.
“He was really trying to bust me in, so I got up there looking for something in and he kind of left it down the middle,” Frost said. “The way we’ve been this season, once we get one run, we kind of start rolling.”
Britton and Frost’s efforts came on a day when leading hitter Adam Frazier saw his 13-game hitting streak come to an end. Also contributing was Luis Pollorena, normally a pitcher who drew the start in right field. He had a bunt single and scored a run.
“Everybody in our lineup has potential to come through with the big hit,” Britton said.
MSU has won at least one game in 25 of its 26 regional appearances.
UAB (32-30) was making its first NCAA appearance in 21 years, and coach Brian Shoop – a former MSU assistant – said he didn’t want the Blazers’ two-and-out exit here to put a damper on the season.
“It’s not like we have a history and tradition like Florida State and Mississippi State have,” Shoop said. “It has to start somewhere, and I’m always going to remember this season.”
Nance, UAB’s starter, gave up two runs on two hits in 42/3 innings and recorded a career-high seven strikeouts. MSU starter Kendall Graveman tossed 31/3 shutout innings, with reliever Ross Mitchell (3-0) picking up the win.
Caleb Reed tossed the final 42/3 innings for his ninth save.
MSU scored five runs in the fifth inning, which was highlighted by Wes Rea’s two-run double and Trey Porter’s RBI single.