By Parrish Alford
STARKVILLE – With the shadows falling on Saturday afternoon Gavin Collins and Wes Rea put the “super” back into Super Bulldog Weekend.
Rea’s bloop double tied the game, and Collins’ walk-off hit through the left side won it as No. 17 Mississippi State, which had scored just three runs in the first 18 innings of its SEC series with rival Ole Miss, scored four times in the bottom of the 10th to beat the No. 19-ranked Rebels 6-5 before an NCAA campus-record crowd of 15,586 at Dudy Noble Field.
The decisive third game of the series is at 1:30 p.m. today.
Many in that record crowd left before the bottom of the 10th as Ole Miss first baseman Sikes Orvis had given the Rebels (28-9, 8-6 SEC) a 4-2 lead with a two-run home run to center field.
Ole Miss added another run on a sacrifice fly to make it 5-2 going to the bottom of the 10th.
It was a daunting task ahead for an MSU (22-14, 7-7) team that had struggled to score and stranded 15 runners in the game.
“I’m proud of our kids who kept competing, kept working, kept grinding and found a way to get it done on a day when we’d had three or four opportunities and just didn’t get it done,” MSU coach John Cohen said.
One of those opportunities was in the bottom of the eighth with a runner at third and one out, but Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco turned to reliever Josh Laxer who responded with two-straight called strikeouts to end the threat. Laxer gave up two hits and a walk in the ninth but escaped unscathed.
He began the 10th with a fly out before the wheels fell off. The rally started with back-to-back doubles, included a throwing error by Ole Miss second baseman Preston Overbey, and by the time Rea stepped to the plate it was a 5-4 Ole Miss lead with Alex Detz at second and two outs.
Rea’s fly ball was shallow enough that Ole Miss right fielder Will Jamison had to run a long way. He dived to try and make a play, didn’t, and Alex Detz, who had reached on the error, scored easily.
Then Collins singled off Preston Tarkington, and as pinch-runner Matthew Britton crossed the plate a wild celebration ensued.
“(Rea’s) hit gave us the momentum, and we knew from that point something good was going to happen. Something was going to go our way,” Collins said.
Ole Miss players insist the Bulldogs haven’t taken momentum in the series for good.
“We’ve been through this before. We’re a mature team,” Orvis said.
Maturity aside there’s no denying the shock of what happened to the Rebels on Saturday.
“It’s a disappointing one to lose. We had it. We had it, and we blew it,” Bianco said.