June 2, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Clinging to a one-run advantage midway through the game, Mississippi State broke away with a substantial five-run inning in the sixth to stave off elimination and defeat UAB, 8-1, on Saturday afternoon in day two of the NCAA Regionals in Tallahassee at Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
The victory for the Bulldogs (40-23) means they will face the loser of tonight’s winner’s-bracket contest between No. 1 seeded Florida State and No. 3 seeded Samford. Mississippi State will face the loser of the game on Sunday at noon on ESPN3.
Mississippi State recorded four extra base hits in today’s contest that led to four of its eight runs scored, as Wes Rea provided one of the biggest plays when he created some room with a two-run double in the fifth inning to give MSU a 4-1 lead. Trey Porter finished 2-for-5 with an RBI, while Sam Frost led the Bulldogs going 1-for-4 with three RBIs. Rea also had multiple RBIs on the run-scoring hit in the fifth inning, and Matthew Britton finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored.
Both offenses were overcome by strong pitching from starters Kendall Graveman and Ryan Nance (4-4) through the early portion of the ballgame. With UAB batting in the bottom of the fourth, Blazers (32-30) right fielder Jeff Schalk became the first player of the day to reach scoring position when he advanced to second base following Ryan Ussery’s hit by pitch with one out. Schalk was then stranded when Bulldog reliever Ross Mitchell induced an inning-ending ground-ball double play off the bat of Harry Clark to keep the game scoreless through four innings.
Mitchell (3-0) earned the win for MSU after pitching one inning and allowing one earned run. Caleb Reed picked up his ninth save of the season delivering 4.2 shutout innings and striking out four. Nance absorbed the loss after surrendering two earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched with a career-high seven strikeouts.
Nance was dealing effectively against a struggling Mississippi State batting order through the first four innings, going the first 3 2/3 without allowing a base hit until Porter lifted a 2-2 offering into right field for a single in the top of the fourth. In the fifth inning, Nance struck out Rea swinging to establish his career high of seven strikeouts.
However, the Bulldog bats broke open the game with two outs in the fifth. Following Rea’s strikeout, Britton drew a four-pitch walk and Mitch Slauter walked on a full-count. Following a quick meeting at the mound, Sam Frost stepped to the plate and hammered an important two-run double to centerfield to snap Nance’s 11-inning scoreless streak and give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. Nance proceeded to intentionally walk Adam Frazier to put runners on first and second base and set up a force out, but his control issues furthered in the fifth by walking Demarcus Henderson to load the bases. Reliever Chase Mallard entered the game and forced a flyout to left field by Porter to keep UAB within striking distance.
The Blazers countered with one run in the bottom of the fifth. Keith DePew led off with a walk and went to second base on a single by Tanner Bryant. Both runners then advanced to scoring position on a balk by Mitchell, and pinch hitter Tyler Mims recorded an RBI groundout to drive home DePew and cut the deficit to 2-1. Second reliever Caleb Reed then entered the game making his 96th career appearance, forcing a groundout and getting John Frost to strike out swinging to get out of the frame.
Rea came through with a game-breaking two-run double down the left field in the sixth inning to give the Bulldogs a 4-1 lead. Following a sacrifice bunt by Britton that put Rea at third base and allowed Britton to reach base on an errant throw, Slauter came through with an RBI sacrifice bunt to the right side that plated Rea to make it 5-1. The scoring was extended on a fielding error from UAB shortstop Bryant off the bat of Demarcus Henderson that allowed Britton to score the unearned run. After reliever Dillon Napolean came into the contest, Porter knocked an RBI single up the middle to extend the lead to 7-1.
Mississippi State continued to hit well in the seventh, as Frost added a sacrifice fly to tally his season-high third RBI of the game.
UAB ends its season having played the most games in school history with 62. The win for Mississippi State clinches its 18th 40-win season in school history.