SUNDAY: 5-1 loss
STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State continued its weekend of brilliant pitching but timely hitting did not follow suit.
The 17th-ranked Bulldogs dropped the final game of a three game Southeastern Conference baseball series with third-ranked Vanderbilt, falling to the Commodores 5-1 Sunday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.
MSU still took its second straight conference series to open league play. The Bulldogs close the weekend at 17-9 overall and 4-2 in league play, while the Commodores are 20-5 and 3-3.
“We really pitched it well,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “I am not sure Vanderbilt got a ball to the outfield. We certainly defend it as well as you would have liked. And we have been a very good defensive team all year. However, we certainly pitched it well enough to win for a third straight day.”
Trevor Fitts (2-1) was the tough-luck loser, as he allowed only one run on five hits in 6.1 innings of work. Jacob Lindgren, Myles Gentry and Ben Bracewell followed. That quartet allowed 10 hits but only two earned runs.
Fitts’ quality start made it three straight for Bulldog pitching staff for the first time since MSU accomplished that feat in consecutive games in the 2011 Atlanta Regional.
Vanderbilt starter Tyler Ferguson (4-0) was equally as impressive as he threw six innings of shutout baseball. Ferguson allowed two hits and five base runners before being lifted after a leadoff walk in the seventh inning.
Vanderbilt finally broke the game’s scoring ice by plating a run in the top half of the seventh inning on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Rhett Wiseman.
The lead grew to 3-0 with two runs in the eighth inning, thanks in part to a pair of hits, an infield error and a wild pitch.
MSU scored in the home half of the eighth inning as Matthew Britton drew a walk and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Jake Vickerson.
Vanderbilt put the contest away with two runs in the ninth inning.
“Based on our charts, we had 15 hard-ball outs,” Cohen said. “That is how the game of baseball sometimes works. The weak ground ball out can sometimes be the better thing. We take a lot of positives away from the weekend because we played really well against a Top Five team. We certainly had our chances in this game as well.”
MSU finished with three hits, including a multi-hit game by Gavin Collins.
Bryan Reynolds had three of Vanderbilt’s 10 hits. Ro Coleman and Xavier Turner each added two hits. Carson Fulmer pitched the final three innings for his seventh save.
MSU hosts Southeast Missouri State at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
SATURDAY: 6-3 win
Another masterful pitching performance by junior left-hander Ross Mitchell helped carry the No. 17 Mississippi State baseball team to a 6-3 win over third-ranked Vanderbilt Saturday night at Dudy Noble Field.
Playing before a season-largest crowd of 10,064 and a nationally television audience, MSU halted Vanderbilt’s string of 15 straight conference series wins.
MSU improved to 17-8 overall and 4-1 in league play, while Vanderbilt fell to 19-5 and 2-3. MSU won a weekend series from Vanderbilt for the first time since 2012 and also made amends for four losses to Vanderbilt a season ago.
“We didn’t play well last year against this club,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “I think our kids really remembered that and wanted to get them back when they came to our place. Overall, it was a very good evening for us.”
The evening did not start well as Vanderbilt scored twice in the first inning, putting the Maroon and White behind in a conference game for the first time since their league opener.
Mitchell (4-1) was touched for two earned runs in that frame, thanks in part to a walk and hit batsman. From there, Mitchell regained his usual form, throwing 7.1 innings, allowing six hits and not allowing another run.
“After the first inning, Ross Mitchell was Ross Mitchell,” Cohen said. “When you make the type of plays we have made in the field this weekend, you like Ross Mitchell on the mound. We came into the game with a .986 fielding percentage and that is unheard of for this level.
“You have to consider most of our pitchers are ground ball out pitchers, so the fielding percentage is not getting padded by fly outs and strikeouts.”
MSU began its rally with a single score in the second inning and two more scores in the third inning. Derrick Armstrong started the scoring with a line drive sacrifice out in the second inning. In the third inning, Seth Heck continued his brilliant offensive start by lining a two-run double. Heck has been retired twice in 11 plate appearances in the series, with one of those coming on a sacrifice fly.
Two defensive miscues by Vanderbilt opened the door in the Bulldog fifth inning. VU starter Jared Miller (5-1) was lifted with one out in the inning. Miller allowed four hits and four runs (three earned), with five walks and two strikeouts.
The Bulldogs closed their scoring with a bases-loaded walk to Armstrong in the seventh inning and a sacrifice fly by Brett Pirtle in the eighth inning.
Jonathan Holder got the final two outs in the eighth inning and worked around back-to-back singles to start the Vanderbilt ninth inning for his third save.
Alex Detz had two of MSU’s six hits.
Zander Wiel had two hits and two RBIs to pace Vanderbilt’s eight-hit attack.
The series concludes with a 1:30 p.m. start Sunday. MSU is scheduled to pitch junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (2-0, 3.55 ERA), while VU is scheduled to pitch sophomore right-hander Tyler Ferguson (3-0, 1.63).