STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics) – One difficult inning cost the Mississippi State baseball team dearly Friday night.
After allowing Tennessee four runs in the fourth inning, MSU tried to rally the rest of the night, before falling 4-2 in the opening game of a Southeastern Conference three-game series at Dudy Noble Field.
Despite the loss, the Bulldogs did clinch a berth in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. MSU is now 31-19 overall and 14-11 in league play, while Tennessee is 29-18 and 11-14. MSU stands two games back of the Western Division lead with five conference game remaining.
MSU allowed four runs in the fourth inning, thanks in part to an error and a pair of run-producing wild pitches. Still, the undoing may have been leaving 12 stranded base runners, including the bases loaded in the eighth and ninth innings.
“We had many chances to score and we have guys who go there and can’t even make contact,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “We struck out four straight times with the bases loaded and that is unacceptable. I am really disappointed at how we performed. We work on situational hitting every day. You have to be able to put the ball in play in situations like that.”
The Bulldogs actually had the first really good opportunity to score but a lost a runner at the plate on an inning-ending double play in the first inning.
Tennessee struck for four runs on two hits in the fourth inning. MSU starting pitcher Trevor Fitts (4-3) was lifted during the frame and eventually charged with all four runs (only one earned). In relief, Jacob Lindgren wild pitched a pair of runners home. Nathaniel Maggio also had a two-run single in the at-bat for the Volunteers.
MSU did not threaten again until the sixth inning.
In that at-bat, C.T. Bradford, Brett Pirtle and Seth Heck had base hits. However, a caught stealing on a failed hit-and-run loomed large. An inning later, the Bulldogs scored again on an RBI-single by Bradford.
However, that would be it as Andrew Lee worked around six base runners to record his third save in two innings of work. Lee recorded three straight strikeouts with the bases loaded to snuff the threat in the eighth inning.
MSU finished with 10 hits, including a three-hit night by Bradford. Alex Detz and Cody Brown also had multiple hits. Ben Bracewell threw five innings of three-hit shutout relief for the Bulldogs.
Tennessee finished with seven hits. Christin Stewart, Taylor Smart and Maggio each had two hits. UT starter Hunter Martin (4-3) threw 6.1 innings to garner the win.
MSU and Tennessee resume the series at 6 p.m. Saturday. That contest will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast. MSU is scheduled to start junior left-hander Ross Mitchell (7-4, 2.12 ERA), while UT is scheduled to start senior right-hander Nick Williams (5-4, 3.73).