STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI Sports/MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State’s struggles continued on defense Sunday night.
Attempting to win the Starkville Regional, the ninth-ranked Bulldogs will have to play again and win Monday night to take the championship. After making four errors for the second time in the tournament, MSU dropped a 5-2 decision to Central Arkansas.
Monday night’s winner-take-all championship is set for 7 p.m. at Dudy Noble Field. The winner of the Starkville Regional will face No. 6 national seed Virginia in a Super Regional this weekend in Charlottesville, Va.
A crowd of 10,226 saw the Bulldogs drop their first game in this tournament. Central Arkansas got back-to-back complete game pitching performances Sunday. The Bears stayed alive with a 3-0 win over South Alabama and then knocked off MSU, giving both MSU and UCA a loss apiece in the double-elimination event.
“We’re disappointed but all you can do now is put this one in the rear-view mirror,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “Obviously, you can’t make the mistakes we made tonight and expect to win. We were fortunate that we got away with it Friday night.”
MSU (45-18) has committed four errors in each regional tournament game against Central Arkansas. The Bulldogs actually won for a third time this season with four errors when they still got Friday night’s contest into the win column with a 5-3 decision. No such encore took place Sunday night as UCA broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the sixth inning.
“We will be fine,” MSU junior second baseman Brett Pirtle said. “The fortunate thing is that we have another chance to come out and play the game and get a win.”
The Bulldogs built an early 1-0 lead Sam Frost started things with a two-out single. Frost stole second and took third on a wild pitch. An RBI-single by Demarcus Henderson plated the Bulldog third baseman.
UCA (42-21) chased MSU starter Trevor Fitts during a difficult third inning. The Bulldogs made two errors on the infield and the Bears scored a pair of unearned runs.
Fitts worked 2.2 innings, allowing one hit and those runs, with one strikeout and two walks. Myles Gentry (4-1) threw 3.1 innings in relief and took the loss. Will Cox completed the contest with two innings of shutout relief.
The Bulldogs tied the contest in the sixth inning. Pirtle started things with a walk. After a groundout and lineout, Frost’s second hit of the contest scored Pirtle.
That would be the lone extent of the damage for the Maroon and White.
Ethan McKenzie (4-2) finished the complete game, by allowing one hit over the last three innings. McKenzie allowed four total hits and two runs (both earned), while facing 36 batters and throwing 128 pitches.
UCA took the lead for good with three scores in the sixth inning. In this frame, the Bears had four hits. Scott Zimmerle laced the go-ahead hit. Justin Treece capped the scoring with a two-run double.
Zimmerle was the lone multiple hitter for UCA, while Frost was the same for MSU.
Sunday’s night regional crowd pushed the total Starkville Regional attendance figure to 52,771. The Bulldogs topped 10,000 Sunday night for a third straight home game for the first time in school history.