OMAHA, Neb. (WCBI Sports/MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State made this officially the best season in the rich history of Bulldog Baseball Friday afternoon.
The Bulldogs secured a spot in the College World Series national championship series for the first time. To reach the title match, MSU knocked off Oregon State 4-1 before a crowd of 18,868 at TD Ameritrade Park.
MSU will face UCLA next week in the national championship series. Games will be played at 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (if necessary). The entire championship series will be televised nationally by ESPN.
By qualifying, the Bulldogs ensured a Southeastern Conference team in the national championship series for a tournament-best sixth straight season.
“Really proud of these guys,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “The story of the ballgame is Kendall Graveman shoving the ball in the strike zone. He changed speeds and filled the strike zone. We played a clean game defensively and did the things we have always done.”
Playing in its ninth College World Series, the Bulldogs moved to 3-0 in Omaha. The three wins are the most by an MSU squad in a CWS. The 2013 Bulldogs will move past the 1985 Bulldogs, who won two tournament games and placed third in the tournament.
The Bulldogs improved to 51-18 overall, with a school-record 11 wins in postseason play. For MSU, it is the second most wins program history, trailing only the 54 wins secured by the 1989 team. Oregon State finished the season 52-13.
Graveman (8-5) pitched 5.2 innings, allowing four hits and one run, with two strikeouts and a walk. Ross Mitchell held the Beavers in check until the ninth inning. Jonathan Holder recorded the final two outs for his 21st save of the year and now program-best 30th career save.
Graveman pitched 4.2 innings when the teams first met last Saturday. The senior right-hander had no decision in MSU’s 5-4 victory.
“For me, to see them the other day was very big for me,” Graveman said. “It’s different than seeing a team on video. I feel like there are some things I can go to. I tried to mix up speeds and get some guys off-balanced.”
The Bulldogs started the scoring in the fourth inning. Brett Pirtle started things with a one-out single. Wes Rea followed with a line-drive double. C.T. Bradford followed with an RBI-single. Trey Porter fouled out, with Rea being thrown out at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
An inning later, Hunter Renfroe slapped a three-run home run as the Maroon and White built a 4-0 lead. The Bulldogs strung together five straight two-out hits. Adam Frazier and Alex Detz started things with singles. Renfroe followed with a massive three-run home run into the wind and into the left field bullpen.
Frazier’s hit gives him the national lead with 106 base hits for the season. Renfroe homered for the first time in 91 at-bats and now shares the conference lead with 16 round-trippers. Pirtle and Rea followed with hits but each were stranded.
“Hunter’s home run was a difference-maker,” Cohen said. “His hands are so strong because he can flick his hands and the ball can leave the ballpark.”
Oregon State scored in the sixth inning with an RBI-single by Andy Peterson. The Beavers would not strike again.
For the contest, MSU finished with 11 hits, including multi-hit games by Detz, Pirtle, Rea and Bradford.
Oregon State finished with eight hits, including multi-hit games by Peterson, Dylan Davis and Danny Hayes.
MSU did not strike out in the contest, which was the first such game by a CWS participant since the 2001 tournament. It was the first time since at least 2006 the Bulldogs did not strike out at the plate.
Defensively, the Bulldogs played errorless ball and turned three double plays. MSU is now tied for second in the nation with 80 double plays turned.