COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State found a way Friday night on the road in Southeastern Conference baseball action.
Thanks to strong starting pitching by Luis Pollorena, dominant closing by Jonathan Holder and Hunter Renfroe’s 11th home run of the year, the 16th-ranked Bulldogs knocked off Texas 3-2 in the opening-game of a three-game weekend series at Olsen Field.
“Texas A&M has a great atmosphere,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “I thought our kids approached this game with a great workmanlike attitude. They came out and competed and got a huge win. It means a lot when you can go into Saturday with a chance to win a series.”
MSU won a conference series opener for the third time five tries this season. MSU improved to 28-9 overall and 6-7 in league play, while Texas A&M fell to 21-14 and 6-7.
Pitching in front of friends and family in home start, the senior left-handed Pollorena made the most of his fifth start of the season. Pollorena (6-1) pitched 6.1 innings, allowing five hits and two runs (one earned), with three walks and two strikeouts. Holder closed the door on the Aggies for his 10th save of the season.
“You really can’t say enough about Luis,” Cohen said. “He goes out there every Friday night and commands the strike zone. Jonathan was just nasty there at the end. This isn’t pro baseball where you wait until the ninth inning to use your closer.
“Jonathan is the best we have and the game was certainly on the line in the seventh inning.”
The Bulldogs battled back from a 2-0 deficit with single scores in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Renfroe began the MSU scoring with an RBI-double in the fourth inning. The game-tying run scored on an errant pickoff attempt. Renfroe’s team-best 11th-round tripper cleared the left field and gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.
“Hunter has 11 home runs in a different day and age with the bats,” Cohen said. “He has more home runs than three or four teams in the league combined. He is so hot for us right now and he always has good at-bats. We had some really great timely hitting.”
Pollorena faced the minimum in four of his first six innings pitched. The Bulldogs turned two of their double plays in support of Pollorena. In the seventh inning, the call went to Holder with Aggies at first and third and one out.
A flyout and strikeout snuffed that threat. The third double play ended the eighth inning, before Holder retired the side in order in the ninth inning.
“You can not say enough about the poise that Jonathan displayed in an incredibly difficult situation.”
Renfroe was the lone multiple hitter for MSU, which finished with five hits. Texas A&M had seven hits, including two by Logan Taylor. Daniel Mengden (4-2) worked seven innings for the Aggies and took the loss.
The series resumes with a 12:35 p.m. start Saturday. MSU is scheduled to start senior right-hander Kendall Graveman (4-2, 1.99 ERA), while Texas A&M is scheduled to start junior right-hander Rafael Pineda (3-2, 2.52). The contest will be televised regionally by SportSouth.
The series finale is at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.