OXFORD – Brent Brownlee had a lot of great moments growing up in Oxford and added another one on Friday night.
The problem is his pleasant moment at the plate during Mississippi State’s 7-4 victory over Ole Miss won’t be felt by many others in his hometown.
The Bulldogs junior left fielder, took an outside pitch by Ole Miss hurler David Goforth to the opposite field for a two-RBI single that gave Mississippi State (32-18, 13-13 in Southeastern Conference) its final lead of the evening.
Brownlee, who came in hitting .273, finished the contest 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a stolen base.
“The thing is and no matter how he’s swinging it for us, and he’s swinging it for you very well for us right now, it’s nearly impossible to take him out of the outfield because he gets to so many balls,” Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said.
With the Bulldogs third-straight victory over Ole Miss (27-23, 11-15) this season, MSU moved into a three-way tie with Alabama and Arkansas for the SEC Western Division lead. The Crimson Tide’s home game with Auburn was rained out while Arkansas’ contest with South Carolina did not finish by press time.
The second game of this rivalry series was delayed an hour and six minutes after a pouring thunderstorm and lightning raced through the campus and tornado warnings were being forecasted during the scheduled time for first pitch.
The three-inning relief performance of sophomore transfer Tim Statz continued to pitch in and out of jams as the Rebels left five runners on base in the final four innings of play.
Statz, who officially signed a national letter of intent twice with the university (before and after completing Tommy John surgery), allowed two hits throughout his longest relief outing of the 2011 season of 2 2/3 innings.
“If we can just get his command to where we want it to be, he’s going to be extremely effective for us,” Cohen said. “We knew he would be a factor for us against Ole Miss at some point and time.”
With no outs in the final frame and runners at the corners, MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson went to junior closer Caleb Reed for the second straight night to nail down his 11th save of the season. Reed is now just three saves away from the MSU record for saves in a single season and is fourth by himself and the program’s all-time list.
MSU freshman center fielder C.T. Bradford gave the visiting team some further insurance with a line drive off the outfield wall that scored Brownlee. The double was the first base knock of the series for the 2010 Mr. Baseball in the state of Florida as he’d gone eight straight at-bats in Oxford without a hit.
Senior shortstop Jonathan Ogden played in back-to-back conference games for the first time in two weeks and finished 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored. The final two spots of Mississippi State’s batting order supplied a 4-for-6 effort and the only multi-hit efforts of the evening for the Bulldogs.
Ole Miss tied the game in the fourth inning when Will Allen lifted a ball over the right field wall for his second home run of the series and fourth of the season to knot the contest at two apiece. It represented his only base hit of the evening.
MSU senior third baseman Jarrod Parks got a RBI infield single that involved a headfirst slide into first base on the play.
Mississippi State starting pitcher Nick Routt (2-2) battled through 88 pitches after a recent bout of tonsillitis that included a 103-degree flu this weekend to allow just a pair of extra base hits throughout 5 1/3 inning outing. Friday night was Routt’s second-longest start of the season since returning in mid-March after successfully rehabbing a severe elbow injury to his pitching arm.
“I made the trip up here (Friday) actually and got on some antibiotics to allow me to pitch at all,” Routt said.
Being 13-13 in the SEC season at April 13 is the longest into a season that MSU has been at the .500 mark since the 2007 season when the Bulldogs went to the College World Series in Omaha.
Mississippi State will go for the first sweep of its in-state rival since 2003 when they accomplished the feat in Oxford as well as they finish the series tonight for a 7:06 p.m. matchup.