The win simply couldn’t hide from the Bulldogs on Easter Sunday as they defeat the Vanderbilt Commodores 8-7 in thrilling fashion.
Daryl Norris stroked a ball into the right-center gap in the home half of the ninth inning to complete the MSU comeback when catcher Mitch Slauter scored from first base.
The Bulldog win clinched their first Southeastern Conference series and improved their conference record to 5-7 and an overall mark of 20-12. Vanderbilt slipped to 13-19 for the season and 4-8 in conference play.
“I was sitting on a fastball and just waiting on it,” Norris said, who now leads Mississippi State at the plate with a .409 batting average. “I saw it well on Friday and I was glad to see him come in the game tonight so we could give him two losses on the weekend. I’m still a little slow getting around the bases but at the plate I’m feeling fine.”
State didn’t start the game as they had hoped, trailing 4-0 after three frames, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t give in.
“We needed that win really bad. It was a team effort,” said Norris who reached base 10 times over the weekend with just 10 at-bats. “We had a lot of guys picking each other up. Down four runs, we didn’t lose confidence. We knew we had a lot of baseball left, and it was a matter of staying there and continuing to battle. This was a very big series win.”
After the game head coach John Cohen couldn’t have been more pleased with the fight he saw from his team.
“The story for the game is we go down four and the kids keep battling,” Cohen said. “We stayed positive and kept believing that we were going to find a way to get this done. A lot of people helped on the mound. You can’t say enough about Daryl Norris.
"He was at second base when we scored him earlier in the game. You are just locked in on that knee and you are thinking ‘Can he do this’? The things these players are doing are amazing. You could not be more proud of a group of guys who are playing hurt.”
Caleb Reed earned his first start since 2010, departing from his normal role as the Bulldog closer. Reed threw 56 pitches, while allowing five hits and four runs (three earned) in three innings of work.
Nick Routt worked the fourth and part of the fifth innings before Evan Mitchell entered the game to finish the fifth inning and worked until one out in the ninth inning.
Ross Mitchell, Taylor Stark and Luis Pollorena (1-0) combined to finish the ninth inning.
The Bulldogs rallied with three runs in the third inning. A two-run single by Wes Rea was the big blow in the inning.
Two innings later MSU pulled even at 5-5 on a two-run single by Norris in the fifth inning.
In the seventh inning a well placed single gave State the 7-6 lead before Anthony Gomez came up with the key hit against Stark for a game-tying RBI-single in the ninth.
“There are little things, you wish you could have been a little better in the field and you wish you could have hit better in situations,” Cohen said. “But the story of the game is the courage our kids displayed to win a game we really needed.”
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Mitch Slauter drew a leadoff walk. After a strikeout and popout, Norris laced a 1-0 pitch to Ziomek (2-6) to right center for the game winner.
“Winning a series is big for us,” Evan Mitchell said. “We know we are as good, if not better, than the teams we have played. To finally get a series win, even though it came down to the wire, is really big for this team.”
For the game State had 13 hits and were paced by Norris and Adam Frazier who claimed three each.
MSU hosts South Alabama at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Bulldogs then hit the road for more SEC play next weekend with a series at South Carolina.