Extra inning affairs haven’t exactly been kind to the Mississippi State Bulldogs in 2012, having won just once in five attempts.
However, on Thursday night that didn’t matter as Mississippi State found a way to take a 2-1 victory from the Tennessee Volunteers in 11 innings.
Pinch runner Louis Pollorena made a mad dash for home plate off a Mitch Slauter fly ball to shallow left field. The throw from Richard Carter was slightly up the line allowing Pollorena to score the game winning run.
“We talked about it right before the play and he just said 'yes' so I just tried to run as fast as I can," Pollorena said. "I was trying to move my little legs. I was hoping for a fly ball so I could slide and get a little dirty.”
State (22-16, 6-10) was put into position for the win once again by a dominant performance from Chris Stratton. The junior right-hander threw nine complete innings allowing one run on just four hits while striking out 10 and walking no one.
"I just can’t say enough about Chris Stratton,” said MSU baseball coach John Cohen. “I just thought he was phenomenal and just competed his heart out for us.”
Stratton gave it his all and wanted to take the mound again in the 10th.
“I hate coming out of the game," Stratton said. "I said ‘can I get one more,’ but they told me my pitch count was way too up. I would pitch until my arm fell off.”
State scored their first run in the fifth inning when Tyler Fullerton delivered a two-out double followed by a Sam Frost single to right.
That 1-0 lead held until the eighth when Tennessee (22-16, 7-9) mounted a two-out rally of its own. Ethan Bennett struck out for what was the third out of the inning but managed to reach due to the wild pitch on strike three. From there the Volunteers had back-to-back singles leading to a tied game at 1-1.
MSU closer Caleb Reed entered the game in the 10th and thanks to a nifty pick off by Slauter on first base he worked a one, two, three frame. However, in the top of the 11th Tennessee managed to load the bases with one out. UT center fielder Chris Fitts lifted a ball into center field where C.T. Bradford made the catch and delivered a one-hop strike to Slauter who tagged Will Maddox out at the plate to end the inning.
“He does that all the time, you almost expect C.T. to make that play,” said Cohen following the game. “The tough part is the tag because it is skimming off the surface. It was just a huge huge play in the ballgame.”
The win was crucial for a club that was searching for some confidence after dropping their last four decisions.
“Our kids are in the middle of just trying so hard and that’s why I think we can go on a run in the second half offensively,” said Cohen. “I think we can score runs and support this pitching staff that has done nothing but gone out there and given us everything every time.”
Reed (1-5) picked up the win for the Bulldogs, his first since his win over Florida in the 2011 Super Regional.
For the game, Stratton and Reed combined for one run on six hits. At the plate, the Bulldogs were efficient scoring a pair of runs on five hits with Trey Porter picking up two hits for the evening.
The two clubs resume the series with the second game tonight at Dudy Noble Field with a first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m.
Kendall Graveman (2-2, 3.25 ERA) is expected to get the call for the Bulldogs and faces freshman right-hander Robbie Kidd (2-0, 3.19 ERA).