TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – In a game where the Mississippi State Bulldogs trailed Alabama much of the afternoon, they rallied from four runs down to take the lead in the ninth inning, only to watch it slip away in walkoff fashion.
First baseman Austen Smith ripped a double off the wall in left-center to give the Crimson Tide the 8-7 victory.
If losing in gut-wrenching fashion wasn’t enough, the Bulldogs (29-18, 12-12) felt as if they had won the game when Smith appeared to have bounced a ball off home plate and into fair territory leading to what one official considered an out. However, after a conference by the officials the play was ruled as a foul ball.
“There are things you can control in this game and there are things that you can’t,” said Mississippi State head coach John Cohen. “In terms of the things we can control, I thought our kids did a great job.
“We aren’t backing down from anybody. We are not going to back down from anybody no matter what the conditions are, no matter what happens to our club.”
The Bulldogs made things interesting in the eighth inning when trailing 6-2. State struck for three runs in the frame when Mitch Slauter opened with a leadoff walk. Trey Porter punched a single through the right side followed by a pinch-hit, RBI single from Phillip Casey. Brent Brownlee and Daryl Norris turned in back-to-back singles before a Sam Frost sacrifice fly tighten the game to 6-5.
“Trey swung it well and Trey is all about his pitch selection,” said Cohen. “When he gets pitches to hit, he can really hit. He is going to be a really good player in our program. He competes, he has a blue collar mentality and he is going to have these kinds of days.”
In the ninth, State went back on the attack with a Matthew Britton walk and a Porter ground-rule double. Casey then stepped to the plate and delivered what appeared to be the game-winning single scoring a pair of Bulldogs.
“Casey came in and swung the bat for us and gave us a lift offensively,” said Cohen. “The offensive part of his game is not what’s keeping him off the field. We’ve got to find a spot for him to be able to play defensively. I think he has some real feel as a hitter and I think he made the most of some opportunities (Sunday).”
In the home half of the inning, Nick Routt got the first two outs before Jared Reaves and Ben Moore followed with back-to-back singles. In relief, Taylor Stark was touched for Smith’s game-winner.
“Our kids are competing their tails off and they take everything personally when it comes to representing Mississippi State and wearing it on their chest,” said Cohen. “If you want them to hang their heads and walk back to the bus, then you’ve got the wrong group of coaches and you’ve got the wrong group of players. They will fight, fight, fight, for every minute before, after, and during the baseball game.”
For the game, Louis Pollorena earned the start, lasting 2.2 innings allowing a run on a pair of hits.
State used five hurlers with Nick Routt picking up the loss. Its pitching staff allowed eight runs on nine hits in the losing effort on Sunday.
The Bulldogs turned in 11 hits for the afternoon and were led by Porter with a 4-for-5 effort.
Following the game, Porter expressed the bitterness of the loss.
“That’s good," Porter said. "That shows how competitive this team is. If it wasn’t like that, I would be upset.”
State now looks to regroup and return to the diamond for a Tuesday doubleheader with Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils.
“We’ve got to get over this because this is disappointing," Cohen said. "We were one out away and had some really disappointing things happen to our ballclub right there, but this is baseball and those things do happen, but when you take it personally like our kids do, it is kind of hard to walk away from it. We will and we’ll be prepared for Mississippi Valley on Tuesday.”