Samford was 4-3 after losses to both the Boilermakers (9-4 Friday) and Bulldogs. They will see Mississippi State again Sunday afternoon to complete the event.
It was last June that Samford's Bulldogs handed State a pair of defeats in NCAA play, at the Tallahassee Regional, by scores of 5-0 and 3-2. The stakes were very different in this rematch, and the teams varying degrees of different themselves. But plenty of MSU Bulldogs are still on the 2013 roster.
And they remembered.
"We came out wanting to put it on them, because they disappointed us last year," pitcher Ross Mitchell said. "We really wanted to attack them early and were able to do that."
Indeed the Bulldogs did, knocking out three runs in both the first and second frames, as well as 13 total hits. This highlighted just how different Mississippi State's current offense is from the one Samford kept in check last post-season. Eleven different Dogs, including all nine starting batters, got at least one base knock. Frazier led both the lineup and list with his three hits at the top of the order including that opening triplet.
The biggest of the bunch though belonged to RF Hunter Renfroe as he belted a solo home run for the second straight day of the event. Samford by contrast was shackled to just four hits, all singles.
All of these came off Mitchell, and in long relief. But as he entered in the fourth inning and went the rest of the game, and allowed just one run in his final frame, Mitchell was more of a ‘substitute starter' in the context. When starter Evan Mitchell showed worrying signs of wildness in his three turns, and with a healthy lead on the scoreboard, Coach John Cohen handed it over to this Mitchell to manage.
He did, going 6.0 complete innings with no walks and four strikeouts to get his second victory of the season. "We had a good lead, I didn't want to walk anybody, just wanted to let my defense work," R.Mitchell said. "We had a bunch of good plays behind me."
And a lot of good early hitting before him. More than half came at the expense of Samford starter C.K. Irby, who had given State's lackluster '12 offense fits. This was an entirely ‘nother matter though as Frazier signaled with a solid hit that skipped under the Samford centerfielder's glove and to the fence for a three-base hit. CF C.T. Bradford settled for softer contact, chipping a single behind the third baseman for the first RBI. Renfroe was nailed on his right hand the first time up for a free if painful pass.
A couple of outs later 1B Alex Detz lined a shot off the rightfield wall. It scored Bradford but the carom came right back to Samford's fielder so Detz had to settle for a single. No matter, as 2B Brett Pirtle singled into center for the 3-0 lead after one inning.
The second saw C Nick Ammirati leading off with a base hit, and Frazier following suit. A walk of Bradford loaded all bases as well as moved Ammirati in position to score on Renfroe's fly ball to deep center. Frazier also got to third base and when a curveball bounced off the mitt in front of the plate he tried for home. Catcher Richard Greene didn't hold on to his tag and Frazier was credited with stealing home. LF Jacob Robson made it a 6-0 scoreboard with a base hit plating Bradford.
Irby didn't return for the third. It was Parker Curry stabilizing the situation for three innings, other than feeding Renfroe a fastball one out into the fourth. He cleared leftfield for the season's second homer.
Meanwhile MSU had changed pitchers too. E.Mitchell had good velocity but erratic location with walks in the first and second and a plunking in the third. He would have remained unscathed but for consecutive wild pitches that advanced Samford's Frankie Navarrette to third base, where he could score on a ground ball. 3B Kyle Hann ended that third with a nice stop and throw.
R.Mitchell had warmed and was ready for the fourth, going in-order. A leadoff single in the Samford fifth was erased by an inning-ending double-play, and Mitchell sat the next nine with minimal fuss. Save only in the eighth when he had to protect himself from a bullet off the bat of Tommy Corbin. That hard contact was the exception.
Because after giving up too many big fly balls in Tallahassee, the plan this time was keeping everything at glove-level. "I wanted to go outside pretty much, then I'd go in on them late," Mitchell said. "They were hitting ground balls and we were making plays. I was able to get under their bats and they grounded themselves out."
The Bulldogs added a seventh-inning score as Detz walked, and advanced when 2B Brett Pirtle was plunked. With two outs sub-swinger Nick Flair singled for the RBI.
Mitchell's scoreless stretch ended in that ninth with a leadoff Austin Allison single. Bradford made a remarkable diving grab in the right-gap to rob a run, but designated hitter Patrick McGavin dropped a drive in right for a pride score. Mitchell ended it with a comebacker.
"I gave up a few hits in the ninth. But I got to stay in and get it done."
Irby (1-1) took the loss on seven hits, six runs, two walks and two strikeouts.