Porter Produced In A Grand Series Style

Sure, he had the hero hit. And yet...Trey Porter can still wonder, what if? "It would have been pretty sweet to hit a grand slam at the College World Series! But that's just how baseball goes, if you hit a ball hard you'll get rewarded down the road."

Not just Porter, but all of Bulldog baseball was rewarded when Porter hit a ball that stayed inside the park and scored two runs. The winning runs, as Mississippi State edged Indiana 5-4 in the crucial winners bracket match of this College World Series.

Besides, his two-run single in that decisive eighth inning was pretty Dog-goned grand in its own right. Especially considering what this designated hitter has dealt with over the course of his senior season. Then again, all the former frustrations are forgotten. Maybe by Tuesday afternoon Porter had stopped grinning.

And, maybe not.

Certainly Porter didn't envision himself as a Omaha hero. "Not really. I guess being a kid from a small hometown (Hurley, MS), kind of the story with most of the guys here, you set out to play at the top level and being in the College World Series one day. But you never see it happening, because so many baseball players are out there, so much talent."

Yet Monday evening with Mississippi State's championship dreams hanging by the proverbial thread, there was Porter told to take his bat to the box and deliver.

Told twice, in fact.

The first opportunity, and the one he'll fondly ‘regret' was in the sixth inning with bases full of Bulldogs and a 3-2 Hoosier lead. Indiana had changed pitchers two batters before, putting reliable righthanded stopper Ryan Halstead on the hill. He'd given up a single to LF Demarcus Henderson filling all sacks, then got an out. Coach John Cohen looked at the #9 slot matchup and replaced righthander Derrick Armstrong with the south-side swinging Porter.

The pinch-puncher got ahead 2-0, and knew Halstead would be in the zone rather than get close to walking-in the tying run. "I got in the hitter's count, I think I can maybe get a fastball." He did, "but I caught it just a little bit up on the barrel."

Still Porter's pure strength drove this one high and deep enough that the crowd was standing… "I knew the way this park plays it's almost impossible to get one to leave the yard, I was hoping it would get down, maybe bounce around for a double. Because I'm not ever going to get a triple!" A self-aimed joke at Porter's lack of, shall we say, pace on the paths.

It didn't matter because the drive died and was caught on the warning track in rightfield. Funny thing though, just smacking one well in his first CWS chance didn't deflate Porter an atom. Even more importantly to how the game played out, it encouraged his coach when the next end-of-order matchup opportunity presented itself.

Because in the eighth the Bulldogs really rallied, with consecutive singles by 2B Brett Pirtle and 1B Wes Rea. After an out Henderson won a memorable battle with Halstead for a mega-clutch RBI single of his own to tie it up. With two outs Indiana made another move, bringing in lefthander Brian Korte.

By normal percentage-playing, Cohen was expected to pinch again with a righthander. He didn't. Because on a team and in a season where ‘normal' rarely applies, Porter is another fine example. "He's done a solid job against soft lefthanders," Cohen noted. And then there what this coach now admits is an increasing reliance on just plain ‘gut feeling'."

"I liked the swing he took for the first at-bat, I thought he saw the baseball really well, I thought he was in the flow of the game."

So Cohen stayed with Porter for the interesting left-on-left matchup. And on 3-1, with two in scoring spots and two out, Porter saw the pitch he wanted. Rather than try to work a walk he hacked.

"I knew that one was going to get down," he said. In the gap at that, and afterwards teammates and even media remembered it as a double. Not so, as Porter did round first base a bit aggressively…but then there was that matter of his speed. No way, he said was he heading for second base.

"No! I kind of just did that for show! I knew not to test the guy out, I was going to trot on back to first base and not do anything crazy out there!"

He'd done more than enough driving in the fourth and fifth Bulldog runs, which sufficed to win it at the end.

Porter has been something of a forgotten man much of 2013, batting .250 overall with 40 at-bats and eight hits during SEC season. He's started 22 games at DH out of 43 played, which isn't the best way to get in any sort of rhythm. But with lefthander Alex Detz performing so well as the alternate third baseman/DH this season Porter has had to accept a backup or pinch-role since mid-April.

To his great credit though the senior has stayed focused and found his niche in the larger program. "I don't think people understand that he is the hardest workout guy I've ever seen," relates pitcher Jonathan Holder. "He works out twice a day, its unreal. I'm sure he's worked out twice today! He loves being here. I'm proud of him."

Pitcher Chad Girodo, a lefty who has faced Porter in fall scrimmages, wasn't surprised Porter remained in the order to face a southpaw with a season at stake. "Trey smashes one in the first AB, then he comes up and left-on-left Coach leaves him in. We always joke that Trey hits lefties better and laugh and cut up with the Coach about it. He went with it right there, and Trey got his pitch and crushed it."

Yet Porter noticed another reason to leave him in when Korte took over. "When a pitcher sees a new guy he doesn't really know how he's seeing it, because he (the hitter) just came in. So you try to get in a hitter's count."

Sound like a smart ballplayer? No surprise there, not to his coach. "He's just an outstanding young man. He's getting 3.8s and 4.0s in the classroom." More than this, Porter understands what strengths he brings to the Bulldogs at this championship point of the long season. "It depends on what time I get in the ball game. If it's in the ninth I'm maybe going to try to knock a wall down with it. But it depends on the situation I guess."

"It keeps you on your toes when you don't know if you're ever going to get in the game. But when you finally get in you want to make the most of your opportunities. And I just happened to be the guy that stepped to the plate at that time. We've got 34 other guys that would do the same job when t heir name is called, they'll step up."

Yet in the most recent and exciting case, it was Porter called on to step up…and show off in a grand style.

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