State Tops Panthers 4-3 On Humphreys' Hit

He'd thrown out four runners on defense. So why not score the winning run on offense? Gavin Collins did just that, coming home on an infield single in the ninth inning to give Mississippi State a 4-3 final over Eastern Illinois.

Catcher Collins had already scored once in the afternoon, and was having a brilliant day behind the plate gunning down Panthers to keep things under control. Still it was a 3-3 tie going into the ninth inning after Eastern Illinois got a two-run homer in their half of the eighth.

The host Bulldogs were able to load all bases in the bottom of the ninth with one out, as SS Seth Heck was plunked. Collins followed that with his second base hit, having reached across the plate for a contact that cleared the Panther first baseman by inches. Heck was replaced on third base by pinch-runner Jacob Robson before a plunking of LF Jake Vickerson stuffed all sacks.

It also set up forces everywhere, and Eastern Illinois used it as 3B Alex Detz didn't check his swing soon enough. The bouncer to third was relayed home ahead of Robson as Collins came to third behind him. Pinch-batter Reid Humphreys made it count, crunching a grounder up the middle. Shortstop Dane Sauer got to the ball but was literally knocked on his seat in the process. A desperate flip for second base was high as Detz got in under it and Collins crossed home.

Collins' winning run made a winner out of LHP Jacob Lindgren (1-0) who he'd caught for the last 1.2 Panther innings. Lindgren entered two outs into the eighth after Eastern Illinois evened up the score, and after an infield single struck out Tyler Schweigert; his fourth fanning of the day. Lindgren fanned two more after a grounder in the ninth, needing only seven pitches for the whole inning. It was his first winning decision since last April 20.

EIU reliever Ben Kennedy, last of their five pitchers, took the loss on two-thirds of an inning with the two hits and one run.

Both starting pitchers deserved some sort of record-recognition for their work though. State RHP Trevor Fitts had the longest outing of his career so far, 6.2 solid innings with just one run allowed on five hits. He walked just one batter and struck out a career-high eight to boot. He left the game with a 3-1 lead.

At the same time Panther starter Jake Johansmeir was outstanding, going a complete seven innings and limiting the damage to three runs on nine hits and a walk. The righthander didn't overpower at all, with a mid-80s fastball rarely seen and lots of movement that was. His breaking stuff in the low 70s was located well enough to frustrate Bulldogs into fly-outs and easy ground balls, with just two strikeouts.

The Bulldogs did get to Johansmeir for a first-inning run though. Vickerson and Detz came up swinging early, something most of the team didn't do the rest of the day; and they both punched singles through the right side. They were running on a 3-1 count as 1B Wes Rea covered with a swing. Catcher Jacob Reese threw to third, the ball going off his third baseman's mitt so Vickerson could score.

Johansmeir shook it off and retired nine-straight; then erased an infield throwing error in the fourth to leave Bulldogs on first and third bases.

Fittz was also hit by his first-faced, leftfielder Frankie Perrone. State's starter was able to strand this runner as well as another in the opening inning. In the top of the third three Panthers would reach, with Collins negating the first as he caught Perrone trying to steal second base.

The fifth saw both offenses come to life. Eastern Illinois got a first-pitch double by Reese, and despite a 1-2 cound Marshawn Taylor stayed with the bunting call. He dumped it in front of the plate for Fitts, whose throw to third base was high as Reese slid in safely. Perrone was able to get his team on the board with a fly ball to center. Nothing else came of the inning as Collins caught Taylor running too.

The Bulldogs broke the tie in the bottom of the frame as Collins got it started with his one-out double down the left line. Vickerson followed with a soft liner past the other base and into the rightfield corner so Collins could break the tie. Detz kept it going with an early swing, his bouncer getting by the diving second-sacker for a base hit, RBI, and 3-1 lead.

Fitts returned for the seventh, and was greeted by a single. With one out and a 1-2 count to the #8 batter the starter stepped aside so RHP Myles Gentry could finish striking out Reese. Collins ended the inning before another pinch-batter could even swing, throwing out runner Montana Timmons trying to take second.

But in the eighth Gentry walked his first-faced, bringing up Perrone again. He crushed a drive beyond leftfield for the two-run shot and 3-3 tie. Gentry stayed out to strike out Mitch Gasbarro, then Lindgren took over. He was touched for consecutive infield singles, but Collins came through again as he caught Caleb Howell leading off second base too far for a second out. Lindgren stranded the other with a strikeout of Schweigert.

Mississippi State left the go-ahead runner at third base in the eighth, after Johnansmeier was finally replaced. Jake Haberer kept the score tied with a swinging strikeout of DH Daniel Garner to set up the ninth-inning fun.

The Bulldogs collected eleven base hits, six from the top-third of the order as Vickerson, Detz, and Rea all batted safely twice. Vickerson scored twice as well, same as Collins at the other end of the order. Perrone had three of his team's eight safeties in three official turns as well as a sacrifice fly. The Panthers were struck out 12 times in all, compared to just three Dogs.

Mississippi State (8-4) took its second win of the weekend Diamond Classic, after defeating Michigan State Friday night by a 4-2 final. The two MSU's were rematching in a Saturday afternoon contest underway at 4:35. Eastern Illinois (2-8) comes back to Dudy Noble Field tomorrow morning to play the Spartans.

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