The Bulldogs needed the big inning to offset Arizona’s one real offensive success. The Wildcats had overcome a 2-0 deficit on the strength of a two-run homer in the top of the fifth. Mississippi State was able to stop any further damage by handing the ball to LHP Ross Mitchell, to do what he’s done all his successful career.
Mitchell entered in the sixth inning with a pair of Wildcats on in the tied game and left them unscored. From there he hung three zeroes of Mitchell’s own making, to earn his third win in as many chances this season. It was also the senior’s 21st win in 22 decisions as a relief pitcher.
Mitchell was officially credited with 3.1 scoreless innings, with four hits, no walks nor strikeouts. But fannings aren’t his style anyway. Mitchell rolled nine ground-outs with just one fly ball.
He was working in support of RHP Austin Sexton who for most of his 5.2-inning stint was working on a dominating victory. The sophomore had four shutout innings to begin, and would leave with 11 strikeouts against four hits and no walks.
But he also had two runs on his account. With one out and Zach Gibbons on first base in the top of the fifth Arizona’s Jared Oliva lined a shot over leftfield. It was the Wildcat’s first homer, and instantly tied the tally. Sexton returned for the sixth inning and after two outs gave up a single and plunking. He was lifted after one pitch to Gibbons, who Mitchell bounced-out.
For most of the day Sexton was in charge. He needed just a dozen pitches to strike out the first-inning side, two swinging. He fanned two more in the second on 13 offerings, though Wildcat Bobby Dalbec did get a one-out single. A two-out error at shortstop in the third did no harm as 3B Ryan Gridley charged a first-pitch bunt and fired in time for the out.
Arizona starter Robby Medel battled into the Bulldog third with no scoring his first time through the order. It was starting over in the third though, and SS Seth Heck reached as his counterpart threw wide of first base. LF Jake Vickerson chipped a single just past the second sacker and shortstop for two on, and this time a two-on bunt was successful.
CF Jacob Robson followed with a grounder past the mound. Medel deflected it just enough that shortstop Newman’s only chance was at first base as Heck scored. Vickerson took third but it wouldn’t have mattered where he stood. Not as 1B Wes Rea lined a double to the rightfield corner for the 2-0 lead through three.
State kept making contact in the fourth, though singles by Lovelady and Holland were negated on a double-play. After Oliva’s tying shot in the fifth State had no immediate answer.
That came in the sixth, only after Mitchell stranded two Wildcats. When Mitchell returned it was with a healthy lead. Rea roped his second double of the day, this one to the right-center gap. DH Luke Reynolds kept showing bunt as Arizona kept bluffing throws to second. On 3-1 count Reynolds squared but as the Wildcat defense crashed he pulled back and slapped a single into leftfield.
With Dogs on corners now Arizona went to the bullpen for righty Cody Hamlin. He got ahead of RF Cody Brown 0-2 before Brown went other-way with a single through the left side scoring Rea. The play worked so well State called it again and C Josh Lovelady singled through shortstop as well. Reynolds was his RBI.
2B John Holland was bunting for real but catcher Riley Moore didn’t come up with the ball cleanly, leaving bases loaded on the error with still no outs. So even a double-play grounder off Heck’s bat scored a runner, Brown. Lovelady took third and was able to come on home as Hamlin missed the mitt entirely for a wild pitch and 6-2 margin.
Mitchell made it stand up with three full scoreless turns. A leadoff single in the eighth was no trouble. Nor were consecutive hits after two outs in the ninth. Mitchell fielded the final bunted grounder himself to end the victory.
Medel (1-1) took the loss on 5.0 innings with four runs on six hits. He struck out and walked two. Hamlin gave up the two insurance scores on two this and a walk.
Rea was 2-of-3 with a RBI and a run, the same line as Lovelady as State had eight base hits. The Bulldogs also struck out just twice.
Arizona is 9-4 having lost twice to Mississippi State on the weekend. They will have a rematch Sunday with Samford, which the Wildcats defeated 7-1 Friday.