No. 21 MSU holds off No. 11 South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. - For the Mississippi State baseball team, it was a Good Friday indeed.
A four-run second inning and a strong start from Konnor Pilkington helped lead No. 21 MSU to a 7-4 win against No. 11 South Carolina in the opening game of a three-game Southeastern Conference series at Founders Park.
The Bulldogs won the series opener for the third time in five conference weekends. MSU can clinch its fourth straight series win by taking one of the final two games in Columbia.
MSU improved to 24-12 overall and 9-4 in league play, while South Carolina fell to 21-12 and 7-6. The Bulldogs are one-half game behind Arkansas for first place in the Western Division standings.
"It is so hard to win any game in this league, let alone a Friday night game on the road," head coach Andy Cannizaro said. "We knew the five runs early would be huge. Brent Rooker got us started like he always does. (South Carolina pitcher) Clarke Schmidt was outstanding. We knew once he got settled in, it would be tough."
Pilkington (3-3) threw six innings, allowing six hits and four runs (two earned), with seven strikeouts and a walk. Riley Self followed with 2.1 innings of excellent setup work. Spencer Price got the final two outs for the game for his 12th save.
Rooker hit his 16th home run to start the scoring in the first inning. The Bulldogs expanded the lead with four scores in the second inning.
Elijah MacNamee started things with a leadoff single in the second inning. After a sacrifice by Josh Lovelady, Tanner Poole drew a walk. Luke Alexander hit a fielder's choice which was erred leaving the bases loaded. Hunter Stovall and Ryan Gridley cashed in for the Bulldogs with a pair of two-run singles.
"We just talked about having quality at-bats," Cannizaro said. "When you face an outstanding pitcher and Schmidt will be making a lot of money soon, you have to stay patient. You can't try to do too many things at one time. We really had some quality at-bats in the second inning and had some good fortune there in the end."
Schmidt (4-1) settled in from there, as he worked eight innings, allowing five hits and five runs (two earned), with 11 strikeouts and one walk. Schmidt retired the final 19 batters he faced.
South Carolina put together five hits and a pair of MSU errors to score four times in the seventh inning. Left fielder Cody Brown had a putout at the plate to end that threat.
The Bulldogs then plated two scores on a dropped fly ball in the ninth inning. MacNamee doubled and Lovelady reached on an erred sacrifice. Both scored on the ball hit by Stovall.
MSU finished with seven hits, including multi-hit nights by Jake Mangum and MacNamee.
Alex Destino had three of South Carolina's nine hits.
MSU will retake the field on Saturday with a chance to clinch the series victory 3 p.m. CT. The game will air live on SEC Network+ which is available through WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app.