COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 21 Mississippi State scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning to knock off No. 11 South Carolina 5-4 in Southeastern Conference baseball action Saturday afternoon at Founders Park.
Coupled with a 7-4 win Friday night, MSU clinched the weekend series, taking its first series win at South Carolina since the 1998 season. The Bulldogs have won 10 of their last 11 conference games, while taking four straight conference series.
MSU improved to 25-12 overall and 10-4 in the league with a fifth straight win. South Carolina fell to 21-13 and 7-7. The Bulldogs remain hot on the trail of the Arkansas Razorbacks for first place in the Western Division race.
"That was an outstanding win," head coach Andy Cannizaro said. "This game was about confidence for us. After winning last night, we had more confidence. We have been getting some really great production out of the bullpen. I am really excited about how those guys have come in and thrown strikes."
MSU scored first in the third inning when Luke Alexander hit his fourth home run of the season. The Bulldogs are second in the conference with 39 home runs this season.
South Carolina answered with a two-run home run by Carlos Cortes in the home half of the third inning to take a 2-1 advantage.
The Bulldogs tied the contest in the seventh inning. Cody Brown reached on an error and came home on a pinch-hit double by Hunter Vansau.
The score remained deadlocked until the ninth inning.
Ryan Gridley, Cody Brown and Vansau had consecutive singles to load the bases with nobody out.
USC went to the bullpen, ending the day for starter Wil Crowe (3-3). Crowe allowed seven hits and five runs (four earned), with four strikeouts and three walks. Colie Bowers entered in relief.
A ground ball out brought home Gridley, while a wild pitch scored Brown. Hunter Stovall followed with a critical two-out RBI-single. A runner was put out at the plate on that hit but the damage had been done.
The early home run would be the only damper on a strong start by Cole Gordon. Gordon threw four innings, allowing five hits and two runs (both earned, with two strikeouts.
Jacob Barton, Trysten Barlow and Trey Jolly (2-1) combined four innings of scoreless relief. In the ninth inning, Spencer Price was touched for another two-run home run by Cortes but then got back-to-back outs for his 13th save.
"I really can't say enough about what our relief pitchers have been doing," Cannizaro said. "Cole gave us exactly what we wanted in his start. When we get to the ballpark, we tell the guys we are going to try to put something together and to be ready. They just continue to pitch, challenge hitters and get outs."
MSU finished with eight hits, including multi-hit games by Brown and Vansau.
South Carolina finished with eight hits, including three hits and four RBIs from Cortes. T.J. Hopkins and Jacob Olson also had multiple hits for the Gamecocks.
The three-game series will conclude on Sunday as the Bulldogs will aim for their first-ever series sweep of the Gamecocks at 3 p.m. CT. The nationally-televised contest will air live on SEC Network.