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2012 SEC Baseball Tournament
Game 13 - Mississippi State 4, LSU 3 (10 Innings)
Hoover, Ala. - The Maroon Out is in full effect at the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament.
The 21st-ranked Diamond Dogs won for the fourth time in five tries at the league’s annual year-end party. MSU is back in the conference championship game for the first time since 2005 with Saturday’s 2-1 win over No. 12 Kentucky at Regions Park.
MSU (38-22) will face either Vanderbilt (32-25) or Florida (42-17) in Sunday’s title match. Game time is set for 2:30 p.m. The contest will be televised nationally by ESPN2 and will also be available on-line through ESPN3.COM.
The NCAA will announce its regional host sites prior to Sunday’s championship game. While the Bulldogs are not expected to host, they should be highly-seeded when the full 64-team regional tournament field is announced at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.
“It is all about determination,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “These kids come to the ballpark every day expecting to win. Yes, we have played five games in five days against some of the best teams in the nation. We have played in the heat of the day, but none of that matters to this bunch.
“The goal is simple – find a way to a win a ballgame.”
MSU has now four conference tournament games on five different occasions. The Bulldogs will be back in the title match for the first time since besting Ole Miss 4-1 in the 2005 championship game. MSU will be trying for its seventh conference tournament championship and fourth such title in this venue.
Saturday’s victory also allowed MSU to match last season’s win total with victory No. 38. The Maroon and White also knocked off the Top-15 Wildcats for a fourth time this season – that is a first in program history.
The semifinal triumph was wrapped in the proper colors the same way as many as those other 38 victories. MSU played the bunting game to perfection and turned two critical sacrifices into run-scoring opportunities in the second and third innings.
From there, a dominant MSU pitching staff brought the contest home. One of the league’s best offensive teams was held to 13 total runs in five contests by the Bulldog hurlers.
“With our pitching staff, we know it just takes a couple of good innings,” MSU sophomore shortstop Adam Frazier said. “As hitters, we have to make adjustments and find a way to put some balls in play. We did that today.”
While the temperature was warm enough to make any Bulldog hot, Frazier has taken warmth to another level. Hitting safely in 50 of MSU’s 60 games this season, Frazier has a tournament best 11 hits in 20 at-bats at Hoover.
In the MSU second inning, Demarcus Henderson singled and took second base on a Mitch Slauter sacrifice. Wes Rea followed with an RBI-single.
Kentucky (43-16) answered quickly with the first of J.T. Riddle’s three hits being a game-tying solo home run.
Not deterred, small ball pushed the Maroon and White into the lead for good an inning later. Frazier started things with a leadoff single. This time, Brent Brownlee had the sacrifice. Trey Porter followed with a two-out RBI single.
From there, the pitching quarter of Luis Pollorena, Ben Bracewell, Nick Routt and Jonathan Holder sealed the deal.
Routt (3-5) worked 3.1 innings of three-hit shutout relief, in place of Bracewell. Bracewell had followed Pollorena to the hill in the third inning. Jonathan Holder worked around a leadoff error in the ninth inning for his ninth save.
MSU pitching held Kentucky to nine hits, and struck out eight, while walking two.
UK starter Corey Littrell (8-2) worked six innings, allowing six hits and two runs (both earned), with six strikeouts and two walks. Both setbacks for the UK ace have come to the Bulldogs.
Thomas McCarthy and Zac Zellars each had multiple hits for the Wildcats. McCarthy tied a tournament record with three doubles in UK’s 5-1 win over MSU earlier in the tournament.
Frazier was the only multiple-hitter for the Bulldogs.
2012 SEC Baseball Tournament
Regions Park • Hoover, Ala.
Game 15 • Saturday, May 26
(7) Mississippi State 2, (4) Kentucky 1
• Mississippi State improves to 38-22 overall and will advance to their ninth SEC Tournament Championship Game (first since 2005). They are 6-2 in the championship game, including titles in 1979, 1985, 1987, 1990, 2001, and 2005, while finishing as runners-up in 1983 and 1987. They will take on the winner of Florida/Vanderbilt at 2:30 tomorrow on ESPN2.
• Kentucky falls to 43-16 overall and will await their destination in the NCAA Regional.
• This was the second time Kentucky and Mississippi State have met at the 2012 SEC Tournament. The Wildcats defeated the Bulldogs 5-1 in Game 10, but the Bulldogs responded with a 2-1 win today. Mississippi State also swept the season series over Kentucky in Starkville.
• Kentucky was eliminated from the SEC Tournament despite surrendering just three runs in its three games.
• Kentucky’s J.T. Riddle hit his fifth home run of the season in the second inning on a solo shot. Kentucky is now the only team in the SEC Tournament to hit more than one home run (2). He then singled in the fourth for his 15th multi-hit game of the season and then singled again in the sixth for only his second three-hit game.
• Mississippi State turned its 64th double play of the year, as they remain third in the nation averaging 1.1 double plays a game.
• Mississippi State 1B Wes Rea singled home his 39th RBI of the season to lead the Bulldogs and is now tied for the lead with four for the week at Hoover.
• Bulldog SS Adam Frazier continues to swing a hot bat as he improved his hitting streak to a team high 11 games with a single in the third. He then singled again in the fifth for his 29th multi-hit game this season. Frazier now has 87 hits on the season and is now third in the SEC behind LSU’s Raph Rhymes and Ole Miss’ Alex Yarborough. Frazier leads the tournament with 11 hits in 20 at bats, total bases with 12, and has reached base in 50 of 60 games played.
• Mississippi State’s Hunter Renfroe has now hit safely in three straight games after he singled home his 25th RBI of the year in the third inning.
• C Luke Maile of Kentucky has now reached safely in 11 straight games after a walk in the fifth inning.
• A day after coming through with a huge game tying RBI against LSU, Mississippi State P Luis Pollorena picked up his fourth start of the season against the Wildcats. He only lasted two innings, but only gave up one run.
• Kentucky’s A.J. Reed notched his seventh hit of the tournament and is batting 7-for-11 with a home run and three RBIs in Hoover.
• Bulldog RP Nick Routt put together one of his best outing in relief, going 3.1 innings while allowing no runs off three hits, while striking out four.
• Jonathan Holder of Mississippi State made his fourth appearance of the SEC Tournament and his 23rd overall for the Bulldogs. He notched his ninth saves of the tournament. He now has three saves and a win in Hoover without allowing a run.
• The top of the eighth inning was the only inning that either team went down in order when Mississippi State went 1-2-3. The Wildcats had at least one runner reach on base in all nine innings, but could only manufacture one run all afternoon. They left eight total runners on base and also outhit the Bulldogs, 9-8.
Mississippi State Head Coach John Cohen
“We are just really proud of our kids. They are so used to hanging on to those one-run games. We played so many of them during the season. I think everyone in the league has. That was a good baseball team we played today. They are very well coached. That guy you were just talking to [Kentucky coach Gary Henderson] is not only a great friend, but also one of the brightest people in baseball I have ever been around. When I was at Kentucky, they used to call him the professor. He is one smart guy, and he runs a great ship there. There is no doubt in my mind why they have had so much success. I am sure they will host a regional. I think they can win a regional. Our kids really fought today and hung in there. It was all about pitching and defense. I thought Louis [Pollorena] was solid for us. I thought Ben [Bracewell] came in and gave us some quality. I thought Nick Routt was a star today. He got his opportunity and took full advantage of it. Jonathan Holder wants that baseball in the ninth inning. Every time he has gotten it he has done an unbelievable job. We are really proud of our kids. We showed up and played. I thought they really brought it today. I thought they had great focus and tremendous energy.”
On his deep pitching staff…
“It is a luxury when you are playing three games. When you get this deep into it, you want to maintain your staff. You definitely don’t want to hurt anybody. You need everyone full speed when you are going into tournament play next week. Having an experienced guy like Nick Routt waiting for his opportunity to come into a game and pitch the way he did… that 3-2 breaking ball that he threw for a strikeout was huge. To me that was a defining point of the game. He really slammed the door there. Nick has worked so hard to get his changeup back. He has worked so hard to really develop his breaking ball. Louis [Pollorena] has so much heart. He had a lot of big misses early on, which was concerning to us. But here is a guy who pitched a bunch and played positionally. We needed to get off to a pretty good start, and he got us there.”
Adam Frazier (So., SS)
On the importance of getting the leadoff hitter on base…
“It is always important to get leadoff guys on. When you do that and bunt them over, you have two opportunities to get them in. I thought we did a good job of that today. I thought they did too, but we did a good job minimizing on that.“
Trey Porter (Jr., DH)
On his approach at the plate…
“I have a good approach every single time. Coach and I talk it over every single bat I go into. Just having a good approach is the main thing. Not try to do too much, but just trying to put a good swing on everything I can.”
Nick Routt (Jr., P)
On his pitching performance…
“I came in with runners on facing a left-hander. Curveball was working well, so we came after him. We got that 3-2 punch-out, and the curveball was huge. That kind of set the tone for the rest of the outing. Against the right-handers I was really working my changeup, which was very effective today. Kentucky’s right-handers like to go opposite field. Once you can get in on them, it is pretty much game over.”
Kentucky Head Coach Gary Henderson
“I give a lot of credit to both pitching staffs, especially John (Cohen)’s group. Butch Thompson is obviously doing a tremendous job over there. It was a great game for the fans. Extremely disappointed that we’re not playing tomorrow. I’m really proud of our guys. They were tough. They showed up. Clearly it was a rough day for us offensively, but it was just that type of game, 2-1. Each team left nine guys on base.”
On missed opportunities and it being a tough luck game…
“Well, I didn’t think we threw away a lot of at-bats. I thought they did a tremendous job of commanding the changeup. We were out front. We had a little bit of chase. I thought our concentration was outstanding. We clearly hit some balls that were capable and hard enough to fall in. We hit a lot of balls early on and in the middle of the game that were not hard enough to fall in. It’s just the way it goes. I can’t fault our kids. I thought they competed really well.”
Thomas McCarthy (Sr., 3B)
On it being a tough game…
“Yeah, they have a good team, and they were a good team going into it. We tried our best, but we couldn’t get that one to fall for us. There was great pitching on both ends, like Coach Henderson said. Our pitchers kept us in the whole game. Unfortunately we couldn’t scratch one across.
J.T. Riddle (So., 2B)
On his home run in the second inning…
“I was just in the batter’s box trying to get the ball in the middle and sit on it. He left a curve ball up, and I sat on it.”