MSU rallies to stun USM at Trustmark
By MATTHEW STEVENS
PEARL â€“ After a forgetful road weekend while staring down the gauntlet of a brutal schedule, the Mississippi State baseball team needed something good to happen.
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That something good was a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over No. 18 Southern Mississippi at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
In a week for MSU that features four games against the top two schools in the current RPI rankings (Southern Miss as No. 2 and top-ranked Florida), the Bulldogs were able to wipe away the memories of being swept at Georgia this past weekend.
"We felt like we played pretty well this weekend and had nothing to show for it ," Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said. "This is a ball club that's going to win one-run games. The more we do that and come from behind, the more confidence our kids are going to have going forward."
The victory marks the Bulldogs first win in the Double-A Mississippi Braves ballpark since 2008 breaking a five-game losing streak in the venue.
Mississippi State sophomore left-handed reliever Luis Pollorena (3-0) had the longest outing of his career (5 2/3 innings) to hold a potent USM lineup to a single hit in the eighth inning before retiring 14 batters in a row after arriving with his team in a 4-2 deficit.
"What we needed was a guy to just come in and pump it in the strike zone," Cohen said. "Southern Miss is a great offensive team but this is a gigantic ballpark so if you just do that on the mound, everything is fine."
The transfer from Marian (Ala.) Military Institute got a standing ovation from the MSU contingent of fans among the announced 4,853 in attendance Tuesday when he left the game with one out in the eighth inning.
"When I gave the ball to Coach Thompson all he said to me was get out of here so they can cheer for you," Pollorena said. "That was such a cool moment for me and my teammates."
Pollorena said he noticed in pre-game warmups while shagging fly balls that the big dimensions of Trustmark Park with no wind blowing could easily be to his advantage.
"I was chasing balls down and instead of running back, I was having to run forward to catch every one of them," Pollorena said. "So I thought if I get to pitch, why not just let them hit it because the ball isn't flying anywhere."
State (20-9) got on the board early thanks to an defensive adventure by Golden Eagles third baseman Mark Ellis when his throw ended up in left field scoring the first run of the game and having that mistake quickly followed up by an RBI-double by freshman center fielder C.T. Bradford.
Southern Mississippi (22-6) caught fire in the second inning by beating around three different MSU hurlers for four runs including RBI hits from Kameron Brunty, Tyler Koelling, Justin Diliberto and Chase Fowler. After throwing a perfect opening inning, Bulldogs right-hander Andrew Busby failed to record an out before allowing three straight USM batters to reach base before yielding to the relief of Kendall Graveman, who failed to limit the damage.
"If we had thrown strikes and let our guys play solid defense then we give up one run and maybe two there," Cohen said.
Busby's first career start ended in a disappointing fashion as the Wallace State transfer allowed three runs on just two hits in 26 pitches.
Southern Mississippi freshman starting pitcher Boomer Scarborough threw his fourth consecutive quality start by allowing just one earned run over six innings of work while striking out five in 93 pitches.
The Bay St. Louis native, who was a high school football teammate of MSU third-string quarterback Dylan Favre, has had impressive outings against both Ole Miss and MSU this season.
"I remember seeing Boomer pitch when he was in high school (and) he is a great competitor," Cohen said. "He looked like a junior instead of a freshman out there tonight. To be honest with you, he deserved better because they made some key errors in the first inning when he made some great pitches. That kid is going to be a great pitcher for them for years to come."
Once Scarborough left the game, State's offense jumped all over Southern Miss freshman Josh Rogers (1-1) for two runs on just one hit in a seventh inning that saw the nearby Jackson native fail to record an out.
"The gameplan all along was to get (Scarborough) out of the game and get to the pen," Bradford said. "Once we did that, we were more than confident that we could come back on those guys."
Bradford led the MSU offensive charge with his second three-hit game of the 2011 season as the 2010 Mr. Baseball in the state of Florida added two RBIs in the contest.
State's lack of situational hitting at Georgia in which the road Bulldogs were swept continued in Pearl as MSU managed to leave 10 runners on base but four errors by the Southern Mississippi defense kept giving the Bulldogs offensive opportunities. MSU hit a frustrating 2-of-23 in that situation at Athens last weekend.
"We simply gave them too many outs," Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry said. "We extended Boomer longer than we wanted to and that hurt us a lot tonight."
Mississippi State will now host No. 4 Florida for a three-game weekend series at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville with first pitch Friday night beginning at 6:30 p.m.