Mississippi State fans witnessed the longest outing of the John Cohen era on Saturday as the Bulldogs finished off the sweep of Tennessee with a 14-inning 3-2 victory.
Once again it was the MSU pitching staff that shouldered the load, this time it was a collective effort of seven hurlers holding the Volunteers (22-18, 7-11) to just two runs while scattering 11 hits.
The Vols managed just a .177 batting over the course of the series and that’s something Cohen was pleased with.
“Our pitchers really hung in there (Saturday),” he said. “I thought we defended the field phenomenally. Pitching and defense won this game for us. I don’t know how many plays at the plate we are going to have this season that save the game for us, but that’s certainly what happened (Saturday).”
Tennessee built a 2-0 lead after scoring in the top of the third of MSU starter Evan Mitchell and adding a second in the sixth off Ross Mitchell.
However, State (24-16, 8-10) got even in the home half of the sixth when with two outs C. T. Bradford was hit by a pitch and Hunter Renfroe singled through the left side. Wes Rea was then struck by the UT hurler loading the bases.
Freshman Matthew Britton then stepped to the plate and delivered the two RBI single tying the game at 2-2.
“We just have a lot of confidence in Matthew, he is going to be a great player, but the league has knocked him around just a little bit and he’s got to recover from that,” said Cohen after the game. “He was very good for us (Saturday).”
State and the Vols battled through seven scoreless innings with each team having its share of opportunities to end the game. It wasn’t until the 14th inning that State managed to load the bases with Brent Brownlee at the plate.
Tennessee reliever Nick Blount threw and 0-1 pitch to the backstop allowing the man of the day Britton to score from third.
“I’ve just been working on playing the middle of the field, that’s all I’ve been working on and it worked (Saturday),” said Britton. “With two strikes, I got a slider down the middle there and I got a little barrel on it.”
Luis Pollorena picked up the win for the Bulldogs after going three complete innings allowing just a single hit to the Vols.
“He was a little short rested and just came in and competed in the zone,” said Cohen. “The things we like about him is that he is sure a competitor on the mound and defends his position so well. I’m really proud of him because I know he didn’t have his best stuff.”
The sweep foe the Bulldogs mark the first such event since sweeping the Volunteers last season in Knoxville, Tenn.
Mississippi State returns to the diamond on Tuesday in Pearl at Trustmark Park to face Southern Mississippi.