After making eight errors in two games against Central Arkansas in the Starkville Regional, the script flipped and top-notch defense from Mississippi State and shaky play by the Bears gave Mississippi State an early 2-0 lead, and a solid performance from Chad Girodo sealed the deal for the Bulldogs on their way to 6-1 win Monday night in Starkville to punch their ticket to a Super Regional matchup with Virginia, the national six seed, in Charlottesville this weekend.
With a Central Arkansas runner in scoring position in the bottom of the first, Sam Frost made a diving play to knock down what appeared to be a run scoring hit, and after hopping up from the dirt, he tagged out Ethan Harris on a play at third to end the inning.
In the home half of the inning, Alex Detz picked up a one-out single, and after a lengthy battle, Hunter Renfroe hit a ball to center field that fell just in front of the outstretched arms of Jonathan Davis to move Detz to third after he had advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Brett Pirtle followed with a sharp hit ball to the first baseman, who instead of taking a chance at the plate, took the out at first base, allowing Detz (2 for 3) to score. Wes Rea followed, hitting a ball to third base for what appeared to be an inning ending out, but Scott Zimmerle could not snag the errant throw in the dirt, allowing Renfroe to score from second to give Mississippi State a 2-0 lead.
An error on a collision between Frost and Zimmerle ended up costing Central Arkansas another run in the bottom of the second as Adam Frazier later scored Frost on a fielder's choice to give Mississippi State a 3-0 lead.
Central Arkansas mounted a bit of a comeback in the third, where a pair of walks and an error by Frost with one out chased Bulldog starter Ben Bracewell, who picked up five strikeouts in 2.1 innings of work before giving way to Girodo. Girodo induced a short fly to left and fanned the second hitter he faced to kill the threat and keep the Bulldogs ahead 3-0.
The jam would be just one of three that Girodo (7-1), who struck out 12 hitters in 6.2 innings of work, would get out of in the game, avoiding danger with bases loaded with two outs in the top of the fourth and with runners on second and third with no outs in top of the sixth.
"I just got on a roll, and it started clicking for me," said Girodo.
In all the Bulldogs struck out 17 Central Arkansas hitters. Mississippi State coach John Cohen knew his pitchers would attempt to take control of the game.
"The two guys who pitched tonight said, 'We're going to force it to go our way tonight,'" said Cohen.
The Bulldogs pushed their lead to 4-0 after Demarcus Henderson (2 for 4) scored from second on a Frazier single in the bottom of the fourth, and Renfroe, who had one of his best nights in a month going 3 for 4 with two RBIs, drove in Frazier with a single to left field to push the lead to 5-0.
Renfroe again drove in Frazier (2 for 5) in the bottom of the sixth to put the Bulldogs ahead 6-0.
The Bears scored their only run of the game with two outs in the top of the ninth on a bunt by Forrestt Allday.
Bryce Biggerstaff (6-5), who threw five innings in relief Saturday against Mercer, took the loss for the Bears.
Detz, who finished 8 for 13 in the regional, picked up the Most Outstanding Player Award for the Starkville Regional. Girodo, Rea, Pirtle, Renfore and Detz picked up All-Tournament Team honors.
Pirtle extened his reached base streak to 37 games.
Final out of the 2013 Starkville Regional (via FWTCT)