The SEC Tournament game that had it all...
This game had all the heart-stopping drama and pure exhilaration you could ever hope for in a baseball game.
Coming into the SEC tournament LSU sat at #2 in the nation, SEC champs with a 19-11 record. MSU was the 7 seed as they had worked their way up with a strong 11-4 finish to the regular season. The Bulldogs had beaten the Tigers just two days prior by a score of 3-2. MSU lost to Kentucky 5-1 and LSU beat Ole Miss 11-2 to set up an elimination game on Friday afternoon.
True freshman Jacob Lindgren took the hill for the Dawgs, his first start of the season! MSU had already used Brandon Woodruff, Chris Stratton and Kendall Graveman, and chose Lindgren here as Evan Mitchell was sick.
LSU immediately capitalized with 3 runs in the first two innings to take a 3-0 lead. It appeared as though LSU was prepared to assert themselves - a team that won the 2008, 2009 and 2010 SEC tournaments, and entered this year's event having won 13 of their previous 14 games in the tourney before losing to State two days ago.
Lindgren would settle down, however, and make it into the 5th inning where John Cohen would pull his signature oddball move by putting Caleb Reed in the game with 2 outs and an 0-2 count on the batter. But it worked, and Reed went on to pitch another three solid, scoreless innings.
Despite holding LSU at bay, Mississippi State could not get anything going offensively against Ryan Eades. Finally, in the 8th inning Hunter Renfroe scratched across a run with a RBI-single to make it 3-1.
And then the magic.
Big Wes Rea lead off the bottom of the 9th with a double, at which point Cohen inserted another one of his goofy moves - he pinch ran Matthew Britton. Ordinarily you'd figure this would be a good swap since big Wes Rea, is well, big and slow, but here MSU was down by two runs and Rea was two bases ahead of the trail runner (the batter). But Cohen went ahead with the move despite having a thin bench.
Sam Frost made the first out of the inning but Daryl Norris got a base knock to bring the potential winning run to the plate in Adam Frazier. [Brent Brownlee pinch runs for Norris]. Frazier gets a hit because he got a hit virtually every time up in the tournament and Britton scored, Brownlee to 3rd, true freshman Tyler Fullerton to the plate - he gets hit by the pitch, bases loaded.
Up comes Luis Pollorena. Pollo only had three at bats all year - 3! He was up because he pitch ran for Trey Porter in the 8th inning. Cohen had used up his bench as Britton pitch ran for Rea instead of Norris, so Brownlee - who you would rather have up in this situation with his nearly 100 at-bats on the year - was unavailable since he ran for Norris and is currently on 3rd base. But Cohen's gambles pay off as Pollorena gets up off the deck and pokes a liner to centerfield that was good enough for a sacrifice fly. Hunter Renfroe ended the inning with an out, so on to extras tied 3-3.
Johnathon Holder pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the third time in four days, and State headed to the bottom of the 10th where John Cohen further displayed his taste for the unusual by creating mass confusion with his lineup card during the inning instead of between innings much to the chagrin of LSU head coach Paul Mainieri.
Mitch Slauter, who was in the 10th inning of his 4th straight day of catching a game in the mid-day Alabama heat, hit a double with one out, but had to run the bases since there wasn't anybody left.
Up next would have been Wes Rea, but instead it was Britton and his .149 batting average. But you can bet Cohen had this planned all along (wink*), as Britton laced a single off the diving glove of JaCoby Jones and Slauter lugged home to score the winning run!
Wow, what a game. Who can forget the jubilation and excitement at the end of that game, and Luis Pollorena celebrating in grand fashion. It was an awesome game. And not to be forgotten, the journey was completed when State beat UK and Vanderbilt for the 2012 SEC Baseball Tournament Championship.