Jackson State must be comfortable with the number four. The Tigers, the No. 4 seed in the Lafayette regional, scored their only run against Louisiana in the fourth inning, and against Mississippi State, the Tigers scored a run in the fourth inning to tie the Bulldogs, and could have caused more damage if not for Jonathan Holder, who put out a fire in the fourth, helping Mississippi State win 3-1 to advance to Sunday's championship game.
The Bulldogs, playing as the visitor even though they were the higher seed in the contest, put up the first run of the game when Cody Brown led off the second inning with a single and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Matthew Britton.
Mississippi State starter Ben Bracewell cruised early, facing the minimum and striking out four through three innings, but he found trouble in the bottom of the fourth. Gary Thomas opened the frame with a single back through the box, and walks to Tilur Smith and Jose Cruz loaded the bases. Bracewell issued another base on balls to Charles Tilery, scoring Thomas to level the game at 1-1, and the walk forced Mississippi State coach John Cohen to bring in Holder from the bullpen. Holder struck out Bryce Taylor to end the Jackson State (32-23) threat.
Holder (7-1) proved to be nearly automatic, striking out nine, a career high, while only allowing one hit over the final 5.1 innings.
In the top of the sixth, Mississippi State scored twice to regain the lead. Jake Vickerson opened the inning with a single, and after a sacrifice bunt from Brett Pirtle moved him to second, he scored on an RBI single from Gavin Collins that saw Collins advance to second on a failed attempt to gun Vickerson down at the plate. Brown then scored Collins on a fielders' choice that should have been a double play to put Mississippi State ahead 3-1.
The Bulldogs (39-22) await the winner of the Louisiana-Jackson State elimination game scheduled for 2 pm Sunday. The Ragin' Cajuns (54-8) advanced to game five of the regional by eliminating the San Diego State Aztecs (42-21) 9-2 in game three Saturday.
The championship game, one of a potential two chances for the Bulldogs to claim the regional and face the winner of the Oxford Regional in next weekend's super regional, is scheduled for 6 pm Sunday.