Just when it looked as if Louisiana Tech would at the bare minimum get back into their contest with Mississippi State, Ryan Rigby took the mound, striking out his first two batters and forcing a pop fly to center from the third to take the danger out of a bases-loaded, no out jam in the top of the seventh to help the Bulldogs preserve a 4-0 victory Sunday night over Louisiana Tech (42-20) to clinch the Starkville Regional.
Before handing the ball off to Rigby, Zach Houston matched a career high in strikeouts with ten, going six innings, allowing only two hits.
"Zac went out there with a purpose tonight," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "He struck out 10 of the 23 he faced and that is pretty dominant. (Rigby) was dominant. We thought he would face or two batters but he just totally dominated."
Mississippi State (44-16-1) put their first run on the board in the bottom of the second when Brent Rooker drew a walk, and later scored on a field choice on a hit from Ryan Gridley. A strange sequence which included a ball being thrown off of the helmet of a runner led to the run for the Bulldogs.
Jake Mangum led off the bottom of the third with a double, and after being moved to third by a sacrifice bunt by Jack Kruger, a Gavin Collins RBI-sing drove Mangum home. Rooker later drove Collins in to put the Bulldogs ahead 3-0.
Rooker added another RBI on a flyball that scored Nathaniel Lowe in the fifth.
The four runs were all the Bulldogs needed given the pitching performance by the Bulldogs. Houston did not allow a base runner past second base until the sixth inning. After he handed over a bases loaded, no-out situation to Rigby, Rigby retired all nine Louisiana Tech batters he faced, striking out four of those and forcing popouts to center field for the other three.
In all, the Bulldog pitchers struck out 14 batters, and they only allowed two hits in the contest.
Bulldog fans now turn their attention to the Lafayette Regional. Louisiana controls that regional, and will face Arizona for the championship at 2pm on Monday. Should the Wildcats pick up a victory, a final game would be played later Monday night.
Jacob Robson led the Bulldogs with three hits, and Nathaniel Lowe chipped in two hits. Rooker led the Bulldogs with two RBIs.
This is the third time (2011, 2013, 2016) that a John Cohen coached Bulldog squad has advanced to the Super Regionals. In 2013, the Bulldogs swept the Virginia Cavaliers to advance to the College World Series. The Bulldogs dropped the championship series 2-0 to UCLA. In 2011, the Bulldogs lost in three games to Florida at Gainesville.
In 2011, the Bulldogs started as a 3-seed in the Atlanta Regional, hosted by Georgia Tech. Mississippi State defeated Southern Miss 3-0, and Austin Peay 8-3 to advance to the championship, where the Bulldogs defeated the Yellowjackets 7-3 to win the regional.
In the Super Regional, the Mississippi State dropped game one to Florida 11-1, but the Bulldogs came back to win game two 4-3. Mississippi State led late in game three against Florida before losing 8-6.
Should the Ragin' Cajuns win the Lafayette Regional, it will be a rematch of the 2014 Lafayette Regional Championship. In that regional, Louisiana dropped their opening game to Jackson State, but the Ragin' Cajuns made it through the elimination bracket to face Mississippi State, defeating the Bulldogs by scores of 14-8 and 5-3 to advance to the super regional.
Super Regional play will begin June 10, but the dates for the eight series have yet to be determined.