Following an uninspiring 6-3 loss to South Alabama in the first round of the 2017 NCAA regional in Hattiesburg, Mississippi State gutted out a 5-4 victory over Illinois-Chicago in the first elimination game.
Konnor Pilkington got the nod on the bump for the Bulldogs, having another spectacular performance. In 7 innings of work, he struck out nine and gave up just four hits. Pilkington held on to a one-hitter going into the 8th, but the Flames were able to rally and score two runs before Spencer Price entered the contest. Price’s outing was short lived, facing two batters before Riley Self replaced him. Self was able to grind out a save, getting out of a bases loaded, one out jam in the 9th to secure the victory.
Mississippi State started the ballgame on a roll, taking a 5-1 lead through five innings. Ryan Gridley got the Bulldogs on the board in the 3rd, with an RBI single that scored Hunter Stovall. State gave up a run on a sac fly in the same inning but responded with three runs in the 4th; Elijah MacNamee singled to centerfield and scored Hunter Vansau, Cole Gordon singled to score MacNamee, and Brent Rooker laced a double to left field, scoring Josh Lovelady. MacNamee continued his hot play in the 5th, scoring Jake Mangum from a double that ended up being State’s final run.
The Bulldogs carried that four run lead into the 8th, when things turned dicey fast. Konnor Pilkington gave up two runs from three consecutive hits to commence the inning, when he was pulled for Spencer Price. Price faced just two batters, forcing a fielder’s choice for the first out, followed up by a single that brought Riley Self into the game. After relinquishing an RBI single, Self hobbled out of the inning after a fly out and a strikeout, clutching on to a 5-4 lead. A single and two walks loaded the bases for the Flames in the bottom of the 9th, but Self came up in the clutch with a looking strikeout and a force out at third base to wrap up a Bulldog victory.
Although the bullpen is a blatant concern, timely hits continue to elude the Bulldogs. State stranded ten runners in this ballgame, which almost doubled Friday night’s loss to South Alabama (six). With the shortage of pitching that stares down Mississippi State, a sizable number of runs have to be scored for State to stay in the tournament.
The Diamond Dawgs are back in action tonight at 6:00 PM (weather permitting) against either Southern Miss or South Alabama in the second elimination game of the Hattiesburg regional. The winner of that ballgame will head to the regional final.