Mississippi St. wins SEC arms race
Posted: Monday, May 28, 2012 7:00 pm
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Ross Mitchell helped Mississippi State continue its torrid pitching and claim the Southeastern Conference tournament title with a 3-0 win over Vanderbilt on Sunday.
The Bulldogs (39-22) ride a hot streak into the NCAA regionals, having won eight of their last nine games after league coaches picked them to finish fifth in the SEC West. It’s Mississippi State’s seventh SEC tournament title and first since 2005.
The overflow crowd of 12,526 was mostly decked out in Mississippi State maroon.
“I don’t know if you could have a better homefield advantage 21⁄2 hours from your campus than we did today,” Bulldogs coach John Cohen said.
The pitching was awfully good, too.
Caleb Reed relieved Mitchell, who’s from Murfreesboro, and got Connor Castellano to ground into a double play in the ninth before hitting Andrew Harris with a pitch. Staff ace Chris Stratton finished it off when Tony Kemp grounded to short with runners on the corners.
“Caleb came in after me and had an amazing double play that Adam (Frazier) turned,” Mitchell said. “Stratton came in and does what he does. He’s the best pitcher in the nation.”
Starter Brandon Woodruff allowed one hit and two walks in the first three innings. Mitchell gave up five hits.
Frazier, the tournament MVP, scored one run and drove home another and finished with 12 hits in six games.
Mississippi State, which came in ranked 11th in the SEC in hitting and first in earned run average, allowed seven runs in its five wins.
Frazier scored the game’s first run on a two-out wild pitch by Tyler Beede (1-5) in the third inning. The Bulldogs scored twice in the fourth with a single, two walks — one with the bases loaded — and a hit batter to take a 3-0 lead.
“That’s how we play,” Frazier said. “A sac bunt here and there, a sac fly, a walk or hit by pitch. That’s what we need to get runs in sometimes.
“Three runs up for our pitching staff, we felt pretty comfortable.”
It’s only the second championship game shutout in the 15-year-old current format, the first being Florida’s 5-0 shutout of the Commodores last season. They are 1-5 in the SEC title game under coach Tim Corbin.
“We’re proud of what we’ve done to this point,” Vandy’s Connor Harrell said. “We ran into a tough arm, but there’s a bigger championship coming.”
Vanderbilt had made the title game with a five-run, six-steal ninth inning to beat Florida. This time, the Commodores hit into two double plays and left 10 men on base.
Conrad Gregor lined to first base for an inning-ending double play in the first with runners at first and third, and the Commodores got few scoring opportunities after that.
“That was kind of the story of the day,” Gregor said. “Those close hits didn’t get through.”
Added Corbin: “It’s like they carried that defensive and pitching momentum the rest of the game.”
Now, the Commodores await their NCAA regional destination after starting the season 13-19. They had won nine in a row going into Sunday.
“It really doesn’t matter where we go at this point,” Corbin said. “They don’t care. It doesn’t matter. We’ve seen everything and faced everything. We’re looking forward to playing again, that’s for sure.”
Published in The Messenger 5.28.12