STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State baseball broke out the rally caps twice Sunday afternoon.
In the end, the offense kicked it in gear as the Bulldogs beat Western Illinois 10-9 in 11 innings and No. 14 Texas Tech 8-5 in a pair of college baseball games played before a crowd of 10,583 at Dudy Noble Field.
After dropping the weekend opener to Texas Tech, MSU responded with three straight wins before a school-record crowd of 31,764 for a season-opening series.
“It was an awesome day and night of baseball,” MSU head coach Andy Cannizaro said. “This team has shown a lot of fight. To be able to fight and show that resolve is great. We were down 4-0 (against Texas Tech) quickly, and we found a way to regroup.”
In Sunday’s opener, MSU (3-1) trailed Western Illinois 5-0 before rallying to tie with five runs in the sixth inning. The Maroon and White had to erase a 4-0 deficit to knock off the 2016 College World Series-participant Red Raiders in the second game.
GAME ONE: MSU 10, Western Illinois 9 (11 innings)
A Brent Rooker RBI-single in the bottom of the 11th inning brought home the game-winner in Sunday’s first game.
Western Illinois (0-4) built a 5-0 lead with three runs in the fourth inning and two more scores in the sixth inning.
A one-out throwing error followed by a walk opened the door for the Bulldogs in the sixth inning. Junior Ryan Gridley singled to load the bases. Rooker brought home a run with a single, while Cody Brown drove in two with a base hit.
A two-run single by redshirt freshman Brant Blaylock tied the game at 5-5.
The Bulldogs did not stop there, taking the lead later when Hunter Stovall doubled and Gridley rapped an RBI-single.
A three-run eighth inning appeared to put the Bulldogs in good shape. Brown had an RBI-single, while Stovall drove in a pair with a hit.
The MSU bullpen then had an atypical finish with Western Illinois striking for four runs in the top half of the ninth inning.
The Bulldogs went down in order in the ninth and 10th innings before being able to win the first extra-inning game of the season on Rooker’s hit to the left field wall in the 11th inning. A walk and hit batsman proceeded the game-winner.
MSU collected 12 hits. Stovall had three hits, while Gridley, Rooker and Brown added two hits apiece.
“Hunter really had a great weekend and helped us get some things going,” Cannizaro said. “Our defensive effort was good. I was really encouraged with the way we kept battling.”
The Bulldogs threw seven pitchers. Freshman right-hander Graham Ashcraft threw four innings in his first career start. Ashcraft allowed four hits and three runs (all earned), with five strikeouts. Sophomore right-hander Spencer Price (1-0) got his first victory at MSU by recording the final out in the 10th inning and working the entire 11th inning.
GAME TWO: MSU 8, No. 14 Texas Tech 5
In the second contest, the story of the day was the pitching of freshman right-hander Riley Self. In his second Bulldog appearance, Self (1-0) pitched the final five innings to garner the win. Self retired 10 straight before being touched for an eighth-inning home run.
In those five innings, Self allowed one hit and walked one while facing two batters past the minimum. Sophomore Ryan Cyr drew the start and worked four innings. Cyr allowed five hits and four runs (all earned), with a pair of strikeouts.
“Riley Self was incredible,” Cannizaro said. “What you saw from him today is indicative of what he will do during his career here. We are a good, young, athletic team. It’s good that we showed that after losing the first game (to Texas Tech on Friday).”
For the weekend, MSU pitching recorded 46 strikeouts.
Offensively, the Bulldogs erased a 4-0 deficit by scoring four times in the third inning. Texas Tech (3-1) scored four runs on four hits in the first inning.
Stovall started things with a leadoff double. Jake Mangum followed with a single. Luke Alexander brought a pair home with a double. A wild pitch scored another run before Tanner Poole laced an RBI-single to tie the contest.
The Bulldogs took the lead for good an inning later when Gridley had a sacrifice fly and Brown reached as hit batsman while the bases were loaded.
Blaylock hit his first career home run for the Bulldogs in the fifth inning. The Bulldogs then scored one more run in the eighth inning without a base hit.
In this contest, the Bulldogs collected eight hits, played errorless ball and stranded 10 base runners. Mangum had three hits, while Stovall had two hits.
MSU will face Morehead State (2-2) at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be available on SEC Network + from Dudy Noble Field.
MSU will be back at Dudy Noble on Tuesday to take on Morehead State at 4 p.m. with the game to air on SEC Network+. For all home midweek games during the 2017 season, tickets and hot dogs will be $2 each.
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