Mississippi State junior left-hander Ross Mitchell delivered again for the Diamond Dawgs Saturday afternoon.
Throwing his third complete game in six career starts, MSU clinched a weekend Southeastern Conference series by knocking off Missouri 6-2 in the middle game of the holiday set at Taylor Stadium.
MSU improved to 25-15 overall and 9-8 in conference play, while Missouri fell to 17-20 and 6-11. The Bulldogs won a conference series for the fourth time in six tries this season and have won two of their first three road series for the first time since 2007. MSU will be looking for its first sweep of the season in the Easter Sunday 1 p.m. series finale.
“We spent the bullpen yesterday (in a 3-2, 11-inning win),” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “Ross was phenomenal. We didn’t make a couple of plays behind him. He helped his own cause by making a couple of really great defensive plays.
“We really needed another day of rest for (Jacob) Lindgren and (Jonathan) Holder, so Ross’s performance was really big for us.”
Mitchell (6-3) threw 142 pitches, while allowing seven hits and two runs (both earned). Mitchell struck out three, walked two and faced 38 total batters.
Offensively, Cody Brown carried the big bat for the Bulldogs. The red-shirt freshman outfielder had a career-high four hits with two RBIs. Brown had a double and triple and provided a huge boost from the leadoff spot in the Maroon and White order.
“Cody has worked so hard at it,” Cohen said. “He is attacking the baseball right now. He has a short, quick swing. We were watching film with this morning and he made a couple of adjustments in the game. On a good club, somebody different steps up each night. Today was the day that he stepped up and really carried us.”
Despite a hitless night in the series opener, Brown has now hit safely in four of his last five games.
The Bulldogs struck two pitches into the contest Saturday afternoon. Brown led off the contest with a triple and scored on an RBI-ground out by Alex Detz.
Missouri answered in the third inning on an RBI-single by Brett Peel.
Each team scored in the fifth inning. This time around, Derrick Armstrong started things by reaching on Missouri’s only error. After a sacrifice bunt, Brown brought Matthew Britton (who reached on a fielder’s choice) home on an RBI-single.
Missouri bunched together two singles and a wild pitch to plate the game-tying run in its at-bat. The Tigers threatened again an inning later but Mitchell worked out of a bases-loaded jam to end that threat.
The Maroon and White surged ahead for good with three runs in the seventh inning.
Gavin Collins singled and Jake Vickerson walked. An intentional walk to Britton loaded the bases. Brown brought home Collins with an RBI-single. Bases-loaded walks to Detz and Seth Heck forced in two more scores.
MSU tacked on a critical insurance score in the ninth inning. Briton was hit by a pitch and Brown doubled to right field. A groundout by Pirtle brought home Britton with the game’s final run.
Each team finished with seven hits. Ryan Howard and Jake Ring each had two hits for Missouri and joined MSU’s Brown as the only multiple hitters in the contest.
Missouri starter John Miles (2-5) threw 6.1 innings, allowing five hits and four runs (three earned), while taking the loss.
“This ballpark plays really big and that really helps us a team,” Cohen said. “A lot of people look at whether you win a series or win three games. Winning a series is a good thing. However, the final game of this series is very important to us. We need to win games and it does not matter the opponent or which day or where we stand in a series. We need wins.”
MSU has not named a starter for the series finale. However, senior right-hander Ben Bracewell (2-3, 2.80 ERA) and junior right-hander Brandon Woodruff (1-2, 5.81 ERA) are candidates. Missouri is scheduled to start senior right-hander Eric Anderson (2-2, 3.15 ERA).