OXFORD, Miss. - When things looked their bleakest Sunday, the Mississippi State baseball team kept grinding.
Down 6-0 in the sixth inning, the 13th-ranked Bulldogs staged a comeback for the ages. MSU put things together and late and posted a 7-6 victory over 20th-ranked and arch-rival Ole Miss in the final game of a three-game weekend Southeastern Conference series on a beautiful Mother’s Day at Oxford-University Stadium.
After winning a pair of close games Saturday, the Rebels were trying for their first series sweep of the Bulldogs here since the 2005 season. Instead, MSU seized control with five runs in the sixth inning and two runs in the seventh inning.
“We did a lot of things not characteristic of our team early,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “But the kids had a business-like approach and never got down. They always felt like they were going to win the game. There was (the Ole Miss mascot) in front of our dugout waving a broom before the game. I think our kids thought about that down 6-0. They were not going to let (the sweep) happen.”
The Bulldogs bolstered their conference standing and NCAA resume with the victory. MSU is now 37-15 overall and 14-13 in league play, while Ole Miss is 35-17 and 14-13. MSU enters the final weekend of the series tied for third place in the Western Division standings and fifth place overall.
The top four finishers receive a first-round bye in the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs would have to sweep South Carolina in the season’s final weekend to achieve that status.
For now, a victory over the arch-rival will have to do.
Senior Ben Bracewell (1-1) threw a career-longest five innings in relief. Jacob Lindgren drew the start but lasted one inning. Bracewell retired the final 10 batters he faced.
The Bulldogs’ bullpen allowed five hits and no earned runs in eight innings of work.
“Ben is a senior and he wanted this real badly,” Cohen said. “(Pitching coach) Butch (Thompson) said to let him go there in the ninth inning because he was really feeling it.”
Ole Miss reached Lindgren for three runs in the first inning. A bases-loaded hit batsman and two-run single by Preston Overbey produced the runs.
The Rebels then reached reliever Jonathan Holder for three unearned runs in the third inning. A walk, hit batsman and error hurt the Bulldogs’ cause as Ole Miss managed only one hit in that at-bat.
Down 6-0, the Bulldogs began to rally in the sixth inning.
Singles by Brett Pirtle and C.T. Bradford and a walk to Sam Frost loaded the bases. That would be all for UM starter Bobby Wahl.
Nick Ammirati and Demarcus Henderson followed with back-to-back RBI-singles. Adam Frazier followed with a two-run double. Alex Detz lined a sacrifice fly for another run, capping this rally.
Frazier again had the big hit an inning late with a two-run, two-out single to put the Maroon and White ahead for only the second time in the series.
“We really had good at-bats throughout the entire game,” Cohen said. “Later in the game, we got into their bullpen and had something to show for it.”
The Bulldogs finished with 11 hits, including three hits by Frazier and C.T. Bradford. Wes Rea also had multi-hits.
Ole Miss finished with five hits and had no multiple hitters. Scott Weathersby (0-2) took the loss in relief.
“I don’t know a lot about all of the Mississippi State-Ole Miss games played throughout all the years,” Cohen said. “I do know this one is my favorite. Hopefully, this win can propel us. In baseball, things can change on you in a heartbeat. We have four really big games at home next week and hopefully, this will help us finish strong.”
MSU closes the regular season with four straight home games at Dudy Noble Field. The Bulldogs face Oral Roberts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the final non-conference game. SEC play concludes with a three-game home series against South Carolina. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 6:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.