After their 5-4 win over Indiana Monday night, Mississippi State is loving TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. More specifically, it is loving the wind that blows in from the outfield and knocks down any ball that dares approach the center and right field fences.
With one man on in the bottom of the ninth inning of 5-3 contest, a rocket shot off the bat of Indiana's Sam Travis that would have tied the game in most parks hit halfway up the left-center wall. The play came just two days after the wind pushed what looked to be a walk-off home run for Oregon State down into Hunter Renfroe's glove to preserve Mississippi State's 5-4 win over the Beavers.
The Bulldogs still had plenty of work to do, however, as the hit resulted in a double that put men on second and third with one out in the ninth inning of a two-run ball game. The next batter grounded into a fielder's choice to score the man from third and make it 5-4 with one away. Closer Jonathan Holder then entered the game and induced a chopper back to the mound. Holder botched the throw to first, but first baseman Wes Rea made a clutch two-handed scoop to secure the ball and the win.
Mississippi State watched an early 1-0 lead disappear in the second inning when the Hoosiers' Casey Smith singled in a run to tie the game. One inning later, back-to-back RBI from Travis and Scott Donley gave Indiana a 3-1 lead.
The Bulldogs answered in the sixth when Rea, who finished 2-for-5 with one RBI, singled to score Brett Pirtle to make it 3-2. A hit-by-pitch and a single would then load the bases with one out. After the next batter popped out on the infield, Trey Porter hammered a pitch deep to right, where, per usual, it stalled up in the wind and fell harmlessly into the right fielder's glove to get Indiana out of the inning with the lead.
The Hoosier relief was short-lived, however, as Mississippi State mounted a rally in the eighth inning to take the lead for good. Pirtle and Rea began the inning with consecutive singles before Indiana recorded its first out with a strikeout. Demarcus Henderson then singled to right to bring in Pirtle to tie the game. Two batters later, Porter singled to right center to drive in to runs and make it 5-3.
Relief pitcher Chad Girodo was the star of the game for Mississippi State, allowing two runs on seven hits in 6⅓ innings while striking out 10 and walking only one. The senior lefty has been an absolute strikeout machine so far in the tournament, fanning 34 batters in just over 19 innings of relief work.
Girodo is a member of a Mississippi State pen that has carried the team all season, racking up a 33-5 record on the year. The team only has one true starter in Kendall Graveman, and relies on its middle relief to eat up the majority of its innings. In fact, relievers have pitched 41⅓ of the team's total 71 innings and have earned four of the six wins so far through the NCAA tournament.
The loss drops Indiana down into the losers' bracket, where it will play Oregon State in an elimination game on Thursday. The winner of that game will then come back up to face the Bulldogs on Friday. Mississippi State earns a bye until then, and must now be beaten twice in a row by whichever team advances to face them.